« PreviousContinue »
people, over Jordan; and was now ordered by God, to encompass Jericho, the city of palm-trees, for seven days, without any engines of war; but simply the priests carrying the Ark of God, and blowing rams' horns, as a summons for a surrender. Did this servant of the Lord doubt, or ridicule the expedient? No. He had faith. And on the seventh day, as he shouted, and the horns blew, the walls of Jericho fell flat, the chosen people entered, and the city was sacked.
Next, comes up the pattern of Rahab, a Woman, to illustrate the grace of faith. Although Rahab had been a harlot, and consequently a great sinner, in her former life, at Jericho; yet she repented, and testified her faith in the true God, when she heard of his miracles. And what did Rahab? She hid the two spies sent by Joshua in the stalks of flax, in her house roof, and let them down by a cord through the window, and thereby risked her life. And afterwards, as a reward for this service, by placing a line of scarlet thread in her window for a sign, as was agreed on, she was saved, with her father and mother, and relatives, and their possessions, at the sacking and burning of the city; when all the unbelieving inhabitants were destroyed. Thus was Rahab justified by her works of faith. And thus is the reward of faith confined to neither sex.
Last, come forward the Judges, Prophets, and Kings, who have been illustrious, some for their active, and others for their passive virtues; and thus given evidence of their saving faith. And because it had been tedious to introduce them singly, and by specification, Saint Paul collects them together, men and women, into one group. Then, in a strain of noble eloquence, for Saint Paul was very eloquent oftentimes, he celebrates their fortitude, their victories, and their rewards, all obtained through the influence of their faith.
And what shall I more say? he asks. Why bring more examples of the power and efficacy of faith? For the time would fail me, to tell of Gideon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel,
and of the prophets; who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again; and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection. And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover, of bonds and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword; they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; of whom the world was not worthy; they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.
All this noble line of the Elders; of patriarchs, of kings, of prophets, of judges, and of saints; although they had obtained a good report, the just approbation of man, and of God; Saint Paul concludes by saying, had not yet received the promised reward of their faith. And why? Because God, having provided some better thing, even the Gospel, for us; resolved that the ancient Saints, however happy they may now be, should not be made perfect without us. But that all, both they and we, should receive the fulness of the spiritual promise, and enter the heavenly Canaan, in hand together, after the resurrection of the body, and the general Judgment.
This admirable, and consolatory Address of Saint Paul was particularly designed for the Hebrews. But it is equally valuable, and was doubtless intended, for the edification of the whole fallen world.
1. We learn, by what is declared of Abel, and Enoch, and Noah, that justification by faith is not a new doctrine, but is as old as the beginning of the world.
2. We learn, that the ancient patriarchs believed the promise of the earthly, only as a type and pledge of the heavenly Canaan; and that they therefore believed in the
resurrection of the dead, and an immortal happiness; although their views were, in comparison with ours, dim and shadowy; because life and immortality were not then so clearly brought to light, as they now are, by the Gospel.
3. We are taught, that faith is not only historical or speculative; not a rise of the intellect merely, but of the affections. That christian faith is an active principle, which leads to the utmost perseverance in doing, and fortitude in suffering, every thing which God has commanded. And that, Faith without works is dead.
4. We learn, that justification by faith was not intended for any particular time, or nation, but for all ages, and all countries; even for those, who, being unblest with a Revelation, apply reason and conscience to discover and obey the will of God. For, The just shall live by faith.
5. And now, if we would hold that faith, which is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen, let us follow the footsteps of the Ancient Worthies; of righteous Abel; and Enoch, who walked with God; and Noah, the father of the second world; and Abraham, the father of the faithful, who withheld not his only son; and Joseph, who would not do that great wickedness, and sin against God; and Moses, who persevered as seeing Him, who is invisible; and all the rest, who lived and died in faith; and whose faith, and ours, will then soon, when the last trump shall sound, be turned into one general, united, and harmonious fruition. For, without faith, it is impossible to please God,
THE STORY OF RUTH.
Ruth i, 16. THY PEOPLE SHALL BE MY PEOPLE, AND
THY GOD MY GOD.
TO SHOW the watchful eye, and controlling hand, of Providence, over even the minutest concerns of domestic life; and the unfailing reward of humble affection and piety; I will relate to you that very beautiful Pastoral, the simple and endearing Story of Ruth.
In the days of the Judges, a very long time ago, in order to escape from a famine that was in their own land, a certain man named Elimelech, with Naomi his wife, and his two sons, Mahlon and Chilion, removed from a city in Canaan into the country of Moab, where he probably thought he could live at a less expense; but where, perhaps for distrusting the Providence of God, he soon died. Indeed, it was evident he had done wrong, for he appears to have been a person of property, and therefore not likely to suffer for any of the supports of life; and he forsook the people and ordinances of the true God, to dwell in an idolatrous country. Naomi was now left a widow. But her two sons, Mahlon and Chilion, soon after the death of their father, as it seems, married two young maidens in Moab, one named Orpah, and the other Ruth. Here was another evil of Elimelech's leaving Canaan for Moab; that his two sons married and settled among idolaters. But the pious Naomi, who was so soon
widowed of her husband in a strange land, was yet to suffer another affliction; for in less than ten years, both of her sons, Mahlon and Chilion, who were perhaps of a weakly constitution, as their names indicate, died also, and died childless. Now Naomi, who perhaps had gone to Moab out of duty to her husband, and afterwards continued out of affection to her children, being bereaved both of her husband, and of her two sons; and having heard that the Lord had again visited the land of her nativity with plenty, communed with her two daughters-inlaw, Orpah and Ruth, about leaving Moab, and returning to the city in Canaan, and they started on their way. As they were leaving Moab, the birthplace of her daughters-in-law, and the residence of their relations, Naomi, who tenderly loved her sons' wives, as they also greatly loved her, but who had now no worldly inducements to encourage them to go with her, said unto Orpah and Ruth: Go, return each to her mother's house; the Lord deal kindly with you, as ye have dealt with the dead, and with me. The Lord grant you that ye may find rest, each of you in the house of her husband. Then she kissed them; and they lifted up their voice, and wept. And they said unto her, Surely we will return with thee unto thy people. Now it was the custom in these lands, and in early times, that the surviving brother should marry the widow of the deceased, if she were left childless. And Naomi, who had no more sons, replied to Orpah and Ruth, Turn again, my daughters; why will ye go with me? are there yet any more sons with me, that they may be your husbands? Turn again, my daughters, go your way; for it grieveth me much for your sakes, that the hand of the Lord is gone out against me. And they lifted up their voice, and wept again. And Orpah, being unprepared to renounce all her worldly prospects for the sake of religion, kissed her mother-in-law, and returned back to her country, her relations, and her gods. But Ruth clave unto her mother-in-law. And Naomi, who was doubtless glad that Ruth remained with her, but who wished further to try her sincerity, said unto her: Behold, thy sister-in-law is gone back unto her people, and unto her gods: return thou after thy sister-in-law. But the