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The Haunted Bookshop

Christopher Morely

Leaves of Grass

Walt Whitman

The Pictorial Key to the Tarot

Arthur Edward Waite

The Revolt of the Netherlands

Friedrich Schiller

An essay on faith

by Thomas Erskine


There is a great fallacy in supposing that faith is an involuntary act. The Bible speaks of faith as a duty, and of unbelief as a sin. There are some who object to this language, and prefer calling faith a privilege; and truly it is a most unspeakable privilege. But if " he who believes not "is condemned already, because he believ"eth not in the name of the only-begotten "Son of God," surely unbelief is a sin, and it is our duty to avoid this sin; John iii. 18. vi. 28, 29- According to the Bible, then, faith is an act of the will, for duty and sin imply the action of the will. And our reason speaks in the same way. If the belief of any fact naturally and imperatively calls for the performance of a particular duty, who is the man that will most easily be persuaded of the truth of the fact? He who takes a pleasure in the performance of the duty, or he who detests it? Have not love and fear, and indolence and interest, very considerable influence over our belief? A surgeon who, in the midst of a tempestuous night, is assailed by a rumour, that a beggar, at the distance of ten miles off, has broken his leg, and claims his assist

ance, will more readily admit of opposite evidence, than if the circumstances were entirely changed; that is, if the night were day, if the ten miles off were next door, and the beggar a rich nobleman. I do not mean merely to say that he would more willingly go in the one case than in the other, but that his conscientious belief could be more easily engaged in the one case than in the other. He who knew what was in man, after declaring, that " he "who believeth on the Son is not con"demned, but he that believeth not is con"demned already," adds immediately," and "this is the condemnation, that light is "come into the world, and men have loved "darkness rather than light, because their "deeds were evil;" thus most explicitly referring belief and unbelief to the state of the heart and affections. But though the sin of the heart is the root of all errors in religion, yet it is of importance to consider those errors separately, that we may know them, and be prepared for them; for it is by blinding our understandings that the deceitfulness of the heart operates.

In the Bible, Christianity is given us as a whole; but men are apt to take confined and partial views of it. Faith is connected in Scripture, both with the pardon of sin and with the deliverance from the power of sin; or in other words, with justification and sanctification, according to common language. In its connection with justification, it is opposed to merit, and desert, and work of every description ; " It was by faith that "it might be by grace, or gratuitous, or for "nothing," Rom. iv. 16. Some exclusively take this view, which in itself is correct, but which does not embrace the whole truth. Faith, as connected with sanctification, "purifieth the heart," "worketh "by love," and "overcometh the world," and produces every thing which is excellent and holy, as may be seen in that bright roll which is given in Heb. xi. Some again are so engrossed with this view of the subject, that they lose sight of the former. This is a fruitful source of error. In order to understand thoroughly the separate parts of a whole, we must understand their connection with the other parts, and their specific purpose in relation to the whole. The

first of the two classes that have been described, call the other legalists, or persons who depend on their own performances for acceptance with God. And they are perhaps right in this accusation ;—but they are not aware that they are very possibly guilty of the same offence. They are almost unconsciously very apt to think, that they have paid faith as the price of God's favour. The man who considers faith merely as the channel by which the Divine testimony concerning pardon through the blood of the Lamb is conveyed to his understanding, and operates on his heart, cannot look on faith as a work, because he views it merely as the inlet by which spiritual light enters his soul. Whilst he who considers the declaration, "he that believeth shall "be saved," as expressing the arbitrary condition on which pardon will be bestowed, without referring to its natural effects on the character, requires to be very much on his guard indeed against a dependance on his faith as a meritorious act. He will not to be sure speak of it in this way, but he runs great risk of feeling about it in this way. And it is not unworthy of observation, that those, whose statements in this respect have been the highest, have often, in their controversies, assumed towards their opponents a tone of bitterness and contempt, most unbecoming the Christian character. This looks like self-righteousness, and seems to mark that they are trusting rather in their own faith, which elevates them, than in the cross of Christ, which would humble them.

In like manner, the second of these classes charge the other with antinomianism, though they themselves are liable to the same charge. They hate the name of antinomianism, and they wish to escape from it, as far as possible, but they mistake the way. They are so much occupied with the Christian character, that they forget the doctrine of free grace, by the influence of which doctrine alone, that character can be formed. They endeavour to become holy by sheer effort. Now this will never do. They can never love God by merely trying to love him, nor can they hate sin by merely trying to hate it. The belief of the love of God to sinners—and of the evil of sin—as manifested in the cross of Christ,

can alone accomplish this change within

them. Those who substitute effort for the

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