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בס"ד

Random Thoughts on Faith.

(Concluded from page 563. )

By Miss L. R. J.

No course of reasoning can reconcile the existence of evil with the idea of a just and merciful God. Nothing but faith in His expressed word can do this; nothing, save the belief in the immortality of the soul, there revealed, which teaches, that “when the wicked spring up like grass, and the workers of iniquity do flourish, it is that they may be destroyed for ever.” Nothing but the perfect humility, only to be derived from the contemplation of the lessons of nature and of history, while our studies are conducted in the spirit of perfect faith in the goodness of the Author of all, can render us happy here, or give us hopes of future happiness.—Thyself, then, regard as nothing, God, as all; thy reason, as a free gift from Him, to enable thee to enjoy the other lower gifts, with which He has so profusely furnished <<609>>thee, to help thee to improve thy condition in life to judge between good and evil; and gradually to remove the evils which have come into the world with knowledge, until earth, renewed and pure, shall be fitted for the reception of the king, who is to reign over the nations when all men shall know the Lord. Thy faith regard as the link which connects thee on earth with the angels in heaven; which is required as the test of thy obedience, and once given, exalts thee above all the casualties of earth, and makes thy happiness independent of all that man can give, or can inflict.

Truly happy is he who can say, ”I have found it, there is a higher gift than happiness; we can do without happiness, and instead thereof, find blessedness.”

Religion, it must appear to every thoughtful mind, if anything, must be everything to us; since all human pursuits and enjoyments are but “vanity and vexation of spirit,” and here is promised eternal peace and happiness; offer up, then, thy reason, as a pleasing sacrifice to its Giver; and doubt not, but even as that Patriarch of old, who did not refuse his only beloved son, when God required him at his hand, “thy faith shall be accounted to thee as righteousness.” Believe then in all things good and true, and let thy reason assist thee to remove the “evil which is the shadow of good.” Have faith in the age thou livest in; it is only because it is nearer to thee, that thou seest that it is less good and beautiful than earlier times; those days we only see as they are engraved upon our imaginations by the graphic pen of the historian, whose province was in those times considered to be, to tell how crowns were lost and won, battles fought, prisoners taken, cities built, and governments formed; and if we should desire to compare our time with former ages, it would be well to turn to books where there is by chance, to be caught a glimpse of “the people” of those prosperous nations; as, for instance, Macaulay’s late History of England, where we may see, that a hundred years ago there was a vastly greater amount of suffering, pauperism, and of course, less freedom, in the kingdom of Britain, than at the present day. Let this be some consolation, when we think of the ill-paid seamstresses, the labourers thrown out of employment, the starving Irish. Let us believe, <<610>> that it is not that there is more suffering than of old, but that the ear of pity is now beginning to be opened to the cry, while the blessings of education have reached to the poor, and they are now able to speak for themselves.

Have faith in yourself, believe yourself to be capable of good and great things, and you will be able to perform them when the opportunity offers. Have patience, although you find your­self, once and again, breaking the good resolves you have made. It is an insult to your Creator, to believe that He has given you the longing to do what is right, without the power to accomplish it; believe, too, that the earnest wish counts for something. It is not a truth, what men say, about the use made of our good intentions.           

Have faith in your fellow-men. Believe a man truthful and honest, until you have found him otherwise. For one fault, do not wholly cast away your brother; there are spots even upon the sun; even though he sin again and again; bear with him for his sake, who has borne long and mercifully with us. You know not how even the vilest may have been tempted ere he fell; you do not know, if you had been in his place, that you would not have done likewise; therefore, “deal gently with the erring.” Instead of harsh upbraidings, meet him with mild remonstrance; his heart may not yet be all wrong, but society has driven him away from the good, and he has no resource but to go on in way he has chosen. If no great temptation has ever assailed you, think of the lesser ones to which you have yielded, and do not dare to despise your brother, who “has but stumbled in the path that you in weakness trod.”

Above all things, have faith in thy God; trust to Him thy body and thy spirit, in child-like confidence in his strength and knowledge of our weakness; we are all but children to Him, and it is but filial love and duty that He desires from us. I remem­ber reading long ago, that the only truly sublime moment in life was when, in the earnestness of prayer, the whole soul went forth in adoration of its Creator. It seemed strange to me then; for I thought of noble actions of which I had read and heard, of patriots who had died for their country; martyrs who suffered <<611>>torture rather than renounce their religion; friends who freely gave their lives to save each other; but I now see, that though the noble actions of man proceed from the same feeling that  prompts our prayers, yet our best deeds often partake of selfish­ness, and cannot be compared to the state of mind, at the moment when all earthly environments, losing their hold upon our senses, our pursuits appearing to us in all their real insignifi­cance, yet receiving their due weight as duties allotted us, and innocent pleasures which we do well to enjoy, a ray of glory descends from above, and illuminates, as by magic, the hardships and trials of life, until it appears to us a privilege to bear them, in proof of our obedience. When offering, in perfect abandon­ment of self, our souls at the feet of the Almighty, we catch a glimpse of the eternal heaven, and, for the first time, not only know but feel that it will exist for us, when earth, “like lingering music from some harper gray, passes away.”

True faith in God will teach us to make the distinction between religion and a religion, and we will see, that though men, owing to diversity of opinion, worship God in many diffe­rent ways, they may all be acceptable to Him, if they possess the essentials of belief in Him, and practise his chief statutes. Form is but the dress of religion,—useful, as it gives us duties to perform, which make us think often of our Creator, and connect his service with our common actions. To belong to a particular sect is eminently useful, as most persons can find one or another with which they can agree, and they will be more apt to attend public worship regularly, therefore more apt to regard the Sab­bath and other holy days. Our love of God should surely lead us to respect those whose lives are devoted to his service. There is no nobler office than that of expounder of the law, and we should be very slow to assign mercenary motives, much less hypocrisy, to those whose first duties are to teach the principles of self-denial and truth. Do you ask if I think one of these who weekly admonish us of our duty, would continue to do so only from love for us, and without pay? I suppose it is neces­sary for preachers to live, and so their congregations do pay them sometimes barely enough to keep body and soul together, <<612>>and that, I suppose, you may think a sufficient inducement for a man, who is expected to be educated and moderately talented, to give up a hopes of wealth, or in some cases even a competency, to bury himself in a country-town, and week after week, and year after year, by unwearied efforts to try to turn his flock to God. Of course all preachers are not worthy of their trust, any more than all lawyers, or doctors, or merchants; if there is really a fault to be found with one of them, let it be known, but do not condemn men by classes, whether congregations or ministers.

I think, with Robert Moore in “Shirley,” that “there are rogues in all Classes of society, among the rich and the poor, and with those who enjoy the blessings of a compe­tence, and in all seats; for it is human nature; but don’t tell me that any class is all bad, for I know better.” Hypocrisy there may be, and often too a want of charity in professors of religion; but it is not religion that is to be charged with these faults. Members of the same church would be found more numerous who despised these things. Let it not hurt the cause of religion, that some of her votaries would sustain her by vio­lence and illiberality, by loud denunciations of those who differ from them. It is not religion that speaks. I think it is Carlyle who says, “When a man gets angry, he has ceased speaking for the truth, and speaks for himself;” and, amid all the bickering and jostling that the passions of man will cause, is it not consol­ing to think that faith demands compliance only with the laws of God, the laws of goodness and truth, and that the forms and opinions which divide different sects are none of them essential; that we are free to choose as our judgment shall direct? Believe with me that all is for the best, that all that is required of us, is to “do well that duty which is nearest to us, which we know to be a duty,” and leave the rest to God, in our actions and in our studies, keeping Him still in sight, as the centre around which all things must revolve.