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He then passes on, from the more dormant, inoperative faith, to the active, influential faith of man. And first he instances this noble grace among the earliest living men, the patriarchs of mankind.
First, he brings Abel. And what was the faith of Abel? This youthful martyr believed the promise, that in due time the Seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head. And, acting on that faith, he offered a humble, penitent, confiding heart to God, together with the firstlings of his flock; which humble heart, his proud, rebellious brother did not bring, with his offering of the fruits of the earth. Cain haughtily brought a mere thanksgiving offering. But his pious brother brought the innocent animals, to be slain upon the altar, as typical of the sacrifice of the Lamb of God for sin. Thus God, probably by sending fire from heaven to consume it, had respect unto the offering of Abel, but not unto that of Cain.
Next, he brings Enoch; called the seventh from Adam, because there were two of the same name before him. And what was the faith of Enoch? His biography is a short, but a glorious one. His strong faith caused him to live in such a continued course of piety, singular virtue, and sense of the divine presence, that it is testified by Moses, that he walked with God; a most expressive eulogy, in three words. And in reward for this faith, and because he pleased God, he was early taken from this earth of sin, up into heaven, without death. He was not; his friends could not find him; for God had taken him. Thus, in like manner, was good Elijah afterwards transated alive into heaven. Their bodies were probably changed in a twinkling, as the bodies of the righteous will be at the resurrection.
Next, he brings Noah; the last of the old world. And how did Noah show his faith? When he was warned by God, that he would destroy the earth by a Deluge; and was commanded to build an Ark to save himself and family, he did not doubt, nor hesitate; but although he had never seen, nor heard of, such a deluge, he was seized
with a confiding fear; and notwithstanding the taunting and deriding people, he went on and built the ark. As God commanded, so did he. By this, he condemned the wicked world, to whom he was a preacher of righteousness for a hundred and twenty years, while the ark was building; and thereby became a subject of that eternal deliverance, of which his temporal deliverance was the pledge and type. The world without faith, and without repentance, was drowned. But he, upheld by the finger of God, floated upon the face of the waters, and was safe. So will the good be safe in the midst of a dissolving world, while the wicked will be destroyed.
Next, comes Abraham; the father of the faithful. Do you ask the evidences of his faith? They are many-fold. First, when God said, Up, Get thee out of thy country; leave thy home and thy kindred; travel away from Chaldea to Canaan, into a land which I will there tell thee of; and which thou shalt afterwards receive as an inheritance; he staggered not, for he accounted him faithful that had promised. He went out, not knowing whither he went; not knowing whether he was going to a good, or a bad country. Again, by faith that Canaan was only typical to him, and to his seed, of a spiritual Canaan, Abraham sojourned as in a strange land, dwelling in frail and moveable tabernacles, and buying no ground except a burial place. For he looked for a city, even the New Jerusalem, which hath immortal foundations, and whose builder and governor is God. This should teach Christians to be willing to leave this world at God's call, although ignorant of the world to which they are going; believing it to be the country whose inheritance is prepared by God for the faithful.
Through faith also, Sarah, although she at first laughed incredulously behind the tent door, when she thought the angel was a man who promised, received strength to bear unto Abraham a son, when she was past age, being ninety years old, because she judged him true who had predicted. And therefore there sprang to Abraham from one, and she as good as dead, a progeny like the stars of heaven in multitude, and as the sand by the seashore in
numerable. Sarah through belief became, as had been foretold, the mother of nations.
But another, and most severe trial, was reserved for faithful Abraham. He was called to offer up as a sacrifice to God, his son, his only son, Isaac, the child of promise; and even to slay him with his own hand. This startling command must have been not only excruciating to his feelings, but have appeared even contradictory to the word of God himself. For, in Isaac, it had been said, that his seed should be as the stars of the sky, and that they should inherit Canaan. But does Abraham refuse, or relent? No. His faith in God sustains him in the trying hour. He bound Isaac, he laid him upon the altar on Mount Moriah, he stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son, his only son by Sarah. And why? He knew that God could raise him up even from the dead; could re-animate and re-call him dead, even from the ashes upon the altar; from which, indeed, he did, as it were, receive him; in order that he might be a type of the sacrifice and resurrection of the future Messiah. If Abraham was willing to give up his only son, how much more ready should we be, to give up our beloved relations and friends, when God calls them away by death.
Next, as an example of faith, is brought forward Isaac; the spared son of Abraham. By faith in the divine revelations, the patriarch Isaac foretold to Jacob and Esau, his two sons, the blessings which were in reserve for them, and for their posterity. And when he had, through the maternal artifice of the son, given Jacob the principal blessing, instead of Esau the firstborn, and prophesied that the elder should serve the younger; although he trembled very exceedingly, yet believing that the mistake, for some wise but inscrutable reason, was ordained of God d; and that Jacob, the younger twin, should become the root of his visible church; he had faith to confirm his benediction upon Jacob, notwithstanding Esau besought him with tears I have blessed him, said the aged Isaac, yea, and he shall be blessed.
Next, comes Jacob; the father of the twelve tribes. By a like exercise of faith, Jacob, when he was dying, that is, was near his death, gave his prophetic blessing to his two grandsons, the sons of Joseph; and foretold that two tribes should spring from these two sons; and that the tribe of Ephraim, although the younger born, should be more powerful than the tribe of Manasseh. And then, in token of his faith in the verity of God concerning the promised Canaan, the good old man, being sick and feeble, worshipped God, leaning upon the top of his staff.
All these Patriarchs died, without receiving the promised country; confessing themselves but strangers and pilgrims on the earth; and thus declaring that they looked for a better country, even an heavenly; and consequently, that they expected to be raised from the dead, to enjoy that better country. Such, and so prevailing, was their faith.
Next, comes Joseph; the favourite and lost son of Jacob; who, in his youth, was sold by fraternal envy, and carried captive into Egypt. And what was his faith? It was so strong, that when he was ending his life, he mentioned it, as a thing certain because God had promised to give Canaan to his great grandfather Abraham, and to his posterity—that the children of Israel, or Jacob, should depart out of Egypt, where they had long been held in bondage. And therefore, he gave commandment that, when they went, they should carry with them his bones, and bury them in Canaan. And God's promise did not fail; the people were to go, and his bones were to be carried up.
Next, is brought forward the champion Moses; the Jewish Deliverer and Lawgiver. By the faith of his parents, Moses, when he was born, was hid three months, before he was entrusted to the immediate providence of God, in an ark of bulrushes, among the flags by the river's brink; because they saw that he was a proper child and very beautiful; and presaged that he might be the one appointed to deliver them. And therefore, they were not afraid of the command of Pharaoh, who, to prevent
the rise of the expected deliverer, had ordered every male
And Moses himself, by faith in the promises of God, made known to him probably by his Jewish brethren, when he was grown resolved to join himself unto his own people, refusing any longer to be called the son of the princess-daughter, who had found him in the river flags, and humanely adopted and educated him. He choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of the true God, than, as the son of the king's daughter, to enjoy the temporary pleasures of the idolatrous court of Egypt. And esteeming the scoffs thrown upon the Israelites for expecting the Messiah to arise from them, greater riches than the courtly treasures; for he looked away from them, far and forward, to a future reward.
By faith, Moses, having first proved the miraculous power of his God, above the Egyptian gods, by many signs, and especially by staying the hand of the destroying angel, who passed by the blood-besprinkled doorposts, and spared the Israelitish, while he slew the Egyptian firstborn; and believing that God would deliver his oppressed brethren from their foreign task-masters; he left Egypt. By faith, he led on, as the captain of his nation, not fearing the wrath of the enraged Pharaoh, and his hosts; for he endured and persevered, not as one who looked to their visible gods, but as one who looked upward, and could see the invisible God.
And thus, by his unshaken faith in the interposition of God, Moses led his confiding people through the divided waters of the Red Sea, as on dry land; while the rushing chariots of the impious, pursuing Pharaoh, and his hosts, were overwhelmed by the closing walls of the sea. So shall all those triumph, who trust in God..
Next, comes Joshua; the able successor to the great Moses, in conducting the Israelitish army to the promised land. Do you ask the example given of his faith? Moses had viewed the promised land at a distance from Mount Nebo; and there died, and was not found, for God buried him. But Joshua had led onward the chosen