[ocr errors][merged small]

Hebrews XI. 1.
u Now Faith is the Evidence of Things not seen.'1

1. FOR many ages it has been allowed by sensible men, Nihil est in intellectu quod non fait prim in sensu: that is, "There is nothing in the understanding which was not first perceived by some of the senses." All the knowledge which we naturally have, is originally derived from our senses. And therefore those that want any sense, cannot have the least knowledge or idea of the objects of that sense: as they that never had sight, have not the least knowledge or conception of light or colours. Some indeed have, of late years, endeavoured to prove, that we have innate ideas, not derived from any of the senses, but co-eval with the understanding. ■But this point has been now thorougly discussed, by men of the most eminent sense and learning. And it is agreed by all impartial persons, that although some things are so plain and obvious, that we can hardly avoid knowing them, as soon as we come to the use of our understanding, yet the knowledge even of these is not innate, but derived from some of our senses.

2. But there is a great difference between our senses, considered as the avenues of our knowledge. Some of them have a very narrow sphere of action: some a more extensive one. By feeling we discern only those objects that touch some part of our body; and, consequently, this sense extends only to a small number of objects. Our senses of taste and smell (which some count species of feeling) extend to fewer still. But, on the other hand, our nobler sense of hearing has an exceedingly wide sphere of action; especially in the case of loud sounds, as thunder, the roaring of the sea, or the discharge of cannon: the last of which sounds has been frequently heard at the distance of nearly a , hundred miles. Yet the space to which the sense of hearing itself extends is small, compared to that through which the sight extends. The sight takes in at one view, not only the most unbounded prospects on earth, but also the moon and the other planets, the sun, yea, the fixed stars, though at such an immeasurable distance, that they appear no larger through our finest telescopes than they do to the naked eye.

3. But still none of our senses, no, not the sight itself can reach beyond the bounds of this visible world. They supply us with such knowledge of the material world, as answers all the purposes of life. But as this was the design for which they were given, beyond this they cannot go. They furnish us with no information at all concerning the invisible world.

4. But the wise and gracious Governor of the worlds, both visible and invisible, has prepared a remedy for this defect. He hath appointed faith to supply the defect of sense; to take us up where sense sets us down, and help us over the great gulf. Its office begins where that of sense ends. Sense is an evidence of things that are seen: of the visible, the material world, and the several parts of it. Faith, on the other hand, is the "evidence of things not seen," of the invisible world: of all those invisible things which are revealed in the Oracles of God. But, indeed, they reveal nothing, they are a mere dead letter, if they are u not mixed with faith in those that hear them."

5. In particular: Faith is an evidence to me of the existence of that unseen thing, my own soul. Without this I V

sees whether they agree or disagree with each other: it reasons concerning them, that is, infers one proposition from another: it reflects upon its own operations: it is endued with imagination and memory: and any of its operations, judgment in particular, may he subdivided into many others.

6. But by what means shall I learn in what part of my body this thinking principle is lodged? Some eminent men have affirmed, That it is " all in all, and all in every part." But I learn nothing from this: they seem to be words that have no determinate meaning. Let us then appeal, in the best manner we can, to our own experience. From this I learn, that this thinking principle is not lodged in my hands, or feet, or legs, or arms. It is not lodged in the trunk of my body. Any one may be assured of this by a little reflection. I cannot conceive that it is situated in my bones, or in any part of my flesh. So far as I can judge, it seems to be situated in some part of my head; but whether in the pineal gland, or in any part of the brain, I am not able to determine.

7. But farther: this inward principle, wherever it is lodged, is capable not only of thinking, but likewise of love, hatred, joy, sorrow, desire, fear, hope, &c. and a whole train of other inward emotions, which are commonly called Passions or Affections. They are styled, by a general appellation, the Will, and are mixed and diversified a thousand ways. And they seem to be the only spring of action, in that inward principle I call the Soul.

8. But what is my Soul? It is an important question, and not easily to be resolved.

"Hear'st thou submissive, but a lowly birth? Some separate particles of finer earth? A plain effect, which nature must beget, As motion dictates, and as atoms meet?" I cannot in any wise believe this. My reason recoils at it. I cannot reconcile myself to the thought, that the soul is either earth, water, or fire: or a composition of all of them put together; were it only for this plain reason:—all these, whether separate or compounded in any possible way, are purely passive still. None of them has the least power of self-motion; none of them can move itself. "But (says one) does not that ship move?" Yes, but not of itself; it is moved by the water on which it swims. "But then the water moves." True, but the water is moved by the wind, the current of air. "But the air moves." It is moved by the ethereal fire, which is attached to every particle of it; and this fire itself is moved by the Almighty Spirit, the source of all the motion in the universe. But my soul has from Him an inward principle of motion, whereby it governs at pleasure every part of the body.

9. It governs every motion of the body: only with this exception, which is a marvellous instance of the wise and gracious Providence of the great Creator. There are some motions of the body, which are absolutely necessary for the continuance of life: Such as the dilation and contraction of the lungs; the systole and diastole of the heart; the pulsation of the arteries, and the circulation of the blood. These are not governed by me at pleasure: They do not wait the direction of my will; and it is well they do not. It is highly proper, that all the vital.motions should be involuntary, going on, whether we advert to them or not. Were it otherwise, grievous inconveniences might follow. A man might put an end to his own life whenever he pleased, by suspending the motion of his heart, or of his lungs: Or he might lose his life by mere inattention, by not remembering, not adverting to the circulation of his blood. But these vital motions being excepted, I direct the motion of my whole body. By a single act of my will, I put my head, eyes, hands, or any part of my body into motion: Although I no more comprehend how I do this, than I can comprehend how the "Three, that bear record in heaven, are One."

10. But what am I? Unquestionably I am something distinct from my body. It seems evident that my body is not necessarily included therein. For when my body dies, I shall not die; I shall exist as really as I did before. And I cannot but believe, this self-moving, thinking principle, with all its passions and affections, will continue to exist, although the body be mouldered into dust. Indeed at present this body is so intimately connected with the soul, that I seem to consist of both. In my present state of existence, I undoubtedly consist both of soul and body. And so I shall again after the resurrection to all etermity. 11. I am conscious to myself of one more property, commonly called Liberty. This is very frequently confounded with the Will; but is of a very different nature. Neither is it a property of the will, but a distinct property of the soul, capable of being exerted with regard to all the faculties of the soul, as well as all the motions of the body. It is a power of self determination, which although it does not extend to all our thoughts and imaginations, yet extends to our words and actions in general, and not with many exceptions. I am fully as certain of this, that I am free, with respect to these, to speak or not to speak, to act or not to act, to do this or the contrary, as I am of my own existence. I have not only what is termed, a liberty of contradiction, a power to do or not to do, but what is termed, a liberty of contrariety, a power to act one way, or the contrary: To deny this would be to deny the constant experience of all human kind. Every one feels that he has an inherent power, to move this or that part of his body, to move it or not, and to move this way or the contrary, just as he pleases. I can, as I choose, (and so can every one that is born of a woman,) open or shut my eyes, speak or be silent, rise or sit down, stretch out my hand, or draw it in, and use any of my limbs according to my pleasure, as well as my whole body. And although I have not an absolute power over my own mind, because of the corruption of my nature, yet, through the grace of God assisting me, I have a power to choose and do good, as well as evil. I am free to choose whom I will serve, and if I choose the better part, to continue therein even unto death.

« ForrigeFortsett »