Sermon 868. Mature Faith-Illustrated By Abraham's Offering Up Isaac
Delivered on Lord's-day Morning, MAY 2, 1869, by
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington
"And He said, Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and get you into the land of Moriah; and offer him therefor a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell you of."- Genesis 22:2.
I DO not intend to enter into this narrative in its bearing upon our Lord, although we have here one of the most famous typesof the Only-Begotten, whom the Great Father offered up for the sins of His people. Perhaps that may be the subject this evening.But as I have, in the recollection of some of you, already given you three sermons upon the life of Abraham, [See MetropolitanTabernacle Pulpit-Volume 14-Nos. 843, 844, 845-"Effectual Calling-Illustrated by the Call of Abram" "Justification by Faith-Illustratedby Abram's Righteousness." "Consecration to God-Illustrated by Abraham's Circumcision."] illustrating his effectual calling,his justification and his consecration to the Lord, we will now complete the series by dwelling upon the triumph of Abraham'sfaith when his spiritual life had come to the highest point of maturity.
Opening your Bibles at this chapter, you will please observe the time when God tried Abraham with the severest of his manyordeals. It was "after these things," that is to say, after nine great trials, each of them most searching and remarkable.After he had passed through a great flight of affliction and had through the process been strengthened and sanctified, hewas called to endure a still sterner test. From which fact it is well to learn that God does not put heavy burdens upon weakshoulders and He does not allot ordeals fit only for full-grown men to those who are but babes. He educates our faith, testingit by trials which increase little by little in proportion as our faith has increased.
He only expects us to do man's work and to endure man's afflictions when we have passed through the childhood state and havearrived at the stature of men in Christ Jesus. Expect then, Beloved, your trials to multiply as you proceed towards Heaven!Do not think that as you grow in Divine Grace the path will become smoother beneath your feet and the heavens serener aboveyour heads. On the contrary, reckon that as God gives you greater skill as a soldier, He will send you upon more arduous enterprises.And as He more fully fits your boat to brave the tempest and the storm, so will He send you out upon more boisterous seasand upon longer voyages, that you may honor Him and still further increase in holy confidence.
You would have thought that Abraham had now come to the land Beulah, that in his old age, after the birth of Isaac and especiallyafter the expulsion of Ishmael, he would have had a time of perfect rest. Let this warn us that we are never to reckon uponrest from tribulation this side of the grave. No, the trumpet still sounds the note of war. You may not yet sit down and bindthe wreath of victory about your brow-no garlands of laurel and songs of victory for you, yet-you have still to wear the helmetand bear the sword. You must still watch and pray, and fight, expecting that, perhaps, your last battle will be the worstand that the fiercest charge of the foe may be reserved for the end of the day.
Having thus observed the time when God was pleased to try the great pattern of Believers, we shall now look at the trial itself.We shall next see Abraham's behavior under it, and shall, in conclusion, spend a little time in noting the reward which cameto him as the result of his endurance.
I. And first, THE TRIAL ITSELF. Every syllable of the text is significant. If George Herbert were speaking of it, he wouldsay the words are all a case of knives cutting at Abraham's soul. There is scarcely a single syllable of God's address tohim, in the opening of this trial, but seems intended to pierce the Patriarch to the quick. Look. "Take now your son." What?A father slay his son! Was there nothing in Abraham's tent that God would have but his son? He would cheerfully
have given Him sacrifices of bullocks and flocks of sheep! All the silver and the gold he possessed he would have lavishedfrom the bag with eager cheerfulness!
Will nothing content the Lord but Abraham's son? If one must be offered of humankind, why not Eliezer of Damascus, the stewardof his house? Must it be his son? How this tugs at the father's heartstrings! His son, the offspring of his own loins, mustbe made a burnt offering! Will not God be content with any proof of his obedience but the surrender of the fruit of his body?The word only is made particularly emphatic by the fact that Ishmael had been exiled at the command of God. Very much to Abraham'sgrief Hagar's child had been driven out. "Cast out this bondwoman and her son: for the son of this bondwoman shall not beheir with my son, even with Isaac." So said Sarah-and God bade the Patriarch regard the voice of his wife, so that now Isaacwas his only son.
If Isaac shall die, there is no other descendant left and no probabilities of any other to succeed him. The light of Abrahamwill be quenched and his name forgotten. Sarah is very old, as he himself is also-no infant's cry will again gladden the tent-andIsaac is his only son, a lone star of the night, the only son, the lamp of his father's old age. Nor is that all-"Your onlyson, Isaac." What a multitude of memories that word, "Isaac," awoke in Abraham's mind! This was the child of promise, of apromise graciously given, of a promise, the fulfillment of which was anxiously expected, but long, long, long delayed.
Isaac, who had made his parents' hearts to laugh-the child of the Covenant-the child in whom the father's hopes all centered,for he had been assured, "In Isaac shall your seed be called." What? After all must the gift of God be retracted? Must theCovenant of God be nullified, and the channel of the promised blessings be dried up forever? Oh, trial of trials! "Your son.""Your only son." "Your only son, Isaac." And it was added, "whom you love." Must he be reminded of his love to his heir atthe very time when he is to lose him? Oh, stern word that seems to have no heart of compassion in it! Was it not enough totake away the loved one, without at the same instant awakening the affections which were so rudely to be shocked?
Isaac was very rightly beloved of his father, for in addition to the ties of nature and his being the gift of God's DivineGrace, Isaac's character was most lovely. His behavior on the occasion of his sacrifice proves that in his spirit there wasan abundance of humility, obedience, resignation and gentleness-indeed, of everything which can make up the beauty of holiness!And such a character was quite sure to have won the admiration of his father, Abraham, whose spiritual eyes were well qualifiedto discern the excellences which shone in his beloved son. Ah, why must Isaac die? And die, too, by his father's hand! Oh,trial of trials!
Contemplative imagination and sympathetic emotion can better depict the father's grief than any words which it is in my powerto use. I cast a veil where I cannot paint a picture! But note, not only was this tender father to lose the best of sons,but he was to lose him in the direst way. He must be sacrificed-he must be sacrificed by the father himself! If the Lord hadsaid, "Speak with Eliezer and charge him to offer up your son," it would have softened the trial. But so far as Abraham couldunderstand the command, it seemed to say, you Abraham, you must be the priest. Your own hand must grasp the sacrificial knifeand you must stand there with breaking heart to drive the knife into the breast of your son and see him consumed, even toashes, upon the altar.
All this appeared to him to be involved in God's word, although the Lord meant not so, but meant to accept the will for thedeed. Everything was designed to make the trial severe. The friend of God was tried in such a way as probably never fell tothe lot of man before or since. In addition to the sacrifice, Abraham was commanded to go to a mountain which God would showhim. It is easy, on the spur of the moment, and under the influence of sacred impulse, to hastily perform an heroic deed ofself-sacrifice. But it is not so easy for men of passions, such as ours, to deliberate over the sacrifices demanded of us.
But Abraham must have three days to chew this bitter pill which was, indeed, hard enough, merely, to swallow and all the moreunpalatable when a man is made to learn in detail the wormwood and the gall-he must journey on with that dear son before hiseyes all day-listening to that voice so soon to be silent and gazing into those bright eyes so soon to swim with tears andto be dimmed in death. Abraham would have to remember in him his mother's joy and his own delight, and all the while meditatingupon that fatal stroke which, so far as he knew, God required of him. Oh, this laying siege to us by long and careful barricadeis that which tries us! A sharp assault we might far better bear!
To be burnt to death quickly upon the blazing firewood is comparatively an easy martyrdom. But to hang in chains roastingat a slow fire-to have the heart, hour by hour, pressed as in a vice-this it is that which tries faith! And this it was thatAbraham endured through three long days! Only faith, mighty faith, could have assisted him to look in the face the grim trialwhich now assailed him. The Patriarch was, no doubt, moved and tried and exercised not merely by the words which God pronouncedin his hearing, but by natural and painful suggestions which, however readily they may have been disposed of, were, it wouldappear to us, certain to arise.
He might have said, "I am called upon to perform an act which violates every instinct of my nature, I am to offer up my child!Horrible! Murderous! I am to burn my slaughtered child as a religious act-terrible, barbarous, detestable! I am, myself, tooffer him upon the altar deliberately. How can I do it? How can God ask me to do that which tears up by the roots every oneof the affections which He Himself has implanted-which runs counter to the whole of my noblest humanity? How can I do this?"
Brothers and Sisters, coming home to ourselves and trying to make a personal application of this, we may be called by theWord of God to acts of obedience which may seem to us to do violence to all our natural affections. Christians are sometimescommanded to come out from the world by decided acts which provoke the hatred of those who are nearest and dearest. Now, ifthey love God, they will not love father nor mother, nor husband, nor brother, nor sister in comparison with Him. And thoughChristians will ever be among the most tender-hearted of men, they will count their allegiance to God to be such that theymust give up all for His sake, and deny every natural affection sooner than violate the Divine Law.
Perhaps today you are suffering under an affliction which is grieving all the powers of your nature. Perhaps the Lord hasbeen pleased to take away from you one dearer than life-for whom you could have been well content to die. Oh, learn with Abrahamto kiss the rod! Let not Isaac stand before God! Let Isaac be dear, but let Isaac die sooner than God should be distrusted!Bow your head and say, "Take what You will, my God. Slay me, or take all I have, but I will still bless Your holy name." Thiswas a main part of Abraham's trial-that it appeared to crush rudely all the tender outgrowths of the heart. And it may havesuggested itself to Abraham that he would in this way, by the slaughter of his son, be rendering all the promises of God futile.
A very severe trial, that, for in proportion as a man believes the promise and values it, will be his fear to do anythingwhich might render it of no effect. Brethren, there are times with us when we are called to a course of action which looksas though it would jeopardize our highest hopes. A Christian man is sometimes bound by duty to perform an action which, toall appearances, will destroy his future usefulness. I have often heard men urge, as a plea for remaining in a corrupt Church,that they would lose the influence they had obtained in its midst by reason of their position if they followed their conscienceand were true to God. But they are bound to lose all their supposed influence and renounce their apparent vantage ground soonerthan commit the least trespass upon their conscience! As much bound to do so as Abraham was bound to offer up Isaac-in whomall the promises of God were centered.
It is neither your business nor mine to fulfill God's promise, nor to do the least wrong to produce the greatest good. Todo evil that good may come is false morality and wicked policy! For us is duty-for God is the fulfillment of His own promiseand the preservation of our usefulness. Though He dash my reputation into shivers and cast my usefulness to the four winds,yet if duty calls me, I must not hesitate a single second-for in that hesitation I shall be disobedient to my God! At thebehest of God, Isaac must be offered though the heavens fall! And faith must answer all polite suggestions by the assurancethat what God ordains can never, in its ultimate issue, produce anything but good! Obedience can never endanger blessings,for commands are never in real conflict with promises-God can raise up Isaac and fulfill His own decree.
Further, Abraham may have felt-one would think must have felt-the thought that the death of Isaac was the destruction of allhis comfort. The tent shall be darkened for Sarah and the plain of Mamre barren as a wilderness for her lamenting heart. Alasfor the wretched parent who has lost the hope of his old age and the stay of his decrepitude! The sun grows black at noonand the moon is eclipsed in darkness if Isaac dies. Better that all calamities should have happened than this dear child betaken away! He must have felt thus, but it did not make him hesitate. Sometimes the course of duty may lie right over thedead body of our dearest comfort and our brightest hope. It may be our duty to do that which will involve a succession ofsorrows all but endless.
But you must do right come what may. If the Lord bids you, you must seek faith to do it, though from that moment never shouldanother joy make glad your heart until you are fully compensated for the loss of all by entering into the joy of your Lordat the last. It must also, I should think, have occurred to Abraham, though he did not let it weigh with him, that from thattime forth he would make himself many enemies. Many would distrust his character. Many would count him a perfect wretch-hewould find wherever he went that he was shunned as a murderer of his own child. How should he bear to meet Sarah again? "Whereis my son? Surely a bloody husband are you to me," she would say, with far greater truth than Zipporah to Moses.
How could he meet his servants again? How could he bear their looks which would say to him, "You have slain your son! Embracedour hands in the blood of your own offspring!" How could he face Abimelech and the Philistines? How would the wandering tribeswhich roamed about his tent all hear of this strange massacre and shudder at the thought of the monster who defiled the earthon which he trod! And yet observe the holy carelessness of this godlike man as to what might be thought or said of him. Whatmattered it to him? Let them count him a devil-let a universal hiss consign him to the lowest Hell of hatred and contempt-hereckons not of it. God's will must be done! God will take care of His servant's character, or if He does not, His servantmust suffer the consequences for his Lord's sake.
Abraham must obey! No second course is open to him. He will not think of disobedience. He knows that God is right and he mustdo God's will, come what may. This, mark you, is one of the most grand points about the faith of the father of the faithful-andif you and I shall be called to exhibit it, may we never be found lacking-but brave calumny and reproach with cheerfulness,through the power of the Holy Spirit.
How Luther's lips must at first have trembled when he ventured to say that the Pope was Antichrist! Why, Man, how can youdare to say such a thing? Millions bow down before him! He is the vicar of God on earth! Do they not worship our Lord Godthe Pope? "Yet he is Antichrist and a very devil," said Luther. And at first he must have felt his ears burn and his cheeksgrow red at such a piece of apparent wickedness. And when he found himself shunned by the ecclesiastics who once had courtedDoctor Martin Luther's company, think of what emptiness he must have felt!
And when he heard the common howl that went up-even from the refuse of mankind-that the monk was a drunkard and, inasmuchas he chose to marry a nun, was filled with lust and sold to Satan and I know not what beside, it must have been a grand thingwhen Luther could feel, "They may call me what they will, but I know that God has spoken unto my soul the great Truth thatman is to be saved by faith in Jesus Christ and not by ceremonies which the Pope ordains, nor the indulgences which he grants.And if my name is consigned to the limbo of the infernal, yet will I speak out the Truth of God which I know, and in God'sname I will not hold my tongue." We must be brought to this-to be willing to put aside the verdict of our times and of alltimes past or future and to stand alone, if need be, in the midst of a howling and infuriated world, to do honor to the commandof God which is the only necessity to us. It is imperative for us to obey, even though it should bring shame or death itself.
Here, then, was Abraham's faith made perfect, that, inasmuch as the outward circumstances were severe and the suggestionsarising out of the circumstances were peculiarly perplexing, he put aside both and dared the ills of all in order that hemight, without delay or objection, fulfill his Master's will to the full extent-firmly believing that no hurt would come ofit, but rather he, himself, should be more blessed and God more glorified.
II. We shall now notice THE PATRIARCH UNDER THE TRIAL. In Abraham's bearing during this test everything is delightful. Intrying to mention each detail, I fear that I may mar the effect of the whole. His obedience is a picture of all the virtuesin one, blended in marvelous harmony! It is not so much in one point that the great Patriarch excels as in the whole of hissacred deed.
First notice the submission of Abraham under this temptation. His submission, I say, because you will observe that there isno record kept of any answer which Abraham gave to God, verbally, or in any other form. I suppose, therefore, that there wasnone. Strange and startling command, "Take your only son and offer him for a burnt sacrifice!" But Abraham does not arguethe point. It is natural to expect that he should have said, "But, Lord, do You really mean it? Can a human sacrifice everbe acceptable to You? I know it cannot. You are love and kindness-can You take delight, therefore, in the blood of my dearson? It cannot be."
But there is not a word of argument! Not one solitary question that even looks like hesitation. "God is God," he seems tosay and it is not for me to ask Him why, or seek a reason for His bidding. He has said it. "I will do it." There
does not appear to have been a word of entreaty or prayer. Prayer against so dread a trial might not have been sinful. Ifthe man had been less a man it might have been not only natural, but right for him to say, "O my God, spare my child! Putme on some other trial, but not on this, so strange, so mysterious. My Lord, for Sarah's sake and for Your promise sake, testme not so."
I say that such a prayer as that might not have been sinful from an ordinary man. It might have been, perhaps, even virtuousand commendable-but from this grand soul there is no such prayer! He does not ask to escape. He does not pray to be deliveredwhen he once knows God's will. Much less is there the semblance of murmuring. The man goes about the whole business as ifhe had been only ordered to sacrifice a lamb ordinarily taken from the flock. There is a coolness of deliberation about itwhich does not prove that he was a stoic, but which does prove that he was gigantic in his faith! "Not staggering," says theApostle-and that is just the word.
You and I, if we had done right, would have done it in a staggering, hesitating manner-but Abraham-not a nerve quivers, nota muscle is paralyzed. He knows that God commands him and with awful sternness, and yet with childlike simplicity, he setsabout the sacrifice. The lesson I gather from this (and we may as well collect these lessons as we go, as gleaners who gatherthe ears as they walk down the furrows)-the lesson is this-when you know a duty, never pray to be excused but go and do itin God's name in the power of faith. If ever you clearly see your Master's will, do not begin to argue it or wait for betteropportunities and so on-do it at once!
I know not how much of joy and honor some of you may have missed by the evil habit of beating around the bush with your consciences.It is a very terrible thing to begin to let conscience grow hard, for it soon sears as with a hot iron. It is like the freezingof a pond. The first film of ice is scarcely perceptible-keep the waters stirring and you will prevent the ice from hardeningit. But once let it film over and remain so, it thickens over the surface and it thickens still and at last it is so solidthat a wagon might be drawn over the solid water. So with conscience. It films over gradually and at last it becomes hard,unfeeling-and it can bear up with a weight of iniquity. Ah, it is not for us to delay obedience under the pretense ofprayer,but to yield prompt service.
I have been sometimes surprised and staggered with Christian people who have said in the matter of Baptism, for instance,"I am persuaded that it is my duty as a Believer to be baptized, but it has never been laid home to my conscience." Neverlaid home to your conscience?! You know that God commands and yet you dare confess your conscience has become so base thatyou do not feel it your duty to obey?! "Oh, but I have not felt that it is impressed on me." Felt! And is feeling to be themeasure of your allegiance to God, the clipper and the cutter of God's Law? If you know it to be the right, I charge you onyour faith, obey!
O Sirs, this world has come to a sad pass because of the tricks men play with their consciences! This is the cause of allthose unnatural senses that people give to texts and creeds! This is the secret reason why the religion of this land whichclaims to be Protestant, is becoming Popish to its very core-because evangelical men have sworn to a Popish catechism andgiven it another sense-and instead of coming out of a corrupt Church, have dallied with their consciences and so by theirpractice have nullified their preaching and taught men to lie! Small wonder is it that traders rob and cheat when men professinggodliness use words in senses which they can never bear to unsophisticated minds. If professing men were but jealous for theglory of God and exact and precise in all their walking before the Most High, they would have more of the honor, more of theblessedness of Abraham-and their influence upon the world would be more like salt and less like the evil leaven which corruptsthe mass.
But we must pass on to notice next Abraham's prudence. Prudence, some of us heard this last week, may be a great virtue, butoften becomes one of the meanest and most beggarly of vices. Prudence rightly considered is a notable handmaid to faith. Andthe prudence of Abraham was seen in this, that he did not consult Sarah as to what he was about to do. Naturally, Prudence,as we call it, would have said, "This is a strange command. You had better consult with the wise about it. You believe itcomes from God, but you may be mistaken in your impression. At least, it is due to Sarah, having such an interest in her ownchild, to take her judgment in the matter. Moreover, there is that good man Eliezer- he has often helped and guided you ina dilemma-you had better have a talk with him."
"Yes," but Abraham probably thought, "these beloved ones may weaken me. They cannot strengthen my resolution or alter my duty,"and, therefore, like Paul, he did not consult with flesh and blood. After all, my Brethren, what is the good of consultingwhen we know the Lord's mind? If I go to the Bible and see very plainly there that such-and-such a
thing is my duty-for me to consult with man as to whether I shall obey God or not is treason against the Majesty of Heaven!It is vile for us to consult with men when we have the plain command of God! Fancy an inferior officer in an army, when orderedin the hour of battle to lead an attack, turning round to a fellow soldier to ask his opinion of the orders he has receivedfrom the commander-in-chief! Let the man be tried by court-martial, or shot down upon the field-he is utterly unloyal! Itneeds no overt act. The thought is mutiny! The words of enquiry a flat rebellion. When God commands, we have nothing leftbut to obey. Consultations with flesh and blood are sins of scarlet dye.
Notice, further, Abraham's alacrity. He rose early in the morning. Oh, but the most of us would have taken a long sleep! Orif we could not nave slept, we would have lain till dinner time at least, tossing restlessly. "What? Slay my son- my onlyson Isaac? The command does not specify the hour-there is no peremptory word as to the time of starting upon the awful journey.At least let us postpone it as long as we may, for the dear young man's sake! Let him live as long as possible." But no. Delaywas not in the Patriarch's mind. Is it not grand? The holy man rises early! He will let his God see that He can trust himand that he will do His bidding without reluctance.
O Believers, always be prompt in doing what God commands you! Hesitate not! The very pith of your obedience will lie in yourmaking haste and delaying not to keep the Lord's commandment. He showed his alacrity, again, by the fact that he preparedthe wood himself. It is expressly said that he "split the wood." He was a sheik and a mighty man in his camp, but he becamea wood-splitter, thinking no work menial if done for God and reckoning the work too sacred for other hands. With splittingheart he splits the wood. Wood for the burning of his heir! Wood for the sacrifice of his own dear child! Herein you see thealacrity of Abraham and may it be ours to obey God with such a ready zeal that in every little circumstance of our obedienceit shall be seen that we are not unwilling slaves chained to the oar of duty and flogged to service by the threats of theLaw, but loving children of a Father whom we count it our highest joy to serve, even though that service should involve thesacrifice of our dearest Isaacs.
Further, I must ask you to notice Abraham's forethought. He did not desire to break down in his deeds. Having split the wood,he took with him the fire and everything else necessary to consummate the work. Some people take no forethought about servingGod and then if a little hitch occurs, they cry out that it is a Providential circumstance and make an excuse of it for escapingthe unpleasant task. Oh, how easy it is when you do not want to involve yourselves in trouble, to think that you see somereason for not doing so! "You know," says one, "we must live." "Ah," says another, "why should I throw myself out of a situationmerely because of a small point of conscience? And, indeed, there has just now happened a circumstance which almost compelsme to act against my belief, at least for a time. Indeed, Providence dearly bids me remain as I am. I know the Bible saysI ought to act differently, but still, you know, we must take circumstances into consideration, and if they do not quite alterthe commandments, they may, you know, be an excuse for postponing obedience."
Abraham, the wise, thoughtful servant of God, takes care, as far as possible, to forestall all difficulties that might preventhis doing right. "No," he says, "there is no compromise for me, my duty is clear. Does God command it? I will provide allthat is necessary for the fulfillment of His will. I want no excuse for drawing back, for draw back I will not, come whatmay." Observe, further, Abraham's perseverance. He continues three days in his journey, journeying towards the place wherehe was as much to sacrifice himself as to sacrifice his child. He bids his servants remain where they were, fearful, perhaps,lest they might be moved by pity to prevent the sacrifice.
Now you and I would have liked to provide ourselves with some friend who might have stepped in to prevent and have taken theresponsibility off our shoulders. But, no, the good man puts everything aside that may prevent him going to the end. Thenhe puts the wood on Isaac. Oh, what a load he placed on his own heart as he lay that burden on his dear son! He carried thefire himself in the censer at his side, but what a fire consumed his heart! How sharp was the trial when the son said, "MyFather, behold the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb?" Was there no tear for the Patriarch to brush away? He made buta short reply.
We have every reason to believe that other replies followed which are not recorded, in which he explained to his son how thecase stood and what it was that God had commanded. It is hard to suppose that Isaac would have blindly yielded, unless firstan explanation had been given that such a command had come from the highest Authority and must be obeyed. Oh, the unhappinessof the father's mind! But let me rather say the majesty of the father's faith that he puts
down all his feelings and though Nature speaks, yet Faith speaks louder, still. And if the deep of his affliction calls outloud, yet the deeper faith in his God calls louder still.
Now see him! See the holy man as he gathers up the loose stones which lie upon Mount Moriah! See him take them and with theassistance of his son, place them one upon another till the altar has been built. Do you see him next lay the wood upon thealtar in order? No signs of flurry or trepidation. See him bind his son with cords! Oh, what cords were those binding hispoor, poor heart! He lays his son upon the altar as though he were a victim! Now he unsheathes the knife and the deed is aboutto be done!
But God is content. Abraham has truly sacrificed his son in his heart and the command is fulfilled. Notice the obedience ofthis friend of God-it was no playing at giving up his son-it was really doing it. It was no talking about what he could doand would do, perhaps-his faith was practical and heroic. I call upon all Believers to note this! We must not only love Godso as to hope that we should be ready to give up all for Him, but we must be literally and actually ready to do it! We mustask for more faith, that when the trial comes, we shall not be proved to have been mere windbag pretenders-mere wordy talkers-buttrue to God in very deed.
"Ah," said one the other night, "I thought I had great faith, but now that I am racked with pain, I find I have scarcely any.""Oh," might some of us say, "my God, I thought I had faith in You, but now it comes to the endurance of this affliction whichYou put upon me, I am ready to kick against You and cannot say, 'Your will be done.'" Ah, how many professors love God untilit comes to losing their pence and their pounds! They will obey God until it involves penury and poverty. They will be faithfulto God till it comes to scoffing and shame and then straightway they are offended and thereby prove who is their god-for theyturn away from the unseen and look for what they call the main chance-for the interest of time and their own gain and theirown pleasures. God is no God of theirs except to talk about. Let Christ's commands be pleasing and men will accept them. Letthem grind a little too severely and men turn aside, for, after all, most professors serve their God up to a certain point,but no further and so show that they love not God at all.
I have but very feebly brought out into the light the obedience of Abraham. I must not, however, leave the picture till Ihave mentioned what was at the bottom of it all. Paul tells us in the 11th chapter of Hebrews, that "by faith Abraham offeredup Isaac." Now what was the faith that enabled Abraham to do this? Although many expositors think not, I adhere to the opinionthat Abraham felt in his own mind that God could not lie and God's Word could not fail, and therefore hoped to see Isaac raisedfrom the dead. "Now," he said to himself, "I have had an express promise that in Isaac shall be my seed. And if I am calledto put him to death, that promise must still be kept and perhaps God will raise him from the dead. Even if his body is consumedto ashes the Lord can yet restore my son to life."
We are told in the New Testament that he believed in God, that He could raise Isaac from the dead, from which he also receivedhim in a figure. Some have said, "But this lessens the trial." Granted, if you will, but it does not lessen the faith-andit is the faith which is most to be admired. He was sustained under the trial by the conviction that it was possible for Godto raise his son from the dead and so to fulfill His promise. But under that, and lower down, there was in Abraham's heartthe conviction that by some means, if not by that means, God would justify him in doing what he was to do-that it could neverbe wrong to do what God commanded him-that God could not command him to do a wrong thing! And therefore doing it he couldnot possibly suffer the loss of the promise made in regard to Isaac.
In some way or other, God would take care of him if he did but faithfully keep to God's command. And I think the more indistinctAbraham's idea may have been of the way in which God could carry out the promise, the more glorious was the faith which stillheld to it that nothing could frustrate the promise and that he would do his duty, come what might. Brethren beloved in theLord, believe that all things work together for your good, and if you are commanded by conscience and God's Word to do thatwhich would bankrupt you or cast you into disrepute, it cannot be a real hurt to you! It must be all right!
I have seen men cast out of work owing to their keeping the Lord's-Day. Or they have been, for a little time, out of a situationbecause they could not fall into the tricks of trade and they have suffered awhile. But, alas, some of them have lost heartafter a time and yielded to the evil! O for the faith which never will, under any persuasion or compulsion, fly from the field!If men had strength enough to say, "If I die and rot I will not sin. If they cast me out to the carrion crow, yet still nothingshall make me violate my conscience, or do what God commands me not to do, or fail to do what God
commands me to perform!" This is the faith of Abraham! Would to God we had it! We should have a glorious race of Christiansif such were the case!
III. I have left myself only a few minutes for the last point, which is, let us OBSERVE THE BLESSING WHICH
CAME TO ABRAHAM THROUGH THE TRIAL OF HIS FAITH. The blessing was sevenfold. First, the trial was
withdrawn-Isaac was unharmed. The nearest way to be at the end of tribulation is to be resigned to it. God will not try youwhen you can fully bear any trial. Give up all and you shall keep all. Give up your Isaac and Isaac shall not need to be givenup! But if you will save your life, you shall lose it.
Secondly, Abraham had the expressed approval of God-"Now I know that you fear God." The man whose conscience bears witnesswith the Holy Spirit enjoys great peace and that peace comes to him because under that trial he has proved himself a trueand faithful servant. O Brothers and Sisters, if we cannot stand the trials of this life, what shall we do in the Day of Judgment?If in the common scales held in the hand of Providence we are found wanting, what shall we do before that Great White Thronewhere every thought shall be brought into judgment before the Most High? How will you run with the horsemen at the last ifyou cannot run with the footmen now? If we are afraid of a little loss and a little scorn, what should we have done in daysof the martyrs-when men counted not their lives dear to them that they might win Christ?
Abraham next had a clearer view of Christ than ever he had before-no small reward. "Abraham saw My day," said Christ-"He sawit and was glad." In himself, ready to sacrifice his son, he had a representation of Jehovah who spared not His own Son. Inthe ram slaughtered instead of Isaac, he had a representation of the great Substitute who died that men might live. More thanthat, to Abraham God's name was more fully revealed that day. He called Him Jehovah-Jireh, a step in advance of anything thathe had known before. "If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine." The more you can stand the test of trials,the better instructed shall you be in the things of God. There is light beyond if you have Grace to press through the difficulty.
To Abraham that day the Covenant was confirmed by oath. The Lord swore by Himself! Brothers and Sisters, you shall never getthe Grace of God so confirmed to you as when you have proved your fidelity to God by obeying Him at all costs. You shall thenfind how true are the promises, how faithful is God to the Covenant of Grace. The quickest road to full assurance is perfectobedience! While assurance will help you to obey, obedience will help you to be assured-"If you keep My commandments, youshall abide in My love. Even as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His
Then it was that Abraham had, also, a fuller promise with regard to the seed. Out of 10 promises which Abraham received, thefirst are mainly about the land. But the last are concerning his seed. We get to love Christ more, to value Him more, to seeHim and to understand Him better the more we are consecrated to the Lord's will. And last of all, God pronounced over Abraham'shead a blessing, the like of which had never been given to man before! And what if I say that to no single individual in thewhole lapse of time has there ever been given, distinctly and personally, such a blessing as was given to Abraham that day?!First in trial, he is also first in blessing! First in faithfulness to his God, he becomes first in the sweet rewards whichfaithfulness is sure to obtain!
Brothers and Sisters, let us ask God to make us like Abraham, His true children, that we may gain such rewards as he obtained.May He help us to make a surrender this morning in our hearts of all that we have of the dearest objects of our affections.May we by faith take all to the altar today in our willingness to give all up, if so the Lord wills. This day may we feelthe spirit of perfect faith, believing that God's promises must be kept though circumstances of outward Providence and evenour own inward feelings should seem to belie the sure Word of God. Let us labor to know the reality of life by faith! Maywe believe God in the same literal way in which we believe our friends-but only after a higher and surer sort!
Let us from this day so believe in God that we shall never ask a question about consequences whenever we have a convictionof duty. May we never pause to ask whether this shall make us rich or poor, honorable, or despised-whether this will bringus peace or bring us anguish-but onward, right onward, as though God had shot us from the eternal bow, let us go right onin the full conviction that if there is temporary darkness it must end in everlasting light! If there is present loss, itmust end in eternal gain! Let us set to our seal that God is true, that the rewards are to the righteous, and
true peace to the obedient! Let us believe that in the end it must be our highest gain to serve God though that service should,for the present, bring with it dire loss!
O that there may be trained in this House a race of much enduring Believers, who can endure hardness, but cannot endure sin!May you, my Brothers and Sisters, obey your convictions as constantly as matter obeys the laws of gravitation and may younever sell your birthright for the world's wretched pottage. Could this House be filled with such men and women, London wouldshake beneath the tramp of our army! This whole land would perceive that a new power had arisen up in the land!
Truth and righteousness would exalt their horn on high and then would deceitful trading and greed for gold and Jesuiticalfaltering with words-this flirting with the Popish harlot-would be put to an end once and for all. O that the flag of truthand righteousness might be unfurled by a valiant band-for that banner shall wave in the day of the last triumph when the bannersof earth shall be rolled in blood! May our God thus bless us and all the ends of the earth shall fear Him. The Lord make ustrue men like Abraham, true because believing, and may He help us to sacrifice our all, if need be, for Jesus' sake. Amen.
PORTION OF SCRIPTURE READ BEFORE SERMON-Genesis 22.