Sermon 2890. Unbelievers Upbraided
A SERMON PUBLISHED ON THURSDAY, JUNE 30, 1904.
DELIVERED BY C. H. SPURGEON,
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON, ON THURSDAY EVENING, JUNE 8, 1876.
"He.. .upbraided them with their unbelief." Mark 16:14.
I SHALL not dwell so much upon this particular instance of the disciples' unbelief as upon the fact that the Lord Jesus upbraidedthem because of it. This action of His shows us the way in which unbelief is to be treated by us. As our loving Savior feltit right to upbraid rather than to console, He taught us that on some occasions unbelief should be treated with severity ratherthan with condolence.
Beloved Friends, let us never look upon our own unbelief as an excusable infirmity, but let us always regard it as a sin-andas a great sin, too. Whatever excuse you may at any time make for others-and I pray you to make excuses for them wheneveryou can rightly do so-never make any for yourself. In that case, be swift to condemn. I am not at all afraid that as a generalrule we shall err on the side of harshness to ourselves. No, we are far too ready to palliate our own wrong-doing, to coverup our own faults and to belittle our own offenses. I very specially urge every Believer in Jesus to deal most sternly withhimself in this matter of unbelief. If he turns the back of the judicial knife towards others, let him always turn the keenedge of it towards himself. In that direction use your sharpest eye and your most severely critical judgment. If you see anyfault in yourself, you may depend upon it that the fault is far greater than it appears to be- therefore deal more sternlywith it. It is a very easy thing for us to get into a desponding state of heart and to mistrust the promises and faithfulnessof God and yet, all the while, to look upon ourselves as the subjects of a disease which we cannot help-and even to claimpity at the hands of our fellow men-thinking that they should console us and try to cheer us. Perhaps they should, but, atany rate, we must not think that they should. It will be far wiser for each one of us to feel, "This unbelief of mine is agreat wrong in the sight of God. He has never given me any occasion for it and I am doing Him a cruel injustice by thus doubtingHim. I must not idly sit down and say, 'This has come upon me like a fever, or a paralysis which I cannot help.' But I mustsay, 'This is a great sin in which I must no longer indulge. I must confess my unbelief with shame and self-abasement, tothink that there should be in me this evil heart of unbelief.'"
Notwithstanding what I said, just now, concerning our dealings with others, I must give very much the same advice with regardto them as to ourselves, though in a somewhat mitigated form. When we see any of our friends falling into sin and unbelief,we must seek to deal wisely with them-always kindly-never harshly. Let us reserve all our severity for ourselves as I havealready urged you. Still, I am sure that it is quite possible for us to be doing our fellow Christians serious harm by excusingtheir unbelief and by pitying them for it instead of pointing out to them, tenderly, yet faithfully, the great sin they arecommitting by this doubting.
Have you ever seen a "coddled" lad? I have seen one who ought to be in the open air at play, shut in a room because his parentswere fearful that he was delicate and unable to do as other lads do. He ought to have been taking part in various healthyexercises that would have developed and strengthened the muscles in his body, but, instead of that, he was sitting down, tiedto his mother's apron strings and so was being made weaker than he was before! He was kept in an atmosphere which was notfit for him to breathe because his foolish parents were afraid the fresh air might be too trying for him-and long before hewas ill, he was dosed and treated until he really became ill! Many a child has been murdered by
being thus coddled, or, if he has lived to grow up to manhood, he has been a poor, feeble, effeminate creature because theabundant love which had been lavished upon him had been linked with equally abundant folly.
You can easily treat Christians-and especially young converts-in the same senseless fashion! If they are unbelieving, youcan keep back from them the stern Truth of God about the sinfulness of such a state of heart and mind because you fear thatthey will be discouraged if you deal faithfully with them. That is quite as wrong as saying to the unconverted, over and overagain, "Only believe," without ever mentioning the need of repentance and regeneration! There is a way of misapplying eventhe promises of God to unbelieving hearts and of giving the consolations of the Gospel to those who are not in a conditionto receive them as one might give sweetmeats to sick children and do them harm. People who are thus unwisely treated are aptto remain in the same sad state until their unbelief becomes chronic-and their unhap-piness becomes a lifelong burden to them.Sometimes when a man is in great pain, it is wise to give him something that will afford him even temporary relief, but thebetter course is, if possible, to strike at the root of his disease and eradicate it once and for all. That should be ourmethod of dealing with the unbelief of our Brothers and Sisters in Christ. We must make it clear to them that unbelief isno trifle and that it is a thing for which its owner is not to be pitied, but to be blamed-and to be severely blamed-for itis a most grievous fault and sin. Our Savior dealt thus with the 11 when He upbraided them because of their unbelief. He didnot excuse them, or comfort them, but He upbraided them! Upbraiding does not seem to be in harmony with the usual characterof Jesus, does it? Yet you may depend upon it that it was the right thing for Him to do-and the kind thing, too-otherwise,He would not have done it.
Jesus upbraided these disciples of His because of their unbelief upon a very special point on which they ought to have beenthe first to believe. Many persons had seen their Lord after He had risen from the dead. And the 11 Apostles who ought, byreason of their greater spiritual advantages and their more intimate companionship with Christ, to have been the readiestto believe the good tidings, were not so and, therefore, Christ "upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart,because they believed not them which had seen Him after He had risen." Yet these eyewitnesses- Cleopas and his companion,Mary Magdalene, Joanna, the other Mary and the rest of the holy women-who had come to the eleven, were their own Brothersand Sisters in the faith! So Christ might well say to them-and I daresay He did-"Why did you doubt their testimony? You didthem an injustice by acting in such a manner. They are honest and truthful and they have told you the truth. You have notbeen accustomed to doubt their word, so, as you have believed their witness concerning other matters, why did you not believethem in this instance? Moreover," our Lord might well say, "there were many of them-it was not merely one who might have beenmistaken, but a considerable number saw Me and I spoke with them and they came and told you that it was even so-yet you didnot believe them. The number of the witnesses and their well-known character are sure signs that you must have been in a wrongstate of heart and mind not to be able to receive such clear evidence as theirs and, therefore, you are blameworthy for yourunbelief."
In the case of these Apostles, unbelief was peculiarly sinful, for they had the promise of their Lord to back up the testimonyof His disciples. He had often told them that He would rise again from the dead-and had even foretold the very day of HisResurrection, so that the unbelief of the Apostles was altogether inexcusable. Yet this very fact which was a cause of stumblingto the Apostles appears to me to give point and power to the appeal which I make to myself and to you against our unbelief.We all believe that Jesus Christ rose from the dead. We have no difficulty in accepting that great fundamental Doctrine ofthe Christian faith. All of us who are Believers in the Lord Jesus Christ fully endorse Paul's words to the saints in Romeand say that our Lord, "was delivered for our offenses and was raised again for our justification." Well, then, Brothers andSisters in Christ, if we believe that Jesus rose from the dead, the ground is completely cut from under the feet of unbelief,for His promise is, "Because I live, you shall also live." If He lives, then the Gospel is true and the promises of the Gospelare sure to all who believe in Him! If He lives, then He lives to intercede for us and, through his intercession, every Covenantblessing is certain to come to us! Therefore if we harbor unbelief in our hearts, we are doubly guilty-and if the Savior werehere in bodily Presence, though His face would still beam with Infinite Love to us, I am quite sure that He would, even insterner tones than He used towards those 11 Apostles, upbraid us because of our unbelief!
If Thomas will not believe that Christ is risen until he has put his finger into the print of the nails in His hands and thrusthis hand into his Savior's wounded side, that is bad enough-but it is worse if you who do believe that He is risen and whodo not doubt any one of the doctrines that He has taught you-still have unbelief mingled with the faith which
you possess! Whether that supposed faith is all true, or not, is more than I can say, but, with so much faith as you professto have, how can you still continue to doubt?
I want, in this discourse, to upbraid myself and you, also, for any unbelief that we may have harbored, by noticing, first,the evil of unbelief in itselfand then, the evils that surely flow out of unbelief
I. First, then, I have to say to any of God's children who have given in to unbelief in any degree-YOUR UNBELIEF IS AN EVILTHING IN ITSELF.
This truth will come very closely home to you if you will just think how you would feel if others disbelieved you. If anyonewere to question your veracity, you would be very vexed and if you made a promise to any man and he expressed a doubt as tothe fulfillment of it, you would feel hurt. And if those with whom you are most closely connected were to disbelieve you,you would feel still more grieved, for you expect absolute confidence from them. If mutual trust were taken away from anyfamily, how unhappy the members of that family would be-the children suspecting the sincerity of their parents' love-the wifedoubting the reality of her husband's affection-the husband dubious of his wife's faithfulness! Try to conceive, if you can,what it would be if those who now call you friend, or child, or husband, or wife, or brother, or sister should no longer acceptwhat you say as being true. Suppose, also, that you were perfectly conscious that you had never broken your word to them-thatyou had faithfully kept every promise that you had made to them and had been in all things honest, true and sincere-wouldyou not feel their doubts and suspicions most acutely? I am sure you would-they would touch the very apple of your eye andcut you to the quick-you could not endure such treatment from them! Then how can you mete out to the Lord Jesus Christ suchtreatment as would be so painful to yourself? And further, how can you expect your child to trust you when you doubt yourSavior? How can you even look to your wife for confidence in you when, if there is some little trouble, or things go somewhatawkwardly, you straightway begin to mistrust your God and Savior?
Remember, too, that the sin of your unbelief may be measured by the excellence of the person whom you mistrust. I said, justnow, that if you were conscious of your absolute sincerity, you would be the more deeply wounded by the suspicion of thosewho doubted you. What do you think, then, of the sin of doubting Christ, who cannot lie, who is "the Truth" itself? I know,Beloved, that you have a very high opinion of your Lord and Savior-do you not worship Him as Divine? Do you not also feelHis truly human sympathy? You know that there is no clause in His Everlasting Covenant, ordered in all things and sure, whichHe has not already fulfilled or which He will not fulfill at the appointed time. His Incarnation, His life here below, Hisshameful sufferings, His vicarious death-all these He promised to undergo and all these He performed in due season. And Hewill go right through, to the end, with the great work of your eternal salvation! By the mouth of His servant Jeremiah, theLord asked, long ago, "Have I been a wilderness unto Israel? A land of darkness?" And the Lord Jesus might well say to Hisprofessed followers, "Have I been as the barren fig tree was to Me when I found on it nothing but leaves?" As He points tothe long list of His favors to us, He may well ask, "For which of them do you thus misjudge and mistrust Me?"
And when He spreads out the whole roll of His life and work before you, He may well enquire, "Upon which part of My life orwork do you base your suspicions? What is there in My Nature, as Divine and Human-what is there in My Character-what is therein My life below, or in My life above-that should lead you to question My faithfulness to you, My power to help you, My readinessto sympathize with you, My willingness to bless you?" Why, you are doubting Him whom the angels adore and worship! You havefelt, sometimes, as if you would like to wash His feet with your tears. How, then, can you ever insult Him with your doubts?You have even said that you could die for Him! And it has been your great ambition to live for Him, yet you cannot trust Him?If you have run with the footmen in the matter of these minor trials of your faith-and they have wearied you-what would youdo if you had to contend with horsemen as many others have had to do in the day of martyrdom? And if, in the favorable circumstancesin which you have been placed, you have doubted your Savior, what are you likely to do when you are in the swellings of Jordan?Ah, my Brothers and Sisters, when you think of unbelief as aiming her darts at Jesus Christ, the Well-Beloved of our soul,surely you will say that it is a shameful sin and a disgraceful crime against Infinite Love!
Then, remember, Beloved in the Lord, the relationship in which Jesus Christ stands to you. You know that the more closelywe are allied to a person, the more painful any suspicion on the part of that person becomes. I have repeatedly used in thisconnection the figure of a child's trust in a parent, a husband's trust in his wife and the wife's trust in her
husband-and you have readily accepted the comparisons because you have felt that the nearness of the relationship would involvea corresponding degree of trust. How near-how very near-we are in kinship to Christ! Are we not married to Him? Has He notespoused us unto Himself forever? There is a conjugal union between Christ and His Church of which the marriage bond on earthis but a feeble type. Then can you who have been renewed in heart by the Holy Spirit and washed in the blood of the Lamb,doubt Him whom your soul loves? Can you distrust Him to whom you are so closely allied? Oh, shame, shame, shame, that lackof confidence should come in to mar such a wondrous union as that!
But we are even more closely knit to Christ than the marriage union implies, for "we are members of His body, of His fleshand of His bones." I cannot explain that secret, mystical union of which the Scripture speaks, but it is a true union, whatevermystery there may be about it. Then shall there be such disunion among the members of the body that the eye shall begin todoubt the heart and the hand to mistrust the foot? It would be pitiful if such a state of things could prevail in our bodies!Then what must it be if such a state of things prevails among the members of the mystical body of Christ? Beloved, may Godrender this unbelief impossible by sending such life floods of Grace through all the members of Christ's body that never moreshall a single thought of mistrust of our glorious Covenant Head enter our minds even for a single instant!
Consider next, I pray you, dear Friends, how many times some of us have doubted our Lord. The sin of unbelief becomes allthe greater because it is so frequently committed. God be thanked that it is not so with all Christians-there are some whowalk in faith and dwell in faith. I suppose that as birds fly over everybody's head, doubts fly around all good men's minds,but our old proverb says, "You need not let birds build in your hair," although there are some people who let doubts comeand lodge in their minds and even dwell in their hearts! We know some persons of this kind who seem to be very easily ledinto despondency, doubt and mistrust of Christ. Well now, if a man has done this only once, I think he might well say to himself,"I did once question the everlasting Truth of God. I did once stain the spotless robe of Infinite Veracity with a dark blotof suspicion"-and I think that he might find it difficult to forgive himself for having done so vile a thing even once! Butwhen it comes to many times and when it comes to long periods of doubt and mistrust, it is still worse. I want to press thispoint home upon all whom it concerns and I want your consciences to be wide awake so that as you recall the many times inwhich you have thus sinned against your Heavenly Father, and against His blessed Spirit, and against His Divine Son you mayrecollect that each distinct act of unbelief is a sin-each act of mistrust is another wounding of the Lord! God grant thatwe may truly repent as we think of the many times in which we have been thus guilty!
Then there is this further point-some of these actions have been repetitions of former ones. For instance, a man is in troubleand he has doubts concerning the Providence of God. But he is delivered, God is gracious to him and helps him out of his difficulty.Well now, if he falls into a similar trouble and if he is again guilty of harboring doubt, this is far worse! If a man shoulddoubt your word the first time you speak to him, you might say, "Well, he does not know me." The second time you might say,"When he has proved me more, he will trust me." But what shall I say of those whose hair has a sprinkling of gray in it andwhose Christian experience extends to a score of years or more-perhaps two score- possibly, three score? Oh, if you doubtthe Lord now, it will be a crying shame! It will not be too surprising if some of us act thus, for so did Israel for 40 yearsin the wilderness-but that does not excuse the evil in our case. It is a desperately evil thing that God should be mistrustedover and over again-and that He should have to say, "How long will it be before you believe Me?"
I scarcely like to linger on such a sad theme, yet it does our hearts good to be thus upbraided. So, remember that oftentimesour unbelief has come in the teeth of our own assurance to the contrary. Do you not sometimes catch yourself saying, aftera very great mercy, "Well, I can never doubt the Lord again"? When you have had an answer to prayer of a very memorable kind,you have said, "Oh, I must believe in the power of prayer now! For me to ever think that the Lord will deny me would be impossible."Yes, in that respect, also, we are just like the Israelites who promised to keep the Covenant, yet speedily broke it.
There is also this aggravation of your sin-although you do not trust the Lord as you should, you do trust your fellow creatures.You can believe that lie of the old serpent-
"The Lord has quite forsaken you- Your God will be gracious no more"-
yet you cannot so readily believe the oath and promise of God! If an earthly friend were to say to you, "I will help you,"how readily you would jump at his offer! If there is an arm of flesh near, how cheerfully you lean upon it and, though perhapsthere is nothing for you to rest yourself upon but a broken reed, you think it is a strong staff and throw all your weightupon it! It is quite true that ungodly men who have no faith generally have any amount of credulity. They cannot believe thetruth, but they can believe lies to any extent! So is it, alas, with God's own people when they get off the track of faith.They seem to become credulous concerning the things seen, which are temporal, in proportion as they become dubious of thethings unseen, which are eternal! Is not this a sin of the greatest blackness? You cannot trust your husband, but you cantrust a flatterer who deceives you! You cannot trust your God, but you make idol gods unto yourself and trust them! You cannotrest yourself on Jehovah, but you can on Egypt! You can rest yourself on the promise of man who is but as a moth which issoon crushed, but as for Him who made the heavens and the earth and all things that are, you cannot rely upon Him! I feelas if I could sit down and cover my face for shame when I think of those occasions wherein I have been guilty of this sin.Perhaps the best thing we could all do would be to go home, fall on our knees and ask our blessed Savior to wash away allthis unbelief-and not to believe us when we talk about doubting-but only to believe that as He knows all things, He knowsthat, after all, we do trust Him.
II. Now, with great brevity I have to speak upon the second point which is THE MANY EVILS WHICH COME OUT OF UNBELIEF TO THOSEOF US WHO LOVE THE LORD.
Brothers and Sisters, it is enough of evil-if there were no more-that unbelief is so cruel to Christ and grieves His HolySpirit so much. I should but repeat myself if I reminded you how mistrust grieves you and, speaking after the manner of men,in the same fashion it grieves the Holy Spirit. He dwells in you-shall He dwell in you to be grieved by you? He relieves yourgrief-will you cause Him grief? Your vexations vanish because He is the Comforter-will you vex the Comforter? And what canvex Him more than suspecting the ever-faithful heart of Christ? That is evil enough-to wound Christ and the Holy Spirit!
Next, remember-though this is a more selfish argument-how much unrest and misery unbelief has caused to yourself. You havenever had half as many trials from God as you have manufactured for yourself. Death, which you so much dread, is nothing comparedwith the thousand deaths that you have died through the fear of death. You make a whip for yourself and you mix bitter cupsfor yourself by your unbelief. That is quite enough trial for you to bear and God will help you to bear it, but you put awaythe helping hand when you are unbelieving and then you increase your own burden! Oh, you can sing, even by the rivers of Babylon,if you have but faith! You may lie on your sick bed and feel great pain, yet your spirit shall not smart, but shall danceaway your pain if your heart is but looking in simple confidence to Christ. And you shall die, as the Negro said his masterdied-"full of life"-if you have true faith in Jesus. But if faith shall fail you, oh then you are distressed when there isno cause for distress-and full of fear where there is no fear!
And then, how much you lose in other things besides happiness! A thousand promises are missed because there is not the faithto claim them. There are the cases and you have the keys-yet you do not put the keys into the locks to open them. There areJoseph's granaries and you are hungry-but you do not go to Joseph and show your confidence in him by asking for what you need.You are not straitened in God, but in yourselves! If you believe not, you shall not be estab-lished-neither shall your prayersprevail, nor shall you grow in Grace. If you believe not, your experience shall not be of that high and lofty kind that otherwiseit might have been. We live down here in the marsh and the mist when, had we faith, we might live in the everlasting sunshine!We are down below in the dungeons, fretting under imaginary chains when the key of promise, which will open every door inDoubting Castle, is in our bosom! If we will but use it, we may get away to the tops of the mountains and see the New Jerusalemand the land which is very far off.
Further, unbelief weakens us for all practical purposes. What can the man who is unbelieving do? O Brothers and Sisters inChrist, it is a terrible thing to think how much work there is that falls flat because it is not done in faith! You saw thetrees when they were covered with blooms-there seemed to be a promise of much fruit-but there were chilling winds, sharp frostsand so, perhaps, only one in a hundred of the blossoms ever turned to fruit. The tree of the Church seems, at times, coveredwith beautiful blossoms-what can be more lovely to the eyes? But the blossoms do not knit- faith is the bee that carries thepollen-it is faith that fructifies the whole and makes it truly fruitful unto God. What might my sermons not have done hadI believed my Master more? You Sunday school teachers may say, "Had I taught in
greater faith, I might have won my scholars." Or you may say, "Had I gone to my visiting of the poor and the sick in the strengthof the Lord, who knows what I might have done for Him?"
Faith is the Nazarite lock of Samson-if it is shorn away, Samson is weak as other men. Then, as to suffering, wonderful isthe power of faith there. If you are trusting your Heavenly Father, believing that all is right that seems most wrong, thateverything that happens is ordered or permitted by Him and that His Grace will sweeten every bitter cup, you can suffer patientlyand, as your tribulations abound, so will your consolations abound in Christ Jesus! Like the Ark of Noah, as the waters deepenyou will rise upon them and get nearer to Heaven in proportion as the great floods increase.
Unbelief in any Christian, no doubt, has a very injurious effect upon other Christians. There are some who are like sicklysheep which-
"Infect the flock, And poison all the rest."
Especially is it so, dear Brothers, if you happen to be in office in the church, or to be doing any prominent work for Christ.If the commander-in-chief trembles, the army is already conquered! If the captain begins to fear, fear will take possessionof every soldier's heart in his company. Was it not grand of Paul, in the shipwreck, when all others were dismayed and thoughtthey would go to the bottom, when he said, "Have no fear, Sirs," and he bade them eat, as he ate-calmly giving thanks to Godbefore them all? Why, Paul saved them all by his calm confidence in God! If we have but faith, we shall strengthen our Brothersand Sisters! But if we have it not, we shall weaken them.
I am sure, too, that the influence of unbelief in Christians upon the unconverted is very serious, indeed. If we do not playthe man in times of trial-if we do not show them what faith in God can do-they will think that there is nothing in it. Andsuppose, Brothers and Sisters, you should make anyone think there is nothing in religion? How sad that would be! When thedevil needs a friend, surely he could not find one more able to do him service than a child of God who is full of mistrust.The children say, "Our father only trusts God for bread when there is plenty in the cupboard." And the servants say, "Themaster is only happy in the Lord when he is in good health." And those who know our business affairs say, "Oh, yes! So-and-Sois a great believer, but he has a big balance at his banker's-you should see him when trade is bad! You should see him whenthere are bad debts! Then you will find that he is not a bit more a believer in Jesus Christ than any of the rest of us! Heis a fair-weather Christian-he is like the flowers that open when the sun shines. But take away the summer prosperity andyou will see but little of his religion!" Let it not be so with any of us, but may God deliver us from this tremendous evilof unbelief!
EXPOSITION BY C. H. SPURGEON: HEBREWS 11:1-13;32-40.
Verses 1, 2. Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtaineda good report So it was written, in the olden time, that Believers "obtained a good report." And this second verse shows thatthey obtained it by their faith. The best part of the report about them is that they believed their God and believed all thatwas revealed to them by His Word and His Spirit.
3. Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not madeof things which do appear The facts about Creation must be the subject of faith. It is true that they can be substantiatedby the argument from design and in other ways, but still, for a wise purpose as I believe, God has not made even that matterof the creation of the universe perfectly clear to human reason-so there is room for the exercise of faith. Men like to haveeverything laid down according to the rules of mathematical precision, but God desires them to exercise faith and, therefore,He has not acted according to their wishes.
4. By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous,God testifying of his gifts: and by it, he being dead, yet speaks. The first of the long line of martyrs triumphed by faith!And if you are to be strong to bear witness for God, you must be made strong by the same power which worked so effectuallyin Abel. If, like his, your life is to be a speaking life-a life which shall speak even out of the grave-its voice must bethe voice of faith.
5. By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death, and was not found, because God had translated him: for beforehis translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God. It is faith that muzzles the mouth of death and takes away thepower of the sepulcher. If any man who had not been a Believer had been translated as Enoch was, we should have been ableto point to a great feat accomplished apart from faith. It has never been so, for this which was one of the greatest thingsthat was ever done-to leap from this life into another and to overleap the grave altogether-was only achieved "by faith."
6. 7. But without faith it is impossible toplease Him: for he that comes to Godmust believe that He is and that He is a rewarderof them that diligently seek Him. By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not as yet seen. These are the things withwhich faith always deals-not with the things that are seen or are apprehensible by the senses or the feelings.
7. Moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousnesswhich is by faith. So you see that faith has a condemning power towards an ungodly world. You do not need to be constantlytelling worldlings that they are doing wrong-let them see clearly the evidence of your faith, for that will bear the strongestconceivable witness against their unbelief and sin, even as Noah, by his faith, "condemned the world and became heir of therighteousness which is by faith."
8. By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; andhe went out, not knowing where he went That is, surely, the very masterpiece of faith! God bade Abraham go forth from hisnative land. He believed that God knew where he was to go though he did not himself know. So he left the direction of hiswanderings entirely in the Lord's hands and obeyed-and "went out, not knowing where he went." We are not to ask for full knowledgebefore we will be obedient to the will of the Lord, but we are to obey God in the dark, even as Abraham did.
9. By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, theheirs with him of the same promise. I t is one of the great evidences of true faith for her to keep on, to continue, to abidewithout any visible signs or tokens of what she knows is hers. The life of faith is wonderful, but so, also, is the walk offaith. Her walk has much about it that is mysterious. She knows that the land she treads on belongs to her and yet, in anothersense, she cannot claim a solitary foot of it. She knows that she is at home, even as Abraham was in his own land-yet likehe, she knows herself to be a sojourner in a strange land, but is quite content to be so.
10. For he looked for a city which has foundations, whose Builder and Maker is God. What a depth of meaning there is in thosefive words, "a city which has foundations"-as if all other cities had none! They come and they go as if they were molehillsraised on the surface of the earth, or little mounds of sand made by the children's wooden spades upon the seashore whichthe next tide will wash away! What vast numbers of cities have already been destroyed! We are constantly picking up the relicsof them, but there is, blessed be the name of the Lord, "a city which has foundations," a city founded on eternal power-andwe are, I hope, on our way to that city.
11. 12. Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed and was delivered of a child when she was pastage because she judged Him faithful who had promised. Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born as many asthe stars of the sky in multitude, andas the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable. Perhaps the reference is to Abrahamwho was as good as dead, being so old-or to Isaac, who was as good as dead, for he was laid upon the altar and was practically"offered up" as a sacrifice unto the Lord. There were many deaths to work against the life of faith, yet life triumphed overdeath after all.
13. These all died in faith. That is the epitaph which God has carved over the resting place of His faithful ones- "Theseall died in faith." Will this be the record concerning all of us, "These all died in faith"?
13. Not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessedthat they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. The chapter is a very long one so I must condense it, as the Apostle,himself, did when he came to the 32nd verse. There was so much to be said that he added-
32. And what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthah;of David also, and Samuel, and of the Prophets. There are some names in this chapter which we would hardly have expected tosee there-the characters mentioned having been so disfigured by serious faults, flaws and failings-but the distinguishingfeature of faith was there in every instance-and especially in the case of Samson. Perhaps there was no more childlike faithin any man than there was in him. Who but a man full of faith would have hurled himself upon a
thousand men with no weapon in his hand but the jawbone of an ass? There was a wondrous confidence in God in that weak, strongman, which though it does not excuse his faults, yet nevertheless puts him in the ranks of the Believers. Happy is the manor woman who believes in God! There were multitudes of others beside those whom the Apostle named-
33. Who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness. Is that as great an exploit as subduing kingdoms? Yes, thatit is-to have, by faith, preserved a holy character in such a world of temptation as this is a far grander achievement thanto have conquered any number of kingdoms by force of arms!
33, 34. Obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, outof weakness were made strong, Do you notice how, every now and then, there is the mention of a feat which seems altogetherbeyond you, but then there follows one in which you can be a partaker with these heroes and heroines of faith? It may be thatyou have never "quenched the violence of fire" yet, often enough, it has been true of you that, by faith, "out of weakness"you have been "made strong." Others-
34, 30. 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. What wondrous faith itwas which sustained the saints under the awful tortures to which they were subjected! The story flusters one's heart to evenread it-what must it have been actually to endure?
36-39. And others had trial of cruel mocking and scourging, yes, moreover of bonds and imprisonment they were stoned, theywere 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 cavesof the earth. And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise. These worthies lived beforeChrist came, but, since then, equally noble exploits have been performed by the heroes and heroines of faith. The Christianmartyrs have shown the extremity of human endurance when they have been sustained by faith and the roll of Christian heroes,since their Lord ascended to Heaven, is longer and even brighter than that of the faithful ones who came before them in theearlier dispensation!
40. God having provided some better thing for us, that they, without us, should not be made perfect The new dispensation isnecessary to complete the old-the New Testament is the complement of the Old Testament-and New Testament saints join handswith Old Testament elders. Let us all be worthy of our high pedigree and may God grant that if the saints of these latterdays are to perfect the history of the Church of Christ, the end may not be less heroic than the beginning was! A true poemshould gather force as it grows and its waves of thought should roll in with greater power as it nears its climax. So shouldthe mighty poem of faith's glorious history increase in depth and power as it gets nearer to its grand consummation-that Godmay be glorified yet more and more through all His believing children. So may it be! Amen.