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may be, one thing is certain—his example reproves our unbelief. But for his undoubting and undeviating faith, we should neither have so clearly seen the danger of unbelief, nor so deeply felt the desirableness of “like precious faith.” His example has, therefore, been instructive to us. In its calm and holy light, we discern something of the beauty and blessedness of reposing the soul on the promises of God. Accordingly, what should we not give, to be able, like him, “not to stagger at the promises ?" We could almost submit to his pilgrimages, if we might be partakers of his faith.
His example has, then, been both instructive and influential to us. Is not this some sign that it may
also be imitated by us? Why should it not ? For if, by its own native beauty and force, it has won our admiration, without much study on our part ; might not a closer study of it win our imitation too? The experiment is certainly worth trying. One thing is sure—we cannot displease God, by studying an example which He has made so prominent, and marked so distinctly with His approbation. Indeed, it is impossible to assign or conceive any sufficient reason for the great publicity He has given to the faith of faithful Abraham, if it be not held up to encourage imitation. It certainly answers a good purpose, merely as a protest against unbelief: but that cannot be its chief purpose, in a Bible abounding with protests so much more solemn and pointed. Besides ; his spirit, in relation to the subject of faith, bears so much greater a resemblance to the mild cherubim of glory on the mercy-seat, than to the armed cherubim which guarded the tree of life, that, like the former, he seems to invite and invoke general imitation. For there is nothing in the aspect of Abraham's character, to intimidate or discourage. It is altogether and exquisitely in harmony with his place, as the father of the faithful ; and seems equally designed and adapted “ to raise up children unto Abraham.”
It was of the “stones," of the wilderness, John said, “ God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham :" and, therefore, stony as our hearts are, (and, alas, at times, they seem harder than the nether mill-stone,) they are not beyond the power of God to soften or sanctify. And as they are thus within the reach of His power, we ought not to think them without the reach of his good will. Indeed, we have no more reason to reckon our salvation improbable, than to reckon it impossible. God is just as likely to be perfectly willing to save us, as He is perfectly able. All our real knowledge of His saving power is derived from His Word; and as that Word says expressly, that He is “not willing that any should perish," and as God confirms this by His solemn oath, that " He hath no pleasure in the death of a sinner,” we have exactly the same divine warrant for believing His good will, as for believing His great power.
There is, indeed, a class of apostate adversaries, described by Paul, whose repentance is declared to be “impossible," and whose doom is, “a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation” but our guilt, whatever be its aggravations, is not, and could not be, like their apostacy. They were wilful, spiteful, wanton, malignant, and reckless blasphemers of both the Saviour and the Sanctifier; and that, too, after they had received "the knowledge of the truth,” and after they had been "made partakers of the Holy Ghost:" whereas, we never had such supernatural light or gifts to sin against. Besides, Paul tells us plainly why it was impossible to renew them again unto repentance: they followed up their apostacy, by crucifying to themselves the Son of God afresh, and by putting Him to open shame : most likely, by crucifying Him in effigy before the rabble of Jerusalem ; and certainly, by publicly reacting, in words, gestures, and spirit, all the shameful outrages and indignities of the actual crucifixion. Thus they trod under foot the Son of God; or showed to the mob how they would have trampled on Him, had He been present.
It is needless to say, that we have done nothing of this
kind. We can hardly bear to hear of such horrid conduct : a plain proof, that we are not identified in the guilt nor the doom of these desperate apostates. Indeed, we might just as well suspect that we are devils, and not men, as suspect ourselves of the apostacy described and denounced by Paul. We have no more sinned like them on earth, than we fell with Satan and his angels from heaven.
I both dislike and dread, as much as you can, all attempts to sooth my fears by softening my guilt. We have, alas, almost trodden under foot some of the laws of the Son of God: but, not in order to hold up to public contempt, his cross or character. We have, alas, done despite to the Spirit of grace: but not from sheer malignity, nor by deliberate or spiteful blasphemy. We have, alas, counted the blood of the covenant almost an unnecessary thing : but never an “ unholy thing." Oh, no, no! far as we have fallen, and deeply as we have sunk, in sin and insensibility, we never, wilfully, cursed the persons or the character of the Godhead. Nothing pains us more than the presence of a thought, which even borders on blasphemy. It is never welcomed nor invited. Indeed, Noah was not more glad when the dark and stormy waters of the deluge left his ark at rest, than we are when dark and daring thoughts cease to haunt our minds. When they depart, we could almost apply to ourselves, the language of the Evangelist, concerning the Saviour's temptation in the wilderness, " then the devil leaveth him; and behold angels came and ministered unto him ;" we are so thankful when our temptation subsides. And even when it is at its height, there is always one thing which Satan cannot do, either by his strength or stratagem :-he is never able to attach or reconcile us to blasphemous and unholy thoughts; but the more they haunt us, the more we hate them.
Thus, there is certainly no such apostacy in our case, as should discourage us from studying the faith of Abraham, or from trying to invitate it: one thing is sure—we have no inclination to imitate the unbelief of the apostate adver
saries. We would try any thing, rather than copy them. Besides, we really wish to be “the children of faithful Abraham.” Next to our desire to be “carried by angels into Abraham's bosom” when we die, is our desire to have Abraham's faith in our own bosom whilst we live. We feel as if we could open our hearts to welcome the gift of his faith, as willingly as he opened his arms to welcome Lazarus, when the angels brought him into heaven.
Well; Abraham's faith came to him, just in the same way that all faith comes, which is the gift of God: it came “by hearing the Word of God.” Did you never mark this interesting fact? God did not first bestow the gift of faith on Abraham, and then preach the gospel unto him: did not first implant the principle of faith in his heart, and then present the object of faith to his understanding. No; he first preached the gospel to Abraham; and by it both created and won his faith, both gave and gained his faith.
Consider the facts of the case. If Abraham was not altogether an idolater, while he dwelt in Mesopotamia, he was very little better. Certainly, he had nothing about him to recommend him to God, nor was he less a child of wrath than others, by nature. It was not before, but long after, His first appearance to him, that the Lord said of him, “ I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, to do justice and judgment.” This was the character Abraham acquired by believing; not the character he had when the word of God first came to him. Indeed, he had no religious character nor any of the forms of true religion when the God of Glory appeared to him in Mesopotamia. He did not, however, allow his sense of guilt or unworthiness, to divert his attention from what was then showed and said to him, as a sinner. Both the voice and the vision reminded him, no doubt, of his former guilt and folly, and could not fail to humble him deeply before God: but he did not abandon himself to hopeless humility, nor .to jealous fear. He did not start objections, where God had made none; but, evidently, judged thus
that as God had condescended to bring the gospel before him, notwithstanding all his past guilt and present unworthiness, not to listen or not to believe, could only increase both. They had not prevented God from preaching the gospel unto Abraham, and, therefore, Abraham did not allow them to prevent him from believing it. It was with the full knowledge and in the face of all that he had been as a sinner, that God revealed to him the Saviour ; and, therefore, in the face of it all he humbly and thankfully embraced the promise.
Now, was this conduct wise? Would it not have been equally unwise and ungrateful, to have cherished suspicions or doubts, whilst God suggested no obstacles? Well, it is thus the gospel comes before us, unencumbered and unclouded with even one hint about hinderances or risks. It invites, yea invokes our personal confidence; and warns us only against rejecting or abusing its free grace. Its appeals proceed upon no fear of its being believed too readily, or too widely, or too fondly; but all on the fear of unbelief. The gospel singles out no class, nor any individual unto “ the wrath of the Lamb,” but for despising or distrusting " the blood of the Lamb." And the Saviour's final appeal to all such is—“Ye will not come unto me that ye might have life.” To not one does He say or insinuate “ye could not or should not, come unto me."
This is the glorious gospel of the blessed God! It does not, indeed, come before us so personally as it was preached to Abraham : but neither does it appeal to us accidentally, nor without a personal design. O, it is not by accident, that we were born under its golden and glowing candlestick. It is not by accident, that we have seen the value of the great salvation, and felt our need of it. Had we been born in Mesopotamia, and there discovered our guilt and danger as sinners ; and had we, whilst alarmed by that discovery, been brought here, and brought under a faithful ministry of the gospel, we should not have thought that happy removal an accident, however we had been removed as to means.