Faith is a reasonable principle. There is nothing dark, mysterious, or unintelligible in it; nothing for which he who values himself most upon the character of his reason has any cause to be ashamed.
It is not an enthusiastic principle that first gives cause to dreams and visions, and then supports itself upon imaginations of its own creating.
It is not a supernatural impression proceeding from the immediate agency of God, capriciously bestowed where He pleases to bestow it, and denied where He wills it to be denied.
It is not an inexplicable feeling of we know not what, conceived we know not how, and cherished we know not why; it is not the persuasion of anything, whether good or evil, concerning either ourselves or any other being, taken up without reason, and maintained upon principle, that may not be duly specified and explained.
It is not a sudden irradiation of the mind, proceeding from whatever cause; it is the natural and necessary result of the principles that compose the human frame.
To a duly formed eye, show any object of the knowable world, and it is seen: to an attentive mind, propose the evidence concerning any truth that respect the invisible world, and in proportion to the strength of that evidence, it is believed. Whatever persuasion is taken up against evidence or without it, is blind presumption, or romantic imagination, and not Faith.
Faith is as much the effect of evidence, as sight is the effect of sensible impression; nor is the one more absolutely dependent on its cause, or more closely connected with it, than the other. It is a law of our nature.
What sight is in the natural world, with respect to things visible and present, Faith is in the spiritual world, with respect to things absent and invisible: to believe, on sufficient evidence, is as natural as to perceive: and in thus believing, there is nothing more unreasonable, inexplicable, or indefensible, than in seeing with our open eyes the prospect that presents itself before us.
Faith then is a principle no more peculiar to religion in general, than it is peculiar to the Christian religion in particular. Even those who are most likely to treat it with ridicule and contempt in the disciples of Christ, are themselves obliged to act upon it every day and every hour of their lives: it is the very principle which, in the ordinary affairs of life, regulates and governs by far the greater part of their thoughts, their affections, and their conduct.
Faith is the principle upon which men resolve and act; there is no other principle that has so constant and extensive an influence upon them. You cannot even go to a place where you have never been, but it is by Faith you go thither. You cannot seek a person you have never seen, but it is by Faith you seek him: the most trivial and most important actions of our lives are almost all equally dependent on it.
Even our moral conduct, in the most serious and most momentous instances, rests on Faith as its foundation.
The objects to which our knowledge can extend are very few; when the sphere of our affection and activity go beyond these, it is Faith, not knowledge that carries out our views, our passions, and pursuits; it is Faith that directs, supports, and animates them.
Since Faith is a reasonable principle, we have no cause to be ashamed of it.
It may not be improper to observe, that however natural and just the distinction is between faith and reason, it ought not to be made without some caution and restriction.
A great part of what we ordinarily call reason, is indeed faith; and faith is itself an act of reason. To believe upon sufficient testimony, is one among many other characteristics of reason and intelligence.
If Faith is a reasonable principle, we need not be afraid of pursuing it through its consequences.
Nothing but what is right can come of what is reasonable; it must diverted from its natural course, or corrupted by some foreign intermixture, before it can dictate or induce to what is wrong. If our Faith is the pure result of evidence, it will give us comfort, and do us honor, to show it in our works.
(Adapted from a Sermon by Rev. Newcome Cappe, 1733-1800)