Hebrews 11

* The nature and power of faith described. (1-3) It is set forth

by instances from Abel to Noah. (4-7) By Abraham and his

descendants. (8-19) By Jacob, Joseph, Moses, the Israelites, and

Rahab. (20-31) By other Old Testament believers. (32-38) The

better state of believers under the gospel. (39,40)1-3 Faith always has been the mark of God's servants, from the

beginning of the world. Where the principle is planted by the

regenerating Spirit of God, it will cause the truth to be

received, concerning justification by the sufferings and merits

of Christ. And the same things that are the object of our hope,

are the object of our faith. It is a firm persuasion and

expectation, that God will perform all he has promised to us in

Christ. This persuasion gives the soul to enjoy those things

now; it gives them a subsistence or reality in the soul, by the

first-fruits and foretastes of them. Faith proves to the mind,

the reality of things that cannot be seen by the bodily eye. It

is a full approval of all God has revealed, as holy, just, and

good. This view of faith is explained by many examples of

persons in former times, who obtained a good report, or an

honourable character in the word of God. Faith was the principle

of their holy obedience, remarkable services, and patient

sufferings. The Bible gives the most true and exact account of

the origin of all things, and we are to believe it, and not to

wrest the Scripture account of the creation, because it does not

suit with the differing fancies of men. All that we see of the

works of creation, were brought into being by the command of

4-7 Here follow some illustrious examples of faith from the Old

Testament. Abel brought a sacrifice of atonement from the

firstlings of the flock, acknowledging himself a sinner who

deserved to die, and only hoping for mercy through the great

Sacrifice. Cain's proud rage and enmity against the accepted

worshipper of God, led to the awful effects the same principles

have produced in every age; the cruel persecution, and even

murder of believers. By faith Abel, being dead, yet speaketh; he

left an instructive and speaking example. Enoch was translated,

or removed, that he should not see death; God took him into

heaven, as Christ will do the saints who shall be alive at his

second coming. We cannot come to God, unless we believe that he

is what he has revealed himself to be in the Scripture. Those

who would find God, must seek him with all their heart. Noah's

faith influenced his practice; it moved him to prepare an ark.

His faith condemned the unbelief of others; and his obedience

condemned their contempt and rebellion. Good examples either

convert sinners or condemn them. This shows how believers, being

warned of God to flee from the wrath to come, are moved with

fear, take refuge in Christ, and become heirs of the

righteousness of faith.
8-19 We are often called to leave worldly connexions,

interests, and comforts. If heirs of Abraham's faith, we shall

obey and go forth, though not knowing what may befall us; and we

shall be found in the way of duty, looking for the performance

of God's promises. The trial of Abraham's faith was, that he

simply and fully obeyed the call of God. Sarah received the

promise as the promise of God; being convinced of that, she

truly judged that he both could and would perform it. Many, who

have a part in the promises, do not soon receive the things

promised. Faith can lay hold of blessings at a great distance;

can make them present; can love them and rejoice in them, though

strangers; as saints, whose home is heaven; as pilgrims,

travelling toward their home. By faith, they overcome the

terrors of death, and bid a cheerful farewell to this world, and

to all the comforts and crosses of it. And those once truly and

savingly called out of a sinful state, have no mind to return

into it. All true believers desire the heavenly inheritance; and

the 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 ashamed

to be called the God of all true believers; such is his mercy,

such is his love to them. Let them never be ashamed of being

called his people, nor of any of those who are truly so, how

much soever despised in the world. Above all, let them take care

that they are not a shame and reproach to their God. The

greatest trial and act of faith upon record is, Abraham's

offering 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 to

enjoy our comforts is, to give them up to God; he will then

again give them as shall be the best for us. Let us look how far

our faith has caused the like obedience, when we have been

called to lesser acts of self-denial, or to make smaller

sacrifices to our duty. Have we given up what was called for,

fully believing that the Lord would make up all our losses, and

even 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 or

hatred by having them or wanting them. Jacob lived by faith, and

he died by faith, and in faith. Though the grace of faith is of

use always through our whole lives, it is especially so when we

come to die. Faith has a great work to do at last, to help the

believer to die to the Lord, so as to honour him, by patience,

hope, and joy. Joseph was tried by temptations to sin, by

persecution for keeping his integrity; and he was tried by

honours and power in the court of Pharaoh, yet his faith carried

him through. It is a great mercy to be free from wicked laws and

edicts; but when we are not so, we must use all lawful means for

our security. In this faith of Moses' parents there was a

mixture of unbelief, but God was pleased to overlook it. Faith

gives strength against the sinful, slavish fear of men; it sets

God before the soul, shows the vanity of the creature, and that

all must give way to the will and power of God. The pleasures of

sin are, and will be, but short; they must end either in speedy

repentance or in speedy ruin. The pleasures of this world are

for the most part the pleasures of sin; they are always so when

we cannot enjoy them without deserting God and his people.

Suffering is to be chosen rather than sin; there being more evil

in 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 thus

they become greater riches than the treasures of the richest

empire in the world. Moses made his choice when ripe for

judgment and enjoyment, able to know what he did, and why he did

it. It is needful for persons to be seriously religious; to

despise the world, when most capable of relishing and enjoying

it. Believers may and ought to have respect to the recompence of

reward. By faith we may be fully sure of God's providence, and

of his gracious and powerful presence with us. Such a sight of

God will enable believers to keep on to the end, whatever they

may 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. True

faith makes sin bitter to the soul, even while it receives the

pardon and atonement. All our spiritual privileges on earth,

should quicken us in our way to heaven. The Lord will make even

Babylon fall before the faith of his people, and when he has

some great thing to do for them, he raises up great and strong

faith in them. A true believer is desirous, not only to be in

covenant with God, but in communion with the people of God; and

is willing to fare as they fare. By her works Rahab declared

herself to be just. That she was not justified by her works

appears plainly; because the work she did was faulty in the

manner, and not perfectly good, therefore it could not be

answerable to the perfect justice or righteousness of God.
32-38 After all our searches into the Scriptures, there is more

to be learned from them. We should be pleased to think, how

great the number of believers was under the Old Testament, and

how strong their faith, though the objects of it were not then

so fully made known as now. And we should lament that now, in

gospel times, when the rule of faith is more clear and perfect,

the number of believers should be so small, and their faith so

weak. It is the excellence of the grace of faith, that, while it

helps men to do great things, like Gideon, it keeps from high

and great thoughts of themselves. Faith, like Barak's, has

recourse unto God in all dangers and difficulties, and then

makes grateful returns to God for all mercies and deliverances.

By faith, the servants of God shall overcome even the roaring

lion that goeth about seeking whom he may devour. The believer's

faith endures to the end, and, in dying, gives him victory over

death and all his deadly enemies, like Samson. The grace of God

often fixes upon very undeserving and ill-deserving persons, to

do great things for them and by them. But the grace of faith,

wherever it is, will put men upon acknowledging God in all their

ways, as Jephthah. It will make men bold and courageous in a

good cause. Few ever met with greater trials, few ever showed

more lively faith, than David, and he has left a testimony as to

the trials and acts of faith, in the book of Psalms, which has

been, and ever will be, of great value to the people of God.

Those are likely to grow up to be distinguished for faith, who

begin betimes, like Samuel, to exercise it. And faith will

enable a man to serve God and his generation, in whatever way he

may be employed. The interests and powers of kings and kingdoms,

are often opposed to God and his people; but God can easily

subdue all that set themselves against him. It is a greater

honour and happiness to work righteousness than to work

miracles. By faith we have comfort of the promises; and by faith

we are prepared to wait for the promises, and in due time to

receive them. And though we do not hope to have our dead

relatives or friends restored to life in this world, yet faith

will support under the loss of them, and direct to the hope of a

better resurrection. Shall we be most amazed at the wickedness

of human nature, that it is capable of such awful cruelties to

fellow-creatures, or at the excellence of Divine grace, that is

able to bear up the faithful under such cruelties, and to carry

them safely through all? What a difference between God's

judgement of a saint, and man's judgment! The world is not

worthy of those scorned, persecuted saints, whom their

persecutors reckon unworthy to live. They are not worthy of

their company, example, counsel, or other benefits. For they

know not what a saint is, nor the worth of a saint, nor how to

use him; they hate, and drive such away, as they do the offer of

Christ and his grace.
39,40 The world considers that the righteous are not worthy to

live in the world, and God declares the world is not worthy of

them. Though the righteous and the worldlings widely differ in

their judgment, they agree in this, it is not fit that good men

should have their rest in this world. Therefore God receives

them out of it. The apostle tells the Hebrews, that God had

provided some better things for them, therefore they might be

sure that he expected as good things from them. As our

advantages, with the better things God has provided for us, are

so much beyond theirs, so should our obedience of faith,

patience of hope, and labour of love, be greater. And unless we

get true faith as these believers had, they will rise up to

condemn us at the last day. Let us then pray continually for the

increase of our faith, that we may follow these bright examples,

and be, with them, at length made perfect in holiness and

happiness, and shine like the sun in the kingdom of our Father

for evermore.

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