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science, are well by St. Paul so often coupled as inseparable associates.
Where now are they, who wonder that faith is so commended, doth find such acceptance with God, and is so crowned with reward; who would banish it from the company of virtues, and out of all moral consideration; who would have it taken for an involuntary act, forced on the mind, and issuing from dry speculation? for seeing so many excellent dispositions of soul are its ingredients, essentially connected with it; seeing so many noble acts of will do concur to its production; seeing it hath so many choice virtues inseparably adherent, as previous or concomitant to it; it is no wonder that they should moralise it, should render it very considerable, so capable of praise, so worthy of recompense.
If we therefore do believe, because we will apply our minds to regard our best concerns, because we will yield due attention to the declarations and overtures of God, because we will take the pains to weigh the reasons persuasive of truth, because we look on things with an indifferent eye, and judge uprightly about them, because we have the courage, the patience, the prudence, the innocence, requisite for avowing such truths; then surely faith is voluntary, and therefore very commendable.
Whoever indeed will consider the nature of man, or will consult obvious experience, shall find that in all practical matters our will or appetite hath a mighty influence on our judgment of things; causing men with great attention to regard that which they affect, and carefully to mark all reasons making for it; but averting from that which they dislike, and making them to overlook the arguments which persuade it; whence men generally do suit their opinions to their inclinations; warping to that side where their interest doth lie, or to which their complexion, their humor, their passions, their pleasure, their ease doth sway them; so that almost any notion will seem true, which is profitable, which is safe, which is pleasant, or anywise grateful to them; that notion false, which in any such respect doth cross them: very few can abstract their minds from such considerations, or embrace pure truth, divested of them; and those few who do so, must therein most employ
their will, by strong efforts of voluntary resolution and patience disengaging their minds from those clogs and biasses. This is particularly notorious in men's adherence to parties, divided in opinion, which is so regulated by that sort of causes, that if you do mark what any man's temper is, and where his interest lieth, you may easily prognosticate on what side he will be, and with what degree of seriousness, of vigor, of zeal he will cleave thereto : a timorous man you may be almost sure will be on the safer side; a covetous man will bend to that party, where gain is to be had; an ambitious man will close with the opinion passing in court; a careless man will comply with the fashion; affection arising from education or prejudice will hold others stiff; few do follow the results of impartial contemplation.
All faith, therefore, even in common things, may be deemed voluntary, no less than intellectual; and Christian faith is especially such, as requiring thereto more application of soul, managed by choice, than any other; whence the ancients, in their description of it, do usually include this condition, supposing it not to be a bare assent of the understanding, but a free consent of the will: Faith,' saith Clemens Alexandrinus,* is a spontaneous acceptance, and compliance with divine religion ;' and, To be made at first was not in our power; but God persuadeth us to follow those things which he liketh, choosing by the rational faculties which he hath given us, and so leadeth us to faith;' saith Justin the Martyr.+
The same is supposed in holy Scripture; where of believers it is said that they did ȧouéves, gladly, or willingly receive the word, and they received it μerà ñáσŋs πρoðvμías, with all willingness, or readiness of mind.
And to defect of will infidelity is often ascribed : Ye will not come unto me,' saith our Saviour, that ye might have life;' and, How often would I have gathered thy children together as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not!' and, The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son, and sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding,
* Clem. Strom. ii. p. 265.
† Just. Mart. Apol. ii. (p. 58.)
and they would not come:' and,' Of this,' saith St. Peter of some profane infidels,' they are willingly ignorant, that by the word of God the heavens were of old :' and of the like St. Paul saith, That they received not the love of the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.'
Indeed to prevent this exception, that faith is a forced act, and therefore not moral; or to render it more voluntary and worthy, God hath not done all that he might have done to convince men, or to wring belief from them: he hath not stamped on his truth that glaring evidence, which might dazzle our minds; he doth not propose it armed with irresistible cogency; he hath not made the objects of faith conspicuous to sense, nor the propositions thereof demonstrable by reason, like theorems of geometry: this indeed would be to depose faith, to divest it of its excellency, and bereave it of its praise; this were to deprive us of that blessedness, which is adjudged to those who believe and do not see; this would prostitute wisdom to be defloured by the foolish, and expose truth to be rifled by the profane; this would take from our reason its noblest exercise, and fairest occasion of improvement; this would confound persons fit to be distinguished, the sagacious and the stupid, the diligent and the slothful, the ingenuous and the froward, the sober and the vain, the pious and the profane; the children of wisdom, which are apt to justify it, and the sons of folly, who hate knowlege; the friends of truth and virtue, and the lovers of falsehood and unrighteousness.
God therefore hath exhibited his truth, shining through some mists of difficulty and doubt, that only those who have clear eyes, who do look attentively, who are willing to see, may discern it; that those who have eyes may see, and those who have ears may hear.' He meaneth this way of discovering his mind for a test to prove our ingenuity, for a field to exercise our industry, for an occasion to express his goodness in crowning the wisdom and virtue of good believers; that the trial of your faith,' saith St. Peter, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable
and full of glory.' He meaneth also thence to display his justice in punishing the slothful, the vain, the perverse, the profane; that, as the Apostle saith, all men might be judged, who believed not the truth-but had pleasure in unrighteousness:' hence, 'There must of necessity be scandals,' said our Saviour; hence our Lord was 'set for a mark to be contradicted, that the thoughts of many hearts might be revealed;' and, 'There must be heresies,' saith St. Paul; why? that 'they which are approved (oi dókiμoi, persons that can bear the test) may be manifested.'
God dealeth with us as he did with his ancient people. He, to assure them of his gracious protection and providence over them, or to persuade them of the truth of what he by Moses taught them, did before their eyes perform stupendous works in their behalf, affording them miraculous deliverances from their enemies, and prodigious supplies of their needs; the sight of which did extort a temporary belief; Then,' it is said, 'they believed his words, and sang his praise;' and, when Israel saw that great work which the Lord did on the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord, and believed the Lord, and his servant Moses.' Yet withal God suffered divers things to fall out, 'to humble them,' as it is said, ' and to prove them, and to know what was in their heart, whether they would keep his commandments, or no: the result of which dispensations was, that they being inconsiderate, impatient, and refractory, 'believed not in God, and trusted not in his salvation;' ' they despised that pleasant land, and gave no credence to his word:' so God dealt with that typical people; and in like manner doth he proceed with us: he hath ministered signal attestations to the gospel; he hath dispensed arguments abundantly sufficient to convince well disposed minds of its truth; but he hath not cleared it from all scruples, which may disturb the froward or the delicate; he hath not exempted it from all scandals which may disgust the perverse and stubborn; he hath not prevented all exceptions or cavils devisable by curious or captious wits against it; he hath not guarded it wholly from the malicious opposition of those, whose interest it might seem, in favor of their vices and follies, to impugn it just it was, that to such the gospel should be a stone of stumbling, and a rock of of
fence; who stumble at the word, being disobedient, unto which they were appointed,' (that is, God having so purposely ordered the evangelical dispensation, that such persons should not approve it, or comply with it;) just it was, that they should be debarred from a knowlege of that truth which they should abuse, and detain in unrighteousness;' just it was, that they should be punished with such temptations unto doubt and error, 'who would not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved.'
Indeed, more abundant light of conviction, as it would deprive good men of much praise and reward, so it might be hurtful to many persons; who having affections indisposed to comply with truth, would outface and outbrave it, however clear and evident; they would,' as Job speaketh, rebel against the light,' although shining on them with a meridian splendor; they would plunge themselves into an inexcusable and incorrigible state of impiety, 'doing despite to the Spirit of grace,' and involving themselves in the 'unpardonable sin ;' as we have many instances in the evangelical history of those, who beholding unquestionable evidences of divine power attesting to our Lord's doctrine, which they could not but acknowlege, did yet oppose it, did blaspheme against it, did outrageously persecute it.
Should God, as he once did in a dreadful manner, thunder out his laws, and shake the earth with his voice,' yet many would little regard them; should God, in confirmation of his will, perform every day as many miracles, as he did once in Egypt, yet there would be Pharoahs, hardening their hearts' against it should God himself descend from heaven, as once he did, and converse with us, instructing us by discourse and practice, displaying among us conspicuous evidences of his power and goodness, yet who would believe his report, to whom would the arm of the Lord be revealed?' how few cordially would embrace his doctrine, or submit to his law! As it was then, so it would be now; he would be hated, be scorned, be affronted, and abused, by persons qualified with like affections, as those were, who so then did serve him; for in all times like persons will do like things: as then only his sheep (that is, well disposed persons, like sheep, simple, harm