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Bible Commentaries

Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary
Hebrews 11

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-3

ILLUSTRATIONS OF FAITH AS A PRACTICAL POWER IN LIFE

CRITICAL AND EXEGETICAL NOTES

THIS chapter contains a series of illustrations, taken from the heroic ages of Hebrew history, of the nature and influence of faith in God. The writer desires to show that faith makes a motive and inspiration for daily life and conduct as sufficient and as satisfactory as distant announcements and demonstrative proofs. In impressing the temporary character of the Mosaic religious system, the writer is careful to preserve everything belonging to the older age that had a universal, a simply human character. And faith is the same thing sustaining patriarchs, prophets, and martyrs of the olden time or the new.

Heb . Substance of things hoped for.—Here the word means "confident expectation"; and this is so real that the man of faith acts as if he already had what he hoped for. Things only "hoped for" have no actual present reality to us. They gain practical reality in the faith that grasps them. That faith gives the present enjoyment of them. Evidence.—Demonstration, proof. Faith in the Divine word supplies the place of and is equivalent to proof. It satisfies the mind, and it inspires conduct just as a proof or demonstration should do. Stuart points out that the "faith" mentioned here is not specifically what is understood by "saving faith"; but rather faith as a practical principle and power, influencing all life and conduct. "The true and essential nature of faith is confidence in God, belief in His declarations." Faith here is the principle of pious and virtuous belief and action.

Heb . Elders.—Heroes and saints of the older age.

Heb . Worlds.—Greek "ages," i.e. the world regarded from the standpoint of human history. "The ‘time-world' necessarily presumes the existence of the space-world also" (Farrar).

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Heb

Faith and Reason.—It is necessary to consider precisely what idea of faith this writer has, and illustrates in this chapter. It is manifest at once that he is not attempting any general description of faith. If we had to understand him in that sense, we should have to say that his definition was an imperfect one, because it excludes so much. His mind was full of a particular class of people, who were under particular circumstances of temptation and difficulty, and his setting of truth is strictly and exactly adapted to them. The Jewish Christians had entered the spiritual dispensation in which faith is the medium, and they were seriously tempted to drift back into the material dispensation in which sense is the medium. The case is put strongly in the words, "But we are not of them that shrink back unto perdition, but of them that have faith unto the saving of the soul." But it would seem to those Jewish Christians as if he were urging them to break altogether away from their old history and old associations, and that was a very hard thing for the Jew, who had such a passionate attachment to the old. The writer seems to say that he advises nothing of the kind. There is a spiritual element in that old history and old ceremonial; that spiritual element is the real glory of them. That is precisely akin with the spirit of the new dispensation, which really is the very heart of the old, freed from its swathing bandages and its material limitations. "By faith"—just the very faith he is urging them to retain—"the elders obtained a good report," or "had witness borne to them." Definitions of faith are seldom satisfactory, because it can be viewed from several sides, and the definition may give only one of its sides. Locke describes faith as the assent to any proposition not made out by the deductions of reason, but upon the credit of the proposer. But that sees faith only on one side, and is altogether unsatisfactory to the Christian mind. The precise idea of faith in this chapter may be seen by a consideration of the similar terms, belief, saving faith, and trust. The writer is certainly not meaning belief, or the assent to particular statements of truth; nor does he mean "saving faith," or that acceptance of Christ as Saviour, and that soul-surrender to Him, which is the proper beginning of the Christian life; nor can he be referring to "trust," which is a personal feeling of confidence in Christ, and a daily renewed attitude of dependence. Neither of these aspects of faith are appropriate to this occasion.

I. Faith is the power in man which makes real to him the unreal.—By unreal is only to be understood the "unseen." Man calls material things real and spiritual things unreal, and we take man's standpoint. The deeper truth which he is to grow to apprehend is, that the spiritual is the real, and the material is but as its shadow, and so unreal. The mischievous teachers might urge on the Jewish Christians that in leaving Mosaism for Christianity they were leaving the real, the tangible, that which was known and proved, for the unreal, the vague, the uncertain, the intangible. What therefore needs to be made clear is, that man has within him a power which is altogether higher than sense. He can come into relation with that which cannot be seen, cannot be heard, cannot be touched. He can see the unseen; he can hear the unheard; he can feel the unreal. It is man's power to live in the unreal that is his sublime dignity. This lifts him up out of the animal range, for the creatures have no up-looking eyes. This lifts him up out of the range of animal, carnal man. Faith makes him a new creature, another creature, an altogether higher creature. That power in man which puts him into relation with the spiritual world, and makes that unreal world real to him, the very world in which he lives, is the faith with which the writer deals in this chapter. And it is strictly to the point for him to plead that, in urging the Jewish Christians to keep in that spiritual world to which they had been lifted, he was but urging them to do what the noblest heroes of the ages had done, what alone accounted for the patience of their achievements, and the splendour of their triumphs. They endured through the faith-power that was in them. They "endured as seeing Him who is invisible." Faith as a power in man is kin to spiritual vision, and gets its best illustration from our bodily vision. The body looks out from the eyes, discerns something outside it which it regards as real, and lets that something influence feeling and direct conduct. And the soul looks out from the eyes of faith, sees something outside it which it regards as real, which is spiritual and eternal, and it lets that something influence feeling and direct conduct. This is precisely what is illustrated for us in Abel, and Enoch, and Abraham, and Moses. It is the power in man which Christianity cultures, develops, purifies, ennobles, and guides to fitting objects. The two sentences, "Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the proving of things not seen," are really one thought repeated in the usual Hebraic mode. Taking the Authorised Version, we may see that the "substance of things hoped for" is simply this—making a present, real, and active power to us the unreal. And the "evidence of things not seen" is the making evident to us—manifesting to us, so as to be practically influential upon us—that which the bodily eye fails to discern. "Evidence" here is not "proof." We can never get any proof of spiritual things. They are "spiritually discerned." We speak of things being "in evidence" when they are presented to us for serious consideration. Faith brings unseen and eternal things into evidence; presents them for our consideration, with a view to the right ordering and shaping of our conduct and relations, both as regards God and as regards man. That then is the faith that is impressively, and we may say attractively, illustrated in this chapter. It is the faith that makes a present power on us of what is not materially present—that makes the unseen God a present inspiration to duty, the unseen Christ a present persuasion on feeling, and the promises of spiritual blessing a realised present possession of the blessing. Faith makes God real, and He is with us now. Faith makes righteousness real, and it becomes our attainment now. Faith makes heaven real, and it is about us now. It is the power which makes the unreal real to us. It is the power which keeps the unseen related to the seen. And "that which is seen is temporal, that which is unseen is eternal."

II. Faith is the power which does for the unreal what reason does for the real.—"By faith we understand." Just as man takes the facts that are apprehensible by his senses, examines them, inquires about them, reasons concerning them, and thus comes to understand them, and then acts upon them, so the spiritual man takes the facts of the unseen and eternal world, which are apprehensible by his faith, examines them, inquires into them, uses his quickened spiritual faculties about them, and so comes to apprehend them, to understand them, and then acts upon them. Much difficulty is needlessly made in defining the relations of faith and reason. They simply belong to two distinct spheres. Reason moves in the sphere of sensible and material things, and concerns itself entirely with that which takes forms which are apprehensible by the human senses. Faith moves in the sphere of intangible and immaterial things, and concerns itself entirely with that which takes no form which the senses can apprehend. A man is not a mere bundle of senses. The distinction is illustrated by a reference to the Creation. Nobody knows anything about the origin and first forms of material things by any evidence that the senses can give him. Nobody saw its birth; nobody watched the unfolding order. The obervations of the earth's form and crust on which modern geological studies are based only give rise to conflicting theories, which change with each passing generation, and are all untrustworthy. The scientific man knows more about the Creation through his beliefs than through his observations. But the spiritual man knows, by his faith in what God has revealed, all that we really need to know concerning the material creation. But observe a distinction. The writer only deals with what the spiritual man needs to understand concerning the Creation. Let the sense-man go on inquiring as freely as he may please. Our faith satisfies us; it is to us just the same as if we had been able to reason it all out; God—God alone—the God of Judaism and of Christianity, made the worlds; and there was nothing existing before Him out of which He could make them, and which could possibly set up a rivalry against Him. "By faith we understand that the worlds have been framed by the word of God, so that what is seen hath not been made out of things which do appear." Unbiassed reason does but reaffirm the conclusions of faith; and he who has the faith is beforehand with the man of reason in his apprehension of the primary truths of science and religion. What is thus illustrated in relation to the material creation is further illustrated by reference to selected heroes of the older Bible history. The principle for the spiritually renewed man that "through faith we understand" is capable of extensive application in all the actual spheres and practical relations and multiplied difficulties of life. The godly men of old really lived their daily life, really met and mastered their cares and perplexities, in the power of their faith. What has been done can be done. What has been done we can do.

1. Look at Abel. By faith he understood what offering, and what spirit in his offering, would gain his acceptance with God. By faith he understood the primary conditions of acceptable human worship.

2. Look at Enoch. By faith he understood the spirit of the earthly life that would secure the favour of God. He understood how to please God.

3. Look at Noah. By faith he understood how to act when God's judgments were abroad in the earth. By faith he understood the safety in which a man always stands who is actively obedient to the will of God.

4. Look at Abraham. By faith he understood where to go, what to do, and how to order his household. By faith he understood the holy mystery of the Divine control of human careers.

5. Look at Sarah. By faith she understood how to meet the surprise events of life. For surprise indeed it was to gain her motherhood in her old age.

6. Look again at Abraham. There is one scene of surpassing interest in his life-story. It is his being called to offer Isaac as a sacrifice. By faith he understood something of the mystery of Divine discipline, and something of the absolute claim of Divine obedience.

7. Look at Isaac. By faith he understood that the interest of a man is not bound up in this life, but belongs to a future, of which he can provide but a part.

8. Look at Jacob and Joseph. Both by faith understood how the world triumphs over the death, and passing away, of individuals; both by faith understood how man lives again in the fulfilment of God's sublime purposes in their race.

9. Look at Moses. By faith he understood what his great life-work was to be. And knowing what it was, he did it, and did it nobly. The triumphs of faith can be summarised. They cover all life—all commonplace life of duties, all special calls to service. Faith everywhere takes the place of understanding, and does for us all that understanding could do. Have we fully entered into apprehension of this most practical relation of faith to life? Even in the new spiritual life we want to reason out everything, and say we will believe nothing that we do not fully understand. Then we must be below our spiritual level. This is the standpoint of spiritual men: "By faith we understand." The apostle Paul puts his position as a spiritual man quite plainly. "The life that I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God." A striking New Testament illustration of faith as a practical power on conduct is found in the behaviour of St. Paul during the great storm at sea. "In that desperate crisis one man retained his calm and courage. It was Paul the prisoner, probably in physical health the weakest among them, and the greatest sufferer of them all. But it is in such moments that the courage of the noblest souls shines with the purest lustre, and the soul of Paul was inwardly enlightened. As he prayed, in all the peacefulness of a blameless conscience, it was revealed to him that God would fulfil the promised destiny which was to lead him to Rome, and that, with the preservation of his own life, God would also grant to him the lives of those unhappy sufferers for whom, all unworthy as some of them soon proved to be, his human heart yearned with pity. While the rest were abandoning themselves to despair, Paul stood forth on the deck; and after gently reproaching them for having rejected the advice which would have saved them from all that buffeting and loss, he bade them cheer up; for though the ship would be lost, and they would be wrecked on a certain island, not one of them should lose his life. For they knew that he was a prisoner who had appealed to Cæsar; and that night an angel of the God whose child and servant he was had stood by him, and not only assured him that he should stand before Cæsar, but also that God had, as a sign of grace, granted him the lives of all on board." "Wherefore, sirs," Paul said, "be of good cheer, for I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me."

SUGGESTIVE NOTES AND SERMON SKETCHES

Heb . Faith is more than Belief.—Faith is that power within us which makes the things of another world seem as real to us as the things of this world—which brings home to us the things not seen, and makes them as clear and sure to us as if we could see them with our very eyes. The great work of faith is to realise—make real to us—the things of the world unseen. And so faith is sometimes called the eye of the soul, because it looks upon the great truths of religion, and sees them as clearly, certainly, and constantly as the bodily eye looks upon and sees all the outward things around us. The bodily eye has no doubt that the things it sees are true and real. When it looks upon the mountains and fields and trees, it is quite sure that they are really there as it sees them. And so faith, the eye of the soul, has no doubt about the things it looks upon. It is quite sure that there is a God, and that God is ever present, and knows all we think and speak and do; it has no doubt about a Saviour who died for us, and about a Holy Spirit who dwells in our hearts. But still more, the bodily eye not only is sure about the truth of what it sees, but also cannot help seeing the things before it. When you walk along the road, you do not try to see everything in your way; you see it without trying. So too faith. Faith is not only sure of the truth and reality of the things not seen, but also has them ever in mind, keeps them ever in view, as it were. Faith means a great deal more than mere belief. It means making a thing real to our souls, having it ever present to our minds, keeping it so clearly before us that we cannot help acting upon it. So faith is the root of good works and holiness. We cannot help, when the unseen world seems so real and present to us—we cannot help living for that unseen world, instead of for the world we see. That power which keeps the great realities of another world clearly, constantly, steadfastly, before our souls is the only power which can conquer the snares and temptations, the power and the perils, of this world.—W. Walsham How, D.D.

Faith as Assent.—Faith is an assent unto truths credible upon the testimony of God (not on the reasonableness of the thing revealed, though by this we may judge as to whether it be what it professes, a genuine revelation), delivered unto us in the writings of the apostles and prophets. Thus Christ's ascension is the cause, and His absence the crown, of our faith; because He ascended we the more believe, and because we believe in Him who hath ascended our faith is the more accepted.—Bishop Pearson.

The Evidence of Things not seen.—The evidence that the "fool" wanted when he "said in his heart there is no God"; the evidence that Pharaoh wanted when he inquired, "Who is the Lord that I should serve Him? or what profit shall I have if I pray unto Him?" the evidence that Goliath wanted when he disdained David "because he was but a youth"; the evidence which Pilate wanted when he so scornfully inquired, "What is truth?" the evidence that Gallio wanted when "he cared for none of these things"; the evidence that St. Peter wanted when he exclaimed, "Lord, we have left all and followed Thee; what shall we have therefore?"—such evidence had Noah during one hundred and twenty years. Caring nothing for the gibes of the ungodly, he went on quietly building his extraordinary boat. The wise man had it when he said, "Cast thy bread upon the waters, and thou shalt find it after many days." The three Jews had it when they said, "Be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods." Job had it when he said, "I know that my Redeemer liveth." Daniel had it when he said, "They that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament." True faith is totally distinct from sectarian canting, which springs from ignorance and conceit. It is totally distinct from fanatical excitement, which in the nature of things is a transient emotion, powerless to change the heart and life. True faith leads you on, leads you ever. A man looking for the evidence of things not seen is a patient, earnest, careful, constant creature. But the practical man says, Where is the evidence? Illustrate by the mystery of Baptism, Confirmation, the Lord's Supper. Men are better or worse according to the measure of their faith, i.e. their power to realise the evidences of things not seen. Columbus said, "When I passed across the sea to find a land that men thought dwelt only in my fancy, they scorned me for my toil, yet had I faith in God, that He would prosper and direct my purpose."—Hawthorn Homilies.

Faith a Soul-principle.—Faith is that principle, that exercise of mind and soul, which has for its object things not seen, but hoped for, and which, instead of sinking under them as too ponderous, whether from their difficulty or from their uncertainty, stands firm under them, supports and sustains their pressure—in other words, is assured of, confides in, and relies on them.—Dr. Vaughan.

The Power of Faith Man's Dignity.—Every one knows how much the word "faith" has to do with Christianity. The word is, indeed, peculiar to religion, and in an especial manner peculiar to the religion of Christ. In His revelation to man God has taken hold of that one part of our nature which was lying most neglected, and yet in which the seed of our highest perfection is alone to be found. Faith is indeed that which most raises us from a state of brute selfishness and brute ignorance; and leading us on gradually, according to our gradual growth, from one high object to another, ends by offering to the mind of the Christian the most perfect object of all, even God Himself, our Father and Saviour and Sanctifier. But faith is also that part of our nature in which the effects of our corruption are seen most strongly. What does the text say faith is? It is that feeling or faculty within us, by which the future becomes to our minds greater than the present, and what we do not see more powerful to influence us than what we do see. When we are told of God, we see at once that He is an object of faith, far more excellent than any other, and that it is when directed to Him that the feeling can be brought forward to its full perfection. Faith in God seems to be perfect in all the points required to perfect it; it rests on the word of Him who is all-good, all-wise, and all-powerful; it points to objects so distant that faith must be strong and well matured in order to reach them; it encourages and terrifies by blessings and miseries so far removed from our present conceptions, that the faith must be far more powerful which can overcome actual temptations by dwelling on objects which our understandings are as unable to grasp fully, as our bodily eyes to see and to hear them. This, then, is religious faith. There is a peculiar species of religious faith, called Christian faith: that is, not only a faith in God our heavenly Father, but a faith in God as He has revealed Himself to us in the New Testament; that is, in God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. This Christian faith is of a more excellent kind, because it shows us more of God's perfections than any other; and from that view becomes even yet stronger, and more pure, and more self-abandoning. But this faith cannot be understood by all. How can they who live wholly by sight, who do not practise even the lower kinds of faith, how can they so much as understand the highest? (See Sermon on 1Jn .)—Thomas Arnold, D.D.

The Psychology of Belief.—We can only believe what is intelligible, what we can understand. Not, however, completely understand; if we could believe nothing unless we understood it completely, we should never believe it at all. Because we can believe what we do not understand completely, it has often been assumed that we can believe what we do not understand at all. Language which we do not comprehend is for us an unknown tongue. It is a mere sound. Sound is not the object of belief, but sense. A meaningless proposition cannot be believed, for the very simple reason, that since it is meaningless, there is nothing to believe. We can only believe what is possible. We cannot believe that which is contrary to reason. Reason contradicts a statement when it shows that it never could be true. Belief would not be possible unless there were some things which it is impossible to believe. We can only believe what is probable. We can neither believe without evidence nor against it. Evidence is to mental vision what light is to physical. Of mental vision there are two kinds—knowledge and belief. The evidence of certainty produces knowledge; the evidence of probability produces belief. The amount of evidence required to produce belief is different in different individuals, and the amount of evidence required will be different in the same individual for different subjects. Belief is independent of volition. The profession of belief is not so limited. We cannot believe to order or at will.—Prof. Alfred Momerie.

A Genuine Act of Faith.—Every genuine act of faith is the act of the whole man, not of his understanding alone, not of his affections alone, not of his will alone, but of all three in their central, aboriginal unity; and thus faith becomes the faculty in man through which the spiritual world exercises its sway over him, and thereby enables him to overcome the world of sin and death.—Hare.

Heb ; Heb 11:6. Faith includes Belief.—The terms we constantly use in religious conversation and in our preaching may be compared to current coin, which the whole community have an interest in keeping perfectly pure and of the true weight. So it is with terms such as faith, justification, sanctification. They are apt, like coins, to be clipped of some small portion of their Scriptural meaning; and we do well constantly, as it were, to take them to the mint and compare them, or rather the meaning we have come to attach to them, with Holy Scripture. The word translated "faith" is equivalent to trust in a person. Those who "come to God" are those who are on their way to faith; yet we are told that before they can have faith they must at least "believe that God is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him." Faith is a Scripture term which is used in a larger sense than belief. Every one who has faith believes; but every one who believes has not necessarily all that is comprehended in the term "faith." Belief is a part of faith, not the whole. Belief is an act of the intellect. Faith is that unshaken trust in God as our heavenly Father, in Christ as our Saviour, and in the Holy Ghost as our Sanctifier, which is wrought in the heart of the Christian by the Holy Spirit. We cannot believe without being convinced; if we are intellectually convinced that Jesus is the Christ, we cannot say so from the heart, except by the Holy Ghost—"cannot come to Christ except the Father draw us." It is not the profession of belief alone that God requires, although He requires this, but the acting out of the belief. We must be careful not to assert that there are no degrees in faith, and so make sad the hearts of children of God, whom He has not made sad.—Robert Barclay.

Heb . The Inspiration of High Examples.—"For by it the elders obtained a good report." R.V. "For therein the elders had witness borne unto them." A recent review-writer on "Modern Socialism and Economics" points out that all forms of society, aristocratic or democratic, despotic or republican, have recognised qualitative differences in their individual members. A better soldier or sailor, inventor or planter, poet or singer, soon made an impression on these societies, and found his reward. This principle, if not rejected, is oppressed by socialism. The mass of society, and not the essential quality of the individual members, occupies the attention, and stimulates the inventive plans of socialists. This is not the method of nature, which improves by variation, and not by mere succession and repetition. Progress comes by diffusing quality through the mass, and not by merely increasing the bulk of the mass; and the quality of individuals, once attained, becomes a common heritage. In no sphere of life does God ever permit man to keep on one dead level. Everywhere God sends forth the advanced man, the superior man, that he may be the inspiration to effort and attainment to others. Every superior man starts in other men the hopeful restlessness of discontent and ambition. The natural tendency of men on a level is to sink to a lower level. So there are always among us best men, elect men, who save humanity by preventing it from sinking, and inspiring it to rise higher. This is the fact in the moral and religious spheres, and Jesus Christ is the supreme Example who declares what is possible for humanity and helps to the attainment of it.

Heb . Faith and Philosophy dealing with a Material World.—It needs to be clearly seen that faith and philosophy do not ask the same thing concerning creation. Philosophy asks, "How did these things come to be?" Faith asks," Who brought these things into being and order?" It is of the very essence of the faculty of faith that it bears relation to person, not to force. This is plain if we remember how closely associated faith is with "trust" and with "love."

Heb . Faith and Reason.—How "faith" properly stands related to "reason" may be illustrated by the reference to the Creation How "faith" stands related to "religion" may be illustrated by the reference to Abel. Faith cannot be satisfactorily defined; it can be described in what it does, or helps us to do.

ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 11

Heb . Teaching what Faith is.—The Rev. R. Cecil imprinted upon the mind of his little daughter the true idea of faith, by the following method: "She was playing," said he, "one day with a few beads, which seemed wonderfully to delight her. Her whole soul was absorbed in her beads. I said, ‘My dear, you have some pretty beads there.' ‘Yes, papa.' ‘And you seem vastly pleased with them. Well, now, throw them behind the fire.' The tears started into her eyes; she looked earnestly at me, as if she ought to have a reason for so cruel a sacrifice. Summoning up all her fortitude, her breast heaving with the effort, she dashed them into the fire. Some days after, when I returned home, I opened a treasure, and set before her a bagful of large beads and toys of the same kind; she burst into tears with excessive joy. ‘These, my child,' said I, ‘are yours, because you believed me when I told you to throw those paltry beads behind the fire; your obedience has brought you this treasure. But now, my dear, remember as long as you live what faith is. I did all this to teach you the meaning of faith. You threw your beads away when I bade you, because you had faith in me that I never advised you but for your good. Put the same confidence in God; believe everything that He says in His word. Whether you understand Him or not, have faith in Him that He means you good."—Sunday Readings.

Walking by Faith.—Andrew Fuller was to preach before a ministerial association. On his way there, the roads in several places were flooded by recent rains. Mr. Fuller came to one place where the water was very deep, and, being a stranger to its exact depth, was unwilling to go on. A countryman acquainted with the water cried out, "Go on, sir! you are quite safe!" Fuller urged on his horse; but the water soon touched the saddle, and he stopped to think. "Go on, sir! all is right!" shouted the man. Taking the man at his word, Fuller proceeded, and the text was suggested, "We walk by faith, not by sight."

Faith and Sight.—By constant sight the effect of objects seen grows less; by constant faith the effect of objects believed in grows greater. The probable reason is, that personal observation does not admit of the influence of the imagination in impressing the facts; while unseen objects, realised by faith, have the auxiliary aid of the imagination, not to exaggerate them, but to clothe them with living colours, and impress them upon the heart. Whether this is true or not, the more frequently we see the less we feel the power of an object; while the more frequently we dwell upon an object by faith, the more we feel its power.—J. B. Walker.

Faith.—

My faith, it is an oaken staff,

The traveller's well-loved aid;

My faith, it is a weapon stout,

The soldier's trusty blade:

I'll travel on, and still bestirred

By silent thought or social word,

By all my perils undeterred,

A soldier-pilgrim staid.

My faith, it is an oaken staff,

Oh let me on it lean;

My faith, it is a trusty sword,

May falsehood find it keen!

Thy Spirit, Lord, to me impart,

Oh make me what Thou ever art—

Of patient and courageous heart,

As all true saints have been.

T. T. Lynch.


Verses 4-6

CRITICAL AND EXEGETICAL NOTES

Heb . More excellent.—Because Abel made it the offering of himself. It is the offering of the man himself, through his sacrifice, that God accepts. Dead yet speaketh.—Philo says, "Abel—which is most strange—has both been slain and lives."

Heb . Believe that he is.—The two absolutely fundamental truths of universal religion are:

(1) God exists;

(2) God is moral Governor of the universe, and as such rewards the pious, and punishes the ungodly.

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Heb

The Construction of Religion.—The direct association of Abel's offering with his "faith" gives the true key to the old Scripture narrative, which in fact records the beginning of religion, which, properly regarded, is man's effort to meet the conditions into which sin has brought him, and to recover the relations which sin has disturbed. Man needs worship; sinful man needs a religion.

I. Man's efforts to construct a religion.—The result of incoming sin on the human family was not immediate and absolute loss of the thought and knowledge of God; for Abel and Cain knew of God, and recognised God's relation to their prosperity. The result of incoming sin was disharmony between man's spirit and man's body, and the body no longer remained, what it was designed to be, the medium and servant of man the spirit. The body now claimed separate and independent rights, and even to dominate the spirit. In Abel we see the harmony of body and spirit; in Cain, the disharmony. God does not pass by that first instance of disharmony. He testifies His approval of Abel and disapproval of Cain. And in that instance, in that verdict, God establishes for all time the law that acceptable worship must have in it the reality, though it need not have the perfection, of harmony between soul and body. The beginning of the construction of religion was bringing an offering to express thankfulness and to ensure the Divine favour. It is important to notice the difference between the spirit of Adam and the spirit of these sons. Sin had brought in the distinction between "mine" and "thine" in relation to God. Adam saw all to be God's. Abel and Cain made gifts, of what was theirs, to God. A religion is only wanted, and is only possible, where there has come about a breaking of the harmony. Religions are, essentially, human endeavours, more or less Divinely guided, to recover lost fellowship, to restore lost relations.

II. God indicating what are the essentials of a right religion.—It were a vain thing for man to construct a religion if God held aloof, and was in no way interested in his effort. If God concerned Himself with it, He must indicate what features of man's effort He approved and what He disapproved. And this is precisely the significance of His acceptance and rejection of these different, and differently inspired, offerings. Man made distinct advance in the construction of a religion when he knew what God approved. An offering like Abel's, offered in the spirit of Abel, is acceptable to Him. Then what are the essential features of Abel's offering, and wherein lies its distinction from Cain's. "Possibly Cain just took some of his fruits as a man would who performs a duty in which he is not very deeply interested. Possibly Abel selected with care, chose out the fattest and best, as a man would who wanted to make a really acceptable gift, one that would worthily express his thankfulness and love. The Mohammedan legend embodies this idea in an exaggerated form. It says that Cain's offering was a sheaf of the very worst of his wheat, but Abel's a fat lamb, the very best of his flock. It is better, however, only to say that the light feeling of the one and the intense feeling of the other gave God a basis for further discriminating between them. Abel's was a personally religious act; Cain's was a formal duty done. Cain's bringing his offering was an expression of natural religion; Abel's was an expression of personal piety. God could receive both, if both were sincere, but the smile of His special favour must rest on Abel. The point of distinction may even be stated more sharply. The one—Cain—offered a gift to God. The other—Abel—offered himself to God by means of a gift. And the opportunity was taken for sealing, once and for ever, the truth that the only offerings God can accept are gifts which carry to Him the givers themselves." "Every man, then, wanting a religion, it is remarkable that the first idea men light upon is always the same. The first notion of religion is universally that which is seen in Cain and Abel. Men bring a gift to please the Deity and secure His favour. Cain and Abel did not merely bring their offerings as expressions of their thankfulness for temporal prosperity. The story clearly indicates that they looked for the Divine acceptance of themselves, in some sense, for the sake of their gift. Cain was angry because he did not, by his gift, secure the Divine favour for himself. But no mere gift can ever secure God's acceptance. ‘The Lord looketh on the heart.' Abel's gift of a lamb was, in itself, no more acceptable than Cain's corn and fruits. Abel's humble, earnest, grateful, trusting heart can receive God's favour. From Cain's formalities God's favour must be withheld. Thus in the very first ages of the world was forcibly presented the law which our Divine Lord expressed so plainly: ‘They that worship the Father must worship Him in spirit and in truth.' Not sacrifices, not temples, not services, not prayers, not good deeds, not steadfast morality, not generous giving, can, of themselves, ever gain Divine favour. The Spirit-God asks for spirit-worship. Because man is a spirit it is beneath his dignity to offer, and it is beneath the dignity of God, the great Spirit, to accept, other than spirit-worship."

These points may be impressed. Religion is not sentiment, and yet it goes with sentiment. Religion is not acts, and yet it can express itself in acts. Religion is heart-feeling; it is the devotion of a man's self to God; it is seen in the Divine Man, who "offered Himself without spot to God."

(This topic might also have been treated as "The Power of Faith in Human Worship.")

Special Study of Cain.—

1. In Cain we have sin putting on its outward evil forms: heart-wrong showing itself in outward wrong-doing—wrong to others, wrong to society. The difficulty we have with sin is that it never will keep in the heart-sphere; it will persist in coming out and showing what a terrible heart-evil it is, by manifesting in social relationships what a terrible life-evil it is.

2. In Cain we also see the beginning of contentions about religious matters; and we may learn that religious contentions are always about the externals of religion, never about the inner spirit of piety; about men's beliefs, not about their soul-lovings and soul-trustings. It is assumed that all the Churches and all the sects will be happy together in heaven. They will, but only on the deep ground of their common piety, their common "life in Christ," which will there take the place of religion. Before men sinned in Eden, and after they have been wholly delivered from sin in Paradise, worship may be required, but not religion, which is entirely relative to man's sinful condition.

SUGGESTIVE NOTES AND SERMON SKETCHES

Heb . Posthumous Eloquence.—The eloquence of life and the eloquence after life are nearly one, the latter for the most part a prolonged reverberation. The life may be still a living epistle, not dependent upon monumental marble, nor the book memoirs. There are, however, special values attaching to the echoes of the life after it has closed on earth.

1. Speaketh through the charitable memoirs of men, kindred, friends, the Church, the community—by word, work, example.

2. Speaketh in testimony and vindication of the truths, the cause for which the life stood as an exponent. A completed argument, the peroration, the most forcible part and the most lasting in impression.

3. Pre-eminently Christian faith gives posthumous power to the life. "By it he [Abel], being dead, yet speaketh." Agnosticism, infidelity, pessimism, worldliness, selfishness, in any form not only winds up in despair, but leaves no echo that men care to listen to. Christian faith, as the soul of the Christian's life, is immortal and perennial in influence and fruitfulness. It reappears in children and children's children. It adds continually to the witnesses summoned by the Church in her vindication, adds undying elements to the Church's endless pilgrim song.—J. S. K.

The Witness of Abel's Faith.—The reference is not to any imaginary continued presence of Abel, nor need it be to the statement in Gen , that the voice of Abel's blood cried from the ground. The argument of the writer requires that the continued witness of Abel should be the witness of Abel's faith. He speaks by his faith to those who should come after him, exhorting and encouraging them to follow his example. That example of faith remains upon the holy records, and affords admonition and instruction to succeeding ages.

The Contrast of Cain and Abel.—In the two men, Cain and Abel, we have the types of the two classes into which the world has ever been divided. In Abel we have the soul struggling for restored harmony, seeking to gain its restored rights. In bringing his offering he conquered so far as to make his bodily gift express his soul's gratitude, dependence, and faith. As he stood before God with his offering, body and soul were in harmony. But in Cain the harmony is wholly wanting. His body and soul were not together. The bodily gift indeed was offered, but it spoke nothing in behalf of the soul.—Age of Great Patriarchs.

Heb . Death and Translation.—Death requires to be spoken of with care and precision. There is the natural death of the animal which man shares in so far as he too is an animal. But as a being inbreathed with the Divine Spirit, and made a living soul, translation from one bodily organ to another must be thought of as the Divine idea for man, as was realised and illustrated in Enoch. Death for the living soul, in the animal body, is the necessity introduced by human sin.

Pleasing God.—Enoch, the devout patriarch, the fearless preacher, the fellow-traveller with God, the triumphant saint who did not see death, but took wing at once by the way of translation into heaven. A glorious man, whose name and character and destiny will live in human memory freshly, until the resurrection of the dead. This is the ground of all—that "he pleased God." He did this not by any special superhuman experiences and endeavours, but just in such a way as we may all imitate. The words may never have been uttered to himself at all, but he had the sense of the words in his heart—the deep joyful assurance of God's approbation and love—and others, by his life and labours, knew that he was an accepted and a favoured servant and saint of God.

I. The necessity for pleasing God.—There is a God to please, a living God, who takes a living and continual interest in all human things, whose great endeavour, by all this complicated world-work that He carries on, is to nourish and educate human spirits, that they may, like Him, hate the wrong and love the right, and do it. He is pleased always when the least cause for pleasure is presented to Him. Some say that the attempt to please God is an inferior aim, and that the real end we ought to keep in view is, to be right in everything. But let a man try to be right without any regard to God, and how far will he go? God being an infinite, absolute, all-perfect Being, holding in Himself all principles, all relations, all truth, order, and beauty, to please Him must, in the very nature of the case, be to do right. In the epistle to the Hebrews God is spoken of as "Him with whom we have to do." It is not with the duty, but with God in the duty; not with the care, but with the will of God in the care; not with the man, but with God, the maker, ruler, judge, of the man and of all men, with whom we have to do; and therefore we ought to please Him.

II. The way of pleasing God.—It is not difficult, if only we take the right way of it. He is not a hard master. I believe we have no idea how simple, how natural, how human-like in the best sense, is the pleasure and joy of God in the obedience of His children. Repentance, faith, practical obedience, are the things which please Him. Enoch lived a public life of service, and pleased God in it. We may do so by action or by suffering; by public testimony or by private prayer; in much or little; by strength or weakness; amid applause or scorn, honour or shame; we may walk with God with a simple, joyful, loving heart.

III. The results of pleasing God.—In this way we shall please ourselves as we never can do in any other. There is a kind of self-satisfaction of which the less we have the better. But there is another kind of self-satisfaction which we may and must seek. It is well when a man brings himself up to the bar of his better self. There is something of God in a good man; the enlightened conscience is the echo of the Divine authority and will. And if we please God, we shall ourselves have pleasure in life and the world. He can make our enemies to be at peace with us. In the world we may have tribulation, and yet we may be of good cheer. Come what may in this life, the reward in heaven is always sure. To mortal man the joy of the immortal is not yet revealed; but as the flicker of light on the morning sky is the pledge of the shining sun and the risen day—as the blade above the soil is the earnest of the waving corn-field and the plentiful granary—so are God's first rewards of service here the fore-tokens and the pre-libations of the joy of heaven.—Alexander Raleigh, D.D.

Pleasing God must be essentially the same thing in all ages and everywhere. God is the same everywhere and to everybody—the same absolutely, and the same relatively in adaptation to their varying conditions.

I. What is the condition on which man can please God?—Simply this—let him be what God designed he should be. None of us can be pleased when our work is spoiled, or turns out to be other than we intended it to be. We are pleased when our work proves to be what we wanted it to be.

II. What is the reward of pleasing God?—We get all the blessing—unlimited, unhindered—that He planned. The Divine expectation of the creature involves the richest blessing of the creature.

Heb . The Power of Faith on Human Death.—Why was the narrative of Enoch recorded in the older Scriptures? and why is it recalled to mind here? Physical death then seemed to be an absolutely hopeless thing. Everybody died. It might seem to be the end of all. In a long and unbroken procession men passed away by death. Men are in the hands of fate. They may become careless. They did become careless. They let loose their passions, and said, "Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die." A world of dying men was fast becoming utterly corrupt before God. It was necessary to show that death was not inevitable. The order could be broken. Man is in the hands of God, not of fate. This life on earth is neither the only life nor the true. This, in the early days, could only be shown pictorially, by an incident, by a fact. It is shown in the freeing of Enoch from the universal death-law, on the ground of faith, and of the life which his faith inspired. What then is taught the world by the translation of Enoch?

I. The death-penalty on sin may be remitted.—It was once; it may be again. It is no absolute law for humanity, against which men may kick in vain. In the first age it was remitted. In the prophetic age it was remitted. In the resurrection of Christ it ceased to be a penalty on man, and its power was once and for ever destroyed. For all who are now in Christ death is not death; it is Enoch-translation. The dead in Christ simply "are not"; God takes them.

II. There is another world, the spiritual world, into which man the spirit goes.—The first age learned that—learned it from Enoch. Does any man sum up his career thus, "I am born, I grow, I live, I die, and that is all"; what can he do with Enoch? Enoch lives, while he lives, in the spiritual world. Enoch goes into the spiritual world; he does not die. Where is he? Where is Elijah? Where is Christ? "God is not God of the dead, but of the living."

III. The life that is ruled by other-world considerations escapes death.—Enoch had this testimony, "He pleased God," in living by faith, not by sight. Then in outward and visible ways he shall illustrate the abiding spiritual truth for the race. He was translated—actually freed from death. All who live by faith, by other-world considerations, are translated through death. "Absent from the body, present with the Lord."

Heb . Postulates of Prayer.—"For he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that seek after Him." Coming to God is coming with some request; it is prayer. That is declared to be an impossible thing unless two postulates are laid down and fully admitted.

I. Nobody can pray unless he believes that God is.—If he did not so believe, it would never enter into his head to pray. And if a man professes to believe that there is no God, and nevertheless prays, that man is manifestly self-deceived. He does believe in God. Men easily deceive themselves by using terms such as force, law, fate, etc. If in any sense they pray to, or depend on these things, they make them God. The personality of God is the thing men resist, but it is necessary to show that personality in God is precisely relative to prayer in man.

II. Nobody can pray unless he believes that God is the rewarder of them that pray.—No one would attempt what he was absolutely sure was useless. There must be hope in prayer. But to lay down as a fact that God is a rewarder is to go beyond the assertion that He is, and to assert that He has a moral character, and comes into moral relations with His creatures. It is to advance from natural to revealed religion. Grant these two postulates (God is; God is a rewarder), and we will logically raise a whole religious structure for humanity, which shall be in absolute harmony with, and be the manifestly necessary outcome of, those first principles.

Two Primary Truths.—The two fundamental truths of all that can properly be called religion are here adverted to. The first is, a belief that God exists; the second, that He is the moral governor of the universe, i.e. that He rewards those who are pious, and consequently punishes those who are not so. He who denies this, denies all that sanctions religion, and makes it binding upon the consciences of men.

ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 11

Heb . The Living Power of the Dead.—Some men we only estimate aright when they have passed from mortal scenes. While most of the members of the vegetable kingdom give out such odour as they may have power to give during life, the vernal grass, the woodruff, and others, are not fragrant till they have been taken away from their roots, and have begun to get dry. The rose, the lilac, the daphne, and the acacia pour forth their perfume as a part of their day's duty. The woodruff, that holds up handfuls of little white crosses in the pleasant woods and shady glens, yields no scent till its life has ebbed—beautiful emblem of those who delight us while they live out of the serene abundance of their kindly hearts, but whose richer value we only begin to know when they are gone away, and of whose white souls we then say inwardly, "He being dead yet speaketh." So the hay-field that rolls like sea-waves is scentless when we pass it uncut; we hear the measured swish of the scythe, death lays each green head low, and odour rises like mist.—L. H. Grindon.

Forgetfulness of the Dead.—We shall sleep none the less sweetly, though none be talking about us over our heads. The world has a short memory, and, as the years go on, the list that it has to remember grows so crowded that it is harder and harder to find room to write a new name on it, or to read the old. The letters on the tombstones are soon erased by the feet that tramp across the churchyard.—A. Maclaren, D.D.

Missions continued after Death.—The cedar is most useful when dead. It is most productive when its place knows it no more. There is no timber like it. Firm in the grain, and capable of the finest polish, the tooth of no insect will touch it, and Time itself can hardly destroy it. Diffusing a perpetual fragrance through the chambers which it ceils, the worm will not corrode the book which it protects, nor the moth corrupt the garment which it guards. All but immortal itself, it transfuses its amaranthine qualities to the objects around it; and however stately in the forest, or brave on the mountain's brow, it is more serviceable in Solomon's palace, and it receives an illustrious consecration when set up as pillars in the Temple, and carved into doorposts and lintels for the house of the Lord. Every Christian is useful in his life, but the goodly cedars are most useful afterwards. Joseph while he lived saved much people alive, and his own lofty goodness was an impressive and elevating pattern to his relenting and admiring brethren. But as an instance of special providence, and an example of untarnished excellence amidst terrible temptations, Joseph dead has spoken to more than Joseph living. The sweet singer of Israel while he lived taught many to handle the harp, and infected not a few with his thankful, adoring spirit. But David being dead yet singeth, and you can hardly name the psalm or hymn or spiritual song of which the lesson was not learnt from the son of Jesse. Paul in his living day preached many a sermon, and made many a convert to the faith of Jesus. But Paul being dead yet preacheth, and they were sermons from his sepulchre which converted Luther, and Zwingle, and most of our modern evangelists. And Luther is dead, but the Reformation lives. Calvin is dead, but his vindication of God's free and sovereign grace will never die. Knox, Melville, and Henderson are dead, but Scotland still retains a Sabbath and a Christian peasantry, a Bible in every house, and a school in every parish. Bunyan is dead, but his bright spirit still walks the earth in its Pilgrim's Progress. Baxter is dead, but souls are still quickened by the Saints' Rest and the Call to the Unconverted. Cowper is dead, but the "golden apples" are still as fresh as when newly gathered in the "silver basket" of the Olney Hymns. Eliot is dead, but the missionary enterprise is young. Henry Martyn is dead, but who can count the apostolic spirits, who, phœnix-wise, have started from his funeral pile? Howard is dead, but modern philanthropy is only commencing its career. Raikes is dead, but the Sabbath schools go on. Wilberforce is dead, but the negro will find for ages a protector in his memory.—Dr. James Hamilton.

Holy Example.—If holy example is, as we so often declare to each other, so beneficial, then it must be counted as worthy of mention among Christian privileges that we have now more holy examples than the Christians of the first century had. Each leaf in ecclesiastical history is illuminated with the noble deeds, words, and sufferings of Christ's people—an illustrious succession of spectators and heroes. The Christian Church is like a magnificent temple; each pious and illustrious man that enters it lights a new lamp therein; one after another they come, in solemn yet kingly succession, each making the temple appear more glorious, and bringing out its hidden beauties, by the holy example they set before us.—T. R. Stevenson.

Heb . Faith in God.—Faith regards God's word as more real than man's acts, as not less real than a star in heaven; and believes that the least promise that God has written will outlive the last pyramid that all the Pharaohs have ever built. When you have a bank-note in your hand, you have no money, nor have you literally books, and clothes, and shoes, and bread, and wine, and all that it can purchase; but you have a promise upon that slip of paper, as real as if you had all the goods that bit of paper can purchase. You do not lay aside God's word as an obsolete, worthless thing, but you turn it into currency, and treat it as if really fulfilled; for faith is just taking God at His word, and believing the promises just because He says it.—Dr. Cumming.

An Infidel's Testimony.—Dr. Elliot, who was well acquainted with Colonel Allen, a celebrated infidel in America, visited him at a time when his daughter was sick and near death. He was introduced to the library, where the colonel read to him some of his writings with much self-complacency, and asked, "Is not that well done?" While they were thus employed, a messenger entered, and informed Colonel Allen that his daughter was dying, and desired to speak with him. He immediately went to her chamber, accompanied by Dr. Elliot, who was desirous of witnessing the interview. The wife of Colonel Allen was a pious woman, and had instructed his children in the principles of Christianity. As soon as her father appeared at her bedside, she said to him, "I am about to die: shall I believe in the principles you have taught me, or shall I believe in what my mother has taught me?" He became extremely agitated; his chin quivered, his whole frame shook; and after waiting a few moments, he replied, "Believe what your mother has taught you."

Enoch.—

Hast thou not seen at break of day

One only star the east adorning,

That never set or paled its ray,

But seemed to sink at once away

Into the light of morning?

From it the sage no portent drew,

It came to light no meteor fires,

But silver shone the whole night through,

On hawthorn hedges steeped in dew,

And quiet village spires.

Like him of old who dwelt beneath

The tents of patriarchal story,

Who passed without the touch of death,

Without dim eye or failing breath,

At once into God's glory—

The patriarch of one simple spot,

The sire of sons and daughters lowly,

And this the record of his lot,

"He walked with God, and he was not,"

For the Lord took him wholly.

C. F. Alexander.


Verses 7-12

CRITICAL AND EXEGETICAL NOTES

Heb . Righteousness which is by faith.—Which is according to faith. "Faith in this writer never becomes the same as mystic oneness with Christ, but means general belief in the unseen. And ‘righteousness' is not ‘justification,' but faith manifested by obedience. Throughout this chapter righteousness is the human condition which faith produces, not the Divine gift which faith receives" (Farrar).

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Heb

Expressions of Faith.—The series of illustrations of faith is in some sense historical; but there is an evident selection to suit a definite purpose. Three persons are introduced in this paragraph; and it is evident that they illustrate faith, or living in the power of the invisible, as it may gain expression—

(1) in the calamities of life;

(2) in the commonplaces of life;

(3) in the surprises of life.

I. Faith finding expression in the calamities of life.—Noah was placed in circumstances which he had no share in bringing about, and over which he had no control. He had to suffer for the sins of others. And he had only a Divine intimation of what he was to do. He saw nobody; perhaps did not even hear a voice. He felt the direction put into his mind. But he believed; he acted upon his faith. There was no outward sign of the judgment falling. The long years must pass before it would fall. Nevertheless he went on preparing the ark, and testifying for God, and for the coming judgment which would express the Divine condemnation. We are all placed under disabilities, and come into the strain of calamities, over which we have no control, and with which we are not directly related. If there be in us the life of faith, we accept God's will concerning us in the very midst of the disabilities, and simply, cheerfully do it; and in doing it honour God, and plead for righteousness with our fellow-men.

II. Faith finding expression in the commonplaces of life.—Where we shall live, what shall be our occupation, where we shall seek our friendships, what shall be our daily doing, make up the commonplace of life. And it may seem as if that was precisely the sphere for a man's own judgment and enterprise. What can he want with faith in these every-day things? They call for his decisions and his skill. That there is a noble and spiritual way of doing our commonplace duties, and meeting our commonplace obligations, is shown to us in the patriarch Abraham. He did not go where he wanted to go; he went where God wanted him to go. He did not do what he wanted to do; he did what God wanted him to do. He believed the Divine voice in his soul, and followed it. He cherished the promise for his race, and quietly bore the limitations and burdens which God laid on the present. It is a sweet mystery of faith that it can thus bring spiritual considerations to bear on the simplest relations of every-day life and duty, so that we may win the righteousness of common life. We can be the children of faithful Abraham.

III. Faith finding expression in the surprises of life.—It is strange to find Sarah selected to illustrate faith, seeing that a marked feature of her story is her incredulity. That, however, was only a passing weakness. She came to share her husband's faith. She is selected because the promise of God to her was a distinct surprise; and her having a son in her old age represents what we may call the surprises of life, the things we do not think of or anticipate, or even desire. Sometimes delightful surprises; sometimes doubtful surprises; sometimes trying surprises. Faith may find expression in them; it can find God working in them, and can try to meet the claims of them, and to learn the lessons of them. They may seem to the ordinary human view puzzle-pieces that fit nowhere. Faith finds their fittings, or trusts God to show their places in due time. Faith then is a real and practical power on daily life. It is no great acquisition for great occasions. It is an abiding force, making real to us God, and His word and promise; and so it becomes our sufficient help to bear the disabilities, do the duties, and meet the surprises of life.

SUGGESTIVE NOTES AND SERMON SKETCHES

Heb . Faith in God's Word.—The basis of faith is our recognition of something as the word and will of God concerning us. Noah acted; the action was the expression of his faith, and it was based upon a warning that he had, which he recognised to be a warning sent from God, and bearing direct relation to him. It is our recognition of a thing as the word of God, and the word of God to us, which brings responsibility, and gives exercise to faith, which really is our response to that word. It is conceivable that a man may recognise something as the word of God which is not the word of God, or not meant for him; but the recognition equally brings responsibility in that case; and the man, though actually wrong, is right in so far as he acts up to the light as he apprehends it. It may be said, Then a man is better off who simply leaves God's words alone, and makes no personal recognition of them. The answer is, That this he cannot do. By the law and condition of his very being, he is open and sensitive to communications from God. He must deal with them. He must be judged as a moral being, by the ways in which he has dealt with them. "Whatsoever is not of faith is sin."

Persistency in the Obedience of Faith.—An act of faith may be comparatively easy. To maintain a series of acts of faith implies difficulty. To sustain a series of acts, amid changes and opposition, for many years—in the case of Noah, for one hundred and twenty years—implies a truly sublime moral triumph. "We can only admire the loyalty and the faith which kept him going quietly on amid the jeers and scoffs of the thoughtless multitudes who watched his work and listened to his word. Here is no common man. Here is the surprising thing—the man stood in the world's eye all through those years. He lived among the people whom he warned. The religion that is worth anything can stand the strain of common-place, every-day life and relations."

Heb . The Illusiveness of Life.—God promised Canaan to Abraham, and yet Abraham never inherited Canaan: to the last he was a wanderer there (see Act 7:5). But Abraham never complained of being deceived. He does not even seem to have expected fulfilment. His faith appears to have consisted in disbelieving the letter, almost as much as in believing the spirit, of the promise. So we get this principle—God's promises never are fulfilled in the sense in which they seem to have been given. Life is a deception; its anticipations, which are God's promises to the imagination, are never realised. They who know life best, and have trusted God most to fill it with blessings, are ever the first to say that life is a series of disappointments. And in the spirit of the text we have to say, that it is a wise and merciful arrangement which ordains it thus.

I. The deception of life's promise.—The promise to Abraham was not delayed; it never was fulfilled. Abraham died a stranger and pilgrim in the land. In the later years of David, and earlier years of Solomon, the promise may seem to have been fulfilled. But Scripture distinctly said of the old heroes, "These all died in faith, not having received the promises." Those who believe that the Jews will be restored to their native land expect it on the express ground that Canaan has never been actually and permanently theirs. And such is life's disappointment.

1. Our senses deceive us; we begin life with delusion.

2. Our natural anticipations deceive us—natural in contradistinction to extravagant expectations.

3. Our expectations, resting on revelation, deceive us. The world's history has turned round two points of hope,—one, the first; the other, the second coming of the Messiah. In the first the promise of the letter was unfulfilled; the second has disappointed many generations. There are two ways of considering this aspect of life,—one is the way of sentiment; the other is the way of faith. The sentimental way is trite enough. Life is a bubble, a dream, a delusion, a phantasm. The saints accepted the fact, but they did not mournfully moralise over it, because they knew that the promise itself had a deeper meaning.

II. What is the meaning of this delusiveness?—

1. It serves to allure us on. Life is an education. God leads us on, through life's unsatisfying and false reward, ever educating: Canaan first; then the hope of a Redeemer; then the millennial glory. Observe the beautiful result which comes from this indestructible power of believing in spite of failure.

2. This non-fulfilment of promise fulfils it in a deeper way. Life is not deception, but illusion. Distinguish between illusion and delusion. The reward we get is not the reward for which we worked, but a deeper one—deeper and more permanent. The merchant labours all his life, and the hope which leads him on is perhaps wealth. At sixty years of age he attains wealth; but is that the reward of sixty years of toil? No! a reward deeper than he dreamed of. Habits of perseverance, a character trained by industry—that is his reward. He was carried on from year to year by, if he were wise, illusion; if he were unwise, delusion; but he reaped a more enduring substance in himself. This is what God does. His promises are true, though illusive—far truer than we at first take them to be. We look for a mean, low, sensual happiness, all the while He is leading us on to a spiritual blessedness—unfathomly deep. This is the life of faith. We live by faith, not by sight. We do not preach that all is disappointment—the dreary creed of sentimentalism; but we preach that nothing here is disappointment, if rightly understood. God has no Canaan for His own, no milk and honey for the luxury of the senses; for the city which hath foundations is built in the soul of man. He in whom God-like character dwells has all the universe for his own. If ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.—F. W. Robertson.

Heb . Following an Invisible but a Present Guide.—Abraham is the one man of his age who stands in the sharpest contrast with the men around him. His ideas were different from theirs. He saw more than they could see. He ordered his life upon considerations which were quite foreign to them. Their sphere was "the seen and temporal"; his sphere was the "unseen and eternal." To them God was a name; to him God was the only reality. In Him Abraham, consciously and willingly, "lived and moved and had his being." Other tribes migrated, moving southwards, upon the impulsion of natural race instincts. Abraham led his tribe to the south-west under a conscious Divine leading. He went where he knew that God would have him go. "He went out, not knowing whither he went," but well knowing that all his movements were in the direction of the Divine wisdom, and well assured that all his wants would be supplied from the Divine bounty. Abraham differed from all the men of his time in the keenness of his sense of God, and the quickness of his response to every revelation of the will of God. He is the father of a race whose supreme racial peculiarity is its sensitiveness to the presence and to the claim of God. But it may be asked, How could Abraham, more than any other man, know for certain that what he heard was really the voice of the living God? The answer may be, That no man can know anything for certain that belongs to the spiritual spheres, but some men are much more sensitive to spiritual impressions than others; and every man is responsible for his beliefs, and for his conduct in relation to his belief.—Revelation by Character.

Heb . Expectant Tent-dwellers.—Tent-dwelling was a stage and a variety in the housing of humanity, but it was in no sense a finality. It properly belonged to a time when the various races were restlessly moving in search of permanent settlements. So there was hope of the fixed house even in the movable tent. Man's first habitations were the spaces round trunks of trees, the lower leafy branches being drawn down and fastened to the ground as slanting roofs. Then pyramidal bowers were made, distinct from the tree trunks, but of tree branches; these developed into and suggested the form of tents, which developed into the sloping roofed hut or house of wood or stone.

Heb . The Way to the City.—We have here an object for faith, and faith for the object; or we have the city and the way to it.

I. The City.—Let us thank God for that word—or these—"a country"; "a better country, that is, an heavenly." How do these familiar terms fill up for us the dim and vast obscure! They make a home for our wandering thoughts; they give an answer to our wondering inquiries.

(1) The city is very ancient;

(2) very strong and stable;

(3) it is all built by God. To set face towards this city is the noblest attitude a man can assume; to look for it as Abraham did is the highest exercise of faith; and to journey to it through all discouragements is the supreme wisdom, and will bring us, through God's goodness, within its everlasting gates.

II. The way to the city.—It is to "look for" it, to expect it. It is the way of faith. Without faith, showing itself by a life-long looking, we have no interest in the place. A whole city for a look, only it must be the look of the whole soul, continued through the whole life, until the city appears. There are those who would be willing enough to think themselves into a celestial city. But that is not the way. Others would be very willing to buy themselves into it. It cannot be discerned by knowledge; it cannot be won by strength or by merit. The unseen city can be won by looking, only it must be the whole soul acting in faith, rising in desire, answering to the word and assurance of God in reference to the life to come.—Alexander Raleigh, D.D.

The Hope of Abraham.—Abraham is spoken of as the "Friend of God" and the "Father of the Faithful." Fixing attention on these two titles of nobility, and measuring his rank by these, note that—

I. Abraham was a wanderer, a homeless man, a sojourner in the land of promise.—And this not on account of poverty, nor because he had no real estate. (The land of Canaan was in a sense his own.) Possibly the homelessness of Abraham may be explained by the fact that the Canaanite was then in the land, and would not let him settle. It may be thought that his keeping to a wandering life shows him to have been a mere barbarian. Or perhaps he regarded it as a wrong thing to lead a settled life in towns and cities. Or perhaps the nature of his property, flocks and herds, necessitated this constant migration for food. None of these suggestions are satisfactory. He "looked for," expected, a city. Abraham was not wandering in search of a city upon earth; he lived in quiet expectation of a city. It was the "patience of hope" that rendered Abraham indifferent to the walled cities of the Canaanites around him, whose antiquity was of ancient days, and whose defence was the munitions of rocks. Nothing so effectively breeds indifference to present objects as the hope of better things to come. But what sort of a city did he look for, in contempt of those around him? It had foundations, permanent ones. Its builder and maker was God. The foundations of His structures are laid deep in His decrees, and the cement has been growing hard from all eternity. We call the city "heaven."

II. See the marked resemblance between Abraham's case and our own.—We know that our abode on earth is only for a time; it is not the place of our rest. And of this we are receiving constant admonitions. The feeling of uneasiness, the sense of homelessness, is incompatible with happiness. In order to be happy, you must have a home, either present or in prospect. Earthly homes, in reference to eternity, are nothing worth. Then the more unsatisfactory you find this world, look the more eagerly and steadfastly on that which is to come. Do not, however, imagine that mere expectation is alone required. There is but one path to the city, and that is a narrow one. It is the path of humble, childlike faith. We know from the life of Christ Himself that Abraham desired to see His day, and saw it, and was glad. It was faith in God's mercy, and that was counted to him for righteousness. It was a firm belief that God would set forth a propitiation for the sins of men, and a hearty acceptance of the pardon thus provided for himself. These are the footsteps of the Father of the Faithful. If, then, you are merely looking forward to the happiness of heaven, without knowing or caring how it is to be obtained, learn from the example of Abraham that you must renounce all sin and self-reliance, and believe in Jesus Christ for the salvation of your souls, if you would look, with any well-grounded hope, for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.—J. A. Alexander, D.D.

Heb . The Practical Faith of Abraham.—The record of Abraham's life sets before us a series of incidents, but each is intended to convince us how truly "faith in God" was the mainspring and moving principle of his whole life. The more prominent of these instances are:

(1) his leaving his native home to go forth as a wanderer into a strange land;

(2) his sojourning in that land hopefully, though he might purchase and possess in it only a grave;

(3) his patience under the promise of an heir which the lapse of long years found unfulfilled;

(4) his acceptance of the Divine will that the son should be born in his old age; and

(5) his simple obedience in going forth to offer his son on Mount Moriah. And such faith is the only basis on which a true religion can be built; it is the only centre round which a religious creed or system or life can gather. No religion can rest securely upon knowledge; for knowledge can never be sure or perfect; it can never reach beyond the probable. To pass out of the sphere of faith is to pass out of the sphere of the creature, and make our claim to the independent rights of the Creator; and so it is to change the very conditions of our being.

Sarah the Princess.—Sarah is the first woman who is fully introduced to us in Holy Scripture. Eve is a kind of ideal of womanhood. Sarah is the first fellow-woman who evidently passed through the common human experiences. The narrative that deals with her is blended with that of her husband. She was the companion of his life-wanderings for probably a hundred years. Only on very few occasions do we find her acting independently. But these cases should be carefully noticed. She is introduced as a wife. She stood in close family relations to Abraham. Her name was changed from Sarai to Sarah. She went with Abraham to Egypt. Explain her deception to save her husband. Eastern kings claimed the right to seize any woman for their harems. Then came the promise of seed in her old age. Sarah wondered how it could be fulfilled, and thought she must aid the fulfilment, so she gave her maid to Abraham as a wife. Tell the story of Hagar and Ishmael. The promise was renewed to Abraham in such a way that Sarah could hear it. Notice Sarah's domestic virtues. Estimate her laugh. Not wholly the laugh of incredulity. Then comes the visit to Gerar, and a repetition of the deception to save Abraham. This time Sarah suffered a severe rebuke. Buy a veil, and adopt civilised customs. No longer expose your wife thus to rude gaze. Then Isaac was born; and motherly jealousies awoke, which led Sarah to act cruelly. Ishmael was then a youth of twelve. His mocking. Sarah schemed to get authority over Hagar, who had secured wifely rights by giving birth to Ishmael. Isaac's safety was ensured. There is a tradition that Sarah's death really came about through hearing that Isaac had been taken off to be sacrificed. Her husband showed profound grief at her death, which took place when she was one hundred and twenty-seven years old.

I. Sarah's natural disposition.—We require to know this if we would estimate her properly. What we are as Christians very much depends on what we are as men. Sarah was affectionate, but impulsive, jealous, and imperious. In view of our natural dispositions, some of us must be thought of as remarkable triumphs of grace.

II. Sarah's wifeliness.—This is one of the New Testament points in its mention of her. Sharing cheerfully her husband's lot; accepting and keeping to her department; showing wifely obedience and deference. A good wife is from the Lord. The wifely mission is a most noble one. The true wife is Sarah's daughter.

III. Sarah's motherliness.—A mother's joy; a mother's care; a mother's jealousy. True love is near akin to jealousy, but it must not run into it.

IV. Sarah's godliness.—The text infers piety. She shared her husband's religion. She had a religion of her own. Its essence was faith. Not just faith in a promise made to her; but that nobler thing, faith in Him who made her the promise. This is the true and saving faith—faith in God. Her faith was subjected to severe tests. Untested faith is worth but little. Faith won out of conflict and doubt alone is worthy. The very essence of godliness is in this text. What Sarah was in Abraham's estimation is shown in the pathetic statement concerning her, "Abraham rose up from before his dead." We can imagine what he had been doing.

So in Sarah there is much to commend. Notice in conclusion:

1. Her God—the "faithful Promiser."

2. Her faith. "Nothing too hard for the ‘faithful Promiser.'"

Sarah.—What is so often said of men may be said also of women; they must be judged in the setting of their age. Early Bible women could not have the trained and restrained characters we expect to find in these days. Sarah the wife of an Arab sheikh. Died aged one hundred and twenty-seven. Her story is subordinate to Abraham's. She only appears occasionally in the record. Her family relationship to Abraham, other than that of wife, is somewhat uncertain.

I. See the good in Sarah.—

1. Loving companionship. Proved by her husband's sorrow at the time of her death.

2. Trustful obedience. Seen in the times of perplexity in Egypt and in Gerar.

3. Motherly affection, which easily ran into jealousy.

II. See the frailties in Sarah.—

1. Womanly impatience. She tried to make a fulfilment of God's promise of a son somehow. She could not wait for God's time and way.

2. Jealousy. Seen when Hagar had a son, and again when she herself had a Song of Solomon 3. Incredulity. Laughing at the Divine assurance. All her weaknesses belonged to her womanhood. Judged simply as a character, Sarah may possibly be found in every way estimable.

ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 11

Heb . Sojourners on Earth.—A going away to America is only a journey for a few weeks. Even Australia has become an object for adventurous tourists. The every-day leave-takings of this changeful life, be it in the iron age of railways, or in the age of aeronautic expedition and transit—these sad necessities of earthly existence remind us that this is not our rest, that we are but sojourners here, as in a strange land. Farewells are written everywhere, at home and abroad, in birth, in death, in marriage, on the black-edged paper and the marble tablet, over the hatchment, on the ivy-mantled ruin, everywhere.—S. B. James.

All Things change.—All things that are, are in condition of perpetual flux and change. The cloud-rack has the likeness of bastions and towers, but they are mist, not granite, and the wind is every moment sweeping away their outlines, till the phantom fortress topples into red ruin while we gaze. The tiniest stream eats out its little valley, and rounds the pebble in its widening bed; rain washes down the soil, and frost cracks the cliffs above. So silently and yet mightily does the law of change work, that to a meditative eye the solid earth seems almost molten and fluid, and the everlasting mountains tremble to decay.—A. Maclaren, D.D.

Heb . The Celestial City.—A city never built with hands, nor hoary with the years of time—a city, whose inhabitants no census has numbered—a city, through whose streets rush no tides of business, nor nodding hearse creeps slowly with its burden to the tomb—a city, without griefs or graves, without sins or sorrows, without births or burials, without marriages or mournings—a city, which glories in having Jesus for its King, angels for its guards, saints for its citizens, whose walls are salvation, and whose gates are praise.—Guthrie.


Verses 13-16

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Heb

Living and Dying in Faith.—This rhetorical chapter, reviewing rapidly the stories of the other saints, could not fail to interest the Jewish Christian readers to whom the epistle was addressed. It illustrates the fact, that the great secret of the mastery of life is faith—trust; and God is ever working to make that trust a really sanctifying power. That indeed is the key to all His dealings with us. Just this is shown in the example of the patriarchs. Special attention is directed to Abraham. He started life under a promise. But the promise was never fulfilled to Abraham in the letter. He died possessor of only a grave in a promised land. So he was led to trust for the fulfilment by-and-by, and even to reach forth to its fulfilment in spiritual ways. Faith toned the patriarch's mind, and made him feel like a stranger. It filled him with longings for, and onlookings towards, and even preparations for, "the city which had foundations, whose builder and maker is God." He died, not in possession, but "in faith."

I. God's promises seem, at first, to assure earthly good.—The promise made to Abraham seems to mean an actual earth-territory, a national inheritance, and our promises have a very earthly look. We are assured that we shall "inherit the earth." Treating us very much as we treat our children, God gives assurances and promises which take shape for us as material and temporal good. And with our life all before us, that is what we seem chiefly to need and to desire. God's Canaan for us always seems, at first, to be some earthly prosperity and blessing. And this is more evidently the case when we have some definite purpose in life, some country that we mean to win.

II. Life but seldom fulfils the promises just as we understand them.—It might be said that it never fulfils. The writer addresses Christian Jews, who were oppressively feeling how different Christian life was proving to be to the picture of their early hopefulness. Then it looked so fair, so bright. It proved to be a scene of care, and struggle, and persecution, and peril. And it is much the same with us.

1. Life seldom is, even in its outward circumstances, what we picture to ourselves that it will be. Could Jacob's story or St. Paul's story have been imagined beforehand? The fact is, that God's promises are general, and God's providences work out the precise fulfilments of them. God orders our place and our work very strangely. As life passes on we are even led to do exactly what we most shrink from doing, and what we even think ourselves altogether unfitted for doing. We are brought through scenes and experiences which would have seemed to us hopelessly overwhelming, if we had thought of them in the outset of life.

2. Life seldom permits any great work to be accomplished right through by the man who begins it. Moses must climb Nebo to die before his life-work was completed in the possession of Canaan. Joshua died before the whole country was cleared of the idolatrous inhabitants. David died before the Temple could be built. There is even a sense in which our Lord's life was "cut off," and He left an unfinished work to be carried on by His apostles. To do any entire work, from beginning to end, seems to be too great an honour for any man. Some sow, others weed, and others reap. Some die ere life is started; some live on long enough to see others put the topstones on their work. And thus the solemn lesson is taught us, that God absolutely needs no one of us.

III. By the seeming failure God graciously lifts us up to take the higher view of His promises.—How failure can open men's eyes! How disappointment here, dissatisfaction with life as we find it, tends to lift our eyes away from earth, and makes us feel that this is not our rest! As one thing after another disappoints, we begin to see that the time and place for God's fulfilment of His promises is—yonder and there; not here and now. We begin to find out that the seemingly earthly look of the promises in reality only veiled the heavenly meaning for us—veiled it for a while, until we have grown strong enough to bear the full and spiritual truth of them. Is not this just the sanctifying work that advancing life does for us all under God? Still we believe—as Abraham did, right to the end—these earthly promises of Canaan; but we grow to be quite willing that they should be fulfilled for others—for our sons and daughters. For ourselves, every year makes us look away, more and more, to the heavenly city. It is quite plain that the earthly Canaan, of which we had dreamed never will be ours. We seek a country.

Conclusion.—This is God's gracious way of sanctifying us through the actual experiences of our life. He makes us feel here on earth like strangers. He enables us to give the witness of strangers, and show ourselves to be heavenly citizens, who are only "passing through." He thus helps us to live in trust, and to die in trust, and to find and feel the present peace and power of a life that is a "life of faith on the Son of God, who loved us, and gave Himself for us.

SUGGESTIVE NOTES AND SERMON SKETCHES

Heb . Faith a Persuasion and a Power.—Faith was an actual present blessing to the men of old, though what faith led them to anticipate never came to them. They died with the faith, not with the possession. And yet they really had held the possession all through their waiting-time; for it had been to them, and it had done for them, everything that the actual possession could have done. It had comforted them, satisfied them, inspired them. The two terms "persuasion" and "power" suggest that our faith has a most gracious influence on our mind and heart, as well as a most powerful influence in ordering our conduct. Faith puts the heart right; faith puts the life right. Faith keeps for us the proper relativity of this life to the life to come.

Heb . The Christian Pilgrim.—The apostle is here setting forth the excellencies of the grace of faith, by the glorious effects and happy issue of it in the saints of the Old Testament.

1. What these saints confessed of themselves—that they were strangers and pilgrims.

2. The inference drawn by the apostle—they sought another country as their home.

I. This life ought to be so spent by us as to be only a journey or pilgrimage towards heaven.—

1. We ought not to rest in the world or in its enjoyments, but should desire heaven.—A traveller passing through pleasant places, flowery meadows, shady groves, only takes a transient view of them as he goes along. His journey's end is in his mind.

2. We ought to seek heaven by travelling in the way that leads thither. This is a way of holiness, the way of obedience to God's commands, an ascending way, a Christ-like way.

3. We should travel on in this way in a laborious manner. Many mountains, rocks, and rough plains demand our strength.

4. Our whole lives ought to be spent in travelling this road. We ought to begin early; we ought to travel with assiduity; we ought to persevere.

5. We ought to be continually growing in holiness. Thus we come nearer and nearer to heaven. "As new-born babes, desire the sincere milk of the word," etc. "This one thing I do," etc.

6. All other concerns of life ought to be subordinate to this. Business, money, temporal enjoyments, quit if they prove a hindrance.

II. Why the Christian's life is a journey or pilgrimage.—

1. This world is not our abiding-place. Continuance here is short. God never designed that this world should be our home.

2. The future world was designed to be our settled and everlasting abode. The present state is short and transitory, but our state in the other world is everlasting.

2. Heaven is that place alone where our highest end and highest good is to be obtained. God hath made us for Himself. God is the highest good of the reasonable creature. Here we get but scattered beams—God is the sun; but streams—God is the fountain; but drops—God is the ocean.

III. Instruction afforded by this consideration.—

1. Moderation in our grief for the loss of friends who have died in Christ. Death is to them a great blessing; gone to Father's house. "I heard a voice from heaven," etc. (Rev ).

2. How ill do they improve their lives that spend them in travelling towards hell! Thus do backbiters, covetous, drunkards.

3. Converted persons do but begin their work, and set out in the way they have to go. They should be earnest and laborious, and should strive for grace.

IV. Exhortations.—

1. How worthy is heaven that your life should be wholly spent as a journey towards it! Where can you choose your home better than in heaven?

2. This is the way to have death comfortable to us.

3. It will make retrospect pleasant.

4. In journeying to heaven we may have heaven.

5. If our lives be not a journey towards heaven, they will be a journey to hell.

Conclusion.—A few directions.

1. Labour to get a sense of the vanity of this world.

2. Labour to be much acquainted with heaven.

3. Seek heaven only by Jesus Christ. "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life."

4. Let Christians help one another in going this journey. Go in company, conversing together, assisting one another. Go united. This will ensure a more successful travelling, and a more joyful meeting at the Father's house in glory.—Jonathan Edwards, M.A.

Heb . General Lesson of the Patriarchal Times.—The reference of these verses is strictly to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Sarah. In a sense the older men, from Adam, may be called patriarchs; but the point of reference here is to those patriarchs who had a temporary home in Canaan, and held it together with the promise that it should be made a permanent home for them. They never actually had it as such a settled, permanent home; but their faith that God's word would stand, and that their descendants would have Canaan for a possession, gave a practical power to the promises, and enabled them to bear, and suffer and enjoy, while they had but the temporary holding.

I. Their faith brought discontent with this life.—The peculiarity of the Abrahamic race, in this practical power of their faith in God's word, may be shown by contrasting the Abrahamic as an Arab tribe, with the other Arab tribes around. Usually Arab tribes have no ambition to become settled nations. And even if we recognise that in Abraham's time there was a general and widespread migratory restlessness among the Eastern peoples, still there were marked differences between the instinctive restlessness that was common, and the intelligent discontent that was peculiar to the Abrahamic race.

(1) This faith embraced the truth of the unity of God;

(2) conceived of the possibility of personal relations with Him;

(3) apprehended life as in the direct Divine lead;

(4) and saw duty as implicit and unquestioning obedience of the Divine will. Such faith made satisfaction with material conditions and worldly successes—the things which met all the needs of the tribes around—impossible to this tribe. Lift a man up to high things, and he must ever after fail to be content with the low, as those who can appreciate the art creations of this century are discontented with the pictures and figures of the fathers' time. Touch a soul with the true and worthy thought of God, and the world can no longer be its rest.

II. Their faith brought content with the life to come.—A man can be in the present, and yet be really living in the future. That is the Christian state. To these patriarchs Canaan, which they knew not, was better than Chaldea, which they knew. To us heaven promised is better than any Canaan possessed.

Heb . Human Restlessness.—Faith does not crush down human aspirations. It guides them and tones them aright. The models of faith are stated to have been restlessly seeking something that they had not. Restlessness for humanity is a Divinely implanted condition; upon it depends the peopling and subduing of the whole earth. Human restlessness is so persistent that it cannot be satisfied with any earthly attainment. It may be considered:

(1) what various forms human restlessness may take; and

(2) how certainly the unrest will remain, whatever may be the measure of attainment in any direction. Man's good time is always coming.

ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 11

Heb . Faith and its Fruits.—St. Chrysostom is wont to insist, by virtue of faith, rustic and mechanic idiots do, in true knowledge, surpass the most refined wits, and children prove wiser than old philosophers; an idiot can tell us that which a learned infidel does not know; a child can assure us that wherein a deep philosopher is not resolved; for ask a boor, as a boy educated in our religion, who made him, he will tell you God Almighty, which is more than Aristotle or Democritus would have told; demand of him why he was made, he will answer you, to serve and glorify his Maker; and hardly would Pythagoras or Plato have replied so wisely. Examine him concerning his soul, he will aver that it is immortal, that it shall undergo a judgment after this life, that accordingly it shall abide in a state of bliss or misery everlasting—about which points neither Socrates nor Seneca could assure anything; inquire of him how things are upheld, how governed and ordered; he presently will reply, by the powerful hand and wise providence of God; whereas, among philosophers, one would ascribe all events to the current of fate, another to the tides of fortune—one to blind influences of stars, another to a confused jumble of atoms. Pose him about the main points of morality and duty, and he will, in a few words, better inform you than Cicero, or Epictetus, or Aristotle, or Plutarch, in their large tracts and voluminous discourses about matters of that nature.—Barrow.

Dying in Faith.—A clergyman having occasion to wait on the late Princess Charlotte, was thus addressed by her: "Sir, I understand you are a clergyman." "Yes, madam." "Of the Church of England?" "Yes." "Permit me to ask your opinion, sir, what is it that can make a death-bed easy?" Mr. W. was startled at so serious a question from a young and blooming female of so high rank, and modestly expressed his surprise that she should consult him, when she had access to many much more capable of answering the inquiry. She replied that she had proposed it to many, and wished to collect various opinions on this important subject. Mr. W. then felt it his duty to be explicit, and affectionately recommended to her the study of the Scriptures, which, as he stated, uniformly represent faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as the only means to make a death-bed easy. "Ah!" said she, bursting into tears, "that is what my grandfather often told me; but then he used to add, that, besides reading the Bible, I must pray for the Holy Spirit to understand its meaning.'

Strangers and Pilgrims.—Leighton had been used to say that if he were to choose a place to die in it should be an inn, for that would look so like a pilgrim's going home, to whom this world was all as an inn. It was his opinion, also, as we read in the memoir of him by Aikman, that "the officious tenderness and care of friends was an entanglement to a dying man, and that the unconcerned attendance of those who could be procured in such a place would give less disturbance." He had his wish. At the Bell Inn, Warwick Lane, Robert Leighton, in his seventy-fourth year, stranger and pilgrim, drew his last breath.—Jacox.

A City that hath Foundations.—

Beyond the dark and stormy bound

That guards our dull horizon round

A lovelier landscape swells;

Resplendent seat of light and peace,

In thee the sounds of conflict cease,

And glory ever dwells.

For thee the early patriarch sighed,

Thy distant beauty faint descried,

And hailed the blest abode;

A stranger here, he sought a home

Fixed in a city yet to come,

The city of his God.

Anon.

Citizenship in Heaven.—A Christian man's true affinities are with the things not seen, and with the persons there, however the surface relationships knit him to the earth. In the degree in which he is a Christian, he is a stranger here and a native of the heavens. That great city is, like some of the capitals of Europe, built on a broad river, with the mass of the metropolis on the one bank, but a wide-spreading suburb on the other. As the Trastevere is to Rome, as Southwark is to London, so is earth to heaven, the bit of the city on the other side the bridge.—A. Maclaren, D.D.

The City yet to come.—We do belong to another polity or order of things than that with which we are connected by the bonds of flesh and sense. Our true affinities are with the mother-city. True, we are here on earth, but far beyond the blue waters is another community of which we are truly members; and sometimes in calm weather we can see, if we climb to a height above the smoke of the valley where we dwell, the faint outline of the mountains of that other land, lying dreamlike on the opal waves and bathed in sunlight.—Ibid.


Verses 17-20

CRITICAL AND EXEGETICAL NOTES

Heb . Received him in a figure.—Lit. "in a parable." Stuart thinks the reference is to Abraham's having originally received Isaac as one born of parents who were virtually dead. But the reference is clearly to the scene on Mount Moriah; and it must mean that when, in full purpose, Abraham had laid his son on the altar, he was potentially sacrificed, and Abraham received him again as one brought back from the death to which he had devoted him.

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Heb

Faith under Divine Discipline.—A special reference is made to Abraham, because in his case Divine discipline took an unusual and extraordinary form. Reference has already been made to the general features of his life, as a sojourner in a strange land, which was indeed the land of promise, though of it he only had a present possession by faith. It was his, because he was quite sure that it would be his. He had the "substance" of what he "hoped for." But there was one most singular and striking incident in Abraham's later life, which provided too important an illustration of one sphere of faith for it to be passed over. He who had been called to forsake his early home, and go forth, responsive to Divine leadings, not knowing whither he went, was now called to give up, and even himself to sacrifice, that very child in whom all the promises of God and all the hopes of Abraham seemed to centre. He gave up his father's home in faith. Could he break up his own home in faith, and with his own hand destroy all hope of a race in whose history God's promises could be fulfilled? Perhaps a man's faith has never been put to a severer test than was Abraham's in that hour of strain. No wonder that early legends represent Sarah as never recovering from the shock of Isaac's being taken away to be sacrificed, and from that time pining away to her death. Two forms of Divine discipline are indicated in this paragraph.

I. The relation of faith—which makes real the spiritual—to times of trial.—Trials come into every man's life; but we have to consider the trials which come into the good man's life—the renewed, spiritual man's life. And they cannot be explained in any ready, offhand way. Two cases—three, if we class our Lord with men—are given in Holy Scripture, in order to check our satisfaction in general, and hastily made, and surface explanations. We must think about this strange trial of Abraham. We must wonder why Job, "the perfect man and upright," was so severely afflicted. We stand in awe before the mystery of the agony of the cross, and say, "Why did the innocent One suffer?"

1. This is clear—the punishment of transgressions will not explain all the trials through which good men are called to pass. Job's friends may persist in it that suffering is always penalty. It is not. The trial to which Abraham was now subjected was not penalty or punishment in any sense whatever. No hint is given of any moral or spiritual failure on the part of Abraham which Divine justice was bound to recognise. The sufferings which came to Job were not penalty or punishment in any sense whatever. When they came upon Job, he was a man standing fully in the Divine acceptance. It is a small, poor, and unworthy view that persists in seeing penalty everywhere. God reproves, in every age, the Job-friends who do that sort of thing.

2. The idea of Divine discipline will not sufficiently explain all the cases of trial which come before us. We may take a comprehensive view of Divine discipline, and say that it includes:

(1) the correction of evils which are ever ready to develop into sin; and also

(2) the culture of moral virtues and graces into strength and completeness; and also

(3) the mastery of life-conditions and relations in the power of moral principle; but we have only got a little way then toward the understanding of Abraham's trial. On the face of the narrative there is no special call for a discipline of correction or of culture. In the case of Job it is not God who finds it necessary to discipline Job. It is God permitting Job to be tempted and tried, when He knows that he does not need it. Exactly this brings in the perplexity and difficulty of the poem. There was no need for subjecting the ever-acceptable Son to the discipline of the cross. That must be explained from some other point of view. Christian men and women, in their times of trial, would be greatly comforted and strengthened, if we would assure them that trial need not be punishment, and it need not be discipline. Faith in God, in the unseen, in the spiritual, brings round to us another and a better explanation.

3. Much of the trial that comes to good men is vicarious. It does not strictly belong to them; it belongs to others. It has no more necessity than the necessity which God finds for witnessing to some truth, and using them as witnesses. The trial may simply be the service which God asks us to render to our sphere, our age, or the world. This comes out clearly enough in the three cases already called to mind. The trial of Abraham has taught the generations. "Ye have heard of the patience of Job." Christ, "lifted up, draws all men unto Him." But what a faith of unseen and eternal things is involved in an obedience like Abraham's, unquestioning, prompt, entire, almost cheerful—an obedience which involved so severe a trial and loss! It was a triumph indeed of faith that Abraham could see God wanting a witness, and not therefore finally intending to take away his son. Faith in man—the obedience of faith—has never surpassed this: "Accounting that God is able to raise up, even from the dead; from whence he did also in a parable receive him back." We shall never explain all the cases of trial to which spiritual men are subjected, nor understand the sublime heights to which the faith of spiritual men may reach, until we fully recognise that much of human suffering is vicarious, as was that of our Divine Lord.

II. The relation of faith to the hope of the future.—It is stranger than it seems, that God should have ever held out a prospect before men and generations, and fulfilled His promise, but seldom, if ever, to the man or to the generation. Spiritual men live by faith. Their future is always the "good time coming." Even to-day men's faith is exercised concerning the coming of the Son of man, which is hardly yet on the eastern horizon-line. How faith can stand related to the hope and promise of the future is seen in Isaac, who "blessed Jacob and Esau even concerning things to come." He lived under promise of the possession of Canaan. He died almost as much a stranger as his father had been. He never had the promise fulfilled. But faith held it firm, and made it real. He confidently passed the promise on to his sons. He blessed them in assuring them of God's blessing. And so still we sing concerning our "good time coming."

SUGGESTIVE NOTES AND SERMON SKETCHES

Heb . The Offering of Isaac.—Abraham's offering of his son is one of the perplexing things of God's word, because it seems to commend the immoral thing, murder, in connection with God's worship. But we too readily judge the Divine requirements in patriarchal days by our modern sentiments concerning human sacrifice, forgetting that these should not be projected back into the earlier ages of the world, when men, being in the child-stages, had to be taught by action and ceremonial and symbol, rather than by words. Ancient Easterns had thoughts about God's absolute proprietary rights in man which we seem to have lost; and we now know that the Accadians, or early inhabitants of Chaldea, sacrificed their firstborn sons in times of special trouble, and their practice the Semitic race had, to some extent at least, copied.

I. Abraham's sacrifice was a burnt-offering.—This kind of offering was the foundation of the sacrificial system. All the other offerings—peace-offerings, meat-offerings, trespass-offerings, sin-offerings, thank-offerings—were but the detailed adaptation of the burnt-offering to the varieties of human conditions and experiences. The burnt-offering was presented ages before the Mosaic system was established. Can we get to understand this original, simplest, and yet most significant and spiritually suggestive form of sacrifice? It was called a "burnt-offering" because the victim was wholly consumed by fire, and so, as it were, sent up to God on the wings of fire. The victim must be selected with extreme care. It must be pure, unblemished, and as nearly perfect an animal as possible. It was regarded as a whole, an entire and complete offering, only when the life of the creature had been taken. Then, as a complete body, and a whole, completed life, it was ready for offering to God. Then it was laid on the altar, and entirely consumed. What was the idea of such a sacrifice, as it came to the mind of a devout and spiritual worshipper? Can we at all enter into the thought of a serious-minded patriarch or Jew? It must have been this: he passed to God an entire life, a pure, clean beast—gave it to God wholly, body and life; and by so doing he, in a representative way, passed to God himself—himself wholly, body, will, life. He gave to God a representative of what he himself wished to be, what he thus solemnly pledged himself that he would strive to become. Or, to put the same thing in more formal language, the burning of this whole creature by fire "marked it as an expression of perpetual obligation to complete, sanctified self-surrender to Jehovah." And, therefore, in the Mosaic system, every morning and evening a lamb was sacrificed as a burnt-offering on behalf of the whole covenant people; and the evening victim was to be so slowly consumed that it might last till the morning—an expressive symbol of that continual self-dedication to God which is the duty of man. In the light of this spiritual idea of a "burnt-offering," we can see something of the Divine purpose in this strange command given to Abraham, that he should offer as a sacrifice his only and beloved son. Evidently God asked for an expression, through that singular burnt-offering, of Abraham's entire devotion to Himself. He desired to read the patriarch's very heart through an act of obedience and devotion. He purposed to show the perfect trust and loyalty of His servant, to all the ages, by means of an unusual burnt-offering.

II. Abraham's sacrifice anticipated the Great Burnt-offering.—It was the sonship of Isaac made him an acceptable offering. His submission and obedience were so different from the yielding of a mere animal, because it had a will in it; and so the sacrifice of Isaac, the son, alone fittingly suggested the obedient sanctified will of Jesus, the Son of God. "Every burnt-offering was a type of the perfect offering made by Christ, on behalf of the race of man, of His human nature and will to the will of the Father." And this burnt-offering, Christ—the only begotten and well-beloved Son—is our burnt-offering, yours and mine. We could not make Him ours if we were not sure that God was well pleased with Him. But God has provided Him for us; so we stand beside the strange Calvary altar, shaped for human seeing like a cross, and see our sacrifice go up to God, with the confidence that God will "smell a sweet savour," and accept us as we give ourselves to Him in that burnt-offering.

Faith inspiring Self-sacrifice.—Observe that it was faith in God's word, in what Abraham intelligently apprehended to be God's word to him. The demand it made was a personal one, the full surrender of a personal possession. To a father it was the supreme, the extreme demand. To Abraham, because of peculiar circumstances associated with Isaac, it was truly a sublime demand, and response to it a model of self-sacrifice. By showing and illustrating what a height of self-sacrifice Abraham reached, it may be shown what an inspiring, elevating, ennobling power faith was to him.

Heb . The Strain that Feeling may put on Faith.—In the record of this incident given in Genesis 22 there is a very tender bit of conversation. The aged patriarch is journeying on an errand which he can explain to nobody, and the darling of his life is the companion of his journey. We know the great things that were in his heart—he was taking his only son, the heir of all he had, the heir of all he hoped for, to his death by his own fatherly hand. The youth wondered much over the object of this sudden and mysterious journey, until at last he could keep back his questionings no longer. There were evident signs of his father's intention to offer sacrifice; he himself was carrying the wood needed for a fire; and his father had in his hands the bowl with fire and the sacrificial knife. But Isaac knew well that on such occasions his father also took the necessary victim with him; but this time they had brought no lamb from the flock. So he said, "My father." And Abraham said, "Here am I, my son." And Isaac said, "Behold the fire and the wood; but where is the lamb for a burnt-offering?" And Abraham said, "My son, God will provide Himself a lamb for a burnt-offering." Surely a wonderful answer! But it must have cut that father to the quick to speak those silencing, those trustful words. In him faith triumphed over feeling.

Heb . A Figurative Resurrection.—"Whence he did also in a parable receive him back." Abraham received Isaac back, figuratively, from the dead, because so far as Abraham's purpose and intention were concerned he was dead, "potentially sacrificed." In one Jewish writer it is said that Isaac was actually killed and raised to life again.

ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 11

Heb . Abraham's Faith.—The trial by faith is by finding what we will do for God. To trust Him when we have the securities in our own iron chest is easy, and not thankworthy; but to depend on Him for what we cannot see, as it is most hard for man to do so, so it is most acceptable to God when done, for in that act we make confession of His Deity. Faith without works of this kind is like a fish without water: it wants the element it should live in. A building without a basis cannot stand; faith is the foundation, and every good action, especially where we trust God without seeing Him, is a stone laid.—Feltham.


Verse 21-22

CRITICAL AND EXEGETICAL NOTES

Heb . Leaning upon the top of his staff.—Probably meaning "upon the head of the bed"; only this assumes more of a bedstead than was usual among tribal Eastern people. The LXX. rendered mitteh, staff, instead of mittah, bed. The idea is that aged Jacob, rising from his bed, and unable to support himself, leaned on the staff associated with his pilgrimage, and bowed over the staff in an act of worship. The Vulgate renders, "he adored the top of Joseph's staff"; and Cornelius à Lapide quotes the sentence in defence of image-worship.

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Heb

Faith in the Hour of Death.—The illustrations of the practical power of faith would have been manifestly incomplete if no instances had been given to show how it was retained, and made to bring strength and cheer to men, in the closing and sternest experience of life. Two illustrations may suffice.

I. Faith for the family maintained in the death-hour.—This is illustrated in the dying acts and words of the patriarch Jacob. He had held through a chequered life a firm faith in God's promise concerning his family. Could the bodily weariness and weakness and pain of the death-time cloud that faith? Could the solemnity and mystery of the death-time overstrain the faith? Must a man lose that which has brightened and ennobled his whole life when his feet touch the waters of the river of death? Will he then despair concerning those who are dear to him, as if with his going all their hopes were going? From Jacob's example we learn that faith may even grow brighter and stronger in the hour and article of death.

1. Jacob was so positive about the future of his sons that he could even anticipate their locations and characteristics and history, when they reached Canaan, in his prophetic song concerning them.

2. Jacob could even see the future for Joseph's sons with such certainty that he could discriminate between them, and point out which would prove the greater. That grip of God for him, and God for his family, which faith gave Jacob, he held fast right up to and right through his death-hour. His God was the God of the generations to come.

II. Faith for the nation maintained in the death-hour.—This is illustrated in Joseph, who "gave commandment concerning his bones." The associations of Jacob's life made him think along family lines. The associations of Joseph made him think along national lines. The faith that saw the people of Israel a settled and independent nation was an advanced faith. Did it stand the strain of the death-hour? Very possibly Joseph, as a statesman, anticipated the troubles that were coming, but he died in absolute assurance that God would fulfil His word, make Israel a nation, and settle it in Canaan.

SUGGESTIVE NOTES AND SERMON SKETCHES

Heb . Reminiscences of Jacob's Staff.—"Leaning upon the top of his staff." It would seem that one particular staff had been Jacob's companion through many years, possibly during his whole life of manhood. Indeed, that staff was as characteristic of Jacob as the rod was of Moses, and the mantle of Elijah. It was only an ordinary shepherd's staff. Sometimes such a staff is bent into a crook, but more commonly it is a long, stout, straight, oak stick, often cased at its lower end in iron, to beat off the thief or wild beast. This staff to help, and the club to protect, are the staff and the rod with which God comforts His people (Psa 23:4). (David, when advancing towards Goliath, carried with him his shepherd's staff. Indeed, the staff was inseparable from the shepherd; it was with him night and day.) Associate Jacob's staff with the main incidents of Jacob's chequered and changeful life: e.g.

1. The staff in the simple home-life.

2. The staff in his eventful journeying.

3. The staff in his hard-working and perilous life with Laban.

4. The staff laid aside for the great struggle at Peniel.

5. The staff shown to the reconciled brother.

6. The staff taken down into Egypt.

7. The staff steadying trembling and aged limbs. (An address to children might be constructed by making the "staff" tell the story of Jacob's life.)

Heb . The Witness of a Dead Man's Bones.—Joseph's body was embalmed. But a good point may be made by contrasting the idea which an Egyptian had when he arranged that his body should be embalmed, with the idea that Joseph had in arranging for the preservation of his bones. The Egyptian tried to secure some sort of immortality. Joseph had no merely personal aim. He wanted the presence of his mummy to be a constant reminder of God's promises, a constant testimony to God's faithfulness, and a constant inspiration to loyalty and trust and hope.

ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 11

Heb . Jacob's Blessing of his Grandsons.—A few days previous to his death, the late Rev. Dr. Belfrage, of Falkirk, hearing his infant son's voice in an adjoining room, desired that he should be brought to him. When the child was lifted into the bed, the dying father placed his hands upon his head, and said, in the language of Jacob, "The God before whom my fathers did walk, the God who fed me all my life long to this day, the Angel who redeemed me from all evil, bless the lad!" When the boy was removed, he added, "Remember and tell John Henry of this; tell him of these prayers, and how earnest I was that he might become early acquainted with his father's God."—Whitecross.


Verses 23-29

CRITICAL AND EXEGETICAL NOTES

Heb . Proper child.—Goodly child; unusual for beauty and signs of intelligence; ἀστεῖον, goodly, fair, beautiful (Act 7:20, "fair to God").

Heb . Refused to be called.—This is based wholly on Jewish legends.

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Heb

The Faith of Moses.—These verses cover and include all the references which this writer thinks it necessary to make to Moses. In comparison with the notices of other great men the reference to Moses is long and various, and this would be regarded as befitting by those who held Moses in almost supreme honour. There are illustrations of the practical power of faith in four distinct sets of relations.

I. The faith that could be disobedient.—Not to God, but to man, in loyalty to God. Often in life the expedient becomes a temptation to us. The will of those in authority over us may conflict with the will of God. Then the expedient is to keep straight with the human authority and risk offending God. In presence of that conflict faith gives the man power to disobey the local authority in order to obey the supreme Authority. This conflict appears—

1. In the case of the parents of Moses. Faith enabled them to disobey the command of the Pharaoh, and scheme to secure the life of their child. It is plain that there was more than parental love guiding their conduct. There was some inward witness, some word of God which they recognised as such, indicating that the child was sent for some Divine mission. Only motherly faith could persistently, and heedless of all peril, carry through such a scheme of disobedience.

2. In the case of Moses' disobedience to his foster-mother. "He refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter." What but faith in God's mission for him could have led to such a resolve—a resolve which, from all human points of view, was utterly unreasonable! It costs a man much to break away from the destiny that is arranged for him; he never can do it save as he believes in some other destiny that God has for him. Why it should be said that Moses "esteemed the reproach of Christ" does not readily appear. What the writer had in mind is difficult to trace. Perhaps he meant "the same reproach that Christ endured"—the reproach that comes when a man persists in doing the will of God as he knows it. That certainly was the mind of Moses at this time. He was quite sure that it was not the will of God that he should become an Egyptian prince, and his faith enabled him to bear the reproach of disobedience. It may be a power to help us in some of the grave perplexities of life to remember that faith in God can be—it has been—an inspiration of disobedience to man. Illustrate the martyrs.

II. Faith that can endure.—It is hardly possible to conceive a more burdened and anxious life than that which Moses lived. He had times of personal peril, but they are of far less importance than the constant strain upon feeling involved in leading the people, and mediating between them and God. The word "endure" is admirably chosen. Faith enabled Moses to keep on, and push through, and bear all—faith the inspiration of "patient continuance in well-doing."

III. Faith that can meet great occasions.—Life is mainly commonplace and routine; but every life has its surprises, and occasions when supreme demands are made upon it. Such times came to Moses at the burning bush, Mount Sinai, and when smiting the rock for water. Faith helped; lost faith meant failure. The writer here mentions the climax of the visitation on Egypt, when with the unquestioning faith of an immediate deliverance, Moses made the people "keep the Passover."

IV. Faith that can do the seemingly impossible.—Moses believed the word of God which ordered him to turn out of the route toward Canaan, and go down by the shores of the Red Sea. It was a strange command, wholly beyond man's comprehension. That way they could neither get to Canaan, nor get to the desert of Sinai. Every step put a wider stretch of water between them and the land where they would be. Faith triumphed unto obedience, and faith was vindicated by so glorious a Divine deliverance as stamped once and for ever the supreme relations of Jehovah as God of the people Israel. That which is impossible with men is possible with God; and possible it becomes to man when he has such faith in God as Moses had.

SUGGESTIVE NOTES AND SERMON SKETCHES

Heb . Choice revealing Character.—There is no better sign of character than the manner in which a man makes a serious decision. It is something that

(1) he estimates the seriousness;

(2) that he considers before deciding;

(3) that he is capable of judging the value of considerations;

(4) that he judges in the light of duty rather than of pleasure, and of the future rather than the present.

Heb . The Choice of Moses.—It has been said: "Biography is a feeble struggle with death. It is an attempt to retain something of the man, his spirit and manner of thinking and feeling, that he being dead may yet speak." In this temple of Jewish worthies, whose faith is recorded for our example, Moses occupies a conspicuous niche.

I. The choice of Moses.—The world placed before him its very best, and religion placed before him its very worst; and between the best of the world and the worst of religion he was called upon to make his choice.

1. What the world placed before him.

(1) Honour—that of being the son of Pharaoh's daughter.

(2) Pleasures—the pleasures of sin, sensational and unhealthy mental excitement. Such pleasures of sin are, however, only for a season; and there are pains of sin as well as pleasures.

(3) Wealth—the treasures of Egypt. The three things which men so eagerly pursue, any one of which is deemed by the world a great inheritance, were all placed at the feet of Jesus.

2. What religion set before him. It came to him in its meekest, saddest guise, and placed before him—(a) Affliction. If Moses espoused the cause of the people of God, he must be prepared to share their burdens and endure their trials. (b) The reproach of Christ; or such reproach as Christ endured, such as always attaches to spiritual religion.

II. There is a sense in which we may have to make a choice as Moses had.—

1. In relation to our position in life.

2. In relation to companions and society.

3. In relation to the concerns, and some of the minutest acts, of our daily life. What was it that influenced Moses in making his good choice—faith. Such a choice has its reward in this world. "A mind conscious of rectitude is its own reward." Our religion brings to us now its own reward. And it has also a recompense in the world to come.—Absalom Clark.

Heb . The "Endurance" of Faith.—This verse gives the key to the long, anxious, heroic life that Moses lived. "Endured" is the proper word. His life was full of difficulties. Circumstances seemed to be always against him, and he could not do the things that he would. He was always set under limitations; and out of the constant "bearing" and "enduring" of his daily life he came to be the meekest, most self-denying, least personally ambitious of all men who have ever lived. The secret of his wonderful power of endurance was his "seeing the invisible"—a vision which, in his earlier days, was simply the sight of the soul-eyes which we call "faith." Afterwards it gained surprising help through symbols, and the sound of a heavenly voice. But, better than all visions, there was a heart-realisation, a soul-vision, which kept the invisible God ever closely near, and made him regard as an agony unspeakable the bare possibility that God's presence would not go with him. What can we learn from the secret of Moses?

I. Life for us all is enduring.—It is for all who feel their nobility, who cannot regard life as man's play-hour, who understand that man is set in the midst of disability, because the supreme purpose of God concerning him is his moral culture. It is for all who feel themselves to be above circumstances, and refuse to be mere waifs and strays, driven hither and thither with every wind, and tossed. In the morning outlook of life it seems to be all enjoying. Wonderful is the hopefulness of youth. But as years pass on the reality proves other than our dream. Soon we have to say that life is not all enjoying; it is enduring. Things will not be according to our mind. Circumstances are against us. Relationships are trying. And yet we know that we are bigger than life.

1. Can we endure the things that are, just as they exactly are?

2. Can we endure that which we ourselves are?

3. Can we endure those precise conditions under which God deals with us? It is not, Can we submit? It is, Can we endure? Can we keep on through it all, holding fast faith, never faltering, hoping on, working on, making love and loyalty master all disasters, all disabilities, and winning virtue out of woe. The endurance of Moses was self-restraint to win power to serve God and man.

II. Life for us all may have a Divine presence.—Man, and God with him, is the great mystery of the Creation. This is the idea of the theocracy—a nation, and God with it. Prophets spoke with authority, because they were men having God with them. Jesus Christ is Emmanuel, God with us. The Holy Ghost is God making His abode in man.

1. There is the presence of God as providence.

2. There is the thought of God's fatherly care.

3. But there is something higher and better—the sense of God's presence, which is a special revelation to the Christian heart. Do men say of the Christian, "He is only a man"? He should let them know, he should make them feel, that he is not just a man, but a man having God with him—a man who has the invisible One so near that he can always see Him.

III. Life for us all may be glorified by this Divine presence.—

1. It makes life very serious. It is a solemnising influence. We have One with us everywhere who is grieved with wrong, who wants everything to bear the stamp of the holy.

2. It keeps before us high aims: not merely human ones, but those that God has for us, such as God may inspire us to attain.

3. It brings a consciousness of ability, so that we say with St. Paul, "I can do all things through Him which strengtheneth me."

4. And it satisfies us concerning the future. It is enough; here God is with us; then surely there we shall be with God. This verse has been rendered, "He was stedfast towards Him who is invisible, as if seeing Him."

The Invisible God.—Note—

1. The God with whom we have to do is an invisible God. He is so to our senses, to the eye of the body; and this shows the folly of those who pretend to make images of God, whom no man hath seen, nor can see.

2. By faith we may see the invisible God. We may be fully assured of His existence, of His providence, and of His gracious and powerful presence with us.

3. Such a sight will enable believers to endure to the end whatever they may meet with in the way.—Matthew Henry.

Seeing the Invisible God.

I. Consider the invisibility of God.—This is one of the negative attributes of God. Unchangeableness, unsearchableness, irresistibleness, invisibility, are all negative attributes of God. And we require such negative conceptions to assist our idea of an absolute, infinite, all-perfect Being. Job's familiar words really mean this: "I cannot in any way penetrate the dark mantle of His invisibility" (Job ). See also Deu 4:12; Deu 4:15; 1Ti 6:15-16. The same truth is implied when our Saviour teaches that "God is a spirit." We are perfect, in relative creature perfection, with our bodies, not without them. But the perfection of a creature must be, in some points (and this is one of them), in direct contrast with the perfection of the Creator. He is not seen, because He is perfect. Because He will always be perfect, He will never be seen. Ten thousand happy souls do indeed see His face day by day. But what soul has ever seen His form? What form hath He to be seen? The fruits and traces of His perfections are seen in all His works, but He Himself is seen nowhere. In saying this we are of course remembering "God manifest in the flesh," and the elevation of the visible humanity into the heavens in the person of Jesus Christ. But if it should be that our Lord will always, through eternity, retain His glorified humanity in heaven, and be seen in that, and beloved and worshipped in that, the question still is, What will be seen? The spiritual essence, the infinite power and presence of God, will still be deep within, quite beyond, high above, far away. What I can see can never be a portion to my immortal soul; a spiritual substance requires a spiritual portion; the child-spirits need the Father of spirits. It is the grand discovery of the Scriptures, and the good message of salvation, that God only is good enough for man. Spirit for spirit—Creator for creature—the Invisible for the visible. We have never seen our own souls; we shall never see their portion.

II. The seeing of the invisible God.—Moses really did see God by soul-sight, or, as we say, by faith. He believed in His actual presence in the world, in human life, in human affairs. He believed that He would be with him, according to His express promise, to cheer his heart, to guide his way, and to confirm his work to the end. He not only believed in God's presence with him, but he relied on His strength. God's presence was to him an actual power, on which he could lean. There is no use to us in this example of Moses if it is exceptional. His duties and his whole career were high and singular, but his sight of the invisible God was the same act of the soul by which all the faithful in the camp, however humble, were sustained, by which the faithful in every age have lived and triumphed. And at this day what we have to do is just to observe the Presence that is always near, and lean upon the arm that never faints. Then we shall "endure."

(1) We shall endure when all that is visible threatens;

(2) when all that is visible allures;

(3) when everything visible decays, changes, passes away.—Alexander Raleigh, D.D.

The Christian Way of seeing God.—It is a full and exhaustive definition of Christ's salvation to designate it—the Christian way of seeing God. For what is religious salvation but the perfect vision of God, the perfect restoration of man to God, the perfect enjoyment by man of God?" We will come to him, and make Our abode with him." Not a distant glimpse of God, a trembling touch, a casual break in the dark firmament of life; but a full, unclouded manifestation, a Divine Pleroma, the true Pantheism. Not the old Oriental Nirvâna, our human personality lost in Deity, put out like a flame in the light of the meridian sun; but our true and perfect spiritual individuality, filled with the light, the life, the inspiration, of God.—H. Allon, D.D.

ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 11

Heb . Decision of Character.—The man will not re-examine his conclusions with endless repetition, and he will not be delayed long by consulting other persons, after he has ceased to consult himself. He cannot bear to sit still among unexecuted decisions and unattempted projects. We wait to hear of his achievements, and are confident we shall not wait long. The possibility or the means may not be obvious to us, but we know that everything will be attempted, and that a spirit of such determined will is like a river, which, in whatever manner it may be obstructed, will make its way somewhere. It must have cost Cæsar many anxious hours of deliberation before he decided to pass the Rubicon; but it is probable he suffered but few to elapse between the decision and the execution. And any one of his friends who should have been apprised of his determination, and understood his character, would have smiled contemptuously to hear it insinuated that, though Cæsar had resolved, Cæsar would not dare; or that though he might cross the Rubicon, whose opposite bank presented to him no hostile legions, he might come to other rivers which he would not cross; or that either rivers or any other obstacles would deter him from prosecuting his determination from this ominous commencement to its very last consequence.—John Foster.

Heb . The Reproach of Christ.—A curious discovery has been made in Rome. It is a rude caricature scratched on the ruined wall of the Prætorian barracks, representing a man worshipping another man hanging on a cross, the crucified figure being drawn with the head of an ass, and the words roughly written beneath, "Alexamenos worships God," i.e. in effect, "See what a god Alexamenos worships!" Revolting and hideous as this caricature is, it is deeply interesting as a specimen of the ribald jests to which a Christian soldier was exposed, and also most valuable as a proof that the early Church believed in the Deity of Christ. A woodcut copy of this strange drawing will be found in Macduff's St. Paul at Rome, p. 225. Genuine faith influences us to deny ourselves, to renounce the world, to cherish holiness, to bear reproach, and to look beyond the present scene to the world of light and eternal glory. Such an effect will be produced, more or less, on all who possess this Divine grace. The Marquis of Vico, in Italy, when he was come to years, and to the knowledge of Jesus Christ, refused to be called the son and heir to a marquis, a cupbearer to an emperor, and nephew to a pope, and chose rather to suffer affliction, persecution, banishment, loss of lands, living, wife, children, honours, and preferments, than to enjoy the sinful pleasures of Italy for a season; esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than all the honours of the most brilliant connection, and all the enjoyments of the most ample fortune; for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward.

The True Riches.—Elizabeth Christina, Queen of Prussia, was speaking one day to the little daughter of her gardener, and was greatly pleased with the wisdom and gentleness of the child. Some time after, as the queen was about to sit down with her ladies at table, the child was brought in, and the queen ordered her to sit beside her. The queen was curious to see what impression the gold and silver and bright ornaments would make on the little girl. She looked round in silence and astonishment; at last she folded her tiny hands, and said, with a clear voice,—

"Jesus, Thy blood and righteousness

My beauty are, and glorious dress;

Midst flaming worlds in these arrayed,

With joy shall I lift up my head."

The ladies were deeply moved. "Oh the happy child!" one of them exclaimed to the queen, "how high she is above us!"


Verse 30-31

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Heb

Faith seen in the Jericho Associations.—"The sacred writer has lingered over the life and deeds of the greatest of the patriarchs, and of Moses the legislator of the nation: two examples only—differing in kind from those which have preceded, and peculiarly suggestive and important—have been taken from the history of the people after the death of Moses. Enough has now been said to guide all who are willing to search the Scriptures for themselves. With a brief mention of names which would call up before the minds of his readers achievements almost as wonderful as those on which he has been dwelling, he passes from the elders who received witness from God by their faith, and speaks in general terms, but all the more distinctly, of the triumphs which faith has won." In these verses the practical power of faith is seen in two particulars, the second being illustrated in a case outside the covenant, showing that faith in God is the same thing, and meets with the same acceptance with Him, anywhere and everywhere.

I. Faith that could persist.—The daily march round the city of Jericho for six days, and the six times marching round on the seventh day, were distinct testings of faith. There could be no greater test than this—Can you keep on persistently doing an apparently useless, fruitless thing, in simple confidence that He who commanded the doing is surely working towards the realisation of His own purpose. Nothing strains us like having to keep on through failure.

II. Faith that could inspire devices.—We are not required to approve of the acts of Rahab. They are indeed to be judged in the light of the right and wrong which is applicable to war-times. Then stratagem to preserve life is universally recognised as honourable, and it almost necessarily includes deception. But we may see how practically the faith she had in Jehovah's word influenced Rahab. It made her inventive, set her upon schemes, and sustained her in carrying through devices.

SUGGESTIVE NOTES AND SERMON SKETCHES

Heb . Rahab's Faith and Falsehood.—Rahab was guilty of a falsehood; but here is an evidence of the truth of the history; her moral infirmity is not concealed or extenuated, although she had been received into the family of God's people, and was dwelling in Israel, when the book of Joshua was written. Rahab had been brought up among the idolaters, who have little regard for truth; and she lived in Jericho, one of the greatest cities of Canaan. It was not to be expected that, all at once, she would become a lover of truth, and would think it sinful to employ an artifice to attain a good end. Her case was like that of the Egyptian midwives, who told a falsehood to Pharaoh in order to save the lives of the male children of Israel (Exo 1:17; Exo 1:21). In both cases God was "not extreme to mark what was done amiss," but graciously accepted their acts of faith and mercy, although they were sullied and blemished by human infirmity; and thus He gently led them on to higher degrees of virtue.—Bishop Wordsworth.

Rahab's Character.—Some commentators, following Josephus and the Chaldean interpreters, have endeavoured to make Rahab only a keeper of a house of entertainment for travellers—a gloss in striking contrast with the simple straightforwardness of the writer of this book, and inconsistent with the apostolic phraseology. Rahab had hitherto probably been but a common type of heathen morality, but she was faithful to the dawning convictions of a nobler creed, and hence is commended by Christ's apostles for that which was meritorious in her conduct. Her protection of the spies has been stigmatised as traitorous, and her concealment of them as a piece of lying and deceit. But as to the first, it is evident that she was convinced that the cause of Israel was that of the true God, to oppose which would have been the greater sin. And as to the deception which she practised, there is no need to defend that which is not commended in itself. Rahab is not praised for her falsehood, but for her faith; although many Christian moralists, besides Paley, would defend deception in word and deed, when practised (as in this case) to save life.—W. H. Groser, B.Sc.


Verses 32-40

CRITICAL AND EXEGETICAL NOTES

Heb . Sawn asunder.—The traditional mode of Isaiah's death. Tempted.—I.e. severely tested. A conjecture has been made that the word should be ἐπρήσθησαν, they were burned, instead of ἐπειράσθησαν. But it may mean that every effort was made to induce them to apostatise. Illustrate from the efforts to induce the last of the seven Maccabean brothers to apostatise. See 2 Maccabees 7.

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Heb

A Summary of the Triumphs of Faith.—The list given abundantly illustrates how faith may be shown in

(1) doing;

(2) bearing; and

(3) suffering. But the faith which the writer presents in every case found its expression in the material spheres, in outward and earthly relations. It is true that we can learn from them, and be inspired by them to show a similar faith in those similar earthly spheres in which we too have to take our place and part. And yet it must be seen that an altogether higher faith—a spiritual faith bearing relation to spiritual things—is required of us. And in its application to us the persuasion of the writer is this—If faith in these lower ranges gained for them such splendid triumphs, what triumphs ought our higher faith, in the higher range, to gain for us?" The ancient worthies persevered in their faith, although the Messiah was known to them only by promise. We are under greater obligations to persevere; for God has fulfilled His promise respecting the Messiah, and thus placed us in a condition better adapted to perseverance than theirs. So much is our condition preferable to theirs, that we may even say, without the blessing which we enjoy, their happiness could not be completed" (Heb ).

I. The sublime decision of persecuted believers in primitive times.—

1. The dangers with which they were threatened.

2. The determination with which they were sustained.

II. The various considerations which this heroism suggests.—

1. Thankfulness for religious liberty afforded to us.

2. Excitement; their faith and constancy should stimulate us.

3. Expectation.

SUGGESTIVE NOTES AND SERMON SKETCHES

Heb . What to find in Scripture and Christian History.—The apostle having given us a classis of many eminent believers, whose names are mentioned, and the particular trials and actings of their faith recorded, now concludes his narrative with a more summary account of another set of believers, where the particular acts are not ascribed to particular persons by name, but left to be applied by those who are well acquainted with the sacred story; and, like a Divine orator, he prefaces this part of his narrative with an elegant expostulation—"What shall I say more? Time would fail me": as if he had said, "It is in vain to attempt to exhaust this subject. Should I not restrain my pen, it would soon run beyond the bounds of an epistle; and therefore I shall but just mention a few more, and leave you to enlarge upon them." Observe—

1. After all our researches into the Scriptures, there is still more to be learned from them.

2. We must well consider in Divine matters what we should say, and suit it well to the time.

3. 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 thereof were not then so fully revealed.

4. And we should lament it, 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.—Matthew Henry.

Heb . The Better Resurrection.—This chapter is the roll-book of a noble army. Human history records the triumphs of knowledge and courage and energy; the Divine history records the triumphs of faith. Among the "cloud of witnesses" are two groups mentioned in text. The ancient saints were believers in a resurrection to eternal life—a better resurrection. One kind of resurrection was a restoration to the life of this world. There is another and superior resurrection—to the life of the eternal world. "Women received their dead again by resurrection; and others, that they might obtain a better resurrection, were tortured, not accepting deliverance."

I. Consider the better resurrection.—This is more to be desired than the resurrection of loved ones to us here.

1. Think of the place of it. Better than Bethany or Jerusalem—soon to be the marching-ground of Roman armies. Here the curse, the pain, the disease, the torturing agonies, and the depressions which cloud the soul. The place of the better resurrection is described, "There shall be no more curse, no night, need no candle," etc.

2. The company in the place. In this world our dearest friends become at times more dear to us. In that heavenly world we shall have the best at their best. No distrust or selfishness, but deep and true love.

3. The essence of this eternal love. Its entire freedom from sin. The presence of sin in our nature is at the root of every other evil, and deliverance from suffering in heaven is connected with perfect deliverance from sin. This is an ideal which it never entered into man's heart to conceive, and which the gospel alone has taught us.

4. Think also of the security of this state. The resurrections of earth were a return to a world of change and death—to part again. Once to be raised to this world is twice to die. In heaven the last fight is over. "O thou enemy, destructions are come to a perpetual end."

5. The presence to which it introduces. The best of these other resurrections brought their subjects into the earthly presence of the Son of God, but this into His heavenly fellowship.

II. The higher faith required for this resurrection.—

1. It needs more of the patience of faith. The faith of the sisters of Bethany demanded one great effort, and the battle was gained. But ours cannot be so compressed. "Till the heavens be no more." This needs patience. The scorn of unbelievers, taunts of the materialist, the murmurs of our hearts, are well-nigh unbearable.

2. The sanctified imagination of faith. There is an imagination of faith, not unbridled, nor unscriptural, which has formed for itself a true and real world beyond death, which gives substance to things hoped for, and thereby helps to the evidence of things not seen.

3. It needs more of the spiritual insight of faith. It must seek to live as seeing Him who is invisible. It must rest on the nature of God Himself, and the life He infuses into the soul. Christ Himself must be known to us in His ever-living spiritual power.

III. Some of the ways in which we may strengthen ourselves in this higher faith.—

1. The first thought is addressed to the reason. Here are men tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. Can you imagine that the self-devotion of the noble army of martyrs was founded on delusion? They loved truth more than life. They believed in a better resurrection.

2. To the heart. "Their dead." God intended that our deepest heart affections should be the helpers of our highest hopes, and the instinctive guarantees of a life to come.

3. To our spirit. Certainty comes from union with the dying and risen and living Son of God. There is a spring of immortality ready to rise up in every heart that will admit Him who is the true God and eternal life. The martyr's spirit descends upon him when the fire is kindled, and the Christian's willingness to depart comes when his Master calls.—J. Ker, D.D.

Heb . What Men of Faith gain and fail to gain.—It is an absolute law in all earthly relations that gain and loss go together. "There are no gains without pains." To reach the higher is to leave the lower. If faith puts us into the atmosphere of God, it puts us out of the atmosphere of the world. But the gain always more than compensates for the loss.

Heb . The Material draws on to the Spiritual.—The spiritual is climactic; it absolutely satisfies man. The material can never be presented under any conceivable form that satisfies. Man would not be his spiritual self if it did. In the old time perfection was only reached by the faith realisation of the spiritual.

ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 11

Heb . Power of Faith.—Julius Palmer, in Queen Mary's days, had life and preferment offered him, if he would recant his faith in Christ. His answer was, that he had resigned his living in two places for the sake of the gospel, and was now ready to yield his life on account of Christ.—William Hunter, when urged by Bonner to recant, replied, he could only be moved by the Scriptures, for he reckoned the things of earth but dross for Christ; and when the sheriff offered him a pardon at the stake, if he would renounce his faith, he firmly rejected it.—Antonius Riceto, a Venetian, was offered his life, and considerable wealth, if he would concede but a little; and when his son with weeping entreated him to do so, he answered, that he resolved to lose both children and estate for Christ.—The Prince of Condé, at the massacre of Paris, when the king assured him that he should die within three days if he did not renounce his religion, told the monarch that his life and estate were in his hand, and that he would give up both rather than renounce the truth.—Bradford said to his fellow-sufferer at the stake, "Be of good comfort, for we shall this night have a merry supper with the Lord."—Sanders, in similar circumstances, said, "Welcome the cross of Christ, welcome everlasting life!"—Elizabeth Folks, embracing the stake, cried, "Farewell world, farewell faith and hope, and welcome love!"—Algerius, an Italian martyr, thus wrote from his prison, a little before his death: "Who would believe that in this dungeon I should find a paradise so pleasant; in a place of sorrow and death, tranquillity and hope and life; where others weep, I rejoice."—Wishart, when in the fire which removed him from the world, exclaimed, "The flame doth torment my body, but no whit abates my spirits."—In ancient history there is a story told of a valiant captain whose banner was almost always first in the fight, whose sword was dreaded by his enemies, for it was the herald of slaughter and of victory. His monarch once asked to see the sword. He took it, quietly examined it, and sent it back with this message: "I see nothing wonderful in the sword. I cannot understand why any man should be afraid of it." The captain sent back another message: "Your majesty has been pleased to examine the sword, but I did not send the arm that wielded it; if you had examined that, and the heart that guided the arm, you would have understood the mystery." We look at men and see what great things they have done, and we cannot understand it. But we only see the sword; we do not see God, whose arm wields it.—C. H. Spurgeon.

Heb . Persecutions of the Faithful.—Literally this reads, "they were bastinadoed," or beaten to death with batons or sticks, a mode of punishment still used in the East, and which is capable of taking away the life of the real or supposed criminal, if it be continued for a long time. Some have thought this refers to the tortures thus inflicted upon Eleazar by Antiochus, as described in 2 Maccabees 6. Doddridge, from the fact that the Greek verb is used to express the beating of a drum, argues that in this particular kind of punishment all the limbs were put upon the stretch, and then beaten in such a way as to cause intense pain.

Heb . Sheepskins and Goatskins.—Some writers see in this an allusion to the prophets of the Jewish era. Much of a prophet's life, also, was spent in wandering from place to place. In 2Ki 1:8 it is obvious that Elijah wore a garment of undressed hair, and a reference to the clothing of the prophets in Zec 13:4 indicates that rough skins were their usual dress. We find this remark in Clement's epistle to the Corinthians: "Let us be imitators of those who went about in sheepskins and goatskins, preaching the coming of Christ."

Treatment of the Prophets.—In the parable of the wicked husbandman the outrage reaches unto the killing of some of the subordinate messengers; these are true to historical fact, seeing that not a few of the prophets were not merely maltreated, but actually put to death. Thus, if we may trust Jewish tradition, Jeremiah was stoned by the exiles in Egypt, Isaiah sawn asunder by King Manasseh; and we have abundant historical justification of this description, showing that the past ingratitude of the Jews is not painted in colours too dark; of which treatment this passage in the Hebrews is the best commentary. The patience of God under these extraordinary provocations is wonderful, sending as He does, messenger after messenger to win men to Him.—Archbishop Trench.

Dwellers in Caves.—Few of the caves of Western Asia are now occupied as permanent places of abode; they are mostly the resort of shepherds, who make them the stables of their flocks. It not unfrequently occurs at the present day that a people oppressed by war, or the tyranny of their rulers, forsake the towns and villages and take up their abode for a time in these wild and solitary places, in the hope of escaping from their oppressors. Fugitives from the battle-field, leaders of armies, and even princes and royal personages, have repeatedly, in modern as in ancient times, concealed themselves from their pursuers within these dark recesses. Bandits and outlaws have also made these caverns their abode, whence they sallied forth to commit robbery and murder, and in times of persecution on account of religion, men, women, and even children have been forced to abandon their homes and wait for better times in "dens and caves of the earth." The deacon of the present Armenian Church of Sivas, in Asia Minor, was compelled to leave his home in Divrik, for fear of death on account of his faith, and abode for several months in a cave in the mountains, where he was secretly furnished with provisions.—Van Lennep.

Heb . A Good Report.—As in the motions of the heavens there is one common revolution, which carries the whole frame daily unto one point, from east to west, though each several sphere hath a several cross-way of its own, wherein some move swifter and others with slower motion—so, though saints may have their several corruptions, and these likewise stronger in some than in others, yet, being animated by one and the same Spirit, they all agree in a steady and uniform motion unto Christ. If a stone were placed under the concave of the moon, though there be air and fire and water between, yet through them all it would hasten to its own place; so be the obstacles never so many, or the conditions never so various, through which a man must pass, through terrors and temptations, and a sea and wilderness, and fiery serpents, and sons of Anak; yet if the heart love Christ indeed, having obtained a good report through faith, he concludes that heaven is his home, to which he is hastening, whither Christ the forerunner is gone before.—H. G. Salter.

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Hebrews 11:4". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/phc/hebrews-11.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.

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Thursday, December 5th, 2019
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