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But then what kind of faith? Doubtless faith in God's promises : for he is arguing on their own concessions. They admitted their ancestors to have had that faith :* they did not admit that they had faith in CHRIST. For the Apostle therefore to assert this, had been a kind of begging the question. Thus we see that not only the pertinency, but the whole force of the reasoning turns upon our understanding faith, in this chapter, to mean faith in the God of their fathers.
But the Apostle's own definition of the word puts the matter out of the question. We have said, the dispute between him and the Jewish Converts necessarily required him to speak of the efficacy of faith in the generic sense. Accordingly his definition of FAITH, is, that it is
THE SUBSTANCE OF THINGS HOPED FOR, THE EVIDENCE OF THINGS
NOT SEEN. Not of faith in the Messiah, but of belief in general, and on good grounds. Indeed very general, according to this Writer; not only belief of the future, but the past. It is, says he, the substance of things hoped for; and this he illustrates by Noah's reliance on God's promise to save him in the approaching deluge.‡ It is, again, the evidence of things not seen; and this he illustrates by our belief that the worlds were framed by the word of God.§ Having defined what he means by faith, he next proceeds to shew its nature by its common efficacy, which still relates only to faith in the generic sense.—But without faith it is impossible to please him [GOD], for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him; which very faith he immediately illustrates by that of Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and Moses. And that no doubt might remain, he farther illustrates it by the faith of the Jewish People passing the Red Sea, and encompassing the walls of Jericho; and by the faith of Rahab the harlot. But was any of this, the faith in JESUS the Messiah? or a belief of a future state of rewards and punishments?
As here the Apostle tells us of the great rewards of faith, so in his third chapter he speaks of the punishment of unbelief; which was the shutting out a whole generation from the land of Canaan, and suffering them to perish in the Wilderness: So we see (says he) they could not enter in because of unbelief. But was this unbelief want of faith in the Messiah, or any thing but want of faith in the promise of the God of Israel, who assured them that he would drive out the Canaanite from before them? Lastly, to evince it impossible that faith in the Messiah should be meant by the faith in this eleventh chapter, the Apostle expressly says, that all those to whom he assigns
• Thus their Prophet Habakkuk had said, The just shall live by his faith, chap. ii. ver. 4. † Heb. xi. 1. ↑ Verse 7. § Verse 3. Heb. iii. 19.
|| Verse 6.
this faith, HAD NOT RECEIVED THE PROMISE.* Therefore they could not have faith in that which was never yet proposed to them for the object of faith: For how should they believe in him of whom they have not heard? says the Apostle.
St. Paul had the same argument to manage in his Epistle to the Galatians; and he argues, from the advantages of faith or belief in God, in the very same manner. But of his argument, more in the
Let us observe farther, that the sacred Writers not only use the word faith in its generic sense of believing on reasonable grounds; but likewise the word GOSPEL (a more appropriated term) for good tidings in general. Thus this very Writer to the Hebrews-For unto us was the GOSPEL preached as well as unto them,† i. e. the Israelites.
Having shewn, that by the Faith, here said to be so extensive amongst the Jewish People, is meant faith in those promises of God which related to their own Dispensation, all the weight of this objection is removed. For as to the promises seen afar off and believed and embraced, which gave the prospect of a better country, that is, an heavenly, these are confined to the Patriarchs and Leaders of the Jewish People. And that they had this distant prospect, I am as much concerned to prove as my Adversaries themselves. And if I should undertake to do it more effectually, nobody I believe will think that I pretended to any great matter. But then let us still remember there is a vast difference between SEEING THE PROMISES AFAR OFF and RECEIVING THE PROMISE: the latter implying a gift bestowed ; the former, only the obscure and distant prospect of one to come. This indeed they had: but as to the other, the sacred Writers assure us that, in general, they had it not.—And these ALL having obtained a good report through faith, RECEIVED NOT THE PROMISE.§ For though all the good Israelites in general had faith in God, and the Patriarchs and Leaders had the hope of a better Country, yet neither the one nor the other received the Promise.
I have said, that the hopes of a better country, is to be confined to the Patriarchs and Leaders of the ancient Jews: Nor is this contradicted by what is said of others who were tortured,'not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better Resurrection,|| for this refers (as our English Bibles shew us) to the history of the Maccabees; in whose time it is confessed the Doctrine of a future state was become national. How the People got it-of what materials it was composed --and from what quarters it was fetched, will be seen hereafter. is sufficient to observe at present, that all this, the Jews soon forgot, or hid from themselves, and made this new flattering Doctrine a part
↑ Heb. iv. 2.
↑ Heb. xi. 13-16.
§ Verse 39.
Heb. xi. 13, 39. Verse 35.
of the Law. Hence the Author of the Second book of Maccabees makes one of the Martyrs say-For our brethren who now have suffered a short pain, are dead unto God's COVENANT OF EVERLASTING LIFE.* But it may be asked, how came this Covenant of everlasting life to lye so perfectly concealed from the time of Moses to the great Captivity, that, as appears from their History, neither Princes nor People had the least apprehension or suspicion of such a Covenant?
But here a proper occasion offers itself to remove a seeming contradiction between the Writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews, and St. Paul, in his speech to the synagogue at Antioch; which will give still further light to the subject. The former says, And these all having obtained a good report through faith, RECEIVED NOT THE PROMISE.† And the latter, THE PROMISE WHICH WAS MADE UNTO THE FATHERS, God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up JESUS again. But the contradiction is only seeming. The two texts are, indeed, very consistent. The Writer to the Hebrews is speaking of the condition of the heads and leaders of the faithful Israelites in general; who certainly had not the promise of the Gospel revealed unto them. St. Paul, in his speech to the Synagogue, is speaking particularly of their father ABRAHAM: as appears from his introductory address, Men and Brethren, Children of the stock of Abraham ; § and Abraham certainly had the promise of the Gospel revealed unto him, as appears from the words of Jesus himself. Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day; and he saw it, and was glad. He saw the resurrection of Jesus in the restoration of his son Isaac. But of this more hereafter. And to this solution, the Author of the Epistle to the Hebrews himself directs us, who, though he had said that the holy men in general received not the promise, yet when he reckons up the distinct effects of each particular man's faith, he expressly says, who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, OBTAINED PROMISES, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, &c. That is, some like David, through faith, subdued kingdoms; others, like Samuel, wrought righteousness; others, like Abraham, OBTAINED PROMISES; others, as Daniel, stopped the mouths of lions; and others, again, as his three companions, quenched the violence of fire. From whence I would infer these two conclusions:
1. That as the promise here said to be obtained, doth not contradict what the same Writer says presently after, that the faithful Israelites in general received not the promise; and as the promise, said by St. Paul to be made to the fathers, means the same thing with the PROMISES said, by the Writer of the epistle to the Hebrews, to be
† Heb. xi. 39.
Acts xiii. 32, 33.
§ Verse 26
• 2 Macc. vii. 36. Heb. xi. 33, 34.
OBTAINED, namely, the promises made to Abraham, who saw CHRIST'S day, and the oath sworn to David, that of the fruit of his loins he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; consequently, neither do the words of St. Paul contradict the Writer of the epistle to the Hebrews, where he says, these all received not the promise. 2. As these gospel Promises are said to be obtained by faith, it follows that the FAITH mentioned in this famous eleventh chapter to the Hebrews, could not be faith in the Messiah: because the promises of a Messiah are here said to be the consequence of faith; but faith in the Messiah is the consequence of the promises of a Messiah: For how could they believe in him of whom they had not heard? From whence it appears, that the FAITH so much extolled in this chapter was faith in God's veracity, according to the interpretation given above.
This is all, as far as I can learn, that hath been objected to my Proposition; and this all is such a confirmation of it, that I am in pain lest the reader should think I have prevaricated, and drawn out the strongest Texts in the New Testament to support my Opinion, under the name of a Confutation of it. But I have fairly given them as I found them urged: and to shew that I am no less severe, though a little more candid, to my own notions, than my Answerers are, I shall produce an objection which occurred to me in reading St. Paul's epistles of more real moment than their whole bundle of Texts weighed together. It is this:
The learned Apostle, in his reasoning against the Jews, argues upon a supposition, that "By the Law they had eternal life offered to them or laid before them, on condition of their exact performance of the Commandment; but that all coming short of perfect obedience, there was a necessity of recurring to FAITH."-For what the Law could not do (says he) in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin condemned sin in the flesh that the righteousness of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit.†
This general Argument, which runs through the epistles to the Romans and Galatians, wears indeed the face of an Objection to what I have advanced but to understand the true value of it, we must consider the Apostle's end and purpose in writing. It was to rectify an error in the Jewish Converts, who would lay a necessity upon all men of conforming to the Law of Moses. As strangely superstitious as this may now appear to us, it seems to have been a very natural consequence of opinions then held by the whole Jewish Nation, as doctrines of Moses and of the Law; namely a future state of Rewards
• Acts ii, 30.
Rom. viii. 3, 4.
and Punishments, and the resurrection of the Body. Now these Doctrines, which easily disposed the less prejudiced part of the Jews to receive the Gospel, where they were taught more directly and explicitly, at the same time gave them wrong notions both of the Religion of Moses and of JESUS: Which, by the way, I desire those, who so much contend for a future state's being in the Mosaic Dispensation, to take notice of. Their wrong notion of the Law consisted in this, that having taken for granted, that the reward of obedience proposed by Moses was Immortality, and that this immortality could be obtained only by the works of the Law, therefore those works were, of necessity, to be observed. Their wrong notion of the GOSPEL consisted in this, that as Immortality was attached to Works by the Law, so it must needs be attached to Works by the Gospel also.
These were fatal mistakes. We have seen in our explanation of the eleventh chapter to the Hebrews how the Apostles combated the last of them, namely Justification by Works. The shewing now in what manner St. Paul opposed the other, of obligation to the Law, will explain the reasoning in question. Their opinion of obligation to the Law of Moses, was, as we say, founded on this principle, that it taught a future state, or offered immortality to its followers. The case was nice and delicate, and the confutation of the error required much address. What should our Apostle do? Should he in direct terms deny a future state was to be found in the Law? This would have shocked a general tradition supported by a national belief. Should he have owned that life and immortality came by the Law? This had not only fixed them in their error, but, what was worse, had tended to subvert the whole Gospel of JESUs. He has recourse therefore to this admirable expedient: The later Jews, in support of their national Doctrine of a future state, had given a spiritual sense to the Law. And this, which they did out of necessity, with little apparent grounds of conclusion then to be discovered, was seen, after the coming of the Messiah, to have the highest reasonableness and truth. Thus we find there were two spiritual senses, the one spurious, invented by the later Doctors of the Law; the other genuine, discovered by the Preachers of the Gospel; and these coinciding well enough in the main, St. Paul was enabled to seize a spiritual sense, and from thence to argue on their own principles, that the Law of Moses could not now oblige; which he does in this irresistible manner. "The Law," says he, "we know is spiritual; that is, in a spiritual sense promises immortality: for it says, Do this and live.† Therefore he who does the deeds of the Law shall live. But what then? I am carnal: § And all have sinned, and come short of the
† Lev. xviii. 5. Gal. iii. 12.
↑ Rom. x. 5.
• Rom. vii. 14. vii. 14.