Look at the proud one; His soul is not upright--But the righteous will live by his faith--
Habakkuk 2:4 (last clause)Romans 8:5), and also in the issues to which they tend (Romans 8:13). The sincerely righteous man, "the just," has tested both these. Time was when he lived the former, but, satisfied as to its unreality, he now looks not at the things which are seen, but at those which are unseen (2 Corinthians 4:18). His motto is Galatians 2:20. "The just shall live by his faith." These words are quoted by St. Paul (Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11), and also by the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews (Hebrews 10:38). The New Testament writers were diligent students of the Old Testament, and we may learn from their example not to treat those more ancient writings as being of comparative unimportance They, however, use this expression of the Prophet Habakkuk in a somewhat different sense from that in which he employed it, and apply it to the exposition and enforcement of the important doctrine of "justification by faith." The thought possessing the mind of the seer was that the righteous man exercises an implicit confidence in God; and adopting this course is preserved and protected, and experiences tranquillity and happiness under every circumstance of life. In reflecting upon his words our attention may appropriately be directed to some of the circumstances in which "the just" may be placed, with a view to indicating how that, under these, their faith in God strengthens and sustains them, and enables them truly to live.
I. "The just shall live by their faith" in times of DECLENSION IN RELIGION. Such declension prevailed in the age to which this prophet belonged. The mournful words with which his prophecy commences indicate this (Habakkuk 1:2-4). Many similar times of declension have risen among the nations, and when the falling away from the true and the right has been widespread. So also has it been with Christian communities. Watchfulness has been neglected, and prayer has been restrained; there has been a lack of the spirit of Christian unity and concord; there has been the fire upon the altar, but, alas? it has been in embers; the lamp has been burning, but it has given only a flickering light. "The just," under such circumstances, are grieved as they view the state of religion around them, but whilst sad at heart in view of such declension and of the way in which it dishonours God, they are also inspired with confidence and hope. Their trust is in him. They know that with him is the residue of the Spirit." Whilst praying the prayer of this prophet, "O Lord, revive thy work" (Habakkuk 3:2), they can also, like him, express this confident assurance, "For the earth shall be filled," etc. (Habakkuk 2:14). And so it comes to pass that in the season of declension in religion, when many around have lost the fervour of their love and loyalty to God and to righteousness, "the just shall live by his faith."
II. "The just shall live by their faith" in times of NATIONAL CALAMITY. Chastisement follows transgressions to nations as well as to individuals. Judah had wandered from God, and, lo! he permitted them to fall into the hands of the Chaldeans; and it was the mission of Habakkuk to foretell the approaching Captivity. National calamities have been experienced by our own people. Sometimes it has come to us in the form of war. The appeal has been made to the arbitrament of the sword; and even although we have been victorious, the triumph has been secured at an enormous sacrifice of life, with all the bitter suffering to survivors thus involved. Or pestilence has prevailed. The destroying angel has swept over the land, sparing neither the old nor the young, and numbering thousands among his victims. And in the midst of these faith grasps the rich promises of God and rests unswervingly on him. Let the Chaldean warriors come on horses swifter than the leopards and more fierce than the evening wolves, let them in bitterness and haste traverse the breadth of the land, resolved to possess the dwelling places that are not theirs, let them scoff at kings and scorn princes and gather the captivity as the sand, still the hearts of the faithful shall be upborne, for in the time of national calamity, and when hearts uncentred from God are breaking, "the just shall live by his faith."
III. LEAVING THE EXACT CONNECTION OF THE TEXT, THE TRUTH CONTAINED IN IT RECEIVES ILLUSTRATION FROM THE VARIED CIRCUMSTANCES IN WHICH THE GOOD ARE PLACED HERE. Take the two extremes of prosperity and adversity.
1. Some enjoy great temporal prosperity. The temptations of such are
(4) selfishness, and yielding to which they lack those higher joys and nobler aspirations in which consists the true life.
Walking by faith, the good man is preserved from yielding to the influence of these temptations. Strong in faith, he will see that all his prosperity is to be ascribed to him who giveth power to get wealth, and thus pride will be laid low. Strong in faith, he will realize that there are other treasures, incorruptible and unfading, and with mind and heart directed to the securing of these, he will think less of this world's pomp and vanity and show. Strong in faith, he will feel that he has a work to do for God, and that the additional influence prosperity has secured to him ought to be held as a sacred trust to be used to God's glory, and hence he will be preserved from seeking merely his own ease and enjoyment. And strong in faith, he will view himself as a steward of all that he has, and will therefore seek to be God's almoner to the needy around him. So shall he live by his faith.
2. Others have to pass through adverse scenes; and the faith that strengthens in prosperity wilt also sustain amidst life's unfavourable influences. Resting in the Lord and in the glorious assurances of his Word, his servants can outride the severest storm, quietly acquiescing and bravely enduring. Ruskin remarks that there is good in everything in God's universe, that there is hardly a roadside pond or pool which has not as much landscape in it as above it, that it is at our own will that we see in that despised stream either the refuse of the street or the image of the sky, that whilst the unobservant man knows simply that the roadside pool is muddy, the great painter sees beneath and behind the brown surface what will take him a day's work to follow, but he follows it, cost what it will, and is amply recompensed, and that the great essential is an eye to apprehend and to appreciate the beautiful which lies about us everywhere in God's world. And this is what we want spiritually - the eye of faith, and then shall we see, even in the most opposite of the experiences which meet us in life, God's gracious operation, and the vision shall thrill us with holy joy. "The just shall live by his faith." This life of faith is a life characterized by true blessedness. There can be no real happiness whilst we are opposing our will to the will of God; but if our will is renewed by his grace, if we are trusting in the Saviour and following him along the way of obedience to the Divine authority and of resignation to the Divine purpose, then amidst all the changing scenes of our life our peace shall flow like a river, and we shall experience joy lasting as God's throne. - S.D.H.
The Just shall live by his faith.
I. THE NOBLEST CHARACTER. In the Bible men are divided into two great divisions, the righteous and the wicked. The righteous is a man who trusts God's Word, submits to God's will, and lives in conformity with God's righteous and holy law. He is a straight, or right, man — right in mind, in heart, and in life. The unjust man is s man with a crooked soul. In the Old Testament the word righteousness refers more to conduct than to the inward principle of spiritual life, and the righteous man is characterised by truthfulness, honesty, uprightness, tenderness, and unswerving fidelity to duty in relation to God and man.
II. THE HIGHEST LIFE. Man's highest life is a life of trust in God. No man can live to himself in the highest sense of life, and if he tries to do so he will die in the very attempt. It is through the death of the lower self that the higher and true self can live. To enable men to do this was Christ's object in coming to the world to live and die for us. Through faith men die in His death and live in His life, and this is the only way in which fallen man, who is dead in trespasses and sins, can find his life. The greatest thing the blessed Saviour could give for man was life, and the greatest thing He can give to man is life. In giving life Christ gives to men all they stand in need of for time and eternity. There is more in life than correspondence of an organism with its environment. There is a vital, mysterious principle, which manifests itself through the correspondence of the organism with its environment, and reaches its perfection when that correspondence becomes perfect. The highest life is the spiritual, which, said Christ, consists in the knowledge of God and Himself. The spiritual man not only lives and moves and has his being in God and His Son, as the true environment of spiritual and eternal life, but God in His Son must live in him. What is it to live according to the sense of the word in the text? It consists of three things —
1. Participation of God's nature. Men live in God and unto God by becoming partakers of the Divine nature.
2. Perfect delight in God. We associate enjoyment with all conscious life. God has no way of giving joy but by giving life.
3. Usefulness for God. The crown of every life is its usefulness; its highest end is service. There is no true joy of life possible without life of service. The life which consists of the knowledge of God in His Son will be eternally progressive.
III. THE CONDITION OF THE BLESSED LIFE OF THE RIGHTEOUS. "By his faith." Man's highest life is a life of living trust in a living God. Faith in God is the animating and sustaining principle of the life of the righteous. Only a person can be an object of trust, Faith cannot live but in the constant vision of its object. This living faith in God is given to man to enable him to do his work for God. The only faith worthy of the name is that which enables us to live the truest and highest life.
I. THE JUST. Behold, his soul that is lifted up is not upright in him. Works which are supposed to merit, naturally puff up the mind with pride. The prophet says, that proud disposition which you think merits, because of your works, is not an upright disposition. Good works cannot avail to justification. You must believe, not works. Good works are evidences of faith. The just are such as God justifies by faith in His own beloved Son. For Christ's righteousness is to all, and upon all them that believe.
II. THEY ARE ALIVE. Did they not live before? Yes, a natural life. They are quickened to a new and higher life. None are alive till born again of the Spirit. We must experience the "washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost."
III. HOW THE BELIEVER LIVES THIS SPIRITUAL LIFE. By his faith. The man who is justified by faith is made spiritually alive, and this life is maintained and supported by repeated acts of faith in the Son of God and Saviour of the world. Faith in Christ justifies, and by believing we receive righteousness and strength, and are made holy and acceptable to God.
( John Calvin.)
I. ORDINARILY, THE JUST MAN LIVES BY FAITH.
1. As it is the first act of that new spiritual life which the Holy Ghost produces in the soul. It is that coming to Christ which the Scriptures make anterior to every other gift or exercise of grace.
2. We live by faith, as it apprehends the plea by which the condemnation of death is set aside, or as it is a justifying instrument. We are said to live by that instrumentality which delivers us, and shields us from the operation of death.
3. We live by faith, as it unites the soul in mystical union with the Head, in whom there is all the fulness of life.
4. We live by faith, as it is in the range of its appropriation the highest and best condition of life.
5. We live by faith, as it is a principle essentially indicative of life, active, operative, and fruitful.
II. HOW DOES SUCH FAITH SURVIVE IN CIRCUMSTANCES OF EXTRAORDINARY TRIAL?
1. Calamity, that which exceeds the bounds of ordinary affliction. Such as war, famine, pestilence, earthquake.
2. Reproach for the faithful maintenance of truth and holiness.
3. The return of infidelity — extraordinary in that no completeness of defeat can prevent its returning invasion.
4. Another trial is apostasy. Faith is first in order; every other grace in the soul implies the precedence of this faith; hope herself must give up the sure and steadfast anchor, before this inner and ultimate life of faith can be destroyed.
(A. T. M'Gill, D. D.)amunat, that faith which strips us of all arrogance, and leads us naked and needy to God, that we may seek salvation from Him alone, which would otherwise be far removed from us. We perceive why Habakkuk has put these two things in opposition the one to the other — that the defences of this world are not only evanescent, but also bring always with them many tormenting fears — and then, that the just shall live by his faith. Faith is not to be taken here for man's integrity, but for that faith which sets man before God emptied of all good things, so that he seeks what he needs from His gratuitous goodness: for all the unbelieving try to fortify themselves; and thus they strengthen themselves, thinking that anything in which they trust is sufficient for them. But what does the just do? He brings nothing before God except faith: then he brings nothing of his own, because faith borrows, as it were, through favour, what is not in man's possession. He, then, who lives by faith, has no life in himself, but because he wants it, he flies for it to God alone. The prophet also puts the verb in the future tense, in order to show the perpetuity of this life; for the unbelieving glory in a shadowy life; but the Lord will at last discern their folly, and they themselves shall really know that they have been deceived. But as God never disappoints the hope of His people, the prophet here promises a perpetual life to the faithful.
( John Calvin.)
1. When it exceeds the bounds of affliction, or when the dispensations of God's anger in it cannot be reduced to the head of affliction.
2. When judgments fall promiscuously upon all sorts of persons, and make no distinction.
I. HOW WE SHALL LIVE BY FAITH; WHAT FAITH WILL DO IN SUCH A SEASON.
1. Faith will give the soul a reverential fear of God in His judgments.
2. It will put the soul upon preparing and providing an ark for itself.(1) This ark is Jesus Christ.(2) There must be a door in this ark. To obtain an interest in Christ is the general work of faith in these days.(3) It will put us upon the search and examination of our own hearts, what accession we have made to the sins that have procured these judgments. The sins which do and have procured these judgments are — open and flagitious sins of the world. And the sins of Churches and professors. These latter include lukewarmness; contenting ourselves in outward order; want of love among ourselves; earthly-mindedness.
II. HOW FAITH WILL CARRY IT UNDER OTHER PERPLEXITIES THAT MAY BE COMING ON US.
1. How we may live by faith under reproaches.(1) Faith will give us such an experience of the power, efficacy, sweetness and benefit of Gospel ordinances and Gospel worship, as shall cause us to despise all that the world can do in opposition to us.(2) It will bring the soul into such an experimental sense of the authority of Jesus Christ, as to make it despise all other things. Faith will work this double respect unto the authority of Jesus Christ — as He is the great Head and Lawgiver of the Church, and as He is Lord of lords and King of kings.(3) Faith will bring to mind, and make effectual upon our souls, the examples of them that have gone before us, in giving the same testimony that we do, and in the sufferings that they underwent upon that account.(4) Faith will receive in the supplies that Christ hath laid up for His people in such a season.(5) It is faith alone that can relieve us with respect unto the recompense of reward.(6) Faith will work by patience when difficulties shall be multiplied upon us.
2. How we may live by faith, under an apprehension of the great and woeful decays in Churches, in Church members, in professors of all sorts; and in the gradual withdrawing of the glory of God from us all on that account.(1) This is such a time of decay among us. A sense of it is impressed upon the minds of all the most judicious and diligent Christians, that do abound most in self-examination, or do take most notice of the ways of God. They recognise the open want of love among Church members; want of delight and diligence in the ordinances of Gospel worship; and our worldly-mindedness, conformity to the world, and security. A sense of this general decay ought to be an exercise and concern to our minds. God is dishonoured by this general decay. The world is offended and scandalised by it. The ruin of Churches is hastened by it.(2) What is the work of faith under this condition? It will remind the soul that, notwithstanding this, Christ hath built His Church upon a rock. that it shall not be utterly prevailed against. It will remind the soul that God hath yet the fulness and residue of the Spirit. Faith will cheer us by saying, "Are not all these things foretold thee?" And it will put every soul in whom it is upon an especial attendance unto those duties God calls him unto in such a season. Such as self-examination; great mourning, by reason of God's withdrawing Himself from us; watchfulness over ourselves, and over one another, that we be not overtaken by the means and causes of these decays; zeal for God and the honour of the Gospel, that it may not suffer by reason of our miscarriages.
( J. Owen, D. D.)
I. EXPLAIN THE TERMS OF THIS PROPOSITION, "The just shall live by faith."
1. Who is the just or righteous man? There are two sorts of righteousness, according to the law, and according to faith. By righteousness after the law understand that which man wishes to derive from his own personal ability. By righteousness of faith understand that which man derives from his own personal ability. To have faith, or to believe, is a vague expression. Faith is sometimes a disposition common to the righteous and the wicked; sometimes the distinguishing character of a Christian; sometimes it is put for the virtue of Abraham; sometimes it stands for the credence of devils. Faith is a disposition of mind that changeth its nature according to the various objects which are proposed to it. We are inquiring about saving faith, and have to inquire what is its object. It is Jesus Christ as dying and offering Himself to the justice of the Father. We must distinguish two sorts of desires to share the benefits of the death of Christ. A desire unconnected with all the acts which God is pleased to require of us; and a desire that animates us with a determination to participate these benefits. Jesus is proposed to the believer's mind and heart and conduct. There are two kinds or causes of justification.
1. The fundamental or meritorious cause.
2. The instrumental cause.That is the fundamental which acquires, merits, and lays the foundation of our justification and salvation. By the instrumental we mean those acts which it hath pleased God to prescribe to us, in order to our participation of this acquired salvation. If faith justifies us, it is as an instrument, that of itself can merit nothing, and which contributes to our justification only as it capacitates us for participating the benefits of the death of Christ. Justifying faith is a general principle of virtue and holiness.
1. Justifying faith is lively faith, a believer cannot live by a dead faith.
2. Justifying faith must assort with the genius of the covenant, to which it belongs.
3. Justifying faith must include all the virtues to which the Scriptures attribute justification and salvation.
4. Justifying faith must merit all the praises which are given to it in Scripture.
5. Justifying faith must enter into the spirit of the mystery of the satisfaction of Jesus Christ.
II. OBJECTIONS MADE AGAINST THIS DOCTRINE.
1. IS it pretended that the design of excluding holiness from the essence of faith is to elevate the merit of the death of Christ?
2. Dost thou say, thy design is to humble man? What can be more proper to humble man than the system we have expounded?
3. Dost thou say, our system is contrary to experience?
4. Or that our justification and salvation flow from a decree made before the foundation of the world, and not from our embracing the Gospel in time?
5. Or dost thou still object, that, although our system is true in the main, yet it is always dangerous to publish it; because man has always an inclination to "sacrifice unto his own net," and by pressing the necessity of good works, occasion is insensibly given to the doctrine of merit?
(Dean Vaughan, D. D.)
I. THE UPLIFTED SOUL, AND ITS PENALTY. What is it for a man to be lifted up? It is to be proud, haughty, to have a feeling of self-dependence and self-sufficiency. It is to forget God, and to assume that a man's life is in his own hands. There are many things that will produce an uplifted soul. Such as worldly success; intellectual culture; a man's unbelief. There is hardly a step between unbelief in God and a man having a vain, proud, self-satisfied, and uplifted soul. Such a soul is not upright. It is crooked, perverse, froward. That is the penalty. For what is the glory of man? It is to know God, and to live in fellowship with Him. The great glory of man is righteousness. How do those who are "lifted up" carry themselves in times of trouble? They are ground to pieces — broken up. What strength have they for the day of adversity?
II. THE TRUE LIFE FOR MAN. It is a Divine message spoken to the just man. "Your duty is to live by faith." This faith is the antithesis of "lifted up." It is a spirit of trust in God, a devout belief in God, in the righteousness and the love of God: it is lowliness and humbleness of mind; it is a feeling of true dependence upon the great Father in heaven. All the holy and just men who ever lived a true and noble life, have done so because they have lived by their faith. How will this work? God becomes a reality to the soul that is full of trust and prayer. God draws near to us as we live in faith and spirituality to Him. We make great mistakes in the matter of realising God and the love of God. Try by argument, by subtle process of reasoning, by investigation, to find out God and to know Him, and you are baffled. It is by faith God becomes known. And a life of faith and devoutness gives strength for obedience. Faith brings us into union with the great Source of all life, and causes us to be equipped with power for obedience in righteousness. The path in which Christ walked, and we are called to walk — the path of self-sacrifice, purity, meekness, love to enemies, trust in God, moral courage — this path is one which severely strains and taxes all the powers of a man. Hindrances and temptations throng around you at every step. Christian victory is not so much a stern exercise of resolution as a devout consecration to God; not so much self-straining as self-surrender to God; a loving consent to the guidance and inspiration of the Divine Spirit. The hour of quiet, simple yielding up of self to God, with utter dependence on His moulding touch and strengthening grace, is always the hour of our fullest power for obedience. There is another element that enters into the life of faith — peace, serenity, joy. The outward circumstances of life are never without some kind of discord or pain. If we make ourselves dependent upon the perfect adjustment of outward things for peace, then never will peace be ours. Open the portals of the soul, with lowliness and childlike dependence before God, bow in hushed submission, and then into the soul, noiselessly, yet with living power, like the calm dawn of a summer day, peace will come. Live the life of faith, and you will find God everywhere, and your character will grow in righteousness, and your peace and joy shall flow and abound like the waters of a great sea.
(James Randall, M. A.)
1. We see the method which God has taken in revealing to us things to come. He has thought it sufficient to reveal to us the things themselves, without notifying the time when they shall be performed and manifested in the world.
2. We see the great sin of infidelity, and how much of the Divine displeasure we incur, when we disbelieve any Word of God, only because the completion of it falls not within the time which we had reckoned upon for the doing of it.
3. We hear the blessing which accompanies our sincere belief and dutiful observance of God's Word. "The just shall live by his faith." This is the only true life that men can live.
(W. Reading, M. A.)
1. Man is justified, declared just before God, through this great principle of faith.
2. To his faith in God the just man owes the life of obedience and holiness which he lives before Him.
3. Faith represents God as the source of strength in present trial, and of comfort in all affliction. Such a belief is absolutely necessary, in order to stir up man to exertion and perseverance in his spiritual contest with evil.
4. Faith, assuring the mind of the Christian of the glory that awaits him in the future time prevents the discouragements that he meets with, and the denial to which he submits, from overcoming his patient perseverance in well-doing.
(H. Constable, M. A.)
Homilist.Whether the man whose soul here is represented as "lifted up," refers to the unbelieving Jew, or to the Babylonian, is an unsettled question amongst biblical critics; and a question of but little practical moment.
I. A good man is a HUMBLE man. This is implied. His soul is not "lifted up." Pride is not only no part of moral goodness, but is essentially inimical to it. A proud Christian is a solecism. Jonathan Edwards describes a Christian as being such a "little flower as we see in the spring of the year, low and humble in the ground, opening its bosom for the beams of the sun, rejoicing in a calm rapture, suffusing around sweet fragrance, and standing peacefully and lowly in the midst of other flowers." Pride is an obstruction to all progress and knowledge and virtue, and is abhorrent to the Holy One. "He resisteth the proud, but gives grace to the humble."
II. A good man is a JUST man. The just shall live by his faith." To be good. is nothing more than to be just.
1. Just to self. Doing the right thing to one's own faculties and affections as the offsprings of God.
2. Just to others. Doing unto others what we would that they should do unto us.
3. Just to God. To be just to self, society, and God, this is religion:
(Plain Sermons by Contributors to "Tracts for the Times.")
(Hugh M'Neile, M. A.)
(C. Kingsley.)live by his faith." What is it for a man to live, in God's sense of the word, and to live in a time of calamity? Such a man will hear God's voice in the calamity; he will hear the rod, and Him who hath appointed it. The man who really lives, in a time of calamity, will see God's face even in that time; he will see the face of God behind the cloud. He will not be crushed by calamity. "The just shall live by his faith" means, he shall be equal to the claims which are made upon him, even in times of calamity, by the support which he derives through the operation of his faith. Faith is not mere assent. It follows belief in a particular kind of testimony. If we believe a worthy testimony, a certain state of heart must follow that belief. It is trust or reliance. Take the word "just" to represent a justified sinner, and that man shall live by his faith.
1. Man is introduced into a new life by this faith. Trusting in God's beloved Son, life is immediately given to him. He no sooner trusts, than all that is involved in everlasting life becomes his. This is God's free gift to him.
2. Man has support in time of trouble through faith. Hope is closely related to faith. If you would have a stronger hope, you must have a stronger faith. There is a work which faith performs that hope cannot accomplish. Hope has a limited sphere, faith has not. Faith has to do with all that God has said about Himself, and about His Son, and about His Spirit, and about the privileges of the redeemed, and about the destiny of the redeemed. Faith is the principle whose operations render God's descriptions of unseen things real to us, so that His words take the place of facts. One effect of the faith of a Christian is to bring us into an entirely different style of life from that in which those men live who walk by sight. It must be so. Note some of the points of difference between a believer and an unbeliever. One holds the world tight, the other holds it with a slack hand. One orders his life by the will of his fellow-men, the other by the will of God. Then ask yourselves whether you have what the Scriptures call "faith," the faith that saves.
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