Now faith is the assurance of what we hope for and the certainty of what we do not see.
for, etc. This is not a definition or description of what is called, in theological phrase, saving faith. It does not set forth faith in Jesus Christ in particular, but faith in its general meaning and its comprehensive exercise. The text teaches us that -
I. FAITH IS THE DEMONSTRATION OF INVISIBLE REALITIES. It is "the evidence of things not seen;" Revised Version, "the proving of things not seen." There are two classes of unseen things:
1. Things which are absolutely invisible. Of these we may mention:
(1) God, a Being of almighty power, of infinite wisdom, of perfect holiness, etc. "No man hath seen God at any time." "Whom no man hath seen, nor can see."
(2) The human soul. That part of his being which thinks and feels, hopes and fears, loves and hates, no man in our present state has seen.
(3) Spiritual truth is Invisible to our bodily eyes. We perceive it, but we cannot see it.
2. Things which are relatively invisible.
(1) There are great historical facts which are invisible to us. Some of these are mentioned in this chapter; e.g. the Creation, the Deluge. But those are of the greatest importance to us which are connected with the life and work, the suffering and death, the resurrection and ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ - the great facts in the accomplishments of human redemption. These were witnessed by many, but to us they are invisible. Our attitude in relation to them is a thing of the utmost moment to us. If we accept them, it must be by faith.
(2) There are important future events which are invisible to us at present. The heaven into which our Lord has entered, and where God is enthroned, is at present hidden from our eyes. And Hades, the great world of departed spirits, is impenetrably veiled from men in the flesh. The great and solemn judgment, and the different abodes and states of men after the judgment, are as yet invisible to our senses. Now, faith is the evidence, the "demonstration," the "actual proof," of these invisible things which are declared in the sacred Scriptures. "It is an act which itself gives the knowledge and proof of the existence of those things not seen." "The essential meaning of the word," says Mr. Matthew Arnold, "is 'power of holding on to the unseen.'" It is a deep and intense conviction of the existence and reality of things and persons which are not apprehensible by the senses.
II. FAITH IS THE ASSURANCE OF DESIRABLE POSSESSIONS. "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for;" Revised Version, "the assurance of things hoped for." It is a firmly grounded confidence of things hoped for. Two observations are suggested:
1. Some of these invisible things which are apprehended by faith are regarded as desirable and attainable. They are "hoped for." Hope is the "desire of good with a belief that it is obtainable;" it is" well-grounded desire." We hope to receive in this present life Divine grace and guidance, provision and preservation, spiritual help in our daily work and warfare, and illuminating and sanctifying influences. And in the life that is to come, we hope for heaven and all its blessedness; its entire freedom from sin and suffering; its perfect purity and peace; the holy and delightful fellowship of glorified saints; the perpetual presence of our adorable Savior and Lord; and the enrapturing manifestation of God (1 John 3:2, 3). We regard these things as attainable because they are promised to the sincere believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. And we hope for them through him.
2. Faith gives assurance of these desirable and attainable things. It appropriates such of them as may be obtained at present, and confidently anticipates those that are reserved for the future. It was well said by Ambrose, "The heir must believe his title to an estate in reversion before he can hope for it; faith believes its title to glory, and then hope waits for it. Did not faith feed the lamp of hope with oil, it would seen die." And more, it brings future blessings into our present experience, and it gives to us foretastes of heavenly blessedness, which are a pledge and an earnest that our holiest and brightest hopes will meet with full and glorious fruition -
" Where faith is sweetly lost in sight,
Now faith is the substance.
(R. W. Dale, LL. D.)
(H. Melvill, B. D.)
(Bp. Temple.)I. FAITH IS THE CONFIDENT PERSUASION OF UNSEEN THINGS. The word translated " substance" occurs in Hebrews 3:14; 2 Corinthians 9:4; 2 Corinthians 11:17, and is translated "confidence." The word translated "evidence" is from a verb which signifies "to convince." "Faith is the confidence of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen."
1. Faith is not belief on the evidence of the senses.
2. Faith is not credulity. God is essential truth, then it is reasonable to repose in what He has said.
3. Faith is not a mere assent of the understanding.
II. FAITH IS THE SOURCE OF ALL SPIRITUAL ACHIEVEMENT. "By it the elders" achieved all that this chapter records. Faith was the secret of what they were and did.
1. The New Testament ascribes all Christian life to faith. "Whosoever believeth shall not perish," &c.; "sanctified by faith"; "this is the victory that,"&c.; "wherein believing ye rejoice," &c.; "kept by the power," &c.
2. This is due to the fact that all Christian life is the result of heavenly influences, and faith lifts it into these. It raises the soul into the heavenly world; brings future things near, and makes Christ live before us. The effect of this on our spiritual nature is its development, like that of a tropical plant brought from a cold land into its native clime and proper conditions.
III. FAITH IS THE MEANS OF SECURING THE DIVINE COMMENDATION. "Obtained a good report."
1. This shows our personal responsibility with regard to faith.
2. This is a strong consolation to infirm and secluded believers.
I. THE MEANING OF THE TERM.
2. When the Bible speaks of faith, it sometimes means mere belief in facts (ver. 3). This kind of faith is necessary, in a certain sense, to salvation: "for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him." The facts of the Saviour's life are to be received in that way. But this is not saving faith at all.
3. Again; faith sometimes means that conviction of the understanding which results from proofs laid before it, or arguments adduced. This is that which the woman wrought among her neighbours when she came back from the conversation with Jesus at Jacob's well. This also is the faith which Thomas had when asked to put his hand in the side of his Lord. But this is not saving faith; for our Lord immediately added, "Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed."
4. And sometimes the Bible means the faith of miracles. This was a peculiar gift, bestowed by Christ upon His immediate followers. Now, whatever was the nature of this peculiar endowment, it is evident enough that there was no grace in it to save the soul; for the Saviour Himself declared (Matthew 7:22, 23).
5. Then, lastly, the Bible means saving faith; the true belief in the Lord Jesus Christ, through which we are justified, and by which we live.
II. THE NATURE OF THIS EXERCISE. The old writers used to say that faith was composed of three elements: a right apprehension, a cordial assent, and an unwavering trust. Let me seek to exhibit these in turn in a very familiar way.
1. To apprehend is really a physical act, and means to seize hold of. When applied to mental operation, it signifies to conceive clearly any given object, and hold it before the mind for examination and use. It does not always include a full comprehension. A drowning man may catch a rope that hangs near him, and be rescued by it, without knowing who threw it to him, or who will draw it in, or what vessel it trails from. He apprehends it, but he does not comprehend it. He sees it, but he does not see all with which it is connected. The two essential things for every man to apprehend, are his own need and Jesus Christ's fitness to supply it. There is the inward look, and then there is the outward look. I cannot help myself, and the Saviour can help me are the two thoughts that must lie buried deep in his soul. It matters little how these things are learned.
2. Then comes the second element of faith, already mentioned — namely, assent. This is a step in advance of the other. A simple illustration will make plain what is meant by it. An invalid is sometimes very unwilling to admit his danger, even when he has nothing to oppose to the reasoning of one who proves it. He feels his weakness, but he resorts to a thousand subterfuges to avoid yielding to the physician. His judgment is convinced, but his will is unbroken. He apprehends his danger, and knows the remedy; but he refuses to be helped. What he needs now is assent; and this requires humility and the renunciation of self-will. Faith includes this. It calls for a cheerful submission to God's requirements, the moment we apprehend them, no matter how humiliating the assertion of our ill-desert may be.
3. The third element of saving faith is trust. By this I mean reliance on the truth of what God said He would do; a quiet resting on His promises to accomplish all we need for salvation.
III. THE USE TO BE MADE OF THIS ANALYSIS comes next to view. Your experience hitherto has been something like this. You have seen your need; you have gone in prayer to Jesus confessing it. You said in your prayer, "O Lord, I am vile, I come to Thee; I plead Thy promise that Thou wilt not cast me out; I give myself away in an everlasting surrender; I leave my soul at the very foot of the Cross!" And then you rose from your knees, murmuring, "Oh, I am no better; I feel just the same as before!" You saw that you had made a failure. Now, where was the lack? Simply in the particular of trust. You would not take Jesus at His word. When you have given yourself to Christ, leave yourself there, and go about your work as a child in His household. When He has undertaken your salvation, rest assured He will accomplish it, without any of your anxiety, or any of your help. There remains enough for you to do, with no concern for this part of the labour. Let me illustrate this posture of mind as well as I can. A shipmaster was once out for three nights in a storm; close by the harbour, he yet dared not attempt to go in, and the sea was too rough for the pilot to come aboard. Afraid to trust the less experienced sailors, he himself stood firmly at the helm. Human endurance almost gave way before the unwonted strain. Worn with toil, beating about; worn yet more with anxiety for his crew and cargo; he was well-nigh relinquishing the wheel, and letting all go awreck, when he saw the little boat coming with the pilot. At once that hardy sailor sprang on the deck, and with scarcely a word took the hehn in his hand. The captain went immediately below, for food and for rest; and especially for comfort to the passengers, who were weary with apprehension. Plainly now his duty was in the cabin; the pilot would care for the ship. Where had his burden gone? The master's heart was as light as a schoolboy's; he felt no pressure. The pilot, too, seemed perfectly unconcerned; he had no distress. The great load of anxiety had gone for ever; fallen in some way or other between them. Now turn this figure. We are anxious to save our soul, and are beginning to feel more and more certain that we cannot save it. Then comes Jesus, and undertakes to save it for us. We see how willing He is; we know how able He is; there we leave it. We let Him do it. We rest on His promise to do it. We just put that work in His hands to do all alone; and we go about doing something else; self-improvement, comfort to others, doing good of every sort.
(C. S. Robinson, D. D.)I. No faith will carry us through the difficulties of our profession, from oppositions within and without, giving us constancy and perseverance therein unto the end, BUT THAT ONLY WHICH GIVES THE GOOD THINGS HOPED FOR A REAL SUBSISTENCE IN OUR MINDS AND SOULS. But when by mixing itself with the promise which is the foundation of hope, it gives us a taste of their goodness, an experience of their power, the inhabitation of their first-fruits, and a view of their glory, it will infallibly effect this blessed end.
II. The peculiar specificial nature of faith, whereby it is differenced from all other powers, acts, and graces in the mind, lies in this, THAT IT MAKES A LIFE ON THINGS INVISIBLE. It is not only conversant about them, but mixeth itself with them, making them the spiritual nourishment of the soul (2 Corinthians 4:18).
III. THE GLORY OF OUR RELIGION IS, THAT IT DEPENDS ON AND IS RESOLVED INTO VISIBLE THINGS. They are far more excellent and glorious than anything that sense can behold or reason discover (1 Corinthians 2:9).
IV. GREAT OBJECTIONS ARE APT TO LIE AGAINST INVISIBLE THINGS, WHEN THEY ARE EXTERNALLY REVEALED. Man would desirously live the life of sense, or at least believe no more than what he can have a scientifical demonstration of. But by these means we cannot have an evidence of invisible things; at best, not such as may have an influence into our Christian profession. This is done by faith alone.
1. Faith is that gracious power of the mind, whereby it firmly assents unto Divine revelations, upon the sole authority of God the revealer, as the first essential truth, and fountain of all truth.
2. It is by faith that all objections against invisible things, their being and reality, are answered and refuted.
(John Owen, D. D.)I. THE HOPE OF ATTAINING A PERFECT LIFE IS ONLY TO BE REALISED BY FAITH IN CHRIST.
II. THE HOPE OF PERFECTING OUR LIFE-WORK CAN ONLY BE REALISED BY FAITH IN CHRIST.
III. THE HOPE OF PERFECTING OUR HAPPINESS IS ONLY TO BE REALISED BY FAITH IN CHRIST.
(R. Balgarnie, D. D.)
1. That man trusts his memory. He does not now see or feel what he did yesterday, yet he has no doubt it happened as he remembers it.
2. Again, when a man reasons he trusts his reasoning powers; he knows one thing is true, and sees clearly that another follows from that. For example, he sees long shadows on the ground; then he knows the sun or moon is shining without looking round to see. But some one raises an objection. He says, "Very true; but in memory, reason, and daily life we trust ourselves; in religion we trust the word of another, and. that is hard." But there is no real difficulty. In this world we act on the evidence of others. What do we know without trusting others? Are there not towns and cities within fifty miles of us we never saw, yet we fully believe they are there.
(E. Munro.)John 8:56).
I. How DOES FAITH GIVE A SUBSISTENCE OR PRESENT BEING TO THINGS HOPED FOR? How can we be said to have that happiness which we do but expect?
1. By a lively hope it doth as it were sip of the cup of blessing, and foretaste those eternal delights which God hath prepared for us, and affects the heart with the certain expectation of them, as if they were enjoyed. It appears by the effect of this hope, which is rejoicing with joy unspeakable and full of glory (1 Peter 1:8).
2. Faith takes possession, and gives a being to the things hoped for in the promises. There is not only the union of hope, but a clear right and title; God hath passed over all those things to us in the covenant of grace. When we take hold of the promises, we take hold of the blessing promised by the root of it, until it flows up to full satisfaction. Hence those expressions, believers are said "to layhold of eternal life" (1 Timothy 6:12-19), by which their right is secured to them; "And he that heareth My words, and believeth in Me, hath eternal life" (John 5:24). Christ doth not only say, He shall have eternal life, but he hath a clear right and title to it, which is as sure as sense, though not as sweet. Faith gives us heaven, because in the promise it gives us a title to heaven; we are sure to have that to which we have a title; he hath a grant, God's Word to assure him of it. He is said to haste an estate that hath the conveyance of it, but it is not necessary he should carry his land upon his back.
3. We have it in our Head. That is a Christian's tenure; he holds all in his head by Christ. Though he be not glorified in his own person, he is glorified in his Head, in Jesus Christ. Therefore as Christ's glorification is past, so in a sense a believer's glorification is past; the Head cannot rise, and ascend, and be glorified without the members (Ephesians 2:6).
4. Faith gives being in the first-fruits. The Israelites had not only a right to Canaan given them by God, but had livery of Canaan, where the spies did not only make report of the goodness of the land, but brought the clusters of grapes with them; so doth God deal with a believing soul, not only give it a right, but give it some first-fruits. A believing soul hath the beginnings of that estate which it hopes for; some clusters of Eschol by way of foretaste in the midst of present miseries and difficulties. This is the great love of God to us, that He would give us something of heaven here upon earth, that He wil make us enter upon our happiness by degrees.
II. THE BENEFIT AND ADVANTAGE OF THIS ACT, AND THE USE OF FAITH IN THE SPIRITUAL LIFE.
1. It is very necessary we should have such a faith as should substantiate our hopes, to check sensuality, for we find the corrupt heart of man is all for present satisfaction. And though the pleasures of sin be short and inconsiderable, yet because they are near at hand, they take more with us than the joys of heaven, which are future and absent.
2. It gives strength and support to all the graces of the spiritual life. The great design of religion is to bring us to a neglect of present happiness, and to make the soul to look after a felicity yet to come; and the great instrument of religion, by which it promoteth this design, is faith, which is as the scaffold and ladder to the spiritual building.
Use 1. To examine whether you have this kind of faith or no, which is the substance of things hoped for. To discover how little of this faith there is in the world, consider —(1) Many men say they believe, but alas, what influence have their hopes upon them? Do they engage them as things present and sensible do?(2) You may discern it by your carriage in any trial and temptation. When heaven and the world come in competition, can you deny present carnal advantages upon the hopes of eternity? do you forsake all as knowing you shall have a thousand times better in another world?(3) If faith do substantiate your hopes, though you do not receive present satisfaction, you may discern it by this, you will entertain the promises with much respect and delight. Are they dear and precious to you? You would embrace the promises if you looked upon them as the root of the blessing.(4) You may discern it by this, the mind will often run upon your hopes. Where the thing is strongly expected, the end and aim of your expectation will still be present with you. Thoughts are the spies and messengers of the soul. Hope sends them out after the thing expected, and love after the thing beloved.(5) You may discern it by your weanedness from the world. They that know heaven to be their home reckon the world a strange country.(6) There will not be such a floating and instability in their expectation. You have already blessedness in the root, in the promises; and though there be not assurance, there will be an affiance, and repose of the mind upon God: if there be not rest in your souls, yet there will be a resting upon God, and a quiet expectation of the things hoped for. Faith is satisfied with the promise, and quietly hopes for the performance of it in God's due time (Lamentations 3:26).
Use 2. To exhort you to work up faith to such an effect, that it may be the substance of things hoped for.(1) Work it up in a way of meditation. Let your minds be exercised in the contemplation of your hopes (Matthew 6:21).(2) Work it up in a way of argumentation. Faith is a reasoning grace (ver. 19).(3) Work it up in a way of expectation. Look for it, long for it, wait for it (Titus 2:13; Jude 1:21).(4) Work it up in a way of supplication. Put in thy claim — Lord! I take hold of the grace offered in the gospel; and desire the Lord to secure thy claim (Psalm 73:24).(5) Work it up in a way of close and solemn application. In the Lord's supper, there thou comest by some solemn rites to take possession of the privileges of the covenant, and by these rites and ceremonies which God hath appointed, to enter ourselves heirs to all the benefits purchased by Christ, and conveyed in the covenant, especially to the glory of heaven; there you come to take the cup of blessing as a pledge of the" new wine in your Father's kingdom" (Matthew 26:29). God here reacheth out to us by deed, our instrument, which was by promise due to every believing sinner before.(6) Work it up in your conversations by constant spiritual diligence. Is heaven sure, so sure as if we had it already, and shall I be idle? Oh what contriving, striving, fighting, is there to get a step higher in the world! How insatiable are men in the prosecution of their lusts I and shall I do nothing for heaven, and show no diligence in pursuing my great happiness!
Use 3. To press you to get this faith. There are some means and duties that have a tendency hereunto.(1) There must be a serious consideration of God's truth, as it is backed with His absolute power.(2) You must relieve faith by experiences: by considering what is past we may more easily believe that which is to come.
(T. Manton, D. D.)I. FAITH IS A SUBSTANCE. I know this is not generally received, for such are the vague, carnal, infidel notions that are abroad in the world, that not a grace of the Holy Spirit is owned; and instead of faith being admitted to be a principle of grace, it is spoken of as nature's actings, and is sometimes said to consist merely in the credence of a revealed fact. An opposite party, however, makes faith to consist in a crouching, a cringing, and a conformity to a crafty priesthood. Now I have no such faith as either of these. The one is the faith of the infidel; the other is the faith of heathenism. And they neither of them have any substance. I want a faith that will manifest itself as having substance. I have seen it printed that faith is nothing more than the credence of a revealed fact. But we know that infidels and devils have that sort of faith; for infidels credit thousands of revealed facts, and cannot deny them as matters of fact, yet they have no faith after all. Faith is a substance; and they who are taken up with shadows and vanities do not know the value of it. They cannot value it. They cannot possess it. Faith is a substance worth more than all the miser's stores, than all the monarch's revenue, than all the wealth of India. Faith is a substance that can never be frittered away. It overcomes all the world, repels all the devils in hell, and lays hold on eternal life. But, most probably, you will better understand what I mean by this substance of faith if I lead your attention to its origin and its object. Its origin: It grows not in nature's garden. It is not the produce of the schools. It is not hereditary from father to son. It is far above that. Like every good gift, and every perfect gift, it cometh down from the Father of Lights. It is of the operation of the Holy Ghost, and its object will prove its substance. Its object is Christ; the Person of Christ; the official character of Christ; the perfect work of Christ; the covenant headship of Christ. And the faith of God's elect fastens on all these. Further, the object of faith lies greatly in the enjoyment of Christ as well as in confidence in Him. And this will perhaps bring the nature of your faith to the test better than any other principle. I must have a Christ who will bring heaven to me on earth in the enjoyment of Him here. And this will prove whether your faith is a substance or not. The soul which possesses this living, saving faith, sighs, waits, and cannot be satisfied without the sensible enjoyment of the presence of Christ. That faith which is a substance hath a saving power communicated with it. Hence it is called, sometimes properly, sometimes improperly, a saving faith. Bring your faith up to this test again. It is spiritual faith — the substance of things hoped for, that discovers all that is in Christ; the wisdom, the righteousness, the sanctification, and the redemption that are in Him: the pardon, the peace, the justification, the joy, the security, the victories, the triumphs of all the Church of God in Christ, seen wholly in His Person.
II. This saving faith which so discovers and appropriates Is SURE TO GO AND PLEAD BEFORE THE THRONE IN EXERCISE; "for whatsoever is not of faith is sin," and cannot be acceptable before God; and there it pleads the merits, the name, the righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ for acceptance, relying upon the declaration of the precious Lord Himself, "All things whatsoever ye shall ask in My name, believing, ye shall receive." Now I pray you let us look closely into this substance, and raise the inquiry, Does it belong to me? "Faith is the substance of things hoped for." Then the first part of the interrogation here would be, What are the things that I hope for? I know if I were to ask the worldling this question, he would reply that he thinks upon worldly prospects, emoluments, and personal gratifications. But not. so the Christian; not so the household of faith. Well, now, if I might simplify this, and put it in the plainest possible manner, I should say that the believer hopes to know more and to enjoy more of Christ to-day than he did yesterday, or than ever he had done before. Faith is the substance of it. The believer in Jesus hopes to be more conformed to the image of Christ; "that as he has borne the image of the earthly, he shall also bear the image of the heavenly." Faith is the substance of that. The believer in Jesus — the real Christian — hopes to attain to more intimacy with heaven and to have a measure of heaven began in the soul on earth. Let us inquire as regards experimental participation. There is such a thing as the joy of faith. There is such a thing as the triumph of faith. There is such a thing as the race of faith, and it is always a winning race. There are joys experienced in this substance which none but the possessor can know. I hasten on to mark its sanctifying operations. The apostle says concerning this, in his account of the progress of the gospel, as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, that God "put no difference" between Jews and Gentiles, "purifying" — mark the expression — "purifying their hearts by faith." That faith that will not purify the heart, is not the substance. It may illumine your head till you are giddy; it may enlighten your understanding till you are as proud as Lucifer; it may inflame your pride as a professor till you are as vain as the devil can wish you to be; but if it does not purify the heart, it is not of God — "purifying their hearts by faith."
III. I will now proceed to speak of THE WEALTH WHICH THIS FAITH REALISES. It is a substance. Now, most people are ready to travel a good many miles in order to learn how to acquire wealth. They forego much carnal ease to get riches. But, after all, they make a terrible mistake. This is not true wealth. Riches make to themselves wings, they fly away, and defy all control. But the wealth which faith realises is altogether of a different kind. It has no wings. It is not subject to thieves. It cannot be hoarded up and be useless to its possessor; for it is that good principle which works by love. And thus faith realises the inheritance both of grace and of glory, and by it the title deeds to both are clearly read and lodged in the bosom of Deity. Oh, happy man, who goes so far in the attainment of faith! The wealth which faith realises is an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for all who are kept by the power of God through faith. I am not fond of relating anecdotes in the pulpit, but I cannot refrain on the present occasion from telling you one which I heard from my dear father's lips when I was a boy. It was of a godly man who possessed much wealth, and used it for the glory of God, but who lived to prove that he could not clip its wings. All flew away, and he was reduced to living in a furnished room, where he was supported entirely by the charity of his friends. One of his visitors who had been very kind to him, once asked him this question, "How is it that I find you to be as happy now as when you were in possession of all your wealth?" His immediate answer was, "When I possessed all this world's goods I enjoyed God in all; and now I possess none I enjoy all in God." Now that is faith; that is substance; a fine specimen, a fine witness of it.
(J. Irons.)1. Faith is the confidence — the firm persuasion — of things hoped for. In the ancient games the runner hoped to win the race, to wear the crown of pine or olive leaves around his brow, and to have his name handed down as victor to untold generations; so, in the confidence of this, he strained every nerve and sinew to reach the goal. That was natural faith. The student hopes to win the prize and find his name in the honours list, and he gives his days and nights to reading. The farmer ploughs the land and sows the field, in hope that in due season he shall put in the sickle and gather the harvest. The merchant and tradesman hope to gain a competency or to make a fortune, and put forth their efforts day by day. These are illustrations of natural faith. So it is with the faith that has to do with spiritual things. The Christian sets before him, not the crown of fading leaves, but the crown that shall never fade away, which the Lord will place upon the brow of all who endure unto the end. He seeks for the smile and approbation of the Saviour, for the treasures in heaven, for the bags which wax not old. This is spiritual faith.
2. Faith is the demonstration of things not seen. Columbus believed that there was another world in the western hemisphere; he was as fully assured of its existence as if it had been demonstrated by mathematical proof. Yet he had not seen the new world; he had never looked upon its mighty rivers, or upon the broad expanse of its prairies and savannahs. He had not ever seen in the dim distance the peak of any of its mountains, or the outline of its coast. No navigator had told him, "I have seen the new world; I have cast anchor in its harbours; I have set foot upon it." Yet, in the full conviction that there was another world, he toiled and waited many years, until his eye rested upon it and he landed on its shores. This was natural faith — the demonstration of things not seen. Some years ago the astronomers, Mr. Adams of Cambridge, and M. Leverries of Paris, were convinced that there must be a large planet that had never been seen through a telescope or marked down in any star-map; so they watched the midnight heavens in a certain direction until the planet came within the range of their glass. This was the way the planet Neptune was discovered. This was natural faith. It is even so with the faith that has to do with spiritual things. God is unseen; His glory is dimly reflected in His works. We see the work of His fingers in the heavens above and on the earth beneath. Creation is a book in which we may read, page after page, His handwriting, His own Divine autograph; but the Almighty Writer is unseen. In the flowers of the field we see the forms of beauty which He has pencilled and coloured and enamelled; the Divine Artist we see not. We stand and gaze with wonder and admiration upon a part of this beautiful temple of creation, but we see not the Divine Architect; yet, as in St. Paul's Cathedral, we read of the architect, Sir Christopher Wren, "If you seek his monument, look around," so we see in the skill and wisdom displayed in this glorious creation the monument of the Almighty Builder. We believe that God is, and that He is the Rewarder of them that diligently seek Him. We believe in the great love which He has towards us, which He has revealed in Jesus Christ; that, like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear Him; that He watches over us by day and by night, that His ear is open to our prayer, His arm stretched out for our defence. We believe that He is present with us in the house of prayer, and we can say with the confidence of Jacob, "Surely the Lord is in this place," &c. We believe that He has given to us exceeding great and precious promises, that we may be partakers of the Divine nature; and that, although the heaven and the earth pass away, not one of these promises will fail. We believe in an unseen Saviour, &c.
(W. Bull, B. A.)
Homilist.I. THE THINGS TOWARDS WHICH FAITH IS DIRECTED ARE INVISIBLE.
II. SOME OF THE INVISIBLE THINGS ARE AT ONCE DESIRABLE AND ATTAINABLE.
III. THOSE INVISIBLE THINGS, WHICH ARE DESIRABLE AND ATTAINABLE, FAITH MAKES POWERFUL IN THE PRESENT LIFE.
1. Faith is the condition of justification: "Being justified by faith"; "He that believeth is not condemned; he that believeth not is condemned already."
2. It is the source of spiritual life: "The just shall live by faith." "He that believeth hath everlasting life; he that believeth not shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him."
3. It puts us in possession of every Christian privilege.(1) The gift of the Spirit: "Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? .... In whom also after that ye believed, .ye were sealed with that holy spirit of promise."(2) Adoption into the Divine family: "To as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name;" "Ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus."(3) Peace with God and peace of mind: "Being justified by faith we have peace with God;" "He that believeth shall not make haste." Joy in God: "In whom, though now ye see Him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory."
4. It is the source of all Christian feeling and action. Our hearts are "purified by faith." Our prayers to be acceptable must be offered "in faith." If we would ask successfully, we must "ask in faith, nothing wavering."
(W. Landels, D. D.)must walk by faith if we would not be the scorn and laughingstock of our generation. The only question is, What, for us, are those "things hoped for," which faith makes its object? Are they the trifles of time, or are they the substances of eternity? Are they the amusements, the vanities, the luxuries, the ambitions, which make up the life of earth — or are they the grand, the satisfying, the everlasting realities which God has revealed to us in His Son Jesus Christ — such as the forgiveness of sins, peace with God, victory over evil, the communion of saints, a growing likeness to Christ, a death full of hope, and a blessed immortality in God's presence?
(C. A. Bartol.)realise it, is "faith." And that power is one with which it has pleased God to endow us all for that end. And where that " faith" is in full exercise, the unseen becomes more real than the seen — for the seen can only be when it is actually present, and must cease with our natural life, while the unseen, though invisible now, will soon be all that we shall see, and will last for ever. Hence, "faith," which is the sight of the mind, is a far greater thing than the sight of the eyes; for it has to do with the inner nature of a man which he carries with him everywhere, which is always going on: and it takes in, and makes real and present, God and heaven, and all that God hath said and done, or will say and will do; and all the grandnesses of the eternity. It makes "substance" of all these things, and gives "evidence" of our hope that these substances are ours. If I had to define "faith" I should call it a loving trust, a loving, personal approbation, merging into a holy life. But what is the groundwork of faith? what is its warrant? what justifies you in believing all this? God's voice. How does God's voice speak to me? Partly in His word, partly in His works, partly in His whisperings to my soul. There are two things which must never be forgotten about "faith." The one is that though faith is a reasonable and intellectual exercise of the mind, nevertheless it lies more in the heart than in the head. It is not written without a distinct point and sufficient reason, "The evil heart of unbelief." How can you believe and sin? The belief comes from God only. And the second and most important consideration is that all "faith" is a gift. However much you may read and study and think, you will never obtain faith except by prayer. It lies in the sovereignty of God.
(J. Vaughan, M. A.)
(H. Jones, M. A.)
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
(Hy. Dunn.)i.e., the understanding perfectly admitting the Divine testimony and the heart confidently trusting the Divine assurances.
The evidence of things not seen.I. First, concerning the ACT. Faith is said to be " the evidence." It is a grace that representeth the things of religion with such clearness and perspicuity of argument, that a believer is compelled to subscribe to the truth and worth of them; as a man yieldeth, when he seeth clear evidence to the contrary. There are in faith four things:
1. A clear light and apprehension. As soon as God converteth the soul, He puts light into it.
2. Faith is a convictive light, that findeth us corrupt and ill-principled, and full of prejudices against the doctrine of the gospel; and it is the work of faith to root out of the soul those carnal prejudices, counsels, reasonings, and carnal excuses which shut out that doctrine which the gospel offereth to us.
3. It is an overpowering and certain conviction, that is, such as dispossesseth us of our corrupt principles, and argueth us into a contrary opinion and belief.
4. It is a practical conviction. He that believeth is so convinced of the truth and worth of these things, that he is resolved to pursue after them, to make preparation for his eternal condition.Use: To put us upon examination and trial, whether we have such a faith or no, as is an evidence or convincing light; you may try it by the parts of it. There is the assent of faith and the consent of faith; a clear light and firm assent, and a free consent to the worth of the things of God.
1. There is a clearness and perspicuity in the light of faith, which doth not only exclude the grossly ignorant, but those that have no saving knowledge.
2. We may know whether faith be an evidence by the firmness of our consent. If men were more convinced there would be a greater conformity in their practices to the rules of religion.
II. I come to the OBJECT, "Things not seen." Faith is an evidence, but what kind of evidence? of things that cannot be otherwise seen, which cloth not disparage the evidence, but declare the excellency of faith. "Not seen," that is, not liable to the judgment of sense and reason. What are those "things not seen"? Things may either be invisible in regard of their nature, or of their distance and absence from us. Some things are invisible in their own nature — as God, angels, and spirits; and all the way and work of the Holy Ghost in and about the spiritual life. Other things are invisible in regard of their distance and absence; and so things past and to come are invisible; we cannot see them with our bodily eyes, but they are discovered to us by faith. In short, these " things not seen," are either matters of constant practical experience, which are not liable to outward sense, or principles of knowledge, which are not suitable to natural reason.
1. Matters of practical experience. The blessings of religion as the enduring substance (Hebrews 10:34), the benefit of affliction, the rewards and supplies of the spiritual life, answers of prayer, they are things not seen in regard of the bodily eye and carnal feeling; but faith expects them with as much assurance as if they were corporeally present, and could be felt and handled, and is assuredly persuaded of them, as if they were before our eyes.
2. Principles of knowledge. There are many mysteries in religion above reason; until nature put on the spectacles of faith, it cannot see them.That the evidence of faith is conversant about things unseen by sense or natural reason.
1. Because much of religion is past, and we have bare testimony and revelation to warrant it; as the creation of the world out of nothing, the incarnation, life, and death of Christ; these are truths not liable to sense, and unlikely to reason — that God should become a man and die. Now upon the revelation of the word, the Spirit of God makes all evident to faith.
2. Much of religion is yet to come, and therefore can only be discerned by faith. Fancy and nature cannot outsee time, and look beyond death (2 Peter 1:9); unless faith hold the candle to hope we cannot see heaven at so great a distance. Heaven and the glorious rewards of religion are yet to come; faith only can see heaven in the promises and look upon the gospel as travailing in birth with a great salvation.
3. That of religion which is of actual and present enjoyment, sense or reason cannot discern the truth or worth of it; therefore faith is still the evidence of things unseen.If the object of faith be things unseen, then —
1. Christians should not murmur if God keep them low and bare, and they have nothing they can see to live upon. As long as they do their duty, they are in the hands of God's providence.
2. In the greatest extremity that can befall us there is work for faith, but no place for discouragement; your faith is never tried till then.
3. A Christian is not to be valued by his enjoyments, but by his hopes. "He hath meat and drink which the world knows not of" (John 4:32).
4. Christ may be out of sight, yet not out of mind.Reproof to those that are all for sense and for present appearance.
1. Such as "do not believe without present feeling.
2. Such as cannot wait upon God without present satisfaction.(1) This is a great dishonour to God, to trust Him no further than we see Him. You trust the ground with your corn, and can expect a crop out of the dry clods, though you do not see how it grows, nor which way it thrives in order to the harvest.(2) It is contrary to all the dispensations of God's providence. Before He gives in any mercy there are usually some trials.(3) It is contrary to the nature of faith.(4) It will weaken our hands in duty when we look to every present discouragement. If faith be such an evidence of things not seen, then let us examine — have we this faith that can believe things not seen? This is the nature of true faith. Hope built upon outward probability is but carnal hope; but here is the faith and hope we live by, that which is carried out to things not seen with the bodily eye.Take these directions to discover it.
1. How doth it work as to Christ now He is out of sight? Alas! to most Christians Christ is but a name, a fancy, or an empty conceit, such as the heathens had of their topical gods, or we of tutelar saints, some for this country and some for that. Do you pray as seeing Him at God's right hand in heaven pleading your cause, and negotiating with God for you?
2. How doth it work as to His coming to judgment? Is the awe of that day upon your hearts? and do you live as those that must give aa account even for every idle word, when the great God of recompenses shall descend from heaven with a shout?
3. How can you comfort yourselves in the midst of all your straits and sorrows with the unseen glory of another world? Do not you faint in your duty, but bear up with that courage and constancy which becomes Christians (2 Corinthians 4:16). 4, How doth it work as to the threatenings of the Word? Can you mourn for a judgment in its causes, and foresee a storm when the clouds are but a gathering?
5. How doth your heart work upon the promises in difficult cases? Thereby God tries you, and thereby you may try yourselves (John 6:5, 6).
6. You may try your assent to the promises by the adventures you make upon God's word.
7. You may know whether you have this faith, which evidenceth things to come, and find out the weakness or strength of it by observing the great disproportion that is in your affections to things of sense, and things of faith. It is true, a Christian is not all spirit, and therefore sensible things work more with the present state of men than things spiritual. But yet certainly in a child of God, one that believes, that hath the evidence of things not seen, there will be some suitableness.
8. You may know whether you have this faith by your thoughts of the ways of God, when they are despised or opposed. Faith, which is the evidence of things not seen, can see a great deal of beauty in a despised way Of God, and glory in a crucified Christ; as the good thief upon the cross could see Christ as a king, when he hung dying on the cross in disgrace (Luke 23:42).To press you to get this faith, which is the evidence of things not seen, that you may believe that which God hath revealed in His Word, and that solely upon God's authority and the account of His Word; to quicken you to get this faith, which is of such great use to you.
1. Consider that all the difficulty in assenting to doctrines of Scripture was not only in the first age.
2. Consider the benefit of a sound conviction. A clear evidence of the mysteries of salvation is a great ground of all reformation of life.
3. The more faith depends upon the warrant of God's Word the better; and the fewer sensible helps it hath, the more it is prized (John 20:29).
4. Sensible things will not work, if we do not believe the Word; those that think Moses and the prophets are but a cold dispensation in comparison of this, if one should come from the dead, for then they would repent and turn to God, let them read (Luke 16:29-31).
5. We have need now to look after this faith, which is the evidence of things not seen, because the great reigning and prevailing sin is infidelity and unbelief; which is seen by our cavilling at every strict truth, by our carelessness in the things of God, by the looseness and profaneness of those that would be accounted Christians.
6. We ought to look to this faith, because none are so resolved in the great matters of faith, but they may be more resolved; no man doth so believe but he may believe more (1 John 5:13).Direction to get and increase this faith.
1. Beg the illumination of the Spirit of God to show you the truth of the Word, and the good things offered therein. This evidence is from the Spirit; thereof Paul prays for the Ephesians (Ephesians 1:17, 18).
2. Employ your reason, serious consideration, and discourse. The devil throws the golden ball in our way, of honour, pleasure, and profit, to divert us from heavenly things; and the intention of the mind being diverted, the impressions of religion are weak and faint.
3. Labour to get a heart purged from carnal affections. Where there is more purity there will be more clearness (Matthew 5:8).
(T. Manton, D. D.)
1. That God is at work without me — that is, the Divine energy — as fresh and full before I came, as the sea is before the minnow comes.
2. That He is at work through me — that is, the Divine intention — as certainly present in my life as it was in the life of Moses; and —
3. That what we do together is as sure to be a success as that we are striving to make it one. There may be more in the graveyard than there is in the home. In the moment toward which I have striven forty years with a tireless, passionate, hungry energy, my expectation may be cut off, while my eye is as bright and my step as firm as ever. It is no matter. The energy is as full, the intention as direct, and the accomplishment as sure, as though God had already made the pile complete. And when, with the conviction that t can do a worthy thing, and the courage to try and the constancy to keep on, I can cast myself, as Paul did, and Moses and Abraham, into the arms of a perfect assurance of this energy, intention, and accomplishment of the Eternal — feel, in every fibre of my nature, that in Him I live and move and have my being — I shall not fear, though the earth be removed, because —
"A faith like this for ever doth impart
Authentic tidings of invisible things;
Of ebb and flow, and ever-during power,
And central peace, subsisting at the heart
Of endless agitation."
(R. Collyer, D. D.)I. THE OBJECT IS SOMETHING NOT SEEN. Things unseen are not only such things as are invisible, and such as cannot be received by the eye, but also such as are not perceivable by any of our senses. Neither are things insensible meant, but such as are above the reach of reason. So that things unseen are such as are neither perceivable by the sense nor reason, so as to have either an intuitive or demonstrative knowledge of them. These are such as are conveyed to the soul by Divine revelation, without which man could not have known them; and such propositions as the connection of the terms depend upon the will of God.
II. FAITH IS THE EVIDENCE OF THESE THINGS UNSEEN; because we, having a certain knowledge of God's veracity, and His revelation of these things, are as certainly persuaded of the truth of them; and give as firm assent unto them as if they were seen and intuitively and demonstratively known unto us. Yet here you must consider —
1. That though the things and propositions be above reason, yet this persuasion or firm assent and this certain knowledge of the Divine revelation are acts of reason, and in the book of reason are they written.
2. That this object is of greater latitude than the former. For things hoped for, which are to come, are not seen; and not only they, but many things past and present.
3. That the things not seen in this place are not all things not seen, but such as God hath revealed to be the matter and object of our Divine faith.
4. That though substance and evidence may differ, yet both are a firm assent; but in respect of the things hoped for, may include a firm confidence and a certain expectation; for in respect of that object, that assent is more practical than this evidence which respects things unseen; so that here wants but little of a perfect definition.
5. The faith here defined is Divine faith in general, not that which is called justifying as justifying, for that is but a particular branch of this general, looking at a particular object, which is Christ's sacrifice and His intercession.
(Bp. Jeremy Taylor.)
(H. O. Mackey.)
(T. B. Stephenson, LL. D.)
Christian World.Dr. Parker, preaching when a dense fog prevailed, said "the fog had taught him to believe in the unseen world more than ever before. Close to him there were oak trees that were hidden the previous day by mist. But he knew them to be there. Men might say, 'If they were there we could see them.' But they are there and you cannot see them! A schoolbay would have laughed in his face if he had said the trees did not exist because the fog hid them. Yet there are men going on to old age who deny the unseen world because they cannot see it. But the trees are there and so are the angels!"
(R. W. Dale, LL. D.)
By it the elders obtained a good report.: —
I. THE FATHERS UNDER THE LAW HAD THE SAME KIND OF FAITH THAT WE HAVE. The same promises; upon the same terms; through the same merit of the blood of Christ.
II. THE APOSTLES ASCRIBE THEIR RENOWN IN THE CHURCH TO THEIR FAITH. Though the private soldiers do worthily in the high places of the field, yet the general bears away the honour, he gets the battle and wins the day; so here, all graces have their use in the holy life, all do worthily in their order and place; love worketh, hope waiteth, patience endureth, zeal sparkleth, and obedience urgeth to duty; but faith bears away the prize, this is the chiefest pin and wheel in the whole frame of salvation. Partly because it is the grace of reception on our part, by which we receive all the influences of heaven, and partly because it directs and quickens all other graces. It feeds hope, it teaches patience to wait, it makes zeal to sparkle, it gives relief to self-denial, and encourageth obedience. Faith is like a silken string, which runs through the chain of pearl; or like the spirits that run with the blood throughout all the veins.
III. THE FAITH OF THE ELDERS WAS AN ACTIVE FAITH, that discovered itself by good fruits and gracious actions; otherwise it could not have brought them into credit with the Church. God only knows the heart. It is actions that discover their faith, and the strength of their assent.
IV. ONE OF THE REWARDS OF AN ACTIVE FAITH IS A GOOD REPORT.
1. For the reasons of God's ordination and appointment. I shall touch upon those that are of a chief regard and consideration.(1) That every necessary blessing may be adopted and taken into the covenant, and provision made against all inconveniences that may befal us in the way of religion. As the Psalmist saith of Zion (Psalm 48:12, 13).(2) Because of the great inconveniences of reproach and infamy, either to God and religion itself, or to good men.(3) That God may retaliate with faith. Believers honour Him, therefore He will honour them (1 Samuel 2:30).(4) That this may be a bait to draw in others to a liking of His ways.
2. In what manner doth the Lord dispense this privilege? And it is grounded upon an objection, that may be framed thus; the servants of God are often clouded with black reproaches, "They took away the spouse's veil" (Song of Solomon 5:7), that is, her honour and name. David complains (Psalm 22:6). Therefore how doth God give in this recompense to the active faith? I answer, in several propositions.(1)The blessing is not absolutely complete in this life. As long as there is sin we are liable to shame. A good name is an outward pledge of eternal glory. When sin is abolished then may we expect perfect glory. In a mixed estate we must look for mixed dispensations.(2) The wicked are not competent judges when they judge of the faithful (Luke 6:26). General applause can seldom be had without compliance, and without some sin; therefore it is spoken as a cursed thing to gratify all, and seek to draw respect from all. There is one rare instance in the third Epistle of John, ver 12.(3) We have the approbation of their consciences, though not the commendation of their lips; and their hearts approve when their mouths slander; and we have their reverence, though not their praise.(4) There are some special seasons when God will vindicate His people from contempt. There is a resurrection of names as well as of persons.
3. Whether in the exercise of faith we may eye a good report? is not this vain-glory? I answer in four things.(1) Our chief care must be to do the duty, and trust God with the blessing; this is the temper of a Christian.(2) If we expect it as a blessing of the covenant, we must rather look for it from God than from men, expect it as the gift of His grace for our encouragement in the ways of religion.(3) All the respect that we have to men is by a greater care of duty, to prevent undue surmises and suspicion (2 Corinthians 8:21).(4) The glory of God and the credit of religion must be at the utmost end of all (Matthew 5:16).Uses:
1. Prize this blessing; it is a sweet encouragement to you in the work of God. I observe that usually men first make shipwreck of a good name, then of a good conscience.
2. Be careful how you prejudice the good name of a believer; you cross God's ordination. How ought you to tremble, when you go about to take off the crown which God hath put on their heads!
3. To press you to this active faith. There is great reason for it upon these grounds.(1) Because there are so many censures abroad.(2) Because there are so few good works abroad.
(T. Manton, D. D.)I. INSTANCES OR EXAMPLES ARE THE MOST POWERFUL CONFIRMATIONS OF PRACTICAL TRUTH.
1. Who these "elders" were is put beyond dispute by the ensuing discourse. All true believers from the foundation of the world, or the giving of the first promise, unto the end of the dispensation of the Old Testament, are intended.
2. This testimony was given them in the Scriptures; that is, it is so in particular of many of them, and of the rest in the general rules of it.
II. THEY WHO HAVE A GOOD TESTIMONY FROM GOD SHALL NEVER WANT REPROACHES FROM THE WORLD.
III. IT IS FAITH ALONE WHICH FROM THE BEGINNING OF THE WORLD WAS THE MEANS AND WAY OF OBTAINING ACCEPTANCE WITH GOD.
IV. The faith of true believers from the beginning of the world, WAS FIXED ON THINGS FUTURE, HOPED FOR, AND INVISIBLE; THAT IS, ETERNAL LIFE AND GLORY IN AN ESPECIAL MANNER.
V. That faith whereby men please God ACTS ITSELF IN A FIXED CONTEMPLATION ON THINGS FUTURE AND INVISIBLE, from whence it derives encouragement and strength to endure and abide firm in profession, against all opposition and persecutions.
VI. HOWEVER MEN MAY BE DESPISED, VILIFIED, AND REPROACHED IN THE WORLD, YET IF THEY HAVE FAITH, IF THEY ARE TRUE BELIEVERS, THEY ARE ACCEPTED WITH GOD, AND HE WILL GIVE THEM A GOOD REPORT.
(John Owen, D. D.)I. FAITH GREATENS MEN.
II. FAITH MIGHTILY AFFECTS OUR ORDINARY HUMAN LIFE.
III. FAITH IS POSSIBLE TO ALL CLASSES.
IV. FAITH IS CONSISTENT WITH VERY DIFFERENT DEGREES OF KNOWLEDGE.
V. FAITH CAN MASTER INSUPERABLE DIFFICULTIES. Stormy seas forbid our passage; frowning fortifications bar our progress; mighty kingdoms defy our power; lions roar against us; fire lights its flaming barricade in our path; the sword, the armies of the alien, mockings, scourgings, bonds and imprisonment — all these menace our peace, darken our horizon, and try on us their power; but faith has conquered all these before, and it shall do as much again. Reckon on God's faithfulness. Look not at the winds and waves, but at His character and will. Get alone with Him, steeping your heart and mind in His precious and exceeding great promises. Be obedient to the utmost limit of your light. Walk in the Spirit, one of whose fruits is faith. So shall you be deemed worthy to join this band, whose names and exploits run over from this page into the chronicles of eternity, and to share their glorious heritage.
(F. B. Meyer, B. A.)1. All obtain some kind of report.
2. Some obtain a great report.
3. All may obtain a good report.
4. All ought to endeavour to obtain a good report.
5. A good report is not easily and at once obtained.
6. A good report is the best of all things that can be obtained. It is the only passport to heaven, and the only imperishable possession.
(D. Thomas.)how it was to be done, the same faith would receive its testimony. But if not — if the dim foreshadowing of the coming Saviour left them in ignorance of how God's promise could be fulfilled consistently with His righteousness — faith would nevertheless assure them of its fulfilment, and calmly receive it and rely on it, leaving Him to determine how it was to be accomplished; for the province of faith is to receive what God says, simply because He says it, not to show how God's Word can be true. In this way, we imagine, the faith of some of these earlier saints operated. Believing in God's righteousness, and yet believing His promise to forgive and receive those who came to Him, they verbally and by sacrifice made confession of their sins and evil deserts, and yet trusted to Him to find a way of rendering the fulfilment of His promise consistent with His own righteousness. Thus their faith wrought in them reconciliation to, and trust in God, and thereby proved the means of their salvation. It will now appear how it is that, although they might be saved, without conscious and intelligent faith in Christ we cannot — how it is that the revelation we are favoured with places us in a position entirely different from theirs. It is because that revelation is a test of the true state of our minds in relation to God. Possessed of it, if we do not believe in Christ we reject the Divine testimony, and prove that we have no faith in anything which God says, but are still in a state of unbelief and rebellion and enmity. In fine, in the absence of a revelation, confidence in God and submission to His will were possible, though under the circumstances faith in Christ was impossible. Whereas, in possession of a revelation, the want of faith in Christ shuts us out from a state of confidence in God, and submission to His will, and must therefore debar us. from the enjoyment of salvation.
(W. Landels, D. D.)
(Dean Vaughan.)moral forces are the real rulers of the world. The influence of wealth is feeble in comparison with the influence of tried worth. No one is shut out from obtaining this best of all distinctions, this most priceless of all possessions. Every one should aim to deserve a good report. The text admonishes us how it is to be obtained. "By faith" the elders attained that excellence of character which gave them favour in the sight of God and man. Faith is declared to be the foundation and strength of character.
I. FAITH MAKES MEN MASTERS OF THEIR CIRCUMSTANCES. There are some persons who seem to have no character of their own. When hemmed in by moral restraints and moving in an atmosphere of religion, they exhibit a negative colourless goodness; but let them be thrown into a tide of dissipation and they yield without a struggle, and go with the multitude to do evil. The first truth, then, for faith to grasp is this: "I am a spiritual and immortal being, with power to choose my own lot, determine my own course, and form my own character. If I allow myself to be the sport of circumstances, I shall be unstable as water and never excel; but if I have faith in the invisible might of energy, and in the ultimate success of perseverance, I shall obtain the prize of my high calling."
II. NEXT COMES THE CONVICTION OF OUR RESPONSIBILITY TO GOD FOR THE USE OF THIS POWER. A great many wise decisions and virtuous struggles with temptation go to the building up of a good character. Human nature is a marshy soil for such a .structure, and needs a great deal done under ground and out of sight before its ,stability can be secured. There must be a strong foundation of moral concrete, of conscientiousness. But this cannot be laid without frequent appeals to conscience, and its judgments will be wavering and obscure unless faith unstops the ear to hear the sanction of God's voice. It is a sheet-anchor to a man in temptation, if he have sufficient faith in God's presence and authority to make him say, "How shall I do this great wickedness and sin against God?" Again, faith in God as our omnipotent Father and the Judge of all, creates a habit of referring everything to conscience. Believe that for every opinion you adopt you will be called to answer before God, and you will be careful not to take up hastily with any, and not to hold them in the clenched fists of prejudice.
III. MOST MEN WHO HAVE ATTAINED A GOOD REPORT HAVE HAD A DEFINITE PURPOSE IN LIFE, AND A CLEARLY DEFINED NOTION OF THE PLACE GOD INTENDED THEM TO FILL. Our forefathers had a deep impression of the Divine hand shaping the course of an ordinary man's life; hence they spoke of his business or occupation as his "calling." So long as a man's trade is useful to the community, fitted to serve the comfort or refinement of society, he has as much reason to believe that God has called him to it as he has to believe that God designed the earth to bring forth food for man's support. And, depend upon it, man will turn out all the better work, and do his duty with all the greater care, for believing that God accepts it as a service to Himself. In every walk of life we shall find scope for a career of usefulness and happiness, provided we buy up its opportunities. To begin with the duty lying nearest to us is the way to fulfil our mission.
IV. FAITH IN THE IMPERISHABLE WORTH OF TRUTH is another most necessary element in the formation of an honourable character. Integrity in word and deed is the backbone of character, and loyal adherence to veracity its most prominent characteristic. Seldom has a finer eulogium been pronounced upon any man than was spoken by the late Duke of Wellington on the occasion of the death of Sir Robert Peel. He said: "I was long connected with him in public life. We were both in the councils of our sovereign together, and I had long the honour to enjoy his private friendship. In all the course of my acquaintance with him, I never knew a man in whose truth and justice I had greater confidence or in whom I saw a more invariable desire to promote the public service. In the whole course of my communication with him I never knew an instance in which he did not show the strongest attachment to truth; and I never saw, in the whole course of my life, the smallest reason for suspecting that he stated anything which he did not firmly believe to be the fact."
V. BY FAITH, FEELING THEIR OWN WEAKNESS, THE EXCELLENT OF THE EARTH LAID HOLD ON THE STRENGTH OF GOD. In reference to all the distinctive traits of Christian character, we may say without the slightest qualification, "Severed from Christ, and without faith in His helpful Spirit, you can do nothing." These heavenly fruits of character do not grow on the wild olive-tree of humanity, but only after it has been grafted into the good olive-tree, the Lord Jesus Christ. They imply the possession of so much which a man who has only the prudential virtues, after the fashion of the world, is wholly destitute of. They imply faith in God's omniscience and care and a hope of eternal glory; they imply convictions which have broken the heart, made it jealous for God's honour, humbled it at the feet of Divine mercy, and inspired it with a love of peace and gentleness. Without these convictions and sentiments such traits of character are impossible. There is neither motive for them nor meaning in them. They are the fruits of the Spirit, and only possible, therefore, in those who have the Spirit. But in every age God has given His Holy Spirit to such as sought His aid.
(E. W. Shalders, B. A.)Hebrews 11., a roll-call of the victorious dead, a regimental register of God's heroes.
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
LinksHebrews 11:1 NIV
Hebrews 11:1 NLT
Hebrews 11:1 ESV
Hebrews 11:1 NASB
Hebrews 11:1 KJV
Hebrews 11:1 Bible Apps
Hebrews 11:1 Parallel
Hebrews 11:1 Biblia Paralela
Hebrews 11:1 Chinese Bible
Hebrews 11:1 French Bible
Hebrews 11:1 German Bible
Hebrews 11:1 Commentaries