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“cording to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed “ be. And being not weak in faith, he considered not “ his own body now dead, when he was above an hun“ dred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sarah's “ womb. He staggered not at the promise of God
through unbelief, but was strong in faith : giving “ glory to God, and being fully persuaded, that what “ he had promised he was able to perform. And
THEREFORE it was imputed to him for righteousness." St. Paul having here emphatically described the strength and firmness of Abraham's faith, informs us, that he thereby.“
gave glory to God;” and therefore it was " accounted to him for righteousness.” This is the way that God deals with poor frail mortals. He is graciously pleased to take it well of them, and give it the place of righteousness, and a kind of merit in his sight; if they believe his promises, and have a steadfast relying on his veracity and goodness. St. Paul, Heb. xi. 6, tells us, “ Without faith it is impossible to please “ God :" but at the same time tells us what faith that is. “ For,” says he," he that cometh to God, must “ believe that he is; and that he is a rewarder of them " that diligently seek him.” He must be persuaded of God's mercy and goodwill to those who seek to obey him; and rest assured of his rewarding those who rely on him, for whatever, either by the light of nature, or particular promises, he has revealed to them of his tender mercies, and taught them to expect from his bounty. This description of faith (that we might not mistake what he means by that faith, without which we cannot please God, and which recommended the saints of old) St. Paul places in the middle of the list of those who were eminent for their faith; and whom he sets as patterns to the converted Hebrews, under persecution, to encourage them to persist in their confidence of deliverance by the coming of Jesus Christ, and in their belief of the promises they now had under the gospel. By those examples he exhorts them not to “ draw back” from the hope that was set before them, nor apostatize from the profession of the christian religion. This is plain from ver. 35-38, of the precedent chapter :
-“ Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath
great recompence of reward. For ye have great need “ of persisting or perseverance;” (for so the Greek word signifies here, which our translation renders “ patience.” Vide Luke viii. 15.) “that after ye have done the will of “ God, ye might receive the promise. For yet a little “ while, and he that shall come will come, and will not
tarry. Now the just shall live by faith. But if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.”
The examples of faith, which St. Paul enumerates and proposes in the following words, chap. xi. plainly show, that the faith whereby those believers of old pleased God, was nothing but a steadfast reliance on the goodness and faithfulness of God, for those good things, which either the light of nature, or particular promises, had given them grounds to hope for. Of what avail this faith was with God, we may see, ver. 4, “ By faith Abel offered
unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain; by 66 which he obtained witness that he was righteous.” Ver. 5, “ By faith Enoch was translated, that he should " not see death: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.” Ver. 7,
Ver. 7, “ Noah being warned of God of things not seen as yet;” being wary, by faith prepared an ark, to the saving of his “ house; by the which he condemned the world, and “ became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.” And what it was that God so graciously accepted and rewarded, we are told, ver. 11, “ Through faith also “ Sarah herself received strength to conceive seed, and
was delivered of a child, when she was past age.' How she came to obtain this grace from God, the apostle tells us, “ Because she judged him faithful who “ had promised.” Those therefore, who pleased God, and were accepted by him before the coming of Christ, did it only by believing the promises, and relying on the goodness of God, as far as he had revealed it to them. For the apostle, in the following words, tells us, ver. 13,“ These all died in faith, not having received “ (the accomplishment of the promises ; but having “ seen them afar off: and were persuaded of them, and “ embraced them.” This was all that was required of
them ; to be persuaded of, and embrace the promises which they had. They could be “ persuaded of” no more than was proposed to them; “ embrace” no more than was revealed; according to the promises they had received, and the dispensations they were under. And if the faith of things “ seen afar off;” if their trusting in God for the promises he then gave them; if a belief of the Messiah to come; were sufficient to render those who lived in the ages before Christ acceptable to God, and righteous before him: I desire those who tell us, that God will not (nay, some go so far as to say, cannot) accept any, who do not believe every article of their particular creeds and systems, to consider, why God, out of his infinite mercy, cannot as well justify men now, for believing Jesus of Nazareth to be the promised Messiah, the King and Deliverer ; as those heretofore, who believed only that God would, according to his promise, in due time, send the Messiah, to be a King and Deliverer.
There is another difficulty often to be met with, which seems to have something of more weight in it: and that is, that “ though the faith of those before “ Christ (believing that God would send the Messiah, “ to be a Prince and a Saviour to his people, as he had “ promised), and the faith of those since his time (be
lieving Jesus to be that Messiah, promised and sent by God), shall be accounted to them for righteous
ness; yet what shall become of all the rest of man“ kind, who, having never heard of the promise or news “ of a Saviour; not a word of a Messiah to be sent, " or that was come; have had no thought or belief con“ cerning him ?”
To this I answer; that God will require of every man, " according to what a man hath, and not according to 66 what he hath not." He will not expect the improvement of ten talents, where he gave but one; nor require any one should believe a promise of which he has tever heard. The apostle's reasoning, Rom. X. 14, is very just: “How shall they believe in him, of whom " they have not heard?” But though there be many who being strangers to the commonwealth of Israel,
were also strangers to the oracles of God, committed to that people ; many, to whom the promise of the Messiah never came, and so were never in a capacity to believe or reject that revelation ; yet God had, by the light of reason, revealed to all mankind, who would make use of that light, that he was good and merciful. The same spark of the divine nature and knowledge in X man, which making him a man, showed him the law he was under, as a man; showed him also the way of atoning the merciful, kind, compassionate Author and Father of him and his being, when he had transgressed that law. He that made use of this candle of the Lord, so far as to find what was his duty, could not miss to find also the way to reconciliation and foregiveness, when he had failed of his duty: though, if he used not his reason this way, if he put out or neglected this light, he might, perhaps, see neither.
The law is the eternal, immutable standard of right, And a part of that law is, that a man should forgive, not only his children, but his enemies, upon their repentance, asking pardon, and amendment. And therefore he could not doubt that the author of this law, and God of patience and consolation, who is rich in mercy, would forgive his frail offspring, if they acknowledged their faults, disapproved the iniquity of their transgressions, begged his pardon, and resolved in earnest, for the future, to conform their actions to this rule, which they owned to be just and right. This way of reconciliation, this hope of atonement, the light of nature revealed to them: and the revelation of the gospel, having said nothing to the contrary, leaves them to stand and fall to their own Father and Master, whose goodness and mercy is over all his works.
I know some, are forward to urge that place of the Acts, chap. iv. as contrary to this. The words, ver. 10 and 12, stand thus ; “ Be it known unto you all, and “ to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus “ Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God “ raised from the dead, even by him, doth this man [i. e, the lame man restored by Peter] “stand here be
6 fore you whole. This is the stone which is set at “ nought by you builders, which is become the head of 66 the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other : " for there is none other name under heaven given
among men, in which we must be saved.” Which, in short, is, that Jesus is the only true Messiah, neither is there any other person, but he, given to be a mediator between God and man; in whose name we may ask, and hope for salvation.
It will here possibly be asked, “ Quorsum perditio 6 hæc?” What need was there of a Saviour ? What ad. vantage have we by Jesus Christ ?
It is enough to justify the fitness of any thing to be done, by resolving it into the “ wisdom of God," who has done it; though our short views, and narrow understandings, may utterly incapacitate us to see that wisdom, and to judge rightly of it. We know little of this visible, and nothing at all of the state of that intellectual world, wherein are infinite numbers and degrees of spirits out of the reach of our ken, or guess; and therefore know not what transactions there were between God and our Saviour, in reference to his kingdom. We know not what need there was to set up an head and a chieftain, in opposition to "the prince of this world, the prince “ of the power of the air," &c. whereof there are more than obscure intimations in scripture. And we shall take too much upon us, if we shall call God's wisdom or providence to account, and pertly condemn for needless all that our weak, and perhaps biassed, understanding cannot account for.
Though this general answer be reply enough to the forementioned demand, and such as a rational man, or fair searcher after truth, will acquiesce in ; yet in this particular case, the wisdom and goodness of God has shown itself so visibly to common apprehensions, that it hath furnished us abundantly wherewithal to satisfy the curious and inquisitive; who will not take a blessing, unless they be instructed what need they had of it, and why it was bestowed upon them. The great and many advantages we receive by the coming of Jesus the Mes,