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command to embrace Jesus of Nazareth as the end of the law for righteousness,” and the promise of eternal life as the gift of God to all who did so, equally came forth from God. And while nothing could enable them to do this but such a faith, such a faith would make these otherwise impracticable duties easy. This would prevent them from “ turning back to perdition,” and would .enable them to “press onward to the mark, for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."
And it is equally true now as it was then. Nothing but the faith of the Gospel can induce a man to abandon the world and commence a pilgrimage towards heaven. And wherever there is the faith of the Gospel, there will be such an abandonmentthere will be the commencement and the prosecution of such a pilgrimage. If Abraham had continued in Mesopotamia, or stopped short of Canaan, it would have been a proof that he did not believe the divine testimony; and whatever men may profess, if they continue to love the world, and become “weary in well-doing,” it is clear evidence that they have not believed the Gospel.
We have another instance of the power of faith in enabling to persevere in a course of duty, while the blessing promised is not immediately conferred, brought before our minds in the next verse. This, too, is taken from the history of Abraham. Ver. 9. “By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise."
When Abraham came into the land of Canaan, the promise which was implied in what was said to him at his call in Mesopotamia, was given him in the most explicit language: “The Lord appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land.” Hence that country received the appellation, “ the land of promise," or the promised land. But that promise was not immediately, was not soon, fulfilled. Abraham did not obtain possession of it, nor did his posterity, till nearly five centuries after. To use the language of Stephen, “God gave him no inheritance in it, no, not so much as to set his foot on: yet
1 sis cyqu for survñ. Such a use of sis with a noun of place is not unfrequent. Bretschneider's Lex. eis, 5, c.
2 Gen. xii. 7.
He promised that He would give it to him for a possession, and to his seed after him, when as yet he had no child.” Had Abraham not been a persevering believer—had he not continued to “ account Him faithful who had promised ” —he would not have continued in Canaan in such circumstances, a pilgrim and sojourner, dwelling in tents, and having no certain or abiding dwelling-place. He would have returned to the country from which he had come out, and where his relations had possessions and fixed places of abode; or he would have gone into some other country, where, with the property he had, he might have procured for himself an inheritance. But because Abraham believed that in due time the promise would be fulfilled, he preferred dwelling in a tent in Canaan to dwelling in a palace anywhere else. He goes into Egypt during the time of famine; but it is to sojourn, not to settle. He sends Eliezer to obtain a wife for Isaac into Mesopotamia, and takes an oath of him, that even in the case of his not succeeding in getting one of his kinswomen as a wife to Isaac, he was not to take Isaac back again to the land of his ancestors. He continued, along with Isaac and Jacob-to whom as well as to Abraham the promises were made, and who are therefore called “heirs with him of the same promise,"—to live in Canaan, though not put in possession of it. Though the promise was long in being fulfilled, he did not doubt but it would be in due time fulfilled; and therefore he determined that he and his posterity should continue in the land to which the promise referred.
It is equally easy here, as in the former case, to see the object the Apostle had in view in bringing forward this particular exemplification of the power of faith, and to see how well fitted it is for gaining that end. Nothing but continued faith could have enabled Abraham to continue a pilgrim and a sojourner in Canaan, waiting for the fulfilment of the promise. Continued faith did enable Abraham to do so. Nothing but continued faith could enable the Christian Hebrews to continue “ stedfast and unmoveable” in the profession and practice of Christianity during that season of privation and suffering, of undefined length, which might intervene before the full accomplishment of the promises which had been made to them. Persevering faith would enable them to do this. He who continues believing will “ endure to the end,” and “ be saved.”
1 Acts yii. 5.
The words which follow in the 10th verse seem to contain the reason why Abraham continued to sojourn in the land of promise. Ver. 10. “For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.”
These words have been supposed by some very learned interpreters to refer to the literal Jerusalem, the metropolis of the Holy Land, when it became the possession of the descendants of Abraham. They consider the Apostle as saying, “The reason why Abraham continued to live in Canaan, though he had no inheritance there, though he and his family had to live in moveable tents, was, that he expected that in due time, in that country, a stable city would be erected for them by the remarkable providence of God—that the whole territory should be peopled by his descendants, not as wandering tribes, but as the inhabitants of towns and cities, having Jerusalem built on the rocky mountains as its metropolis. This is ingenious, but it is not satisfactory. We have no reason to believe that any revelation was made to Abraham as to the building of Jerusalem. The “city which has foundations” seems plainly the same city mentioned in the subsequent context as a city prepared for them by God, in the better, the heavenly country and the description, “ whose builder and maker is God,” which seems nearly equivalent in meaning to the expression respecting the true tabernacle, “which, it is said, God pitched, not man, seems to exclude the workmanship of man, and points it out to us as not a literal but a figurative expression, indicating not an earthly, but a heavenly city. The Apostle's assertion then is, that Abraham “ looked for a city which has foundations, whose builder and maker was God.” What does it mean?
The land of promise is in the Scriptures the emblem of the heavenly inheritance, and the earthly Jerusalem of the residence of the saints there. They are represented as dwelling in a glorious city, with Jehovah in the midst of them as their King. To denote the stability, the immutability, and the eternity of this state of happiness, the heavenly city is said to “have foundations." It is not a collection of tents or tabernacles, which have no foundations, and which are easily removed, but it is a city built on the everlasting hills of Paradise.
It is not unlikely that Psalm lxxxvii. 1 was in the Apostle's mind : “ His foundation is in the holy mountains." The travelling tent, pitched in the evening and struck in the morning, finely contrasts with the “city which has foundations”—firmly builded. And to denote its divine origin and transcendent excellence, it is termed a city “whose builder and maker is God.” It is thus opposed to all earthly cities, which are built by man's hands, just as the Apostle distinguishes the heavenly sanctuary from the earthly by describing it as being “made without hands," and as he distinguishes the resurrection body from the “ earthly house of this tabernacle," as "a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens."
According to the Apostle, then, Abraham expected true, permanent happiness from God in a future state. This expectation must have been founded on a revelation made to him, and believed by him. Our Lord teaches us that the promise of immortality and the resurrection is implied in the promise, “I will be a God to thee;" and there is nothing improbable in the supposition, that the patriarchs may have had clearer revelations of a future state made to them than any that are recorded in Scripture. If we admit the inspiration of this Epistle, it is plain, however we may explain it, that Abraham did cherish an expectation of permanent and perfect happiness in a future world.
All that remains to be explained, is the connection in which the words in the 10th verse stand to the preceding statement. If the word for be understood in its most usual sense, as expressing the reason of a previous assertion, then the meaning is—Abraham's expectation of permanent, perfect happiness in heaven, enabled him patiently to submit to all the inconvenience of a state of pilgrimage in Canaan during the period which was to elapse before that land became the inheritance of his posterity. If the word for be understood, as it often must, as merely connective, as equivalent to moreover, then the meaning is—Abraham's expectation that God would in His own time fulfil the promise, that Canaan was to be the inheritance of his posterity, induced him to continue in that country, though but a pilgrim and sojourner. But Abraham had higher expectations than this. He not only expected for his posterity a secure settlement in Canaan, but he expected for himself an everlasting abode in heaven.' It matters very little in which of these two ways the connection is explained."
The great practical truth intended to be taught us by this passage of Scripture is, that it is the faith of the Gospel, producing the expectation of eternal life, that can alone enable a person cheerfully to submit to all the privations and sufferings connected with the Christian life, and induce him, “by a patient continuance in well-doing, to seek,” so as to obtain, “glory, honour, and immortality.”
The design of the paragraph which follows, is to show, from the history of Abraham, that faith is not only efficacious in enabling men to perform difficult duties and to endure severe trials, but also to obtain important blessings. Vers. 11, 12. "Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised. Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead, so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the sea-shore innumerable.” The substance of this statement is— Through believing, Abraham and Sarah, though arrived at a time of life when, according to the ordinary course of nature, it was not to be expected that they would have any children, became the founders of a family numerous as the stars of heaven, or as the sand along the sea-shore.' This blessing was conferred on them as believers. It was as the gracious reward of their faith that they obtained this high honour.
Some learned interpreters have supposed that it is Abraham's faith alone that is spoken of in this paragraph, and that the Apostle's intention is to say, ' As the reward of Abraham's faith, Sarah became fruitful, and brought him a son, from whom sprang innumerable descendants. The words, however, certainly seem
1 Wakefield's note on these verses does credit to his taste. “Orationem magis exquisitæ venustatis nusquam reperies. II aporxeiv est hospitari pro tempore ; xatoireis, ficam domum habere. In terra igitur ista vivebant, ut hospites; in tabernaculis vero semper : certam domum incolebant in aliena terra; hanc mox relicturi, illam, dum viverent, nunquam. Et eleganter opponuntur tabernacula mobilia, in terræ superficie posita, én iyice, atque huc illuc pro re nata transferenda, civitati fundamentis stabilitæ : Isa. xxxviii. 12, LXX. Τεχνίτης vero is est qui excogitat formam edifcii; δημιουργός, qui struit ædificium. Hinc nostri reddere debuerant, ut poterant satis simpliciter: whose contriver and builder is God.”