S. Austin Allibone, comp. Prose Quotations from Socrates to Macaulay. 1880.
I might in the same manner show how such a trust in the assistance of an Almighty Being naturally produces patience, hope, cheerfulness, and all other dispositions of the mind that alleviate those calamities which we are not able to remove.
The practice of this virtue administers great comfort to the mind of man in times of poverty and affliction, but most of all in the hour of death. When the soul is hovering in the last moments of its separation, when it is just entering on another state of existence, to converse with scenes and objects and companions that are altogether new,what can support her under such tremblings of thought, such fears, such anxiety, such apprehensions, but the casting of all her cares upon Him who first gave her being, who has conducted her through one stage of it, and will be always with her to guide and comfort her in her progress through eternity?
When by reading or discourse we find ourselves thoroughly convinced of the truth of any article, and of the reasonableness of our belief in it, we should never after suffer ourselves to call it in question. We may perhaps forget the arguments which occasioned our conviction, but we ought to remember the strength they had with us, and therefore still to retain the conviction which they once produced. This is no more than what we do in every common art or science; nor is it possible to act otherwise, considering the weakness and limitation of our intellectual faculties.
In philosophy, where truth seems doubly-faced, there is no man more paradoxical than myself; but in divinity I love to keep the road; and though not in implicit, yet an humble, faith follow the great wheel of the church, by which I move, not reserving any proper poles or motions from the epicycle of my own brain: by these means I leave no gap for heresy, schisms, or errors.
Some believe the better for seeing Christs sepulchre; and when they have seen the Red Sea, doubt not of the miracle. Now, contrarily, I bless myself, and am thankful, that I live not in the days of miracles, that I never saw Christ nor his disciples; I would not have been one of those Israelites that passed the Red Sea, nor one of Christs patients on whom he wrought his wonders; then had my faith been thrust upon me; nor should I enjoy that greater blessing pronounced to all that believe and saw not. Tis an easy and necessary belief to credit what our eye and sense hath examined: I believe he was dead and buried, and rose again; and desire to see him in his glory, rather than to contemplate him in his cenotaph or sepulchre.
There is more of belief than reason in the world. All instructors and masters in sciences and arts require, first a belief in their disciples, and a resignation of their understanding and wills to them. And it is the wisdom of God to require that of man which his own reason makes him submit to another which is his fellow-creature. He, therefore, that quarrels with the condition of faith, must quarrel with all the world, since belief is the beginning of all knowledge; yea, and most of the knowledge in the world may rather come under the title of belief than of knowledge; for what we think we know this day we may find from others such arguments as may stagger our knowledge, and make us doubt of that we thought ourselves certain of before: nay, sometimes we change our opinions ourselves without any instructor, and see a reason to entertain an opinion quite contrary to what we had before. And if we found a general judgment of others to vote against what we think we know, it would make us give the less credit to ourselves and our own sentiments. All knowledge in the world is only a belief depending upon the testimony or arguings of others; for, indeed, it may be said of all men as in Job (viii. 9), We are but of yesterday, and know nothing.
Faith is that conviction upon the mind of the truth of the promises and threatenings of God made known in the gospel; of the certain reality of the rewards and punishments of the life to come, which enables a man, in opposition to all the temptations of a corrupt world, to obey God, in expectation of an invisible reward hereafter.
Never yet did there exist a full faith in the Divine Word (by whom light as well as immortality was brought into the world) which did not expand the intellect, while it purified the heart,which did not multiply the aims and objects of the understanding, while it fixed and simplified those of the desires and passions.
We live by faith, says the philosophic apostle; but faith without principles (on which to ground our faith and our hope) is but a flattering phrase for wilful positiveness or fanatical bodily sensations. Well, and with good right, therefore, do we maintain (and with more zeal than we should defend body or estate) a deep and inward conviction, which is as a moon to us; and like the moon, with all its massy and deceptive gleams, it yet lights us on our way (poor travellers as we are, and benighted pilgrims). With all its spots and changes and temporary eclipseswith all its vain haloes and bedimming vapoursit yet reflects the light that is to rise upon us, which even now is rising, though intercepted from our immediate view by the mountains that enclose and frown over the whole of our mortal life.
Christians are directed to have faith in Christ, as the effectual means of obtaining the change they desire. It may, when sufficiently strong, be effectual with many; for a full opinion that a teacher is infinitely wise, good, and powerful, and that he will certainly reward and punish the obedient and disobedient, must give great weight to his precepts, and make them much more attended to by his disciples. But many have this faith in so weak a degree that it does not produce the effect.
Benjamin Franklin: Letter to Lord Kames, May 3, 1760: Sparkss Life and Corresp. of Franklin.
The faith to which the Scriptures attach such momentous consequences, and ascribe such glorious exploits, is a practical habit, which, like every other, is strengthened and increased by continual exercise. It is nourished by meditation, by prayer, and the devout perusal of the Scriptures; and the light which it diffuses becomes stronger and clearer by an uninterrupted converse with its object and a faithful compliance with its dictates; as on the contrary it is weakened and obscured by whatever wounds the conscience or impairs the purity and spirituality of the mind.
There are three means of believing: by inspiration, by reason, and by custom. Christianity, which is the only rational institution, does yet admit none for its sons who do not believe by inspiration. Nor does it injure reason or custom, or debar them of their proper force: on the contrary, it directs us to open our minds by the proofs of the former, and to confirm our minds by the authority of the latter. But then it chiefly engages us to offer ourselves, with all humility, to the succours of inspired grace, which alone can produce the true and salutary effect.
Flatter not thyself in thy faith to God, if thou wantest charity for thy neighbour; and think not thou hast charity for thy neighbour, if thou wantest faith to God: where they are not both together, they are both wanting; they are both dead if once divided.
When in your last hour (think of this) all faculty in the broken spirit shall fade away and sink into inanity,imagination, thought, effort, enjoyment,then will the flower of belief, which blossoms even in the night, remain to refresh you with its fragrance in the last darkness.
The greater part of the world take up their persuasions concerning good and evil by an implicit faith and a full acquiescence in the word of those who shall represent things to them under these characters.
Since the Scripture promises eternal happiness and pardon of sin upon the sole condition of faith and sincere obedience, it is evident that he only can plead a title to such a pardon whose conscience impartially tells him that he has performed the required condition.