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I. A Sight OF DISTANT, PROMISED BLESSINGS.
Not that the believer is left destitute of comforts and privileges connected with the present life. Truethe world is regarded by him principally as a state of trial and discipline : yet such are even his present gains, that he would not exchange them for the richest treasure of the ungodly. Nevertheless, his greatest prize is yet to come: he “ ” it indeed, but he has not yet received it—it is “afar off.”—Such were the blessings seen at a distance by that “father of the faithful,” Abraham : the possession of Canaan by his posterity, though he himself had not a foot's-length of freehold there ; the countless number of his descendants, when as yet (at a hundred years old) he had no child; and among them, that one Seed,” in whom “ all the families of the earth should be blessed ”Ieven Jesus the Saviour. All these he saw, but only in the form of promises. The things themselves were very
“ far off,” and were made visible to him solely by the word of God.—But to Abraham, and to us also, blessings more remote still are (by the same Divine promise) held up to view : the salvation of the soul—the resurrection of the body, the life of glorythe sight and enjoyment of “ God and the Lamb;” all these are freely and fully offered by the Gospel, to every one who will accept them on God's terms. It is acknowledged that they are distant blessings: but God's promise calls our attention to them; and the knowledge that such a promise exists is the first step towards a true faith. It includes, secondly,
II. A PERSUASION OF THEIR REALITY.
The world is so notoriously full of promises and hopes, issuing in disappointment, that it might still be doubted whether the blessings of which I have spoken had any real existence. In point of fact, many do treat the whole Christian system as a fable; and, in saying this, I refer not to avowed Infidels alone, but to a large proportion of nominal Christians. Their habitual feeling is, that the promises of the gospel are not fully to be trusted—that they will not bear them out, if acted upon—or at least, that they are exaggerated. And (what seems very strange) you cannot get them to make any serious examination into the truth of the case, or to abide by the truth so far as it may be discovered. Now what is such a state of mind, but secret Atheism ?
1. Gen. xii. 1—3.
But the happy few, in whom true faith is found, have a full, satisfactory, abiding persuasion, that there are such future blessings, as the promises make known. I will not deny, that an occasional hesitation of mind may be suggested by the great enemy; but the habitual belief to which they continually return is this : 'God has spoken-has spoken by his Son Jesus—has spoken to me, as to one who must assuredly witness the fulfilment, whether of his promise to them that believe, or of his wrath against them that believe not. God is true - God is able to keep his word—he must, he will; and therefore, after all the mockery of an ungodly world, I come to the deliberate conviction, that—" Verily there is a reward for the righteous ; verily he is a God that judgeth in the earth."'-Have you this full persuasion, brethren ? this essential ingredient in a genuine faith? A promise to be believed is set before you; have you anything like this conviction of its reality?
But alas, you may have attained thus far, (for thus far “ the devils also believe,”) and yet be no Christian pilgrim. His faith in the promises includes, thirdly,
1 Psalm lviii. 11.
III. AN ACTUAL EMBRACING OF THEM.
to be sure I believe the bible-I have no doubt that good people will go to heaven !' And perhaps you might not find it easy to convince him, that he disbelieves these things : but you have no difficulty in discovering, that he takes no interest in them. Here then is a faith,“ persuaded” of the truth, but not “ embracing " the truth! Do you
still ask what is meant by embracing it? A few examples, out of many that are supplied by this chapter, will furnish the explanation.-Noah is “ warned of God, of things not seen as yet;
' 1 and is directed to build an Ark, as his only safeguard from the waters of a flood. He believes ; and he “ embraces the promise” of deliverance, by adopting the means of deliverance.—Moses might perhaps become hereafter king of Egypt; but he is assured that the Jewish slaves will be supernaturally brought out, and conducted to the long promised Canaan. For this apparent uncertainty, he abandons all other worldly views and this was his “ embracing of the promise.”2 You may trace the same principle in every instance of faith recorded in this chapter. And now see the position in which you yourselves stand. God says, that eternal fire is prepared for sinners ; his Gospel points to a way of escape-the only way-by Repentance and Conversion, and by a simple Trust in the Atonement of Christ. Do you ask, then, · How shall I embrace the salvation thus offered ?' The answer is plain— By coming to Christ for it, in the way prescribed-repenting, converting, trusting in him.'
It is not real Faith, till this deliberate act takes place. And if so, how many among us are evidently condemned as unbelievers !- But there will be, fourthly, 1 Verse 7.
2 Verses 24.-26.
IV. A VISIBLE INFLUENCE ON THE HEART, THE LANGUAGE, AND THE LIFE. Men, thus believing, openly profess
so that they are strangers and pilgrims on the earth.” It is their genuine feeling. Let a man gaze upon the Sun, till he can without pain examine its splendors : he will find, on recalling his eyes to this lower world, that their power
And such is the effect, where faith is in full exercise : one upward glance at “the glory that shall be revealed," 1 is enough to eclipse the most glittering earthly bauble. You observe that the Christian is commended for that very thing, on account of which the word censures him; namely, his peculiarity and strangeness. This peculiarity is, in fact, inevitable, where the faith is genuine. Others may exclaim, " See what manner of stones, and what buildings are here !”? But the believer, like his Master, thinks only of the day when “ all these things shall be dissolved.”—The Pilgrim cannot settle himself in a strange land : his tastes, views, intentions, are all diverse from it; and therefore his language and conduct also proclaim, " that he is seeking another country."* This is an indispensable token of genuine faith. Is it then to be traced in your conduct ? Is it the language of your heart—the language of your life?
Faith in the Divine promises includes, lastly,
V. A STEADFAST RELIANCE ON THEM, EVEN IN DEATH.
After “ seeing,” being persuaded," " embracing, ” and walking as “ pilgrims and strangers," the black river of Death still remains to be crossed, before we “receive the promise.” But “the righteous hath
11 Pet. v. 1. 2 Mark xiii, l. 3 2 Pet. iii. ll. 4 Verse 14
hope,' then ; and they that " walk by faith” will assuredly “ die in faith.”
It is indeed a striking circumstance, that, in this comprehensive description of the believing children of Abraham, the Apostle should have alluded, not in the first instance to their lives, but to their deaths. 6. These all died in faith.” Here was, in fact, the highest triumph of faith. Abraham “ went forth, not knowing whither he went;” but he still had with him some friends, and many comforts. Nay, he also lived to see, to enter, and to “ walk through the length and breadth” of the Land of promise. But he whom Death summons, must sacrifice everything ; nor has any living man had even a glimpse of that world, which lies beyond the grave.-A wise heathen, “having no hope,” might therefore well say, that Death was of all frightful things the most frightful.' -Here, then, let every one bring himself to the touchstone. • What is my hope, if God should this very hour take away my soul ?' Ah, brethren, can the World promise anything here ! Or will you believe it, if it do? Who but Christ speaks here one single comfort ? Well—the believer, who has trusted him in health, will trust bim to the last : and so far from regretting, that he has anxiously waited for that which he must die without receiving, he dies in peace and joy, as on the verge of eternal bliss.
This is what Faith in Christ, and that alone, can do for you!
“ Nevertheless, when the Son of Man cometh, shall he find faith upon the earth ?”3 He will, in some : beware that you be not found wanting.
1 Prov. xiv. 32.
3 Luke xviii. 8.