Thomas Chalmers


ROMANS, iv, 16 - 22.

"Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all, (as it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were. Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be. And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sara's womb: he staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; and being fully persuaded that what he had promised he was able also to perform. And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness."

VER 16. You may here remark, that faith is not a meritorious work in the business of our salvation. It does not stand in the place of obedience, as the term of a new bargain, that has been substituted in room of an old one. It is very natural to conceive, that, as under the old covenant we had salvation for our works - so, under the new, we have salvation for our faith ; and that therefore faith is that which wins and purchases the reward. And thus faith is invested, in the imagination of some, with the merit and character of a work; and Heaven's favour is still looked upon as a premium, not a premium for doing, it is true, but a premium for believing: And this, as we have already said, has just the effect of infusing the legal spirit into the letter and expression of our evangelical system and thus, not merely of nourishing the pride and the pretension of its confident votaries, but of prolonging the disquietude of all earnest and humble enquirers.

For, instead of looking broadly out on the gospel as an offer, they look as anxiously inward upon themselves for the personal qualification of faith, as they ever did upon the personal qualification of obedience. This transfers their attention from that which is sure, even the promises of God - to that which is unsure, even their own fickle and fugitive emotions. Instead of thinking upon Christ, they are perpetually thinking upon themselves - as if they could discover Him in the muddy recesses of their own heart, without previously adrnitting Him by the avenue of a direct and open perception. They ought surely to cast their challenged and their invited regards on Him, who is the same to-day, yesterday, and for ever, when He calls them by His word, to look upon Him from all the ends of the earth and be saved. but no, they cast their eyes with downward obstinacy upon their own minds ; and there toil for the production of faith in the spirit of bondage; and perhaps, after they are satisfied with the fancied possession of it, rejoice over it as they would over any other meritorious acquirement in the spirit of legality. This is not the way in which the children of Israel looked out upon the serpent that was lifted up in the wilderness. They did not pore upon their wounds to mark the progress of healing there; nor did they reflect upon the power and perfection of their seeing faculties; nor did they even suffer any doubt that still lingered in their imaginations, to restrain them from the simple act of lifting up their eyes: And when they were cured in consequence, they would never think of this as a reward for their looking, but regard it as the fruit of Heaven's gracious appointment.

Do in like manner. It will make both against your humility and your peace, that you regard faith in the light of a meritorious qualification ; or that you attempt to draw a comfort from the consciousness of faith, which you ought primarily and directly to draw from the contemplation of the Saviour. If salvation be given as a reward for faith, then it is not of grace. But we are told in this verse that it is of faith, expressly that it might be by grace. And therefore be assured, that there is an error in all those conceptions of faith which tend to vitiate or to destroy this character; which make the good things of the gospel come down upon you as a payment, and not as a present ; which make the preaching of eternal life through Christ any thing else than simply the offer of a gift, and faith any thing else than simply the discerning of this offer to be true, and reeeiving it accordingly. In the one way, you can only be as sure of the promise as you are sure of yourself; and what a frail and fluctuating dependence is this, we would ask? In the other way, you are as sure of the promise, as you are sure of God; and thus your confidence has a rock to repose upon; and the more firmly you adhere and are rivetted to this foundation, the less chance is there of your ever being moved away from the hope of the gospel; and though this be established, not on what is within but on what is without you, let us not thereby imagine that all the securities for personal worth and personal excellence are thereby overthrown - for it is in the very attitude of leaning upon God, that man is upheld not only in hope but in holiness. It is in the very position of standing erect upon the foundation of the promises, that the promised strength as well as the promised righteousness is fulfilled to him. It is in the very act of looking unto Jesus, that the light of all that grace and truth and moral lustre which shine upon him from the countenance of the Saviour is let in upon the soul; and is thence reflected back again in the likeness of this worth and virtue from his own person.
We have no fear whatever of a simple dependence on the grace of the gospel, operating as an impediment to the growth of the holiness of the gospel. We believe that it is the alone stay of our deliverance from the power of sin, just as it is the alone stay of our deliverance from the fears of guilt: And, meanwhile, go not to obscure the aspect of this free and generous ministration, by regarding the gospel in any other light, than as an honestly announced present of mercy to all who will; or by regarding the faith of the gospel in any other light, than you would the ear that heard the communication of the present, or than you would the hand that laid hold of it.
But, to return from this digression.

Ver. 16, 17.
The inheritance is of faith, that it might be by grace, which can be extended to many nations; and not of the law, which would confine it to one nation. This makes it sure to the whole seed of Abraham, not merely to his seed by natural descent, but to that seed which stands related to him from being believers. It is in this sense that it is written of him - he is the father of many nations. It was his faith which introduced him into a filial relationship with God; and in the eyes of God, on whom he believed, all who believed after him were regarded as his children. It was very unlikely that Abraham should in any sense be blest with an offspring. But God calleth out from nonentity such things as be not - and He also sees such an analogy between natural and spiritual things, that he gives to a spiritual relationship the name of a natural relationship., He did both in the case of Abraham. In the face of a very strong unlikelihood, He conferred a real posterity on Abraham. And He constituted him in a mystical sense the father of a still more extended posterity, by making him the father of all who believed.
Ver. 18. Abraham, perhaps, had no suspicion, at the utterance of this promise, of any deep or spiritual meaning that lay under it. he certainly apprehended it in its natural sense, and perhaps in this sense alone. Looking forward to it with the eye of experience, he could have no hope; but looking forward to it with the eye of faith in the divine testimony, he might have a confident ex pectation. It is this which is meant by ‘against hope believing in hope.' The stronger the improbability in nature, the stronger was the faith which overcame the impression of it. He suffered not himself to be staggered out of his reliance on that which was spoken. He thus rendered an homage to the truth of God; and an homage proportional to the unlikelihood of the thing which God testified. It was also an homage to His power as well as to His truth. It proved that he thought Him able to arrest and to turn nature; and if He promised to do so, that what He promised He was able also to perform. And this faith was counted to him for righteousness. God was pleased with I the confidence that was placed in Him; and His pleasure in it was enhanced by the trials and difficulties which it had to contend with.

It is thus that God's honour, and man's interest are at one. We honour Him by believing. By believing we are saved. The fuller and firmer our persuasion in His truth, the greater is the homage that we render Him, and the more abundant are both the present peace and the future glory which we bring down upon ourselves. To hope against hope - to believe in the midst of violent improbabilities - to realize the future things which are addrest to faith, and are so unlike those present things with which nature surrounds us - to maintain an unshaken confidence because God hath spoken, though the besetting urgencies of sense and experience all tend to thwart and to dislodge it - These are the trials which, if faith overcome, make that faith more precious than gold in the sight of our heavenly witness; and it will be found to praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.
The following is the paraphrase of this passage.

"Therefore the promised inheritance is of faith, that it might be by grace, which can be extended to all - so as to ensure the promise to the whole generation of believers, not only to those who are of the law, but to those who have the faith of Abraham, the father and the forerunner of us all. Agreeably to the scripture, "I have made thee a father of many nations," which he is in the eye and estimation of Him on whom he believed - even God, who, by quickening that which is dead and dormant, both called forth a real posterity to Abraham, and also constituted him the spiritual father of a posterity far more extended than that of which he was the natural progenitor. This looked most unlikely to the eye of nature and experience; but, in the face of all the improbabilities which would have darkened the hope of other men, did he with confidence hope, that he should become the father of many nations - according to the word that was spoken to him about what his posterity should be. And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was yet about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sarah's womb. He staggered not at God's promise through unbelief, but was strong in faith, thereby giving glory to God' s faithfulness. And being fully persuaded, that what He had promised He was able also to perform. And therefore was it reckoned unto him for righteousness."

The lessons we shall try to enforce from this passage, are all founded on the consideration, that Abraham, in respect of his faith, was set up as a model to us - that, in like manner as he believed in the midst of difficulties and trials, so ought we - that we ought to hold fast our confidence in the midst of apparent impossibilities, even as he did - that with us the eye of faith should look above and beyond all that is seen by the eye of flesh, even as with him - and that we should not only set out on the life of faith after his example, hut should also walk in the footsteps of the faith of our father Abraham. The first thing that strikes us in our great pattern, is his tenacious and resolute adherence to the truth of God's testimony. " Let God be true," says the apostle, "and every man a liar " - If God have spoken, said the patriarch by his conduct, let us abide by it - though all nature and all experience should depone to the contrary. Amid all the staggering appearances by which he was surrounded, he kept by his firm persuasion in God's truth; and it was this which inwardly upheld him. His heart was fixed, trusting in God. He knew that it was His voice which first called him forth, and he was fully assured of its faithfulness; and that it was His promise which first allured him from the abode of his fathers, and he held it to be certain that what God had promised He was able to perform; and when all that was visible to sense looked unlikelihood upon his expectations, they were kept in full buoyancy and vigour by his unfaltering reliance on the word of Him who is invisible. All tile agitations of his varied history, could not unfasten his soul from the anchor of its fixed and unalterable dependence. And it was truly noble in him, who obedient to the heavenly vision, had torn himself away from the endearments of the place of his nativity; and, at the call of what he deemed a voice of rightful authority, went forth he knew not whither, and exchanged the abode of domestic serenity and bliss for the mazes of a toil- some and uncertain pilgrimage; and amid all that was fitted to dismay his heart when travelling in countries that were before unknown, made the will of God the ruling impulse of his history, and the promise of God the presiding star which cheered and conducted him on his way - it was a truly noble triumph of faith in this great patriarch, who, when a stranger in a strange land, looked around him, and beheld nothing in the verge of this lower world that did not lowr upon his destinies - yet could rejoice both in the safety that encompassed him, and in the glory that was before him - upheld singly but surely on this one consideration, that God hath said it, and shall He not do it?
It was against hope, believing in hope, for him to sustain with so much confidence the expectation, that to him a son should be born. But the most striking display of his thus hoping against hope, was when told, that unto his son and his seed after him, God should establish an everlasting covenant, and at the same time bidden to offer him up in sacrifice, he proceeded to do what God ordered; and yet retained in his heart the belief of what God said - when he lifted against him the meditated blow of death, knowing, that, even from death God, could revive him - when he simply betook himself to his prescribed task; and kept by a purpose of obedience, with which he not only overcame all the relentings of nature, but threw a darkening shroud over prophecies that stood linked with the life of Isaac in the world. He knew that God would find a way of His own to their accomplishment; and it was this which bore him onward to the full proof and vindication of his faith: And should we be at a loss to comprehend what is meant by against hope believing in hope, we see in this trial that was laid upon Abraham, and in the acquittal he made of himself, the most plain and picturesque exhibition of it.

Now to be strong in faith as he was, to cherish the full persuasion that he did, to believe with him in the midst of obstacles, to make the glory of God's truth carry it over the appearances of nature, so as to stagger not in the face of them, but to hope against hope - this is still the exercise of every Christian mind, and it were well to be guided therein by the example of this venerable patriarch. Such is the way in which the message of the gospel is constructed - such are the terms of that embassy with which its ministers are charged, that the promise of God as a shield, and of God as an exceeding great reward, is as good as laid down at the door of every individual who hears it. It is true that the promise thus laid down will not be fulfilled upon him, unless he take it up; or, in other words, unless he believe it. Now there is a difficulty in the way of nature believing any such thing. There is a struggle that it must make with its own fears and its own suspicions, ere it can admit the credibility of a holy God thus taking sinners into acceptance. There is an unlikelihood here, which is ever obtruding itself on the apprehensions of the guilty, and which tends to keep the offered peace and pardon and reconciliation of the gospel at an exceedingly hopeless distance away from them. Can it indeed be true that God is at this moment beseeching me to enter into agreement with Him? Can it indeed be true that a way of approach has been devised, open for admittance to myself; and on which, if I am found, I am met by the loving kindness and tender mercies of Him who looks so fearful to my imagination Can it be true of that lofty and tremendous Being who sits on a throne of majesty; and with whom I have been wont to associate the characters of jealousy, and wrath, and a sacredness so remote and inflexible, that none may draw nigh unto it - can it be true that He is now bending compassionately over me, and entreating my return from those paths of alienation in which I have all along wandered? We indeed read of an adjusted ceremonial, by which sinners may be brought within the limits of His august sanctuary; and we read of a Mediator who hath made the rough places plain, and levelled the otherwise impassable mountains of iniquity which stood between us and God: But can it indeed be true, that Christ is wooing and welcoming our approach towards Him, and if we only come with reliance to Him as to the mercy-seat, then to us there will be no condemnation? Nature may strongly desire such a consummation; but nature strongly doubts its possibility. And it takes a struggle to surmount her apprehensions; and it is against hope if she believe in hope; and there is a contest here to be gone through, ere our fears of that inflexible truth which has proclaimed in the hearing of our conscience the curses of a violated law, shall be overcome by our faith in that truth, which proclaims in Scripture the blessings of a free and offered gospel.

And here then let the example of Abraham be proposed to cheer our way over this barrier of unbelief. Let us stoutly imitate him in the resolute combat he held with the misgivings of nature. Let even the very chief of sinners face the unlikelihood that such as he can be taken into friendship with the God, before whom his profaneness and profligacy have hitherto risen as a smoke of abomination. Let even him buoy up his expectations, against the whole weight and burden of this despondency. Improbable as it may look to the eye of nature, that an outcast so polluted and so loathsome can be admitted into the honours of righteousness; and that though onward to the point of his present history he be crimsoned over with the guilt of ungodliness, can not only be forgiven, but be justified - yet let him against this hope believe in hope, and the stronger his faith the more abundant to him will be the imputation of righteousness. In that very proportion in which he has heretofore trampled on the glory of God by his disobedience, will he render a glory to His truth by now believing in Him who justifieth the ungodly. Let him consider the faith of Abraham, and let the expressions which the apostle emplova to characterize it now crowd upon his observation, and carry all doubt and timidity before them. It is just by standing on the truth of the gospel, and then bearing up under the sense of the guilt that hangs over us - it is just by firmly and determinedly persisting in this attitude of confidence on the word of God, even in the midst of all which without that word should sink us into despair - it is just by so doing, that like Abraham we stagger not because of unbelief; and like him we against hope believe in hope; and like him we are not weak in the faith, but by being strong in it give glory to God; and like him are fully persuaded that what God hath promised, He is able to perform; and like him be assured, the guiltiest of you all, that if such be your faith, held firm and fast even unto the end - like as unto him so will this faith be imputed unto you for righteousness.
There is another great unlikelihood in the matter of Christianity, to call forth the exercise of against hope believing in hope - not merely that God's disposition towards us should be so changed as that He shall regard us with an eye of acceptance, but that our disposition toward God shall be so changed as to make us happy in the fellowship of a common character and of a congenial intercourse with Him. This we are not by nature. Our delighted converse is with the things that are made, and not with the Maker of them. In reference to Him there is the insensibility of spiritual death; and the great transition that we have to undergo ere Heaven can to us be a place of kindred enjoyment, is to be made alive again. For this purpose there must be a revival, which no putting forth of any constitutional energy in man can at all accomplish - a process of quickening, which nature cannot originate, and nature cannot carry forward - a resurrection of the soul, that is as far beyond the bidding of any human voice, as is the egress of a reanimated body from the grave. The man who knows how steeped all his feelings and all his faculties are in ungodliness, knows the moral and spiritual birth that we are now adverting to, to be against the current of all his former experience, and beyond the achievement of all his present most strenuous exertions. And if against hope he believe in the hope, that such a regeneration shall be begun or perfected in him, it will be on the footing of some such promise as sustained the expectations of the patriarch.

This unfolds to us the link which connects our faith with our sanctification. God hath promised the clean heart and the right spirit to all who are in Christ Jesus; and, according to the firmness of our reliance upon this promise, will be the fulness of its accomplishment upon our persons. Believest thou that I am able to do this says the Saviour to the man who looked to Him for a miraculous cure; and according to his faith so was it done unto him. The apostle Paul looked upon another man under disease, and perceived that he had faith to be healed. Peter affirmed of the cripple whom he restored to the use of his limbs in the temple, that the name of Christ through faith in His name had made this man strong - yea the faith which is by Him, had given him this perfect soundness in the presence of them all. And thus do we recover our spiritual health. And thus are the blindness and the paralysis and the impotency that have so benumbed our moral faculties done away. The full and firm persuasion of the patriarch, that what is impossible with man is possible with God, will bring down this possibility in living demonstration upon our own characters. He who promises also says, that for this I must be enquired after; and the prayer of faith brings down the fulfilment; and the man who asks for what is so consonant to the will of God, as that he shall be made alive unto Himself, has only like Abraham to believe Him able to call from the womb of nonentity that power into being, by which he is made a new creature in Jesus Christ our Lord. A creature from the depths of his conscious depravity, thus knocking at the door which he cannot open, but who believes that one is standing there to hear and to answer him - a humble aspirant after the character of heaven, who prays in faith for the love to God which he has never yet felt, and for the charity to man with which he has vainly tried to animate his own cold and selfish bosom - the labouring disciple of revelation, whose ear has taken up the promise of our eternal inheritance, but who knows that it is only through the medium of a birth in his own heart as preternatural as that of Isaac that he ever can arrive at it - Let him imitate the father of the faithful in his confident reliance on the promise of God; and like him let him believe in the power that quickeneth from above; and like him who was not weak in faith, let him consider not the deadness of his own moral and spiritual energies, but give to God the whole glory of the renovation he aspires after - and he will most assuredly experience with all Christians, that when weak then is he strong, and that what God hath promised He is able also to perform.

But the habit of against hope believing in hope, is not restricted to the great and general promises of Christianity. It extends to all the promises of the book of revelation - to those for example, in which God has condescended even on the passing affairs of our pilgrimage in this world; and affirmed that He will not leave us destitute of such things as are needful for the body; and hath admonished us to cast this care upon Him, on the assurance of daily bread to us and our little ones. Amid the reelings of this eventual period, we doubt not that the aspect of the times has borne upon it a hard and a lowring expression towards many a family; and that, standing on the eve of a fearful descent into the abyss of poverty, great has been the distress and great has been the disquietude; and that while the present and the visible dependence was fast melting away, and every successive arrival had for months together called to the ear of the mercantile world a still more dismal futurity that was coming -(In 1820 - when commercial distress, and political discontent, threatened a violent outbreaking in the manufacturing districts of the West of Scotland.) many have been the hearts among you that were failing for fear, and to the eye of nature was it against all hope, that you ever could be borne through the dark spaces of uncertainty that lay before you. And yet even here the Christian has ground against hope to believe in hope. The promise of daily bread is to him and to his children.

Let him but have the faith of the patriarch, and he will not be afraid of evil tidings; and while there be others, who, in the rush of a great commercial storm, are melted in their soul because of trouble; and reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wits end - he believeth and is calm, and at length finds himself in the desired haven. And we appeal to this worst of seasons; we appeal to a period from the crash and the turbulence and the fearful despondency of which we are yet scarcely emerging - when society has been heaving under the burden of a commerce greater than it can bear, and the surfeited and overladen world has been rolling back upon its authors the produce of their own frenzied speculations - when the proudest of our great trading establishments have toppled to an overthrow, and strewed the face of an ocean that is still labouring with the ruins and the fragments of shipwrecked ambition - We are confident that even in the very midst of such a history as this, there is not a house we can enter, nor a family from which we can obtain the record of all their vicissitudes and all their vexations, where we shall not find a trophy of the faithfulness of God - where up to the extent of His own engagement, which are what things we absolutely stand in need of - and why care we for the rest - He has not ministered subsistence and safety to all who put their trust in Him. So that here is an ever recurring topic for the exercise of faith; and in behalf of God do we affirm, even in the unhikehiest and most threatening of all periods, that as the faith so will be the fulfilment.

And upon this very theme of our present remarks, does the offering up of Isaac admit of a most powerful and pertinent application. It was through him, that Abraham saw afar off the glory that was promised; and yet him was he required by God to sacrifice with his own hands; and, even against hope believing in hope, he proceeded to render an unfaltering compliance with the order; and while he made full proof of his obedience on the one hand, did God on the other make full proof of His faithfulness. There is a time when adversity brings a man so low, as to strip him of more than his all; and when it places him before the tribunal of his assembled creditors; and when justice bids a faithful account and a full surrender of all that belongs to him; and when nevertheless, by an act of dexterous and unseen appropriation, he may retain a something with which he links the future revival of his business, or the future subsistence of his family. Now this is his appointed sacrifice. This, in despite of all fond anticipation in behalf of his prospects, and of all rclentings on behalf of his children, it is his duty to give up. His business is to discharge himself of every item of God's will, and to embark himself with full reliance on God s promises. This is the trial both of his integrity and of his faith; and on the altar of truth it is his part to deposit an entire offering, and to bring forward every secret and untold article to the light of an open manifestation. This we would call the triumph of faith over vision, and of trust in God over the apprehensions of nature; and the unseen witness, who all the while is most intently looking on, can out of the infinity of resources which lie has at command, again bring sufficiency to his door - can at least fill him with that peace of contentment, which with godliness is great gain; and bless with the light of His approving countenance that humbler walk to which he has descended - can throw a sweetness and a shelter around him that perhaps he never felt in the loftier exposures of society; and irradiate his more modest and homely dwelling place, with a hope that beams beyond the grave, and soars above all the changes of this fleeting and uncertain pilgrimage.

There is still another lesson that remains to be drawn and enforced from the example of Abraham, beside the strength of his faith; and that is the practical movement which it imprest upon him. To be the children of him who is called the father of the faithful, it is not enough that we imitate him in the principle of his faith - we must also, according to the language of the apostle, walk in the footsteps of it. It is very true that it was the belief of Abraham which was counted to him for righteousness. He believed what the Lord had spoken; and had there not been another communication to him from Heaven, than simply that he was to have a son through whom all the families of the earth were to be blessed, we can conceive a firm persuasion of the truth of this announcement, resting in the mind of the patriarch, without stimulating him to one deed or to one movement in consequence. It might have found ingress there, and taken up a most inviolable lodgment in his heart, and he be reckoned with as righteous because of it; and yet he may have occupied the very station, and lived the very life that he would have done, though no such message had ever come to his door, and no such promise had ever been addrest to him. But, instead of this, we find that his faith in the heavenly visitation was instantly followed up by a change in the whole course and habit of his pilgrimage; and a painful abandonment of all that was naturally dear to his heart was the very first fruit of it; and he forthwith put himself under a control which maintained an authoritative guidance over the whole of his future history; and in the full attitude of service and subordination, did he wait the bidding of that master's voice, who prescribed to him the conduct of all his journeyings through the world, and often laid upon him the most arduous tasks of obedience: And nothing can be more completely passive and resigned, than the posture of him who has been styled the father of all who do believe - in that, when the commandment came forth upon him from God, he never once imagined that there was any thing else for him to act in the affair, but just to render an instantaneous compliance therewith.

We have heard belief and obedience contrasted the one with the other, and in such a way as if these two terms stood in practical opposition. In the case of Abraham we see them standing in sure and immediate succession, so that the one emanated from the other; and just in proportion to the strength of his faith, and to the glory which he rendered unto God for His faithfulness, and to the unstaggering reliance that he had upon His assurances, and to the thoroughness of his persuasion that what God had promised He was able also to perform - just in that very proportion, did he commit himself to the authority of God; and amid all the uncertainties incident to one who was going he knew not whither, did he take counsel and direetion from Him who was his master in heaven; and nothing can be more evident than that character of devotedness to the whole will of God which stood imprest on the subsequent doings of his life upon earth; and, instead of a mere contemplative persuasion with which lie looked forward to the country that was promised to him, did he shape his measures with all the preparation and activity of a man who had been set upon the enterprise of travelling towards it. So that faith, instead of lulling him out of his activity, was the very principle which both set it agoing and kept it agoing. It was the moving force which first tore him away from those scenes and from that society to which nature so adhesively cleaves; and after he had been loosed from all that was dear to him, did the same force act upon him with that continued impulse, which made him just as exemplary for his works of obedience as he was for the strength and determination of his faith.

It is most true, as Paul says to the Romans, that by faith Abraham was justified, and not by obedience. But it is just as true what he says to the Hebrews, that it was by faith that Abraham obeyed - when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance; and he went out not knowing whither he went. By faith, he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise. For he looked for a city which hath foundations whose builder and maker is God. And he walked as a stranger and pilgrim upon earth, and declared plainly that he had gone forth in quest of a country.

The truth is, that God did not confine His utterance with Abraham to a bare promise, on the truth of which it was his part to rely. The very first utterance that is recorded was a precept, on the authority of which it was his part to proceed. "Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred and from thy father's house, into a land that I will show thee." It is very true that ere he would obey there was something to believe. He had to believe that it was God who spake unto him. He must have believed in the land of which he had been told, he must have believed in the truth of the promise, that came immediately on the back of the commandment. He must, in fact, have given an entire and unexcepted glory to the truth of God - and must therefore have had a faith reaching to the whole extent of God's testimony. Had God simply said "I will make of thee a great nation," the belief of such an announcement did not essentially lead to any movement on the part of our patriarch. Bat when God said - " Get thee out of thy country, and I will make of thee a great nation" - the belief of the announcement, extended in this manner, would lead Abraham to perceive, that the act of his leaving home was just as essential to the fulfilling of it, as the act of his becoming a great nation was essential. And the joy he felt in the latter part of the communication, would just be in proportion to the prompt obedience that he rendered to the former part of it. It was his faith in the first address of God to him, that led him to the first step of his obedience; and it was his faith in God's future addresses, where precepts and promises are intermingled together, that led him on to future steps of obedience: And it is just by walking in the same path of obedience that he did, that we walk in the footsteps of the faith of our father Abraham.

An article of belief may lie up in our minds, without any change or any transition; and such a belief can have no footsteps. But when it is a belief that carries movement along with it - when it is a belief in one who both bids and blesses with His voice at the same time - when it is a belief that is conversant with such an utterance as the following - " Arise, walk through the land in the length and in the breadth of it: for I will give it unto thee ;" or with such an utterance as the following - " I am the Almighty God; walk before me and be thou perfect, and I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly" - when it is belief in a God who so manages his intercourse with His creatures, as to cheer them by His promises, and guide them by His directions at the same instant - there is a dependence that will issue from such a faith, but there is an obedience also; and the successive parts of that practical history which it originated at the first, and animates throughout afterwards, are the footsteps of the faith.
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