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important in reference to the blessings of salvation ? Let every one of us then say with the Church of old, “ Draw me, and we will come after thee;" that is, if God draw me, I will not come alone, but will draw all I can along with me. If men despise our efforts, and shew an utter disregard of the blessings which we hold out to them, let it only stir us up to augmented zeal, and plead with us the more powerfully to exert ourselves the more in their behalf. Let us expostulate with them, as the prophet does, “ Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread, and your labour for that which satisfieth not? Hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness.” And then, if they requite your labours only with hatred and persecution, determine through grace, that you “ will gladly spend and be spent for them, though the more abundantly you love them, the less you be loved."]
through faith, received not the promise : God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.
WHEN we hear or read of the saints of old, we excuse our want of resemblance to them, from the idea that they were more highly favoured than we; and that it would be unreasonable to expect from us of these later days, such high attainments as they made by reason of their peculiar and more exalted dispensation. But this excuse is altogether founded on a mistake : for the disparity between their dispensation and ours is altogether in our favour, as we are expressly told in the passage before us; which will naturally lead me to shew, I. What good things God vouchsafed to his people
of oldGod has been gracious to his people in every age:
1. He gave them exceeding great and precious promises
[The promise given to Adam in Paradise was gradually unfolded by successive revelations, till there was such a body of prophecy as exhibited the Saviour with the utmost possible precision. His person, work, and offices were all set forth so minutely; that, if the detached prophecies were collected and arranged, there would be found in the Old Testament as just a representation of him as in the Gospel itself. These formed a ground of hope to the Lord's people, who were thus instructed to look to their Messiah as“ their Prophet, like unto Moses,” to instruct them; their Priest, after the order of Melchizedec, to make atonement for them; and their King, who, sitting as on David's throne, should reign over them, and in them, for evermore.
2. He enabled them to live by faith upon these promises
[Faith, in whomsoever it is found, is the gift of God: and it was richly bestowed on many, as appears from the chapter before us. We are even astonished at the strength with which it was exercised in many instances, and at the realizing views which it gave of invisible things to those in whom it was found. The instances recorded of it are still the brightest patterns for the imitation of the Christian Church ---]
3. He testified his acceptance of their faith so exercised
[This is noticed in the beginning of this chapter, and again repeated at the close of it b. God testified his acceptance of their faith by invariably accomplishing those objects which he had encouraged them to expect, so that in no single instance was any one believer ever disappointed of his hope. However hopeless or even impossible the events might appear according to the judgment of man, every difficulty vanished, and every expectation was fulfilled, as soon as ever the faith of his people had been sufficiently tried, and the time for God's interposition was arrived. He further testified his acceptance of it by the witness of his Spirit in their souls. There can be no doubt but that they enjoyed in their souls a peace flowing from their affiance in God, and a sense of his love shed abroad in their hearts, together with an assurance of his approbation in the day of judgment. This appears from their “ looking for a city which hath foundations, and a heavenly country," as “the recompence of their reward;" and from their refusing deliverance from present trials in full expectation of
a Reference may here be made to two or three of those contained in the preceding context.
b ver 2. with the text. See the Greek.
“ a better resurrection” to life eternal. And what a testimony has he given in the record which is contained in this chapter; a record which will transmit their names with honour to the end of time !]
But, that we may form a just estimate of our blessings, I will proceed to shew, II. What “ better thing he has provided for us”
under the Christian dispensation, Certainly our privileges are far superior to theirs ; for,
1. We have in possession that Saviour whom they only looked forward to in the promise
[The first advent of Christ was held forth to them as an object of faith and hope, just as his second advent is to us. But the promise relating to that is now fulfilled. We have seen him accomplishing every prophecy, and performing in himself all that was shadowed forth in the infinitely diversified types of the ceremonial law: and we have, in this very circumstance, such a proof of his Messiahship, as no considerate and candid person can withstand. We have heard all his gracious instructions relative to the way of life, and have already seen his kingdom established in the world. We have seen “ the stone that was cut out without hands, becoming a mountain, and filling the whole earth.”
What an unspeakable advantage is this! If Abraham rejoiced when he saw only by faith, and very indistinctly, the days of the Son of man, what reason have we to rejoice in having this adorable Saviour fully revealed in all his beauty, and excellency, and glory! Well does our Lord himself congratulate his believing people, saying, “ Blessed are your eyes which see the things which ye see, and hear the things which ye hearo."] .
2. We have in perfection those blessings which they enjoyed only in their commencement
[They knew not what solid peace was: their sacrifices, however rich and abundant, could not impart this blessing: they were rather“ remembrances of sin,” than real expiations; and “could make no man perfect as pertaining to the conscience.” “ The law made nothing perfect; but the bringing in of a better hope didd." Their access to God was that of a servant, who keeps at a distance; ours is that rather of a child, who comes to the very bosom of his father. Their communications from him were as darkness, in comparison of
• Luke xiv. 23, 24. Heb. vii. 19. Eph. ii. 12.
the light which we enjoyf. The prophets themselves did not understand their own prophecies, as we do. Not even John the Baptist, who pointed out Jesus as “the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world," had such just conceptions of him as we have: in this respect “ even the least believer that is to be found in all the kingdom of God, is greater than he." All, not excepting even the Apostles themselves, till the day of Pentecost, had a veil upon their hearts, so that they could not behold the glory of God in the face of their Divine Master: “but we, with open and unveiled face, behold, as in a glass, the glory of the Lord, and are changed by it into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord h."] In the view of these glorious advantages, I would
yet further DRAW YOUR ATTENTION to them in a
way, 1. Of solemn inquiry
[What report does God, and what report does conscience, give respecting us? Are we walking in the footsteps of the saints of old, even of those saints, who “ by faith obtained a good report ?" We are not to imagine that, whilst faith wrought so powerfully in them, it will have no visible influence on us. Be assured, that its operation is the same in all ages. Let me then ask, What effects it has wrought in you? Take the examples of Noah, of Abraham, and of Moses, as set forth in the preceding part of the chapter, and see what resemblance you bear to them --- How inferior to them are we in our practice, notwithstanding the superiority of our advantages !
--- Have we not reason to blush and be ashamed at a review of our past lives, and at our misimprovement of the advantages which we enjoy?-_-] 2. Of affectionate admonition
[If ever you would " be made perfect,” you must both live by faith, and “ die in the faith.” To be “walking by sight, when you should walk by faith only," will surely bring you to a far different end from that which you desire and expect. Oh! “ listen not to flesh and blood;" but obey unfeignedly, and without reserve, the commandments of your God. Set before you the invisible God, who marks all your ways, and tries your very reins and heart. Set before you also the invisible realities of the eternal world, the glories of heaven and the miseries of hell; and consider which of them is the portion prepared for you. What a lamentable thing will it f 1 Cor. ii. 9, 10. i John ii. 8.
8 1 Pet. i. 12. h 2 Cor. ii. 18.
be in the day of judgment to see such an one as Rahab, an accursed Canaanite and a harlot, admitted into the kingdom of heaven, and you yourselves cast out! I pray you avail yourselves of the advantages which you enjoy; and let them not issue in your heavier condemnation. The promise of Christ's coming to judge the world will as surely be fulfilled, as that of his coming to save the world has been. And if you look forward to that event, and to the everlasting separation of the righteous from the wicked, O think “ what manner of persons ye ought to be in all holy conversation and godliness ;" and " be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless.” —--]
CHRIST'S PERSEVERING Diligence. Heb. xii. 1,2. Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about
with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
WHEN we read the history of the Jews as recorded in the sacred volume, we in general feel no other interest in the events related concerning them, than we do in those which are handed down to us by the historians of Greece and Rome. But, allowing for some local and circumstantial differences, the same things are transacted amongst ourselves; and the records which we read, may serve as a glass wherein to see all that is now passing in the world. The saints of old, even from righteous Abel to the end of the prophetic age, were called to a life of suffering, and by their sufferings were made perfect. Thus also “must we go through much tribulation in our way to the heavenly kingdom ;” and fill up the measure of sufferings which is allotted us in this vale of tears. "
The Apostle having given us a long catalogue of worthies, who had approved themselves faithful unto