"And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,

"Send thou men, that they may search the land of Canaan, which I give unto the children of Israel: of every tribe of their fathers shall ye send a man, every one a ruler among them.

"And Moses by the commandment of the Lord, sent them from the wilderness of Paran: all those men were the heads of the children of Israel.

"So they went up, and searched the land from the wilderness of Zin unto Rehob, as men come to Hammath.

"And they came unto the brook of Eshcol, and cut down from thence a branch with one cluster of grapes, and they bare it between two upon a staff; and they brought of the pomegranates, and of the figs.

"And they returned from searching of the land after forty days." (Numb. xiii. 1-3. 21. 23. 25.)


Ir is very blessed, when under Divine teaching, we are enabled to receive from spiritual and scriptural testimonies, suitable apprehensions of the wonderful properties of faith. In all the characters recorded of the Old Testament saints, or of the New

Testament believers, this gifted grace of God shines with greater or less lustre, according to the different degrees with which the Lord was pleased to impart strength to his people for the exercise of it.

There are but few things in the word of God which, by way of more eminent distinction, are called precious; and faith is one of them. We read of the " preciousness of Christ;" (1 Pet. ii. 7.) of the "precious blood of Christ; " (1 Pet. i. 19.) and of the exceeding "great and precious promises," which are given us in Christ; and whereby "we are made partakers of the divine nature." (2 Pet. i. 4.) And faith is added to the number; and the trial of it is said to be more "precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire." (1 Pet. i. 7.) And the reason is obvious. For according to Holy Scripture, this blessed gift of our most blessed God is that grace which above all others, when brought into exercise, and found sterling, separates the precious from the vile; the sheep from the goats; and " the man that serveth God, from him that serveth him not." It was this principle which distinguished the true spies from the false, when returned with their different report, from searching the promised land. They who honoured God, in giving him the credit of God, and brought back a good report of the fertile country; thus honouring God's name, God honoured their faith; and God assured them that they should" enter into his rest.” Whereas they who honoured him not, but brought back an evil report upon the good land, and dared to call in question God's faithfulness, "their carcases fell in the wilderness." (Heb. iii. 17.)


I pray the reader to have this in view concerning both, while going over the interesting history proposed to us in this Scripture; and never if possible to lese sight of it. For what can be equally animating, when under divine teaching, we contemplate the his

tory of those holy men of old, "of whom the world was not worthy?" We behold those heroes in grace, "who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens." (Heb. xi. 33, 34.) And the gracious instruction we derive from such views of the faithful gone before, not only acts by way of stimulus, to animate the mind when we behold ourselves "encompassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses,” but we take part also in their history as our own. In going over the Scripture records of those ages that are past; we do, to all intents and purposes, realize them now; yea as if but of yesterday; and bring them down to gospel times. Hence we catch a somewhat of the same principle which actuated them, while we read of theirs. We feel a somewhat of what they felt; and while running the race that is set before us, the Lord the Spirit inclines our souls to look as they did, to "Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith." And but for this, when reading the honourable testimony by the Holy Ghost to the Lord's faithful ones, in such illustrious examples of faith; those saints of God, under the Old Testament dispensation, would, and do, shame those of the New. For if instead of imitating the true spies, in their faithful report of the Lord and his promises, we lean to the conduct of the unfaithful in the congregation, we become so many pillars of salt, like Lot's wife; not being "followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises." (Heb. vi. 12.)

And as a farther encouragement to this exercise, under the Lord's teaching, I would beg to add a short observation more before we enter upon the history itself, proposed to us in this Scripture; namely,

that this is the very purpose the Holy Ghost had in view, and for which those Scriptures were given to the church. For when, by his servant the apostle Paul, the Lord had stated some of the outlines of Israel's history in the wilderness, both of those that were spiritually fed and taught; and of others which mingled with them, but were not of them, called indeed, Israel, but not the true Israel of God, and who were overthrown in the wilderness; the Lord adds: "Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come." (1 Cor. x. 1. 11.)

And I have often admired upon this occasion, the very striking manner in which God the Holy Ghost hath manifested his love to the church: and endeared himself to his people by this very process, in shewing the riches of his grace. He hath so pointedly directed to the persons of his people, when at any time speaking of the love and favour the Holy Three in One bear to the chosen in Christ, as so many letters personally and specially sent to them, and to them only. The manner of expression is to this amount in the whole of Scripture; and if examined under all their bearings, it will be found pointing to the church of Christ, not unsimilar to Paul's application of the sermon which he then preached under the immediate unction and dictation of the Holy Ghost, at Antioch : "Men and brethren, (said the apostle,) children of the stock of Abraham; and whosoever among you feareth God to you is the word of this salvation sent." (Acts xiii. 2-26.) We have a beautiful illustration also of the same, in the opening of the second Epistle of Peter. He thus speaks: "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 Pet. i.) Or as the words might have been better rendered; "in the righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ." (As any one by a reference to the original Scripture will easily perceive.)

Now nothing can be more palpable and evident than that all that have obtained this precious faith (as Peter calls it) have alike obtained it; let the different proportions of faith in them, or their reception of it, be what they may. And for this plain reason; Because what is obtained is not through the receiver's. merit, but Christ's righteousness. Not our apprehen sion of it, but what it really is. So that our most glorious Christ, who is the great object of faith; is always in himself one and the same object of faith; and is alike seen as that glorious object by all. The preciousness of this glorious object not being more or less, according to the different degrees of our faith in him, which the Lord's people possess; but what the Lord is. Hence, whether, the believer that beholds him, as the glorions object of faith, is a babe, or child in Christ, or one advanced in the divine life, a young man, or father, (as John denominates the various ages of believers; John ii. 13, 14.) this diversity in the degree of faith makes no difference in the glorious object of faith; but the whole church, which by regeneration, or the new birth, hath obtained this precious faith, hath alike obtained it. The apostle Peter, writing to the church, makes no account of the weakness or strength of the believer's faith, but includes the whole church: "To them that have obtained like precious faith with us." (The apostles) And our most glorious Lord himself, when giving his statement of faith, very graciously called it the same; that the child of God, who possessed no more faith than "a grain of mustard seed," yet as the great object of his faith was the sole cause; and not the greater or lesser degree of that faith in himself, any

« VorigeDoorgaan »