Genesis 15:5

I. A SHIELD against -

1. The charges of the law (Isaiah 45:24).

2. The accusations of conscience (Romans 15:13).

3. The force of temptation (Revelation 3:10).

4. The opposition of the world (Romans 8:31).

5. The fear of death (Hebrews 2:15).

II. A REWARD -

1. For sufferings patiently endured (2 Timothy 2:12).

2. For sacrifices cheerfully made (Matthew 19:28).

3. For service faithfully accomplished (Revelation 2:28). Lessons -

1. Admire the exceeding richness of Divine grace.

2. Appreciate the fullness of Divine salvation.

3. Realize the height of Divine privilege accorded to the saint. - W.







And He brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and He said unto him, So shall thy seed be. And he believed in the Lord, and He counted it to him for righteousness.
These two verses lie close together on one page of the Bible. They are part of a brief event in one human life. Yet, as we read them, they seem to separate from each other, and to stand very far apart. The fifth verse is altogether of the past. It shows us the tent of the patriarch gleaming white in the clear starlight of the Eastern night. We learn with Abraham to look up and believe and be at rest. The sixth verse suggests thoughts of the nearer present. From the hour when St. Paul first cited this fact of Abraham's faith and his justification by faith, this verse has been taken out of the older story and bedded in our modern controversies.

I. In these verses lies the union of two things that God has joined together and that man is ever trying to separate — LIFE AND LIGHT. God revealed Himself to us, not by words that told of a Father, but by a life that showed a Father; not by a treatise on Fatherhood, but by the manifestation of a Son. And so He ever joins the light of precept with the life of practice.

II. We read that Abraham believed God — NOT THEN FOR THE FIRST TIME, NOT THEN ONLY. He had heard God's voice before, and at its bidding had gone out to be an exile and pilgrim all his days. His faith was no intellectual assent to a demonstrated proposition; it was the trust of the heart in the voice of God. It was the belief, not that solves difficulties, but that rises above them.

III. WHY WAS ABRAHAM'S FAITH COUNTED TO HIM FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS? Because, as all sin lies folded in one thought of distrust, so in one thought of trust lies all possible righteousness — its patience, its hope, its heroism, its endurance, its saintliness; and therefore He who sees the end from the beginning reckons it as righteousness. In the faith of Abraham lay all the righteous endurance, all the active service, of his believing life. This simple trust of Abraham made the practical motive power of his life, as it should make that of ours.

(Bp. Magee.)

I. WHAT WAS THE COVENANT, AND TO WHOM WAS IT REALLY MADE?

1. As we commonly use the term it means an agreement between two equal parties who bind themselves to do, or not to do, certain things. In the realm of Redemption it cannot be so, because God and man are not equals and cannot make mutual agreements. God's covenant begins and ends with Himself. It comes to us only through His mercy and grace. The power to fulfil its conditions, on man's part, comes through the same grace received into the heart by faith.

2. To whom was this promise made? "To Abraham and his seed, which is Christ."

II. WHAT WAS, AND IS, ACCEPTABLE FAITH? We see at a glance that the covenant asked almost nothing of its recipient as he left his home and entered Canaan. He had done nothing, that we can see, which would in the least entitle him to hear so "large a promise, so divine." To be sure, we read that he would bring up his children well, but this hardly constitutes a valid reason why he should be selected to become heir of the world and the father of the faithful. We have the exact announcement here: "He believed in the Lord; and He counted it to him for righteousness." It. need not have been counted, if it had been real and intrinsic righteousness. It would have stood out in its own merits. In a word, it was the obedience of faith — the obedience springing out of, and kept alive by, faith. So far as sight went, there was nothing to justify his acceptance of the amazing promise that his seed should be as the dust and the stars for number, and that he should be the father of a nation which should fill and bless the earth. And although Christ is fully revealed to us, the steps from the life of nature into that of grace are essentially steps into an uncertainty. Only by faith do we know what we shall find when we accept salvation. We make a venture. We put the foot out for a step, and the only confidence we have that we shall not fall is the confidence of faith. Like Abraham we are called to go out into a country that shall be showed us after we have started for it. And how often must we leave kindred and friends behind us, like Christian in the dream of John Bunyan, and set our faces away from all that charms us, and cry aloud: "Life! life!" nor tarry in all the plain?

(E. N. Packard.)

I. GOD'S REST GIFT TO MAN IS HIMSELF (ver. 1). Hitherto God had promised to confer blessings upon Abram. Not till now had He promised to bestow Himself. Abram knew that God was better than His gifts. If He would confer Himself, no good can be lacking. So, taking God at His word, Abram's struggling faith comes to victory.

II. GOD GRANTS TO THE RELIEVING SOUL FREE INTERCOURSE WITH HIMSELF. As yet, whenever God had spoken, Abram had kept silence. Now his lips are opened.

III. GOD REVEALS HIMSELF TO MAN IN A WAY ADAPTED TO HIS PRESENT NEED. Abram had said, "Lord God, whereby shall I know that I shall inherit the land?" God heeded this request, and gave him a token adapted to his age and country. That was four thousand years ago, and in a barbarous age. To expect now such, or any sensuous phenomenon at the meeting place of God and man, would be to roll back the stream of time and expect the nineteenth century after Christ to be as gross in its spiritual conceptions as the nineteenth century before him. Still, the fact that God regarded Abram's request, and in a manner suited to His comprehension condescended to bind Himself by covenant to His promises of grace, is a lesson of perpetual hope. God's ear is never closed to His children's cry.

IV. GOD'S REVELATIONS TO MAN ARE PROGRESSIVE. There are seven or eight recorded instances of God's communing with Abram (see Genesis 12:1-3; Genesis 17:7, 13, 15, 17, 22.). As God dealt with Abram He deals with us. The blessing faith asks for and receives today is the type of a richer one tomorrow. To Abram, childless, wandering in a strange land, the highest imagined good was a son and a home. These God promised. But how much greater the blessing when it was revealed that God in him was to reknit the broken bond between Himself and a fallen race, and through his seed to provide a Saviour for an apostate world! Faith, wherever it enters, makes the soul expansive. Today it wants and obtains; and by that very obtaining its wants are heightened still, and these when gratified yet more enlarge the soul, and urge it on to ask and expect yet ampler blessings. Nor is there ever fear that man's increased capacity or desire will exceed God's ability to grant. The depths of His power and love are unfathomable.

V. THE CHANNEL THROUGH WHICH GOD'S BLESSINGS FLOW TO MAN IS FAITH. Notice the process by which Abram's faith resulted, Hot only in an imputed, but also in an actual righteousness. He hears the call of God, and comes to the decisive act of trusting Him. He then rises to the successive steps of walking with God, covenanting with Him, communing and interceding with Him, and at length withholding from Him nothing which he regards most dear. From this example of Abram several lessons respecting faith are taught. We learn that —

1. The sinner's first duty is to believe what God has spoken. Had Abram disbelieved God, every act born of that disbelief would have been an act of sin. The only right thing he could do was to believe God and accept His proffered favour. So is it now To have confidence in God, to repose in Him, to fall into the arms of His promised grace, is the only first right act a sinner can perform. Hence the Scriptures emphasize the truth that salvation comes from believing.

2. The foundation of faith is God's promise. God had told Abram what He would do. Abram's faith consisted in believing that God would do just as He had said.

3. Obedience is an essential element in faith. Because Abram believed God he obeyed Him. "It is," says Selden, "an unhappy division that is made between faith and works. Though in my interest I may divide them, just as in the candle I know there is both light and heat, yet put out the candle and they are both gone; one remains not without the other. So is it betwixt faith and works."

4. Faith is the soul's simplest act, and also its mightiest energy. To Abram, weak and sinful, what so simple as to trust, like a little child, in his heavenly Father? Yet thus he became mightier than a conqueror.

5. Faith's highest conquests are not at first.

(P. B. Davis.)

I. ABRAM HAD EXPOSED HIMSELF TO DANGEROUS REPRISALS BY HIS VICTORY OVER THE CONFEDERATE EASTERN RAIDERS. In the reaction following the excitement of battle, dread and despondency seem to have shadowed his soul. Therefore the assurance with which this chapter opens came to him. It was new, and came in a new form. He is cast into a state of spiritual ecstasy, and a mighty "word" sounds, audible to his inward ear. The form which it takes — "I am thy shield" — suggests the thought that God shapes His revelation according to the moment's need. The unwarlike Abram might well dread the return of the marauders in force, to avenge their defeat. Therefore God speaks to his fears and present want. Abram had just exercised singular generosity in absolutely refusing to enrich himself from the spoil. God reveals Himself as his "exceeding great reward." He gives Himself as recompense for all sacrifices.

II. MAKE THE TRIUMPHANT FAITH WHICH SPRINGS TO MEET THE DIVINE PROMISE. The first effect of that great assurance is to deepen Abram's consciousness of the strange contradiction to it apparently given by his childlessness. It is not distrust that answers the promise with a question, but it is eagerness to accept the assurance and ingenuous utterance of difficulties in the hope of their removal. God is too wise a Father not to know the difference between the tones of confidence and unbelief, however alike they may soured; and He is too patient to be angry if we cannot take in all His promise at once. He breaks it into bits not too large for our lips, as He does hove. The frequent reiterations of the same promises in Abram's life are not vain. They are a specimen of the unwearied repetition of our lessons, "Here a little, there a little," which our teacher gives his slow scholars. So, once more, Abram gets the promise of posterity in still more glorious form. Before, it was likened to the dust of the earth; now it is as the innumerable stars shining in the clear eastern heaven. As he gazes up into the solemn depths, the immensity and peace of the steadfast sky seems to help him to rise above the narrow limits and changefulness of earth, and a great trust floods his soul. Belief as credence is mainly an affair of the head, but belief as trust is the act of the will and the affections. The object of faith is set in sunlight clearness by these words — the first in which Scripture speaks of faith. Abram leaved on "the Lord." It was not the promise, but the promiser, that was truly the object of Abram's trust.

III. MARK THE FULL-ORBED GOSPEL TRUTH AS TO THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF FAITH WHICH IS IMBEDDED IN THIS RECORD OF EARLY REVELATION. "He counted it to him for righteousness." A geologist would be astonished if he came on remains in some of the primary strata which indicated the existence, in these remote epochs, of species supposed to be of much more recent date. So here we are startled at finding the peculiarly New Testament teaching away hack in this dim distance. No wonder that Paul fastened on this verse, which so remarkably breaks the flow of the narrative, as proof that his great principle of justification by faith was really the one only law by which, in all ages, men had found acceptance with God. Long before law or circumcision, faith had been counted for righteousness. The whole Mosaic system was a parenthesis; and even in it, whoever had been accepted had been so because of his trust, not because of his works. The whole of the subsequent Divine dealings with Israel rested on this act of faith, and on the relation to God into which, through it, Abram entered. He was not a perfectly righteous man, as some passages of his life show; but he rose here to the height of loving and yearning trust in God, and God took that trust in lieu of perfect conformity to His will.

IV. CONSIDER THE COVENANT WHICH IS THE CONSEQUENCE OF ABRAM'S FAITH, AND THE PROOF OF HIS ACCEPTANCE. It is important to observe that the whole remainder of this chapter is regarded by the writer as the result of Abram's believing God. The way in which verse 7 and the rest are bolted on, as it were, to verse 6, clearly shows this. The nearer lesson from this fact is that all the Old Testament revelation from this point onward, rests on the foundation of faith. The further lesson, for all times, is that faith is ever rewarded by more intimate and loving manifestations of God's friendship, and by fuller disclosures of His purposes. The covenant is not only God's binding Himself anew by solemn acts to fulfil His promises already made, but it is His entering into far sweeter and nearer alliance with Abram than even He had hitherto had. That name, "the friend of God," by which he is still known over all the Muhammadan world, contains the very essence of the covenant.

(A. Maclaren, D. D.)

I. ABRAM'S APPREHENSION AND GOD'S ASSURANCE.

1. The Divine words, "Fear not," suggest that Abram was now filled with apprehension.

2. There was strong ground for such apprehension.

3. In this opportune moment of apprehension, God's gracious voice of assurance was heard in vision by Abram.(1) Encouraging words. "Do not fear!"(2) The ground of the encouragement. "I am thy shield and thy exceeding great reward."

(a)As his "shield," an all-sufficient protection.

(b)As his "exceeding great reward," better than all spoils of war or earthly good.

(c)A present help in every time of need is our covenant God.

II. ABRAM'S QUESTIONING AND GOD'S ANSWER.

1. This question was natural.

2. This question was timely.

3. It has been quaintly said: "The pious complaint of human weakness before God must be distinguished from impious murmurs against God."

4. God's answer.

(1)Positive.

(2)All-assuring.

III. ABRAM'S FAITH AND GOD'S ATTESTATION.

1. This act of faith seems to have risen to a sublimer height, and to have been more spiritually appropriating, than any previous act had been.

2. God's special attestation of this act of faith is peculiarly significant (Romans 4:18-25).

3. The solemn ratifying rite.

4. Abram's deep sleep, and accompanying revelation from God.Lessons:

1. The assurance of God's grace should quiet all our fears, and give abiding strength to our faith in His promises.

2. Let us imitate Abram's sublime faith when (Romans 4:20).

3. Unbelief dishonours God; faith glorifies Him.

(D. C. Hughes, M. A.)

I. ABRAM QUESTIONING. He never doubted God. But his faith was tried. His question in ver. 2 is a prayer for more light, as afterwards, in ver. 8, he asks for some token from God to assure him.

II. ABRAM BELIEVING. He believed that nothing was impossible with God, and that God's promise must be true. This faith, then, was simply trusting God's word.

III. ABRAM ASSURED. Abram watched. Abram waited. Then deep sleep fell on him. God's time often comes when His servant's weakness is most felt.

1. God unveils to Abram a glimpse of the future.

2. God allows Abram to see a symbol of the Divine Presence.

(W. S. Smith, B. D.)

1. God's infinite condescension. Will God in very deed become a contracting party with man? Shall only the breadth of a sacrifice separate the Most High God from a sinful creature such as even Abraham was? And yet so it was.

2. Let us see here again a type and emblem of the greater covenant between the Father and the Son, the covenant of grace.

3. And we ought, in fine, to enter into covenant, as Abraham did, with God. In every act of firm belief in God and Christ there is implied the idea of covenant obligation. We bind ourselves to be God's forever; and He promises, not to us by ourselves (as is supposed in a personal covenant), but to us as in Christ, all those blessings, present and future, which are implied in Him.

(G. Gilfillan.)

At the last general election some millions of votes had to be counted. And the proceedings on that occasion illustrated the fact that the verb "to count" is used in two senses. The clerk counts the voting papers he takes out of the ballot box; but presently he comes to one which has been filled up by the voter irregularly, and, throwing it aside, he exclaims, "That will not count," or "I can't count that." He does not mean that there is any physical difficulty in adding that one vote to the number he has arrived at. He means that it must not be reckoned. The same distinction may be seen in the Bible. When David says of God's precious thoughts, "If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand" (Psalm 139:18), the word "count" is used in the ordinary sense of numbering; and the same Hebrew word is sometimes translated "number," as in David's "numbering" of the people. But when the Psalmist complains, "We are counted as sheep for the slaughter" (Psalm 44:22), he means not "numbered," but "regarded," or "reckoned"; and the Hebrew word used is elsewhere rendered "reckoned," or "imputed," as in Psalm 32:2, "Unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity." So also in the Greek of the New Testament; and teachers should particularly note, in studying this lesson, that in the Authorised Version of Romans

4. the words "count" (which occurs twice), "reckon" (which occurs three times), and "impute" (which occurs six times), all stand for one Greek word, which is used eleven times in that chapter, and always means "count" in the second sense. In the Revised Version this is put right, and in no chapter is the revision more valuable. It renders the word by "reckon" in every case, and every reader feels the immensely increased strength of St. Paul's argument. Now these two senses of the word "count" both appear in Genesis 15, in the fifth and sixth verses. (In the fifth verse the English words "tell" and "numbered" are the same in the Hebrew, and are, of course, equivalent to "count" and "counted"). And in both cases the use of the expression is very significant.

(E. Stock.)

Just as the hand of a dyer that has been working with crimson will be crimson just as the hand that has been holding fragrant perfumes will be perfumed; so my faith, which is only the hand by which I lay hold on precious things, will take the tincture and fragrance of what it grasps.

(A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Like as, in winter, we no sooner go from the fire but we are cold, nor out of light but we enter into darkness, even so we no sooner be parted from Jesus Christ, who is our Righteousness and our Life, but straight we are in sin and death; forasmuch as He is our Life that quickeneth us, the Sun that giveth us light, and the Fire that warmeth, comforteth, and refresheth all His members.

(J. Spencer.)

For the first time is that sacred emotion recorded which forms the centre of religion; which confides in things promised but unseen; which conquers every doubt by reliance and resignation; which discovers, through the mists of the present, the sunshine of the future; and which recognizes in the discordant strife of the world the traces of the eternal mind that leads it to an unceasing harmony.

(M. M. Kalisch, Ph. D.)

1. From this confessedly weighty sentence we learn, implicitly, that Abram had no righteousness. And here the universal fact of man's depravity comes out into incidental notice as a thing usually taken for granted in the words of God.

2. Righteousness is here imputed to Abram. Hence mercy and grace are extended to him; mercy taking effect in the pardon of his sin, and grace in bestowing the rewards of righteousness.

3. That in him which is counted for righteousness is faith in Jehovah promising mercy. In the absence of righteousness this is the only thing in the sinner that can be counted for righteousness.(1) It is not of the nature of righteousness. If it were actual righteousness, it could not be counted as such. But believing God, who promises blessing to the undeserving, is essentially different from obeying God, who guarantees blessing to the deserving. Hence it has a negative fitness to be counted for what it is not.(2) It is trust in Him who engages to bless in a holy and lawful way. Hence it is that in the sinner which brings him into conformity with the law through another, who undertakes to satisfy its demands, and secure its rewards for him. Thus it is the only thing in the sinner which, while it is not righteousness, has yet a claim to be counted for such, because it brings him into union with one who is just and having salvation. It is not material what the Almighty and All-gracious promises in the first instance to him that believes in Him, whether it be a land, or a seed, or any other blessing. All other blessing, temporal or eternal, will flow out of that express one in a perpetual course of development, as the believer advances in experience, in compass of intellect, and capacity of enjoyment. Hence it is that a land involves a better land, a seed a nobler seed, a temporal an eternal good. The patriarchs were children to us in the comprehension of the love of God: we are children to those who will hereafter experience still grander manifestations of what God has prepared for them that love Him. The shield and exceeding great reward await a yet inconceivable enlargement of meaning.

(Professor J. G. Murphy.)

I. FAITH IN GOD SUPPOSES A DIVINE REVELATION.

1. We must have a revelation of a personal God.

2. That revelation must exhibit God in loving relations to man.

(1)As able to protect him from all evil.

(2)As a sufficient portion.

II. THE ACT OF FAITH RESTS UPON A DIVINE PROMISE.

1. Faith is the present realization of some good which we hope for.

2. Without a Divine promise, faith becomes mere adventure.

III. THERE ARE DIFFICULTIES IN FAITH WHICH GOD IS READY TO MEET.

1. Such difficulties are part of our trial in this present state.

2. Such difficulties need not overtask our faith.

IV. FAITH IN GOD IS MAN'S ONLY RIGHTEOUSNESS.

1. Man has no righteousness of and from himself.

2. Man cannot attain righteousness by obedience to the works of the law.

3. Man can only possess righteousness by the gracious act of God.

(T. H. Leale.)

I. GOD SPOKE TO ABRAHAM ABOUT HIS FEAR.

II. GOD SPOKE TO ABRAHAM ABOUT HIS CHILDLESSNESS.

III. ABRAHAM BELIEVED BEFORE HE UNDERWENT THE JEWISH RITE OF CIRCUMCISION.

IV. ABRAHAM BELIEVED IN FACE OF STRONG NATURAL IMPROBABILITIES.

V. HIS FAITH WAS DESTINED TO BE SEVERELY TRIED.

VI. HIS FAITH WAS COUNTED TO HIM FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS.

(F. B. Meyer, B. A.)

I. How was ABRAM JUSTIFIED?

1. He was not justified by his works.

2. This justification came to Abram not by obedience to the ceremonial law, any more that by conformity to the moral law.

3. The faith which justified Abram was still an imperfect faith, although it perfectly justified him.

(1)Imperfect beforehand. Prevarication as to wife.

(2)Imperfect afterwards. Taking Hagar in order to effect Divine purpose.

4. So far, then, all is clear: Abram was not justified by works, nor by ceremonies, nor partly by works and partly by faith, nor by the perfection of his faith — he is counted righteous simply because of his faith in the Divine promise. I must confess that, looking more closely into it, this text is too deep for me, and therefore I decline, at this present moment, to enter into the controversy which rages around it; but one thing is clear to me, that if faith be, as we are told, counted to us for righteousness, it is not because faith in itself has merit which may make it a fitting substitute for a perfect obedience to the law of God, nor can it be viewed as a substitute for such obedience. For all good acts are a duty: to trust God is our duty, and he that hath believed to his utmost hath done no more than it was his duty to have done. He who should believe without imperfection, if this were possible, would even then have only given to God a part of the obedience due; and if he should have failed in love, or reverence, or aught beside, his faith, as a virtue and a work, could not stand him in any stead. In fact, according to the great principle of the New Testament, even faith, as a work, does not justify the soul. We are not saved by works at all or in any sense, but alone by grace, and the way in which faith saves us is not by itself as a work, but in some other way directly opposite thereto.

II. Let us pass on to consider THE PROMISE UPON WHICH HIS FAITH RELIED when Abram was justified.

1. Abram's faith, like ours, rested upon a promise received direct from God." This shall not be thine heir; but he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir. And He brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and He said unto him, So shall thy seed by." Had this promise been spoken by any other, it would have been a subject of ridicule to the patriarch; but, taking it as from the lip of God, he accepts it, and relies upon it. Now, if you and I have true faith, we accept the promise, "He that believeth, and is baptised, shall be saved," as being altogether Divine.

2. Abram's faith was faith in a promise concerning the seed. He saw Christ by the eye of faith, and then he saw the multitude that should believe in Him, the seed of the father of the faithful. The faith which justifies the soul concerns itself about Christ, and not concerning mere abstract truths.

3. Abram had faith in a promise which it seemed impossible could ever be fulfilled. The faith which justifies us must be of the same kind. It seems impossible that I should ever be saved; I cannot save myself; I see absolute death written upon the best hopes that spring of my holiest resolutions; "In me, that is, in my flesh, there dwelleth no good thing"; but yet for all this I believe that through the life of Jesus I shall live, and inherit the promised blessing.

4. This justifying faith was faith which dealt with a wonderful promise, vast and sublime. I do not hear him saying, "It is too good to be true." No; God hath said it — and nothing is too good for God to do. The greater the grace of the promise, the more likely it is to have come from Him, for good and perfect gifts come from the Father of Lights. Canst thou believe that heaven is thine, with all its ecstasies of joy, eternity with its infinity of bliss, God with all His attributes of glory? Oh! this is the faith that justifies, far-reaching, wide-grasping faith, that diminishes not the word of promise, but accepts it as it stands.

5. Once more, Abram showed faith in the promise as made to himself. Out of his own bowels a seed should come, and it was in him and in his seed that the whole world should be blessed. I can believe all the promises in regard to other people. I find faith in regard to my dear friend to be a very easy matter, but oh! when it comes to close grips, and to laying hold for yourself, here is the difficulty.

III. In the third place, let us notice THE ATTENDANTS OF ABRAM'S JUSTIFICATION.

1. With your Bibles open, kindly observe that, after it is written his faith was counted to him for righteousness, it is recorded that the Lord said to him, "I am Jehovah that brought thee out of Ur of the Chaldees, to give thee this land to inherit it." When the soul is graciously enabled to perceive its complete justification by faith, then it more distinctly discerns its calling. Now, the believer perceives his privileged separation, and discerns why he was convinced of sin, why he was led away from self-righteousness and the pleasures of this world, to live the life of faith; now he sees his high calling and the prize of it, and from the one blessing of justification he argues the blessedness of all the inheritance to which he is called.

2. Abram, after being justified by faith, was led more distinctly to behold the power of sacrifice. By God's command he killed three bullocks, three goats, three sheep, with turtle doves and pigeons, being all the creatures ordained for sacrifice.

3. Perhaps even more important was the next lesson which Abram had to learn. He was led to behold the covenant. I suppose that these pieces of the bullock, the lamb, the ram, and the goat, were so placed that Abram stood in the midst with a part on this side and a part on that. So he stood as a worshipper all through the day, and towards nightfall, when a horror of great darkness came over him, he fell into a deep sleep. Who would not feel a horror passing over him as he sees the great sacrifice for sin, and sees himself involved therein? Can God forget a covenant with such sanctions? Can such a federal bond so solemnly sealed be ever broken? Impossible. Man is sometimes faithful to his oath, but God is always so; and when that oath is confirmed for the strengthening of our faith by the blood of the Only-begotten, to doubt is treason and blasphemy. God help us, being justified, to have faith in the covenant which is sealed and ratified with blood.

4. Immediately after, God made to Abram (and here the analogy still holds) a discovery, that all the blessing that was promised, though it was surely his, would not come without an interval of trouble. You are a justified man, but you are not freed from trouble. Your sins were laid on Christ, but you still have Christ's cross to carry. The Lord has exempted you from the curse, but He has not exempted you from the chastisement. Learn that you enter on the children's discipline on the very day in which you enter upon their accepted condition.

5. To close the whole, the Lord gave to Abram an assurance of ultimate success. He would bring his seed into the promised land, and the people who had oppressed them He would judge. So let it come as a sweet revelation to every believing man this morning, that at the end he shall triumph, and that those evils which now oppress him shall be cast beneath his feet.

( C. H. Spurgeon.)

The Congregational Pulpit.
The expression "counted for righteousness" does not signify, "considered as a righteous act"; but it means, "accepted for righteousness." Righteousness, such as would satisfy God's holy law, he had not; but faith he had: and God takes this faith as a substitute for righteousness, and reckons it to him as righteousness.

1. This faith was an entire surrender of himself to God, and renouncing of his own will and wisdom.

2. It was an implicit confidence in the Divine faithfulness and veracity.

3. It looked to God's promise; and that promise contained, in germ, the whole doctrine of the gospel.

4. This faith showed itself in holy obedience.

I. WE ARE BY NATURE, AND IN OURSELVES, UNRIGHTEOUS.

II. WE ARE NOT ABLE TO SAVE OURSELVES BY WORKS.

III. TO BE MADE RIGHTEOUS MEANS TO BE SET PERFECTLY RIGHT WITH GOD'S LAW.

IV. THIS CAN BE DONE FOR US ONLY BY FAITH. In other words, our salvation must be of grace; it must be accomplished for us by God; and we must acquiesce in His method, and surrender ourselves to His power.

V. FAITH, IN RESTING UPON GOD'S WORD, RESTS UPON A STATEMENT, A DOCTRINE, AND A PROMISE. The statement is that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, died, rose again, and now sitteth at God's right hand. The doctrine is that His death was an express and all-sufficient atonement for our sins; so that God now, looking at it, can be just and the justifier of the ungodly. The promise is that all sin shall be remitted, and all righteousness imputed to him who truly repents and shelters in the atoning sacrifice of Christ.

VI. YET FAITH HAS A PRACTICAL RESULT. He who thus believes is saved. He is inspired with love to God; he is renewed in the Divine likeness, and made a partaker of the Holy Ghost; and therefore he must delight to keep God's commandments and do His will. Application:

1. To the ungodly. Seek justification, and so flee from the wrath to come.

2. To those seeking to be righteous. Will you study God's method of righteousness, which is by faith, and at once fall in with it?

3. To believers. Cultivate more faith, and rest confident of never perishing, but having eternal life. Beware of relapsing into the spirit of merit mongering and legalism.

(The Congregational Pulpit.)

To establish the doctrine of justification by the righteousness of Christ, it is not necessary to maintain that the faith of Abram means Christ in whom he believed. Nor can this be maintained; for it is manifestly the same thing, in the account of the Apostle Paul, as believing, which is very distinct from the object believed in. The truth appears to be this: It is faith, or believing, that is counted for righteousness; not, however, as a righteous act, or on account of any inherent virtue contained in it, but in respect of Christ, on whose righteousness it terminates. That we may form a clear idea, both of the text and the doctrine, let the following particulars be considered: —

1. Though Abram believed God when he left Ur of the Chaldees, yet his faith in that instance is not mentioned in connection with his justification; nor does the apostle, either in his Epistle to the Romans or in that to the Galatians, argue that doctrine from it, or hold it up as an example of justifying faith. I do not mean to suggest that Abram was then in an unjustified state; but that the instance of his faith which was thought proper by the Holy Spirit to be selected as the model for believing for justification, was not this, nor any other of the kind; but those only in which there was an immediate respect had to the person of the Messiah. "By Him, all that believe (that is, in Him) are justified from all things, from which they could not be justified by the law of Moses." It is through faith in His blood that they obtain remission of sins — He is just, and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus.

2. This distinction, so clearly perceivable both in the Old and New Testament, sufficiently decides in what sense faith is considered as justifying. Whatever other properties the magnet may possess, it is as pointing invariably to the north that it guides the mariner: so whatever other properties faith may possess, it is as pointing to Christ, and bringing us into union with Him, that it justifies.

3. The phrase, "counted it for righteousness," does not mean that God thought it to be what it was, which would have been merely an act of injustice; but His graciously reckoning it what in itself it was not; viz., a ground for the bestowment of covenant blessings.

4. Though faith is not our justifying righteousness, yet it is a necessary concomitant, and mean of justification; and being the grace which above all others honours Christ, it is that which above all others God delights to honour. Hence it is that justification is ascribed to it, rather than to the righteousness of Christ without it. Our Saviour might have said to Bartimeus, "Go thy way, I have made thee whole." This would have been truth, but not the whole of truth which it was His design to convey. The necessity of faith in order to healing would not have appeared from this mode of speaking, nor had any honour been done, or encouragement been given to it: but by His saying, "Go thy way, thy faith hath made thee whole," each of these ideas is conveyed, Christ would omit mentioning His own honour, and knowing that faith having an immediate respect to Him, amply provided for it.

(A. Fuller.)

He who walks by sight only, walks in a blind alley. He who does not know the freedom and joy of reverent, loving speculation, wastes his life in the gloomy cell of the mouldiest of prisons. Even in matters that are not distinctly religious, faith will be found to be the inspiration and strength of the most useful life. It is faith that does the great work in the world. It is faith that sends men in search of unknown coasts. It is faith that re-trims the lamp of inquiry, when sight is weary of the flame. It is faith that unfastens the cable and gives men the liberty of the seas. It is faith that inspires the greatest works in civilization. So we cannot get rid of religion unless we first get rid of faith, and when we get rid of faith we give up our birthright and go into slavery forever.

(J. Parker, D. D.)

Sir Humphrey Davy used to remark, "I envy not quality of the mind or intellect in others; nor genius, power, wit, or fancy; but if I could choose what would be most delightful, and, I believe, most useful to me, I should prefer a firm religious belief to every other blessing; for it makes life a discipline of goodness; creates new hopes when all hopes vanish; and throws over the decay, the destruction of existence, the most gorgeous of all lights; awakens life even in death, and from corruption and decay calls up beauty and divinity; makes an instrument of torture and of shame the ladder of ascent to paradise; and, far above all combinations of earthly hopes, calls up the most delightful visions and plains and amaranths, the gardens of the blest, the security of everlasting joys, where the sensualist and the sceptic view only gloom, decay, annihilation, and despair.

How wonderful this chapter is in the matter of first uses of words! It seems to be a chapter of beginnings! Believed — what a history opens in this one word! The moment Abram believed, he was truly born again. We may see here some of the great meanings of the word. Paul says of Abram that "against hope he believed in hope," and "that he staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief." Here, then, we may study the word at the fountain head. "Believed" means supported, sustained, strengthened; Abram nourished and nurtured himself in God; Abram hid his life and his future in this promise, as a child might hide or nestle in a mother's breast. That is faith. He took the promise as a fulfilment; the word was to him a fact. Thus he was called out of himself, out of his own trust, out of his own resources, and his life was fostered upon God — he by-lived, lived-by, believed, God! It was surely a perilous moment. Appearances were against the promise. Doubt might well have said, How can this thing be? But Abram "staggered not." God's love was set before him like an open door, and Abram went in and became a child at home. Henceforward the stars had new meanings to him, as, long before, the rainbow had to Noah. Abram drew himself upward by the stars. Every night they spoke to him of his posterity and his greatness. They were henceforward not stars only but promises, and oaths, and blessings. Thus dust is turned into flesh; bread into sacramental food; and stars become revelations and prophecies. This act of believing in the Lord was accounted unto Abram for righteousness. From the first, God has always made much of faith. In no instance has it been treated as a mere matter of course, but rather as a precious thing that called for approbation and blessing. Faith was counted unto Abram for character; it added something positive to his being; he became more than merely harmless; he became noble, dignified, righteous. To believe, is not simply to assent; it is to take the thing promised as if it were actually given; and this action on the part of man is followed by an exactly corresponding action on the part of God, for he takes the faith as righteousness, the act of belief as an act of piety, a mental act as a positive heroism. What Abram did, we ourselves have to do. He rested on the word of God; he did not wait until the child was born, and then say, "Now I believe"; that would not have been faith, it would have been sight. It is thus that I must believe God; I must throw my whole soul upon Him, and drive all doubt, all fear, from my heart, and take the promise as a fact.

(J. Parker, D. D.)

Scarcely any event of the Old Testament is more frequently celebrated than this, and made the subject of more lengthy comment. Abraham believed God; and it was counted unto him for righteousness. It is a story as beautiful as it is blessed, if we can but tell it as it should be told. Let us listen, longing that Abraham's faith may be ours. "After these things the word of the Lord came upon Abram in a vision, saying" — So it ever begins. "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God." Do not let us begin to think of Abraham's advantage in the vision. We have the Word of God as he never had it, or could have it. Above all, we have the Word made flesh, the Only-Begotten, full of truth and grace. A thousand precious promises ever wait to welcome us, and pledge to us the blessing of our God. And it is from the Word that faith springs. "Fear not, Abram." Abram was fearing and fretting. And well he might. "I am thy shield, come in under My presence, I will screen thee, and I will be thy portion, thy reward exceeding great." Thus God draws His mournful child to Himself that He may comfort him. I am. What God is, is our blessedness. To know Him is rest; to know Him is to rejoice. "And Abram said, Lord God, what wilt Thou give me, seeing I go childless?" Give thee indeed, Abraham! Surely thou art forgetting how much He has given thee. Has He not given thee already more than enough? Wealth does but leave me poor indeed; lands and fame yield no comfort if He be not mine! O blessed longing, O holy discontent, to find no rest, no satisfaction, except in Christ! No complaint is so welcome to our God as that which comes from a longing for Christ. Then comes the promise of a son distinct and assured. And not spoken only, but God led him forth and bade him look into the heavens. "And Abraham believed in the Lord." Unbelief has plenty of ground for the sole of its foot, and might very well have said: My Lord, that is impossible. Unbelief might have whispered again: "I do not see hew it can be?" Unbelief makes much of that: "I do not see how it can be." But what of that? Are there not ten thousand things which I have not sense enough to understand, but which I am glad to be sure of for all that! Of all follies the supreme folly is unbelief. Abraham listened, and God spake. Abraham looked, and all about him was the pledge and measure of this promise: "And Abraham believed in the Lord." If God had said it should be, why of course it must be — must be. There is no room for doubt. For thee and me there is a vision brighter than that Syrian sky and the glory of the heavens. We see Jesus. To be like Him — is our high colling and the glorious promise of God. What shall we say? Shall we look at ourselves, at our failings, at our folly? Shall we go through the list of our hindrances and difficulties? Shall we begin to argue about the possibility of it all? Or shall we boldly take hold of the Almighty power of God and rest in the assurance of the word that cannot be broken? "The servant shall be as his Lord." See further. The impossibility was God's possibility. The relation of Abraham to the Messiah was not of nature, but by a new creation, a resurrection. So then for us here is the great secret of the blessed life: It is an utter and absolute surrender of ourselves to God for the fulfilment of His purposes; and then an abiding confidence in Him that He will assuredly fulfil the word "wherein He hath caused us to hope."

(M. G. Pearse.)

You may be hemmed in on every side; but you are not hemmed in overhead. If you cannot see a great way before you, or on either hand, you can see far enough straight up. When you question what God can do, look above, and see what God has done. This looking at obstacles, fixing our eyes on the hills or the bogs, on the lions or the bad men in our pathway, is discouraging business. It makes us believe that there is no way out of our difficulties. But to look up into the clear sky, and to see the moon and the stars in their marvellous beauty, inspires us to the feeling that there are no difficulties out of which their Maker cannot find the way for us. What is it that has discouraged you? Is it your empty purse; or the business outlook of the times; or the rumours of impending war; or the misdoing or the lack of your wayward boy; or the suspicious looks of those who used to trust you; or the sense of your own poor health; or a fresh conviction of your lack of mental power? Whatever it is that has made you anxious, "look now toward heaven": there is nothing discouraging in that direction. If the Lord who made the heavens, and keeps the moon and the stars in their places, has given you a promise, you may be sure that He can make that promise good.

(H. C. Trumbull.)

That the Lord assumed any visible form is not likely, and it would lessen the sweetness, solitude, and sublimity of the incident. No! Abraham stands there alone, like a grey granite rock glimmering in the light of stars. Behind him are his tents, where every eye is closed in slumber. Around stretches the wide solitary plain, with the hills of Hebron in the distance. Above is the illimitable firmament, not, as in this climate, spotted here and there with patches and streaks, and points of splendour, but hanging down like a roof of solid and compacted gold; the points, and streaks, and patches being those of the darkness, and serving to relieve the intensity, and to measure the depth of the surrounding glory. In the clear air of the Eastern night, the breeze of midnight blowing and increasing the transparency, as well as the coolness of the atmosphere, the stars look myriads and millions, the Pleiades appear, not as to us, "a nest of fireflies tangled in a silver braid," but a hundred distinct particles of glowing light; Orion seems not to us a giant half seen through wisps of mist, but like Nebuchadnezzar's golden image in the plain of Dura, blazing equally from every limb; constellations unknown to, or dimly seen in our latitudes, here sparkle like gems of various colours, red, blue, purple, and green; and although only a section of the Great Bear looms above the northern horizon, the southern man is not conscious of the mutilation, and sees instead — oh! rapturous object to the Christian heart, although Abraham is not yet aware of the import of the solemn symbol — the Cross of the South, with its unequal and tremulous, but beautiful angles, appearing like a tree of glory on the remotest verge of the horizon. And while Abraham is gazing at this mass of heavenly splendour, and vainly trying to number its bright atoms, there comes a whisper from above the stars, which, as it passes along, hushes the breeze of night, the voice of distant streams, and the roar of wandering lions, and pierces the very core of his heart — "So shall thy seed be. There are their numbers already registered in the book of heaven."

(G. Gilfillan.)

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