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REFLECTIONS. Let the many glorious examples of faith, which are here set before us, animate our souls to imitation, and excite in us a generous desire of acting upon that noble and sublime principle, without which it is impossible to please God. And O, may what we call our faith be not merely a speculative and ineffectual assent to the truth, even of the most weighty propositions ; but a firm persuasion of their certainty, and a deep conviction of their importance ; that we also may obtain a good report.-May we believe in God, as the former and support of universal nature, as most assuredly existing, and as most bountifully rewarding all that seek him with sincerity and diligence. So shall our sacrifices be acceptable to him, as those of Abel were, while with him we look to that great sacrifice and atonement, of which his victim was the appointed representation. Like Enoch we shall then be animated to walk with God, and favoured with divine intercourse and communications. And though we cannot expect a translation like his, which should exempt us from the common lot of mortality, we shall be secure of admission into the paradise of God above, and in due time shall ascend to it in our complete persons. We shall then, like Noah, find our safety in the midst of a dissolving world, and while sinners are condemned, be found the heirs of righteousness.
While we wait for this happiness, let us endeavour to approve ourselves the genuine children of Abraham, the father of the faithful. Ever attentive to the divine call, may we in obedience to it, be willing to go forth, though we do not particularly know whither ; and with an intrepidity like his, may we even be ready to exchange worlds, at the command of God, ignorant as we are of what lies beyond the grave; thinking it enough that we know it is a land which God hath promised as the inheritance of his children. It is indeed a city that hath foun. dations, in comparison of which all the most magnificent and established buildings of the children of men are but mean and moveable tenis. God boasts in the title of its builder and maker, having formed and fashioned it for the highest displays of his glory and his love ; and in reference to it he is not ashamed to be called our God; for by bestowing it upon us, he answers all which that high and glorious title might import. May we ever desire this as our better country, and live as its citizens ought ; confessing ourselves, in reference to it, to be pilgrims and strangers upon the earth. And though we here receive not the accomplishment of the promises, may we keep our eyes on the objects they exhibit, how distant soever they may seem ; and being persuaded of them, may we embrace them ; embrace them even with our dying arms, and breathe out our prepared and willing spirits, in full assurance that we are going to receive and possess them.
Further examples of faith, in Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and Moses.
17 D Y faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered his son Isaac ; yea,
D he that had received the promises, offered his only begotten 18 son ; concerning whom it was said, “ In Isaac shall thy seed be 19 called” (Gen. xxi. 12.) reasoning with himself that God was able
even to raise him from the dead, from whence he received him 20 even in a figure*. By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concern21 ing things to come. By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of
the sons of Joseph ; and worshipped leaning upon the top of his 22 staff. By faith Joseph when dying, mentioned the departure of
the children of Israel, and gave a charge concerning his bones. 23 By faith Moses when born was hidden three months by his parents,
because they saw he was a graceful child; and they feared not the 34 commandment of the king. By faith Moses, when he was grown 25 up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter ; choosing
rather to partake with the people of God in their affliction, than to 26 enjoy the temporary pleasures of sin ; esteeming the reproach of
Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he directed 27 his regards to the recompence of reward. By faith he left Egypt,
not fearing the wrath of the king ; for he was strengthened as 28 seeing him who is invisible. By faith he celebrated the passover,
and the pouring forth of the blood ; that he who destroyed the 99 first-born might not touch them. By faith they passed over the
Red Sea as on dry land ; which the Egyptians o attempting to do, were drowned.
REFLECTIONS. Let these glorious instances of Faith be preserved in our memory, and have their due influence upon our hearts. When God calls us to resign our greatest comforts, let us think of that heroic act of faith by which Abraham offered up Isaac, and seemed in him to sacrifice all the promises, as well as his son. Yet he therein acted a part the most strictly rational ; as rightly concluding, that God could with infinite ease call him back to life again, and make a person, who had poured forth all his blood on the altar, and been reduced to ashes there, the father of many nations. Let dying parents commit their children to the care of the ever-living God, like Jacob ; and worship him who hath fed them all their lives long, and who will never forsake those that put their trust in him. Let those who are called to glorify God, by opposing the unjust commands of great and powerful men, remember the parents of Moses, and remember their illustrious child. Does he now repent that wonderful choice that he made at an adult age ? does he now wish that he had been called the Son of Pharaoh's
* Being typical of the method God would take for the salvation of men. See Warburton and Wolfius.
daughter, rather than the servant of God, faithful in all his house? does he wish that he had secured the treasures of Egypt, and the temporary pleasures of sin, and declined that reproach of Christ, which has ended in eternal glory? Our hearts, our consciences, will soon answer. Let us then, like him, have respect unto the recomfience of reward : let us endeavour more frequently to direct our regards to God, and live as seeing him who is invisible.-And while our faith is thus viewing him, let us look with pleasure to the blood of sprinkling, which places us under his protection ; which introduces us to his favour ; which secures us from the destroying angel. He will lead us on safely to his heavenly Canaan, if we fall not by unbelief. He will open our passage through seas of difficulty ; he will send down upon iis every suitable supply, and would much sooner command the skies to rain down bread, or the flinty rock to melt into streams of water, than desert his people in the wilderness. Let all his wonders of power and of love to Israel of old, animate our faith ; and let them all quicken our obedience ; and under a sense of our own weakness, and the importance of this leading, this princely grace, let us daily pray, Lord, increase our faith.
Besides many other glorious instances of faith recorded in scripture, the apostle refers to those who suffered under the persecution of Antiochus Epiphanes. Ch. xi. 30. xii. 1, 2. .
30 D Y faith the walls of Jericho fell down, having been surround31 D ed seven days. By faith Rahab the harlot did not perish
with the infidels, having received the spies, and dismissed them 32 in peace. And what shall I say further ? For the time would fail
me to discourse concerning Gideon, and Barak, and Samson, and
Jephtha, and David, and Samuel, and others of the prophets : 33 who by faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained 34 promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of
fire, escaped the edge of the sword : they were strengthened in
weakness, became valiant in battle, repelled the armies of the 35 aliens. Women received their dead children by a resurrection ;
and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they 36 might obtain a better resurrection. And others received the trial
of mockings and scourgings ; yea also of bonds and imprisons 37 ment. They were stoned, sawn asunder, tempted *, slain with
the sword : they wandered about in sheep-skins, and in goat38 skins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented ; of whom the world
was not worthy : they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and 39 in dens and holes of the earth. And all these by faith having ob
tained a good report, did not receive the full accomplishment of
* By threatened cruelties, and by promises of immediate deliverance."Thrust through with stakes.” W. Some suppose the reading should be envgmonteen seared or burnt alive,
40 the promise : God having provided something better for us, that
they without us might not be made perfect. xii. Being therefore encompassed with so great a cloud of witnes
ses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which, in present
circumstances, hath the greatest advantage against us, and let us 2 run with patience the race which is set before us : fixing our eyes
upon Jesus, the leader and finisher of our faith ; who for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right-hand of the throne of God.
REFLECTIONS. Is it possible we should read these animated periods without feeling our hearts glow with a sacred ambition of acting as becomes those who have heard such tidings and beheld such examples ? If the triumphs of faith in Rahab, and Gideon, and Barak, and Samson, and Jephtha, cannot move us, nor even those of David, and of Samuel ; if we are insensible of the martial prowess which they exerted in firm dependence on the Lord God of hosts ; let us behold other combats, in which they who seemed weaker, became yet more gloriously victorious. Let us remember, not only the mouths of lions stopped, but the violence of fire quenched, when the faithful servants of God were thrown into it. Yea, let us behold those who endured its unquenched violence, and turned all those painful and terrible sensations, into an heroic occasion of expressing the superior ardour of their love to God, and the stedfastness of their faith in him. Let us remember those youths, and children, and women, among the rest of these worthies (indeed among the worthiest of them) who were tor. sured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection.
In vain were all the terrors of persecuting rage and cruelty opposed to these triumphs. They submitted to imprisonment, and banishment, how dear soever their liberty and their native country might be ; they quitted their commodious habitations for rocks, and caves, and their comfortable apparel for sheep-skins and goat-skins. And when deserts and dens could no longer shelter their wretchedness, but they were seized by their blood-thirsty enemies, they beheld and endured, undismayed, the most horrid instruments of death. When the piercing sword entered their vitals, when overwhelming stones dashed them in pieces, when the torturing saw was tearing out their very entrails, there was a principle within superior to all these, which nothing could pierce, which nothing could rend away, which nothing could overwhelm. God hath done an honour to our nature in raising up such illustrious persons, of whom the world was not worthy, and whose distinguished worth could never have been manifested in the eyes of their fellowcreatures, had it not been called out to such rigorous trials. Well might they rejoice on any terms in their dismission from a state of existence, so far beneath the elevation of their views. And though their names may be perished from among men, and the distinct history of each lost in the crowds of countless multitudes, yet are they all in remembrance before God; and the death of each of his sainis, in such
circumstances, peculiarly precious in his sight. They are now bathing in those rivers of delight, which flow through the celestial paradise, and waiting the full consummation of their hope in that better resurrection, in the views of which they suffered so bravely. In the mean time, they look down, as it were, from the battlements of heaven, upon our combats, upon our race. O, let them not see us basely shrinking back, or loitering ! Let us lay aside every weight ; let us especially guard against the sin which most casily beset: us. And to establish all our fortitude, and to awaken all our ardour, let us look to an object brighter and nobler than all these, even to the Son of God, the Sun of righteousness, shining in high pre-eminence above all this cloud, and as it were gilding it by the reflection of his effulgent rays. Let us look to Jesus, who leads us on; to Jesus, who will complete the triumph of our faith, and set the crown on the head of every one who overcometh ! Let us daily think, what agony, what ignominy, he endured for us; and let every consideration of noble ambition, of duty, and of gratitude, fire our souls, and add wings to our zeal: so shall we at length share his joy, and sit down victorious with him on his throne, us he hath also overcome, and is sel down with the father on his throne.
The Apostle animates them to bear and improve their afflictions, and to ex
ert themselves to promote the interest of peace and holiness. Ch. xii. 3—14.
3 LOR consider him who endured such contradiction of sinners
T against himself, that you may not grow weary, nor faint in your minds. Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against 5 sin. And ye have forgotten the exhortation, which speaketh to
you as to sons. “My son, despise not the chastening of the 6 Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked by him. For whom the
Lord loveth he correcteth, and scourgeth every son whom he re7 ceiveth.” If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with 8 sons; for what son is there whom the father chasteneth not ? But
if yeare without chastisement, of which all are partakers, then are ye 9 [a spurious racet) and not lawful sons. Now if, when we had fa
thers of our flesh who corrected us, we gave them reverence; shall
we not much rather be in subjection to the father of spirits, and 10 live? For they indeed for a few days corrected us, as they thought
good ; but he for our advantage, that we may be partakers of his 11 holiness. Now it is true all chastening for the present seemeth
not to be matter of joy, but of grief; but afterwards it yieldeth
the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those that are exercised 12 therewith. Therefore take courage, lift up the hands that haug 13 down, and strengthen the feeble knees : and make straight paths
* Or, have ye forgotten the exhortation ? Prov. iji. 11, 12.
† W.-" Bastards." D. There were among the heathen many base born children, whose education was probably so neglected as to become proverbial.