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LECTURES ON THE CHURCH CATECHISM. 133
HEBREWS, XI. PART OF VER. 6. But without faith it is impossible to please God;
for he that cometh to God, must believe that
The principles of our faith, as contained in our Creed or Belief, are what we come to consider in the order that this Creed is placed in the body of our Church Catechism.
A BELIEF IN God is the ground of all other religious profession, since all our comfort in this life, and all our happiness in the next, depends entirely on our coming to God. In order, therefore, that this may be something more than vain hope now, not a sandy foundation of future bliss, it is necessary to believe that he is that there is a God, a powerful Being, who is infinite in all his qualities, who never had a beginning, and can never cease to be. Without faith in this first article of the Creed (that is, without conviction of the truth, of it), all that can be said upon any subject of holiness or virtue, so as to render them binding upon us, must be considered as the mere produce of fancy, as the invention of men; for, without some proof or mark of the certainty that there is a Supreme Governor, who will reward or punish men according to their works, every valuable motive to encourage virtue, and restrain vice, is taken away, and the general actions of men must be reduced to a chain of licentiousness and disorder. This pillar, then, supports the whole fabric of moral excellence; and how far these words—"I believe in God, the Father Almighty, “ Maker of heaven and earth,” comprehend the substance of our faith in this article, shall be the subject of the present inquiry.
In my former Lecture I explained to you the genuine meaning of the word to believe : it is in an absolute sense that it must be received in this place; that is, we must entertain no manner of doubt concerning the existence of the Deity: but, then, as reasoning beings, we naturally require a proof or testimony of a fact, before we think ourselves authorized to give assent to it. In an address to Christians, the short and sure way of establishing the everlasting truth of God's existence, would be to refer them to his revelation of himself to the world, as recorded in the inspired writings; and it is from thence that, as a Christian Minister, I shall draw all my proofs and reasonings, when I come to enter more fully upon the subject. But, first, it will be serviceable to make use of another method because there may be some amongst us, who neither know, nor can read, the Holy Scripture and others, who may require a proof of the authors of the Scripture itself, before they build their faith upon what it contains: but this not being the argument I have to do with at present (however proper it may be at another time), we must try to establish our faith in God, upon the grounds which are connected with scriptural proof; and, at the same time, may be employed for the conviction of man, merely as a reasoning creature; i. e. one who has the power of drawing conclusions from his own observations, without any previous religious knowledge; which attainment, by the blind and ignorant unbeliever, is often termed prejudice of education. The exercise of a wise man's thoughts, when he seriously considers the nature of his being, and powers of mind, will lead him to the belief of a God, But still this requires an exertion of the reasoning faculty ; and as, through one effect of the depravity of human nature, viz. its grossness or heaviness of understanding, all men might not so readily discover the truth themselves, this defect necessarily calls for the use of education and instruction, to enlighten and assist this darkness of the mind; which very circumstance sufficiently shows that it is ordained to be the office of some to teach, and others to attend, that the latter may obtain knowledge and benefit by the labours of the former, which, otherwise, the unlearned could not obtain in an equal degree, according to the common course of things, the age of extraordinary inspiration having long since ceased.
To proceed: I will now advance some good proof of this first article of our faith, by proposing a few plain arguments in point, to which I would beg your close attentior.
1. Let us consider the literal meaning of the word itself. God, is a 'word taken from the Saxon tongue, which was the original language of this country, and signifying good. There is very little alteration in the sound of the two words, and the sense of them is a plain and eternal truth; for God is only another term for all goodness. In our present tongue it is used to express the one eternal, all-powerful, self-existing, and SuPREME Being—that Deity, who made all things in heaven and earth, and who both preserves them and governs them, for the purpose of his own glory—in the accomplishment of which end consists the great duty, good, and happiness of his intellectual creatures:
When we sit down to think upon the being of a God, and use our understandings rightly upon the subject, the idea or notion that first presents itself, is our own being. As we have no remembrance of any state but this, there must have been a time when we were not what