Hebrews 11* The nature and power of faith described. (1-3) It is set forthby instances from Abel to Noah. (4-7) By Abraham and hisdescendants. (8-19) By Jacob, Joseph, Moses, the Israelites, andRahab. (20-31) By other Old Testament believers. (32-38) Thebetter state of believers under the gospel. (39,40)1-3 Faith always has been the mark of God's servants, from thebeginning of the world. Where the principle is planted by theregenerating Spirit of God, it will cause the truth to bereceived, concerning justification by the sufferings and meritsof Christ. And the same things that are the object of our hope,are the object of our faith. It is a firm persuasion andexpectation, that God will perform all he has promised to us inChrist. This persuasion gives the soul to enjoy those thingsnow; it gives them a subsistence or reality in the soul, by thefirst-fruits and foretastes of them. Faith proves to the mind,the reality of things that cannot be seen by the bodily eye. Itis a full approval of all God has revealed, as holy, just, andgood. This view of faith is explained by many examples ofpersons in former times, who obtained a good report, or anhonourable character in the word of God. Faith was the principleof their holy obedience, remarkable services, and patientsufferings. The Bible gives the most true and exact account ofthe origin of all things, and we are to believe it, and not towrest the Scripture account of the creation, because it does notsuit with the differing fancies of men. All that we see of theworks of creation, were brought into being by the command ofGod. 4-7 Here follow some illustrious examples of faith from the OldTestament. Abel brought a sacrifice of atonement from thefirstlings of the flock, acknowledging himself a sinner whodeserved to die, and only hoping for mercy through the greatSacrifice. Cain's proud rage and enmity against the acceptedworshipper of God, led to the awful effects the same principleshave produced in every age; the cruel persecution, and evenmurder of believers. By faith Abel, being dead, yet speaketh; heleft an instructive and speaking example. Enoch was translated,or removed, that he should not see death; God took him intoheaven, as Christ will do the saints who shall be alive at hissecond coming. We cannot come to God, unless we believe that heis what he has revealed himself to be in the Scripture. Thosewho would find God, must seek him with all their heart. Noah'sfaith influenced his practice; it moved him to prepare an ark.His faith condemned the unbelief of others; and his obediencecondemned their contempt and rebellion. Good examples eitherconvert sinners or condemn them. This shows how believers, beingwarned of God to flee from the wrath to come, are moved withfear, take refuge in Christ, and become heirs of therighteousness of faith. 8-19 We are often called to leave worldly connexions,interests, and comforts. If heirs of Abraham's faith, we shallobey and go forth, though not knowing what may befall us; and weshall be found in the way of duty, looking for the performanceof God's promises. The trial of Abraham's faith was, that hesimply and fully obeyed the call of God. Sarah received thepromise as the promise of God; being convinced of that, shetruly judged that he both could and would perform it. Many, whohave a part in the promises, do not soon receive the thingspromised. Faith can lay hold of blessings at a great distance;can make them present; can love them and rejoice in them, thoughstrangers; as saints, whose home is heaven; as pilgrims,travelling toward their home. By faith, they overcome theterrors of death, and bid a cheerful farewell to this world, andto all the comforts and crosses of it. And those once truly andsavingly called out of a sinful state, have no mind to returninto it. All true believers desire the heavenly inheritance; andthe stronger faith is, the more fervent those desires will be.Notwithstanding their meanness by nature, their vileness by sin,and the poverty of their outward condition, God is not ashamedto be called the God of all true believers; such is his mercy,such is his love to them. Let them never be ashamed of beingcalled his people, nor of any of those who are truly so, howmuch soever despised in the world. Above all, let them take carethat they are not a shame and reproach to their God. Thegreatest trial and act of faith upon record is, Abraham'soffering up Isaac, #Ge 22:2|. There, every word shows a trial.It is our duty to reason down our doubts and fears, by looking,as Abraham did, to the Almighty power of God. The best way toenjoy our comforts is, to give them up to God; he will thenagain give them as shall be the best for us. Let us look how farour faith has caused the like obedience, when we have beencalled to lesser acts of self-denial, or to make smallersacrifices to our duty. Have we given up what was called for,fully believing that the Lord would make up all our losses, andeven bless us by the most afflicting dispensations? 20-31 Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau, concerning things to come.Things present are not the best things; no man knoweth love orhatred by having them or wanting them. Jacob lived by faith, andhe died by faith, and in faith. Though the grace of faith is ofuse always through our whole lives, it is especially so when wecome to die. Faith has a great work to do at last, to help thebeliever to die to the Lord, so as to honour him, by patience,hope, and joy. Joseph was tried by temptations to sin, bypersecution for keeping his integrity; and he was tried byhonours and power in the court of Pharaoh, yet his faith carriedhim through. It is a great mercy to be free from wicked laws andedicts; but when we are not so, we must use all lawful means forour security. In this faith of Moses' parents there was amixture of unbelief, but God was pleased to overlook it. Faithgives strength against the sinful, slavish fear of men; it setsGod before the soul, shows the vanity of the creature, and thatall must give way to the will and power of God. The pleasures ofsin are, and will be, but short; they must end either in speedyrepentance or in speedy ruin. The pleasures of this world arefor the most part the pleasures of sin; they are always so whenwe cannot enjoy them without deserting God and his people.Suffering is to be chosen rather than sin; there being more evilin the least sin, than there can be in the greatest suffering.God's people are, and always have been, a reproached people.Christ accounts himself reproached in their reproaches; and thusthey become greater riches than the treasures of the richestempire in the world. Moses made his choice when ripe forjudgment and enjoyment, able to know what he did, and why he didit. It is needful for persons to be seriously religious; todespise the world, when most capable of relishing and enjoyingit. Believers may and ought to have respect to the recompence ofreward. By faith we may be fully sure of God's providence, andof his gracious and powerful presence with us. Such a sight ofGod will enable believers to keep on to the end, whatever theymay meet in the way. It is not owing to our own righteousness,or best performances, that we are saved from the wrath of God;but to the blood of Christ, and his imputed righteousness. Truefaith makes sin bitter to the soul, even while it receives thepardon and atonement. All our spiritual privileges on earth,should quicken us in our way to heaven. The Lord will make evenBabylon fall before the faith of his people, and when he hassome great thing to do for them, he raises up great and strongfaith in them. A true believer is desirous, not only to be incovenant with God, but in communion with the people of God; andis willing to fare as they fare. By her works Rahab declaredherself to be just. That she was not justified by her worksappears plainly; because the work she did was faulty in themanner, and not perfectly good, therefore it could not beanswerable to the perfect justice or righteousness of God. 32-38 After all our searches into the Scriptures, there is moreto be learned from them. We should be pleased to think, howgreat the number of believers was under the Old Testament, andhow strong their faith, though the objects of it were not thenso fully made known as now. And we should lament that now, ingospel times, when the rule of faith is more clear and perfect,the number of believers should be so small, and their faith soweak. It is the excellence of the grace of faith, that, while ithelps men to do great things, like Gideon, it keeps from highand great thoughts of themselves. Faith, like Barak's, hasrecourse unto God in all dangers and difficulties, and thenmakes grateful returns to God for all mercies and deliverances.By faith, the servants of God shall overcome even the roaringlion that goeth about seeking whom he may devour. The believer'sfaith endures to the end, and, in dying, gives him victory overdeath and all his deadly enemies, like Samson. The grace of Godoften fixes upon very undeserving and ill-deserving persons, todo great things for them and by them. But the grace of faith,wherever it is, will put men upon acknowledging God in all theirways, as Jephthah. It will make men bold and courageous in agood cause. Few ever met with greater trials, few ever showedmore lively faith, than David, and he has left a testimony as tothe trials and acts of faith, in the book of Psalms, which hasbeen, and ever will be, of great value to the people of God.Those are likely to grow up to be distinguished for faith, whobegin betimes, like Samuel, to exercise it. And faith willenable a man to serve God and his generation, in whatever way hemay be employed. The interests and powers of kings and kingdoms,are often opposed to God and his people; but God can easilysubdue all that set themselves against him. It is a greaterhonour and happiness to work righteousness than to workmiracles. By faith we have comfort of the promises; and by faithwe are prepared to wait for the promises, and in due time toreceive them. And though we do not hope to have our deadrelatives or friends restored to life in this world, yet faithwill support under the loss of them, and direct to the hope of abetter resurrection. Shall we be most amazed at the wickednessof human nature, that it is capable of such awful cruelties tofellow-creatures, or at the excellence of Divine grace, that isable to bear up the faithful under such cruelties, and to carrythem safely through all? What a difference between God'sjudgement of a saint, and man's judgment! The world is notworthy of those scorned, persecuted saints, whom theirpersecutors reckon unworthy to live. They are not worthy oftheir company, example, counsel, or other benefits. For theyknow not what a saint is, nor the worth of a saint, nor how touse him; they hate, and drive such away, as they do the offer ofChrist and his grace. 39,40 The world considers that the righteous are not worthy tolive in the world, and God declares the world is not worthy ofthem. Though the righteous and the worldlings widely differ intheir judgment, they agree in this, it is not fit that good menshould have their rest in this world. Therefore God receivesthem out of it. The apostle tells the Hebrews, that God hadprovided some better things for them, therefore they might besure that he expected as good things from them. As ouradvantages, with the better things God has provided for us, areso much beyond theirs, so should our obedience of faith,patience of hope, and labour of love, be greater. And unless weget true faith as these believers had, they will rise up tocondemn us at the last day. Let us then pray continually for theincrease of our faith, that we may follow these bright examples,and be, with them, at length made perfect in holiness andhappiness, and shine like the sun in the kingdom of our Fatherfor evermore.
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