Faith and Patience.

Hebrews 11:32 - 12:3.

E. L. Bevir.

Christian Friend vol. 18, 1891, p. 258.

At the end of the eleventh chapter of the Hebrews we are associated with those who walked by faith in old times, though it be blessedly true that some better thing is provided of God for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.

Those who walk by faith in the midst of a world where all is conducted on the principle of sight (as I once saw in a book of political economy, "with a view to make the best possible use of the resources of this planet"), must not expect to be understood or appreciated here, but the reverse. If it be true that our treasure is in heaven, that we belong to a heavenly ascended Christ, and that we have our part in the heavenly city, all our resources are in quite a different sphere to that of sight. Yes, we belong to another world, and not to this infidel system in which we are but as pilgrims, and which believes more in man and man's resources than in Christ.

The better thing provided for us, and which distinguishes us from the Old Testament saints, is fully brought out in the Hebrews, for the first chapter shows us at once the heavens opened, and the divine glory of Him who is seated at the right hand of the Majesty on high; and the second chapter, the wondrous perfect humanity of Him now risen from the dead, who is not ashamed to call us brethren, and the stupendous fact that He that sanctifieth and they that are sanctified are all of one! We belong to a heavenly Christ; we see Jesus crowned with glory and honour: well may we sing, Gloria in excelsis! (Glory in the highest!)

No doubt the illustrious band of witnesses were not in the Christian position, but they could not come to perfection without us, more favoured as we are. They could not see what we see; they could not understand John 20, for they were not in it; but I wish to insist upon the principle of faith, common to them and to us. Perfection refers to the glorified Christ and the state of things connected with Him (compare chapter 6:1); there is no perfectibility of the human race by any human or earthly means. This is important, for people are boasting now in the world of bringing man to perfection, and I saw a statement not long ago that the human race had accomplished two-sevenths of a perfection. Even were this true (and nothing could be more false), the remaining five-sevenths are very far off indeed!

No; perfection is alone to be found now in the glorified Man at God's right hand. May God give us to enter into His thoughts about it.

But let us just notice the path of faith. I say that the Holy Spirit, whilst insisting on the better thing for us, identifies us with the noble army of believers, and it is a good thing to study their walk.

At the end of the eleventh chapter a company of poor, weak, despised people triumphed over all the powers and forces of the world - lions, fire, sword, and the rest; and overcame by faith all the obstacles along the path that led to a city that hath foundations. Faith is not imagination. A poet may imagine heaven, as may be seen, for example, in many a poem; but this is mere fiction, has no existence. Faith knows what is real. A real glorified Jesus; a real city, whose builder and maker is God. Faith puts us in living connection with a real, living Lord, who has triumphed over death. The Old Testament saints saw afar off the celestial city; they knew the living God, and what was the effect? Do we enter into this? Oh, how ill this world used them! (I have thought sometimes that Pharaoh was a student of political economy, from his theory of suppression of the Hebrew population.) If we had to be wandering, clad in goatskins and sheepskins, instead of broadcloth; and to sleep in caves and dens of the earth, instead of going quietly to bed - should we appreciate the honour? "Of whom the world was not worthy." Well, we belong to the company of faith. I have sometimes thought that a little persecution might do us no harm, though it be not the time for it now. We see the things that are invisible, we belong to Christ in heaven, and there is not one single thing here to help us in the walk of faith; all must come from above.

The twelfth chapter begins with practical exhortation for us, and here patience comes in. Laying aside every weight is one thing; sin is another. Many things that are not sin are weights; this has often been spoken of. The prize is too glorious, the race too serious, to be carrying weight. Far be it from me to speak against any family ties, and duties, and daily work, but weight is rather taking upon oneself what is a hindrance to the race to the heavenly goal, to the glory. I once knew a Christian who built a house in such massive style that he was asked by another, "Have you built that domicile for the millennium?" His heart was but too evidently in the bricks and mortar; and this, or any other thing that impedes us in the race, is weight.

"Let us run with patience the race that is set before us." Christian patience is not a mere natural phlegmatic quality, it must not be confounded with this. Some people naturally have not enough spirit to be impatient, but when a naturally ardent, impatient man shows all patience, as the converted Saul of Tarsus, we may be sure that he has learnt of Him who is meek and lowly of heart. We can afford to wait; we shall soon be with Jesus, and like Him for ever.

"Looking off unto Jesus, the author and finisher of faith"; what a blessed thing to contemplate, the One perfect model! Many had walked by faith, but the blessed Lord is the author and finisher of it. He fulfilled the perfect career of faith in lowly grace, from the beginning to the end. In this epistle it has been remarked that our blessed Lord throws everything and every one else far into the shade. May we look off from everything else unto Him! "For consider Him that endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself." I think that in the gospels the Pharisees were the great opponents of Christ,, attacking Him on religious grounds, seeking to entangle Him in His words, in order to crush Him by gainsaying and contradiction. Perhaps, in the present state of Christendom, if we are faithful, in our little measure, to an unseen heavenly Christ, we may taste a little of similar opposition. It is not the day for Smithfield fires and dungeons; but it is impossible that there be not opposition if we are faithful to Christ and to our calling. We have need of faith and patience; and may we consider Him, lest we be weary and faint in our minds! E. L. B.

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We want the heavenly calling to give power to take up the cross; and it is in proportion as we are dead to things here, that the heavenly things are realised.