In remarking on the relation of faith in God to faith in the creature, it will be kept in mind, that we are speaking of religious faith, in distinction from natural faith. It is undoubtedly true, that as natural men, that is to say, as men without religion, we may properly exercise a degree of confidence or faith in others, considered as natural men. Perhaps we may say, it is unavoidable. Man is so constituted, that he naturally and necessarily has faith in something. He cannot live without it. If a man has not faith in God, it is a matter of course, that he has faith in something which is not God. And just in proportion as that faith, which is due to God, fails to be placed where it is due, it will invariably be found to be given and placed somewhere else. Those, therefore, who have not faith in God, are consistent with themselves, and consistent with their fallen nature, in placing faith in men. They cannot well do otherwise. Man, such as he is, and with such power as he can impart, is their support. In a word, by the very fact of not placing faith in God, who is the “I AM,” the ALL in ALL, and by placing it in man, they make man their God. This is natural; it is the unavoidable result of the natural life.
The religious man, considered as a religious man, (that is to say, considered as acting for religious objects and on religious principles,) cannot place faith in his fellow-men, except in a certain way and on certain conditions. The degree and the mode of the faith, which is to be exercised by the religious man in his fellow creatures, are to be determined by the relation which exists between God and man. It is well understood, that God and man sustain certain definite relations to each other; God as the Creator, man as the created; God as infinite in knowledge, man as comparatively knowing nothing; God as all powerful in the possession and control of all things, man in himself considered as entirely without strength. The relation in the objects of faith furnishes the rule, which regulates the relation of the faith itself. Accordingly if as Christians, we exercise faith in God, and at the same time exercise faith in man, it can be so only under the restriction and on the condition of keeping faith in man in proper subordination, by making it conform precisely to the relations actually existing.
And on the principle just laid down, we may undoubtedly, as religious persons, have faith in man, just so far as he is entitled to the exercise of faith. And he is entitled to faith, just so far as he is in union with God; deriving from God, who is the source of all good, that true strength and wisdom, of which he is naturally destitute. If we trust in man under other circumstances, that is to say, independently of God and out of God, we trust in that, which is obviously full of weakness; and may be said, in the most emphatic manner, to “lean upon a broken reed.” The principle, therefore, is, that, as religious men, we cannot place any real confidence in our fellow-men, considered in their natural life, or merely as men; but can have confidence in them only as they themselves have faith in God, and may be regarded as in some degree partakers of the divine nature. If as Christians we have faith in God as God, namely, as a being possessed of all wisdom, all goodness, all strength, and as the true source of wisdom and strength to all other beings, we shall have no inducement, nor can any reason at all be suggested, why we should repose confidence, except in the subordinate manner already mentioned, in any other being. To do it would obviously imply a secret distrust of God, and could not be otherwise than offensive to him.
— The Life of Faith (1852) Part 2, Chapter 2.