These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.
~ Hebrews 11:13
Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.
~ Hebrews 10:22
But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.
~ Hebrews 10:39
Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.
~ Acts 20:21
For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.
~ Galatians 5:6
Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God’s elect, and the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness;
~ Titus 1:1
That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:
~ 1 Peter 1:7
Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ:
~ 2 Peter 1:1
Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.
~ Psalm 42:11
How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end;
~ Hebrews 2:3, Hebrews 3:14
Lest haply if they of Macedonia come with me, and find you unprepared, we (that we say not, ye) should be ashamed in this same confident boasting.
~ 2 Corinthians 9:4
That which I speak, I speak it not after the Lord, but as it were foolishly, in this confidence of boasting.
~ 2 Corinthians 11:17
That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises. That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us: Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil;
~ Hebrews 6:12, Hebrews 6:18-19
A Sermon on Hebrews 11:1, by Thomas Manton. The following contains an excerpt from Sermon II of his work.
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for.—Heb. 11:1a.
Secondly, The benefit and advantage of this act, and the use of faith in the spiritual life.
1. It is very necessary we should have such a faith as should substantiate our hopes, to check sensuality, for we find the corrupt heart of man is all for present satisfaction. And though the pleasures of sin be short and inconsiderable, yet because they are near at hand, they take more with us than the joys of heaven, which are future and absent. A man would wonder at the folly of men that should with Esau sell his birthright for a morsel of meat, Heb. 12:16, that they should be so profane as to sell their Christ and glory, and those excellent things which the christian religion discovers, to part with the joys of Christianity for the vilest price. When lust is up and set agog, all considerations of eternal glory and blessedness are laid aside to give it satisfaction. A little pleasure, a little gain, a little conveniency in the world will make men part with all that is honest and sacred. A man would wonder at their folly, but the great reason is, they live by sense: ‘Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world,’ 2 Tim. 4:10; there lies the bait, these things are present with us; we can taste the delights of the creatures, and feel the pleasures of the flesh; but the happiness of the world to come is a thing unseen and unknown. ‘Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we shall die,’ 1 Cor. 15:32. This is the language of every carnal heart, let us take up with present things. Who will venture upon the practice of a duty difficult and distasteful to his affections, and forego what we see and enjoy upon the uncertain hopes of things to come? Present advantages, nay vanities, though they be small and very trifles, yet have more power to pervert us than good things at a distance, nay, than all the promises of God to allure and draw in our hearts to God. And here lies the root and strength of all temptations; the inconveniences of strictness in religion are present, there is a present distaste and present trouble to the flesh; and the rewards are future; here is the great snare: therefore how should we do to check this living by sense that is so natural to us? Why, faith substantiating our hopes provides a remedy; for that makes things to come to work as if they were already enjoyed; the day of judgment to work upon us, as if we did see Christ upon his white throne, and the books opened and heaven as if we were ready now to enter into it. Where faith is lively and strong, and is the evidence of things not seen, it baffles and defeats all temptations. The war and conflict in men’s hearts is carried on under these two captains, faith and sense. All the forces of the spiritual and regenerate part are drawn and led up by faith; sense on the other side marshals all the temptations of the world and the flesh; sense is all for enjoyment and actual possession. Now faith, to vanquish it, gives a substance, and makes things to come present to us, and makes us sensible of other satisfactions and contentments, which are far better; and there lies the strength of the renewed part; and the great success of the spiritual battle is in the liveliness of hope and in the certainty of faith, that it may make those things work as present which sense judgeth absent and afar off. That is the reason why faith and sense are so often opposed in scripture; faith forestalls the joys of heaven, and makes them to be in the mind and judgment, and upon the heart of a believer, that the restraint from present delights may seem less irksome; if it be laborious and difficult to serve God, yet it is for heaven. All that the devil can plead, who works by sense, is the enjoyment of a little present profit and pleasure; he cannot promise heaven and glory, or anything hereafter; now therein he thinks he hath the start of God—heaven is to come, but the delights and advantages of sin are at hand. Faith, to baffle the temptation, strongly fixeth the heart of a believer upon things to come, that in some sort it
doth preunite their souls and their happiness together, and by giving them heaven upon earth confirms the soul in a belief of better things than the devil or the world can propose. Thus you see that to defeat the temptation there needs faith, that it may strongly fix the heart of a believer upon things to come and put him within the company of the blessed; that in some sort he may have heaven upon earth, and such a certain persuasion of better things, that he may look upon all that the devil, the world and the flesh do oppose to him as a weak and paltry thing.
2. It gives strength and support to all the graces of the spiritual life. The great design of religion is to bring us to a neglect of present happiness, and to make the soul to look after a felicity yet to come; and the great instrument of religion, by which it promoteth this design, is faith, which is as the scaffold and ladder to the spiritual building. It is useful to all the other graces, whether they be doing or suffering graces. We are assaulted on every side, both ‘on the right hand and on the left,’ as the apostle saith, 2 Cor. 6:7; on the one side by the pleasures of the flesh, on the other side by the frowns of the world; and therefore the armour of righteousness must be fitted on both sides, that we may be strengthened on the right hand against the pleasures, profits, and honours of the world, and on the left hand against troubles, disgraces, and bitter persecutions. If we would stand our ground, and be faithful in the business of our heavenly calling, we must look for these two things, to do for God, and to suffer for God; for these two ways a christian approves himself to God; by suffering we declare our loyalty, by doing we perform our homage.
Ques. Indeed it is a pretty question, In which of these we manifest most love to God, either mortifying our lusts, or renouncing our interests—to which the chiefest crown of honour is due? whether to be set upon the head of the suffering faith, or the active or doing faith?
Sol. It may be pleaded on the one side, that in holiness, or the active part of duty, we only give away our ill-being for Christ by crucifying our lusts, which are enemies to our peace as well as to the crown of heaven; but by suffering, we lose being and well-being, our lives and livelihood, and all for Christ; therefore it seems there should be more love in that. But on the other side, it may be pleaded thus, that there are many that suffer for Christ, who sacrifice a stout body to a stubborn mind; and because they are engaged they will suffer, yet are not able to quit a lust for him. And it may be pleaded, the victory is less over outward inconveniences, than inward lusts which are rooted in our nature, and so more hard to be overcome; and the enduring trouble and hardship is more easy than subduing of sin, and that it is the sharpest martyrdom a man can endure to tame his flesh, majus in castitate vivere, quam pro castitate mori—it is a harder thing to be a holy person than to be a martyr. Thus you see each part indeed hath its difficulties, which I have mentioned; partly to satisfy them that are not called to suffer, yet thou hast employment enough by faith to mortify thy lusts, and indeed there is the harder work; it is more easy to withstand an enemy than a temptation. When we conflict with an enemy, we do but conflict with an arm of flesh and blood; but when the apostle speaks of the inward warfare, he saith, Ephes. 6:12, ‘We fight not with flesh and blood, but with principalities and powers.’ And partly to show, that there are inconveniences on both hands, and a great deal of difficulty, and there is need of all the strength that possibly we can have, both for doing and suffering. We need faith on either side, that we might be holy and willing to do for God; and that we may be courageous and willing to die for God.
But why should I debate this difference? Let me compound it rather; holiness and suffering must both go together, for no one can suffer for Christ, but they whose hearts are drawn forth to love him above all things. The priests under the law were to search the burnt-offering, and if it were scabby, or had any blemish upon it, it was to be laid aside and not offered. The Lord doth not desire a scabbed carnal man should suffer for him. He that keeps the commandments is best able to suffer for them. In Mat. 5, first Christ saith, ‘Blessed are the pure in heart,’ ver. 8, then, ‘Blessed are they that suffer for righteousness’ sake,’ ver. 10. The blessing of martyrdom is put in the last place, implying that a martyr must have all the precedent graces of meekness, humility, poverty of spirit, &c. Therefore we must look for doing the will of God, and suffering the will of God, before these promises be accomplished, and the things we hope for brought about.
(1.) To suffer for God. It is oftentimes a crime to be faithful to Christ’s interests, and a matter of danger to be a thorough christian; when men are exposed to affronts, and troubles, and disgraces, they need all the wisdom and grace that possibly they can get together. Now faith is ‘the substance of things hoped for,’ there will be our best furniture; why? for this will teach us to counterbalance our temptations with our hopes. It puts your hopes in one balance, when the devil puts the world with all terrors, disgraces and losses in the other; and then the soul triumphs, and says, that our losses are no more to be compared with our gains, than a feather is to be set against a talent of lead. ‘I reckon,’ saith the apostle, Rom. 8:18, ‘that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us;’ and the bitterness of the cross is allayed and sweetened by comparing our hopes with it. Thus Moses sets the recompense of reward against the loss of the pleasures, treasures, and honours of Egypt, Heb. 11:24, 25. And those forty martyrs Basil speaks of that were kept naked in the open air in a cold frosty night, and to be burnt the next day, they cried out, ‘Sharp is the cold, but sweet is paradise; troublesome is the way, pleasant is the end of the journey; let us endure the cold for the present, and the patriarch’s bosom shall soon warm us,’ &c. These passages will truly open the meaning of the apostle, that ‘faith is the substance of things hoped for,’ &c., when we can really set one against the other, and bear the hardest lot that can befal us upon expectation of our blessed hopes. And that of the apostle doth notably open it, 2 Cor. 4:16, ‘For this cause we faint not,’ &c., why? ver. 18. ‘While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal;’ that is, when we are supported and fortified by a remembrance and certain expectation of our blessed hopes. When the Jews were full of fury against Stephen, Act. 7:56, ‘he saw the heavens opened;’ and so he fortified himself against the anger, and shower of stones from the people. There was somewhat of miracle and ecstasy in that vision, the glory of heaven being represented not only to his soul, but possibly to his senses by some external representation. But as to the substance of the comfort itself, it is that which falls out ordinarily in a way of believing; faith opens heaven to a believer, and brings him to the company of the blessed; and when the soul is taken up with the thoughts of another world, it can better digest trouble here. Faith is the perspective of his soul, he seeth heaven opened and glory prepared for him, and then the temptation vanisheth. This is the reason believers can endure plundering ‘and spoiling of goods,’ Heb. 10:34. ‘Faith is the substance of things hoped for.’ Let goods go, saith a believer, so he may keep his interest in the better and more enduring substance. The christians in the primitive times were first exposed to the rapine and malice of the rude people, before actions at law or any legal process was formed against them by the persecuting edicts of the Roman emperors for their profession. And the Jews were most fierce against christians in that kind; they would spoil them, and they could have no advantage against them. Now ‘they took joyfully,’ they were willing to part with them as Joseph with his coat to keep his conscience; and to quit all worldly possessions, because they had an assurance of a better and a more enduring substance. So that it is of great use to support suffering graces, as fortitude and self-denial.
(2.) To do for God. As to the doing part, those graces serve for doing the will of God, which is our constant trial. Look to the several parts of our duty.
(1.) For the destructive part, or the work of mortification. When heaven is in the eye and heart of a believer, when it is preoccupied by his faith, sin hath less power upon the heart. When faith gives substance and being to your hopes, it will appear in your lives; you will mortify corruption, and study holiness, while you can set the pleasures on God’s right hand against the pleasures of sin; and you can reason thus, Rom. 8:13, ‘If I live after the flesh, I shall die; but if I, through the Spirit, mortify the deeds of the body, I shall live.’ You will be more able to bear with the difficulties of religion, when you see you do not act upon an uncertain futurity; you do not fight as those that are uncertain; as the apostle speaks, Heb. 10:36, ‘That after ye have done the will of God ye might receive the promise.’ Nay, before we have done the whole will of God, faith receives the promise; we have the root, though not the blossom. It is true, Christ calls to suffer unpleasing austerities; aye, but heaven makes amends for them all. Therefore whenever sensitive desires insinuate themselves, faith can see carnal pleasures are base, and but the happiness of beasts; and they are short, ‘pleasures of sin for a season,’ Heb. 11:25, and they issue themselves into unspeakable torments; ‘they shall mourn at last,’ Prov. 5:11. When the devil would make you faint and lazy in the work of the Lord, faith can represent the short continuance of the present difficulty; so when the devil would beget irksome thoughts of duty, faith can represent endless delights that will follow; and then the believer determines, it is better to go to heaven with labour, than to hell with pleasure. This is that which made Moses, who had an eagle eye, so victorious: Heb. 11:26, ‘He had respect to the recompense of the reward,’ which made him despise the pleasures, and treasures, and honours of Egypt. The looking upon the recompenses makes hope to have such an influence on the life; for those views and foretastes of heaven will beget such a strong persuasion in the heart of a believer, that all the reasons in the world shall not alter, or break the force of his spiritual purpose. When the devil tempts to filthiness, unclean ness, wantonness, faith presents hopes of being consorts and followers of the unspotted and immaculate Lamb. When we are tempted to neglect duty for worldly advantages, faith doth oppose the glory of our inheritance, the riches of the new Jerusalem, and what is the hope of our high calling, and the good treasure God hath opened to us in the new covenant. If we are tempted to hunt after worldly honour, faith proposeth a crown of righteousness which the just and righteous God will give us at that day. If the fear of disgrace make us loosen and slacken our duty, faith proposeth the confusion of face wherewith the wicked shall appear before the throne of the Lamb, and the disgrace that shall fall upon the wicked at the great day. So when we are tempted to murmuring and repining under the cross, faith will assure that though the way be rough, the end of the journey will be sweet. So that the promises are like cordials next the heart, and keep the poison from seizing upon the vital spirits, and preserve the soul in a holy generousness and bravery for God; they tell us of rivers of pleasure that stream out of the heart of Jesus Christ, and the sweet content we shall enjoy with God for evermore.
(2.) For diligence and seriousness in a holy life. The nearer things are, the greater and the more they work upon us, and the further off the less. Those never thought of repentance that put far away the evil day, Amos 6:3. A star at a distance, though of great magnitude, seems like a spark or spangle. We are sensible of things more, the nearer they are; distance doth much alter our apprehensions of things; we have not the same notions of eternity, living as we shall have when we come to die. Oh! when time begins to draw to an end, and we are going into the other world, what would we give to live over our lives again? Oh, how diligent, watchful, serious should we be if we had the sense of eternity upon our hearts! Now how shall we do to make things at a distance to be near to us? Thus, faith is the perspective of the soul. As by a perspective glass we see things at a distance as if they were present and near at hand; so faith apprehends things at a distance, and makes them work upon us. Certain expectation produceth industrious prosecution: Phil. 3:14, ‘I press on to the mark,’ saith Paul, ‘for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.’ We make the world believe that heaven and hell are things spoken in jest, whilst we are so careless about them; but when we apprehend them in good earnest, and have a true sense of them, then we fall a- working out our salvation with fear and trembling; we see that all the diligence and holy care we can use is little enough to carry away this great prize of the eternal enjoyment of God. By faith you look within the veil, and lift up the heart to the heavenly joys, and this keeps the heart watchful over the blessed hope. It is the description of a believer: Jude, ver. 21, ‘Looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.’ Now we have no other eye but faith, and faith stands you in stead, as it confirms you in the certainty of your hopes. Heaven is in the heart by faith, and therefore the heart is in heaven by spiritual meditation; all their thoughts are about their country: Phil. 3:20, ‘For our conversation is in heaven;’ and all the business of their lives is to approach nearer to their hopes. Paul was taken up into the third heaven. Faith giveth you a temperate and deliberate view, though not by such a rapid motion, yet by serious and solemn thoughts, and so keeps the soul in a heavenly frame and expectation. It puts your head above the clouds, and in the midst of the world to come. The apostle biddeth us to lay up in store for ourselves a good foundation against the time to come, ‘that we may lay hold of eternal life,’ 1 Tim. 6:19. Now faith doth not only lay the first stone, but the whole heap is increased, the work of holiness is carried on by the help and assistance of faith, which keepeth heaven and eternal life in the view of the soul, and so encourageth heavenly motions and endeavours.
(3.) For contentation, that is a necessary part of the holy life. This contentation is two-fold; under the difficulties and inconveniences of the present life, and under the want and distance of our future comfort.
(1st.) Under the difficulties and inconveniences of the present life. Faith sweetens all the afflictions of this life by presenting the advantages of the future, and balanceth what we feel with what we do expect. The shortest life is long enough to be sensible of inconveniences and many calamities. But though the way is rough, faith seeth heaven at the end of the journey, and so it conveyeth real support and comfort into the soul and heart of a believer. A christian may live in the sweetness of tranquillity in the midst of all outward disturbances, because the presence of his hopes makes amends for all, and giveth him a happy dedolency that he feels nothing; whereas when faith is weak we soon faint: Ps. 119:92, ‘Unless thy law had been my delight, I had perished in my affliction.’ There is such a sweetness in the word, that when faith takes hold of it, the sense of worldly misery is overwhelmed and quenched. Faith is like a cordial that keeps off the poison of affliction from the vital spirits, and the poison of the encumbrances of the present life from the soul: Ps. 27:13, ‘I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of God in the land of the living,’ that is, without the sense of eternal happiness I had been utterly lost. Heaven is properly the land of the living, and that he respecteth. To see God in the land of the living is as much as to enjoy God in heaven; and so the Chaldee explaineth it, in the land of life eternal.
(2dly.) It helps us to contentation under the want and distance of our future comforts. Let it not seem a paradox, that here the conflict is hardest. It is easier to bear the evil than wait for the promised good, for sorrows are better and sooner allayed than desires. Desires are the vigorous bent of the soul, and they are impatient of check, chiefly when they are drawn forth upon reasons of religion, and usually after much mortification. It is very hard to tarry the Lord’s leisure for the enjoyment of their hopes, when their hearts are weaned from the world; their pulse then beats strongly towards Christ, and it is a hard matter to cool and restrain the vehemency of their desires, especially towards our latter end. The nearer we are to the enjoyment of any good, the more impatient we are of the want of it; as a stone moveth faster, when nearest the centre. All natural motion is swifter in the close; so a christian’s motions, though slow in the beginning, are swift in the close; therefore their hearts beat with longing desires, ready to break within them for the enjoyment of Christ. And this burden is the greater, because faith gives a partial enjoyment; but the same faith, which stirs up those desires, also yields the remedy against the vehemency of them. Desire is not only the fruit of hope, but patience: 2 Peter 3:12, ‘Looking for,’ or waiting for, and yet ‘hastening to the coming of the Lord.’ The word in the original, ‘looking for,’ notes a patient bearing: now these two words seem contrary, waiting, yet hastening. This is the disposition of the people of God, they look for, and they hasten to the Lord’s coming. They covet the everlasting state, and yet wait God’s leisure. There is a vehemency and yet a regularity in their expectations, and both are promoted by this act of faith: for faith gives certainty, and that quiets the soul, though there be not present enjoyment. The first effect of faith is a present interest and title, and ‘He that believeth maketh not haste,’ Isa. 28:16. Those prelibations of heaven we have in the world, the scripture gives us under a double notion; the first-fruits, and earnest; the first-fruits or tastes how good; and an earnest or pledge, how sure. Under the quality of the first-fruits, so they do awaken desires and vehement longings: Rom. 8:23, ‘We that have the first-fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our bodies.’ A christian hath tasted how sweet God is in Christ, therefore he groans after the full enjoyment of him. As they are an earnest, 2 Cor. 1:22, ‘Who hath sealed us, and given us the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts;’ so it is a ground of waiting. We may trust God if he hath given us an earnest. It is not for the comfort of a man to carry his inheritance at his back, it is enough that he hath a right and title. Faith is every way as sure, though not as sweet as sense; and therefore a believer waits as long as God hath anything for him to do in this world upon this security of faith. It is true, he is in a strait, his desires press him, yet he will wait. Thus St. Paul, Phil. 1:23, 24, ‘I am in a strait between two, having a desire to be dissolved, and be with Christ; but to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.’ A christian is thus divided between his own profit and God’s will, and God’s glory; but at length faith casts the scales, and brings him to a holy contentation with the pleasure of God. The first-fruits beget longings; and the’ earnest keeps us from murmuring and discontent; so the sureness sweetens the pain which the remoteness occasions.
Use 1. To examine whether you have this kind of faith or no, which is the substance of things hoped for. To discover how little of this faith there is in the world, consider—
1. Many men say they believe, but alas, what influence have their hopes upon them? Do they affect them? Do they engage them as things present and sensible do? Alas, in the general, things temporal work more upon us than things eternal, and things visible than things invisible. A small matter will prove a temptation; a little pleasure and profit, how doth it set you a-work? We have not half that seriousness in spiritual business that we have in earthly. Surely men do not believe heaven, because they are so little affected with it; because they mind and care for it and labour for it so little. Alas! they live as if they never heard of any such thing, or believe not what they hear; every toy and trifle is preferred before it. If a poor man understood that some great inheritance was bequeathed to him, would not he often think of it, and rejoice in it, and long to go and see it, and take possession of it? There is a promise of eternal life left with us in the gospel, but who puts in for a share? Who longs for it? Who takes hold of it? Who gives all diligence to make it sure? Who desires to go and see it? Oh, that I might be dissolved, and be with Christ! Because these hopes have so little influence on us, it is a sign we do not make them exist in our hearts.
2. You may discern it by your carriage in any trial and temptation. When heaven and the world come in competition, can you deny present carnal advantages upon the hopes of eternity? do you forsake all as knowing you shall have a thousand times better in another world? So did Moses, Heb. 11:24, 25; the reason is rendered—’For he had respect to the recompense of reward; ‘then is the best time to judge of your spirit; then God puts you to it; therefore they are called temptations and trials. Certainly it is of much profit to observe the issue and result of these deliberate debates and conflicts that are in the conscience. Now where faith is the substance of things hoped for, there will be a denial of present carnal advantages; heaven will be as present as the temptation, and you will see Jesus Christ outbidding the world; nay, that momentary sufferings are not meet to be named the same day with your hopes. If the world should come in competition with glory, to violate conscience for a present satisfaction, faith comes away from the contest with an holy disdain and indignation at such a comparison. In vain is the snare laid before the bird that is of so high and so noble a flight. The servants of the Lord were tortured, Heb. 11:35; in the original it is ἐτυμφανίσθησαν, they were stretched out as a drum, yet they would not accept of deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. Will you be taken off the rack? No. The world offered them a release, but faith offered them a resurrection, the raising of the body out of the grave to the glory of God. The world suggests earthly enjoyments, present advantages, You may have such and such preferments for the violating of conscience; then faith comes with the treasures of the covenant. We are put to our choice many times either to wrong conscience, or accept of the world’s profits; outward conveniences are put into one scale, faith puts your hopes into the other; one is present, the other is absent. Now observe the workings of your spirits in such cases. I confess there may be a resistance sometimes out of stubbornness, but if there be faith, it will work thus, by presenting your hopes, and casting the balance by an exceeding weight of glory. We can lose nothing, saith faith, but we shall have better in heaven; we can gain nothing, but Christ will be more advantage to us. Upon this a believer sells all to purchase the pearl of price.
3. If faith do substantiate your hopes, though you do not receive present satisfaction, you may discern it by this, you will entertain the promises with much respect and delight. Are they dear and precious to you? You would embrace the promises if you looked upon them as the root of the blessing. It is said of the patriarchs, Heb. 11:13, that ‘they saw the promises afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them.’ When they were to go out of the world, they took their leave of the promises with embraces; though they came not to possession, they were persuaded of the possession; though they lived many years before the promises concerning the Messiah took effect, yet they embraced them. Such ceremonies and compliments pass between friends; we hug them and commend them to the Lord; so faith hugs the promises, and commends them to God’s power. Oh! these are sweet promises; these one day will bring a Messiah, and yield a saviour to the world. Old Jacob, when he took leave of his sons, he blessed them; he saith to one—’His bow shall abide in strength,’ Gen. 49:24; this shall be a victorious warrior; to another, so and so. Or, as we do, when we part with children of great hopes, just so did these holy patriarchs deal with the promises when God had given them but an obscure signification of heaven and a Christ; they were embracing these sayings as the comfort and strength of their souls; when they went down to the grave; they could not with Simeon hold Christ in their arms, yet they held the promises in the arms of their faith. So it will be with you; you will rejoice in God because of his word, Ps. 56:4. When you take hold of the promise, you have the blessing by the root, and this should fill you with holy joy, oh, these are great and precious promises! 2 Peter 1:4. Here is a promise that will yield me heaven; this complete holiness, this the fruition of God. By this promise I can expect to meet the faithful of God in heaven; by this promise I can expect to sit down with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; by this promise I can look for the abolition of sin; by this for the bruising of Satan under my feet; by this for a freedom from all temptations, desertion and trouble. And they will cherish a little spark of grace; here is a bud of glory; here are some morning glances, some forerunning beams of the light that shall shine upon us in heaven.
4. You may discern it by this, the mind will often run upon your hopes. Where the thing is strongly expected, the end and aim of your expectation will still be present with you. Thoughts are the spies and messengers of the soul. Hope sends them out after the thing expected, and love after the thing beloved; therefore it stands upon you to see how your thoughts and principal desires are fixed. Where the thing is strongly expected thoughts are wont to spend themselves, and to be set a-work in creating images and suppositions of the happiness we shall have in the enjoyment; and so the future condition will often run in your mind, and be present with you. For instance, if a poor man were adopted into the succession of a crown, he would please himself in the supposition of the honour and splendour of the royal and kingly state that is set up in his own thoughts. And did we believe we are heirs of the kingdom of heaven, co-heirs with Christ, we would often think of the happy time when we shall come to heaven, and see Christ in the midst of his blessed ones; when we shall see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, that are sat down at the feast of God, and see Paul with his crown of righteousness upon his head. But alas! it may be said of many, heaven is not in their thoughts, their hearts dwell in this world, because they do not expect a better: therefore they are always transported with admiring thoughts of worldly greatness; always thinking what it is to enjoy thousands, and to have no complaining in their families; thinking of pulling down barns, and raising greater, and advancing their posterity. We are thinking of our pleasures, lusts, profits. These are the pleasing thoughts wherewith we feast our souls. We should still observe what it is we meditate upon most, which way the contrivances and deliberations of your souls do tend. Are your thoughts taken up with these carnal projects? with those whose character it is, Phil. 3:19, ‘That they are enemies of the cross of Christ, who mind earthly things?’ or 2 Peter 2:14, ‘A heart exercised with covetous practices,’ always running upon some worldly designs, plotting how to get the world into their net? Christ describes the worldly person: Luke 12:17, 18, ‘He thought within himself,’ &c. He created images and suppositions in his soul of barns, possessions, and heritages; for that is the Holy Ghost’s word of the carnal man, διελογίζετο, he dialogised and discoursed with himself. But on the other side heaven will be more in the eye and mind of a christian; and these provisional thoughts are the spies sent out to welcome our hopes. I will tell you what such an one is doing; he is framing suppositions of the welcome he shall receive of Jesus Christ at his first coming to glory; he is thinking of the joy between him and his fellow-saints, when they shall meet in heaven; there is a stage set up, and a sweet representation and acting over of heaven in their thoughts.
5. You may discern it, by your weanedness from the world. They that know heaven to be their home, reckon the world a strange country. There is a more excellent glory sealed up to them in Christ, and they do the less care for worldly advantages; certainly they do not lay out their strength and their care upon them. Who would purchase a rattle with the same price that would buy a jewel? or dig for iron with mattocks of gold? They will not wear out their affections on carnal things; faith aquainteth them with nobler objects. The woman, when she knew Christ, left her pitcher, John 4:28, 29. When Christ told Zaccheus that ‘salvation was come to his house,’ then ‘Lord, half of my goods I give to the poor,’ &c. Luke 19:8, 9. But now when men only relish and favour earthly things, and live as if their hopes were only in this world, they either have no right to heaven, or believe they have none.
6. There will not be such a floating and instability in their expectation. You have already blessedness in the root, in the promises; and though there be not assurance, there will be an affiance, and repose of the mind upon God: if there be not rest in your souls, yet there will be a resting upon God, and a quiet expectation of the things hoped for. Faith is satisfied with the promise, and quietly hopes for the performance of it in God’s due time: Lam. 3:26, ‘It is good that a man should both hope, and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord.’ Belief is often intermixed with doubtings, yet there will be the patience of hope, that is the least; we should not entertain jealousies and suspicions of God. There is a free promise, though not a certain evidence, and there will be longing, where there is not comfort.
Use 2. To exhort you to work up faith to such an effect, that it may be the substance of things hoped for.
1. Work it up in a way of meditation. Let your minds be exercised in the contemplation of your hopes: Mat. 6:21, ‘Where your treasure is, there will your heart be.’ There is nothing that you prize but your minds will run upon it. How, freely and frequently can we think of other things, our lusts, our pleasures, our ordinary occasions! and shall we have never a thought of that place where our treasure is? Our God, our Christ, our happiness is there; should not our hearts be there too? Oh! take a turn now and then in the land of promise; see what is made over to you in Christ, think of the beauty and glory of that happiness; surely if we did believe and esteem it, we would have freer thoughts of that heaven, and that happiness God hath made over to us.
2. Work it up in a way of argumentation. Faith is a reasoning grace: Heb. 11:19, λογισάμενος, ‘Accounting that God was able to raise him even from the dead.’ Reason with yourselves thus: Is there not a blessed estate reserved in heaven for all that come to God in Christ? and so for me if come to Christ? Others have the possession, and thou hast the grant; the deed is sealed, and thou hast the conveyances to show; hast thou it not under God’s hand and seal? hast thou not a promise made to all that believe and repent of their sins, and are willing to walk with God, and are fruitful in good works? Is not heaven made over to such? and God’s promises were ever made good: 2 Cor. 1:20, ‘All the promises of God in him are yea, and in him amen.’ Nay, hath not Christ seized upon heaven in the name of all such as come to God by him? And hast thou not had some first-fruits, O my soul, some foretastes, some earnests of the Spirit? Hath not God given thee a little comfort, a little grace, as an earnest to assure thee of the greater sum?
3. Work it up in a way of expectation. Look for it, long for it, wait for it: Tit. 2:13, ‘Looking for the blessed hope:’ and Jude, ver. 21, ‘Looking for the mercy of God unto eternal life.’ I have a gracious God, and a tender- hearted Saviour in heaven; I am therefore looking and longing till I am called up to the enjoyment of them.
4. Work it up in a way of supplication. Put in thy claim—Lord! I take hold of the grace offered in the gospel; and desire the Lord to secure thy claim: Ps. 73:24, ‘Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterwards receive me to glory;’ and Ps. 43:3, ‘O send out thy light, and thy truth; let them lead me, let them bring me unto thy holy hill, and to thy tabernacle.’