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perchance, has to be quelled, like that of the souls seen beneath the altar, who cried with a loud voice, “How long?" They must rest yet for a little season until the number of their fellow-servants is fulfilled, and the better thing revealed, which God is providing for both us and them.
And of this patient, saintly, faithful band, who being dead yet seem to speak-the cloud of witnesses by whom we are compassed about as we run our Christian race— Abraham is the foremost figure. It is with him that we shall sit down to eat meat in the kingdom of God. In his bosom they that sleep in Jesus find a restingplace. In the steps of his faith we are to walk. The Israel of God are "the seed of Abraham, His friend."
This man's life-story must have something in it that it concerns Christians of every age to know. Three chief features strike me as prominent and characteristic -the way, namely, in which it illustrates
(1) What faith is.
(2) What it is to walk by faith.
(3) What it is, with the eye of such faith, to see Christ's day.
(1) It was evidently the faith of Abraham that so attracted and riveted the interest of St. Paul. To the Apostle of the Gentiles, the Hebrew pilgrim, dwelling even in the land of promise as in a strange country, is the great type of what it is to believe in God, to possess a faith which shall be counted for righteousness, not "instead of righteousness" (as though it had been ȧvrì δικαιοσύνης): but εἰς δικαιοσύνην, as that which con
stituted, or was put to the account of, his righteousness (Romans iv. 5).
And so Abraham, to the eye of St. Paul, before and above any other saint in the annals of his race, is the representative of the nature of faith, and of its power: faith, not as opposed to reason-for faith must be rational, or it degenerates into fanaticism or credulity— but as opposed to sight. Faith, not so much a function or faculty of the intellect, as a posture or condition of the will: moral in its nature rather than intellectual; "casting down imaginations and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ."
Never, perhaps, was there a time in the history of the Church of Christ in which there was greater need to ascertain carefully what this typical faith of our father Abraham was. It was not the acceptance of a highly-developed, articulated creed. It was not the investiture of the act of worship with an elaborate ceremonial symbolism. It was not a fanatical conception of the media through which the spirit of man seeks, and finds, communion with the Spirit of God. The simple Bible record of it is, "Abraham believed God;" and "it was counted to him for righteousness," because his whole life was the continued evidence of the reality of his faith. It was not perfect, but it was real. It rested on the simplest verities-on the providence of God and His sovereignty, His rewarding those that diligently seek Him, the efficacy of prayer, the reasonableness and the comfort of worship-these,
and little more than these truths and practices, made up Abraham's creed, his religion.
Some have thought that revelations were made to Abraham which would have enabled him to see as far into the purposes of God as did St. John or St. Paul; and particularly that after the averted sacrifice on Mount Moriah the whole mystery of Calvary was unrolled before his eyes-that this is the sense in which 'he saw Christ's day.' We will try to discover presently whether there may not be a more congruous interpretation of our Lord's word than this. Suffice it to say now that all this is mere assumption, foisted into the Scripture record, not only gratuitously, but utterly marring the proportions, and structure, and development of the revelation of God's purposes to man. It is not only a vain invention; it is an anachronism.
No; the merit of Abraham's faith lay not so much in the breadth as in the intensity of its view; not so much in its comprehensive grasp of the whole scheme of God, as in its deep persuasion of the duty of man. It was the faith of a saint rather than of a theologian. So was it also in the older and better days of Christendom. The faith that could remove mountains-and there was a grace even higher than that—was simply the intense energy of a soul throwing the whole force of its being upon the promises of God. The condition of the Saviour's putting forth His healing power was, "Believe only and thou shalt be made whole." When the Ethiopian eunuch asked his Heaven-sent Teacher whether, through the mystic instrument of the new
birth he might enter into the "better covenant" with God, Philip said, "If thou believest with all thine heart thou mayest;" and he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God." When St. Paul proclaims the word of faith which he preached, it is simply this: "If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved." The Gospel that he delivered to the Corinthians, wherein they stood, by which also they were saved, contained expressly only three grand articles— 'how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day” (1 Cor. xv. 1—4).
I know, of course, what is involved in these grand, simple utterances of primitive faith, but I am dealing only with what is expressed. The implicated truths are not formulated: the inferential dogmas are not authoritatively imposed. It seems to have been the purpose of the Church in her earliest and best days to make men religious rather than theological; to limit, rather than to extend, the field of authoritative dogma; to discourage speculative, gnostic tendencies; and to win her way against those that opposed themselves rather by the power of living convictions and saintly graces, than by the canons of councils, and the elaboration of creeds.
A simple, earnest faith in the mission and work of Christ; a deep profound consciousness of the sinfulness of man, and of his need of something beyond himself to lift him out of the mire; a strong conviction that God
is ever to be found by those that seek Him, and that He will," with every temptation make a way of escape," that He is the believer's "shield and exceeding great reward"; and a consistent endeavour to walk before Him in perfectness, as One to whom we owe the best service of our lives-this, or something like this, would be the faith of Abraham illuminated by the light of the Gospel; adapted to the phenomena of the revelation which has thrown a fresh tint over the life that " now is as well as on that which is to come." Sure I feel that it is faith enough to be "counted" to us "for righteousness"; faith enough to fix our hopes "on the city which hath foundations"; faith enough to sustain us under earthly trials and disappointments, "as seeing Him who is invisible."
(2) A consistent endeavour to frame the life so as to be in accordance with these convictions, so that what we are should be an expression to others of what we believe-avoiding the greatest of moral contradictions, the spiritual state which has the "form of godliness but is dead to its power-this is what the Apostle means by "walking by faith and not by sight"; being "saved by hope"; living with the eye fixed, not on the things which are "seen and temporal," but on the things which are "unseen, and eternal."
The faith of Abraham is the sufficient account of all the moral phenomena of his character: of his obedience, his unselfishness, his courage, his generosity, his placableness, his patience, his power of self-surrender. He seems never to have needed to sit down first and count the cost of what he was about to do.