Hebrews 11:39
These were all commended for their faith, yet they did not receive what was promised.
A Bevy of HeroesH. Thorne.Hebrews 11:32-40
Barak's Name, Infirmities, and VirtuesW. Gouge.Hebrews 11:32-40
Faith a Arc De TriompheC. H. Spurgeon.Hebrews 11:32-40
Faith Victorious by the Prospect of Future BlessingC. New.Hebrews 11:32-40
Gideon's ExcellenciesW. Gouge.Hebrews 11:32-40
Illustrations of FaithE. Monro.Hebrews 11:32-40
Importance of Noble LivingJ. R. Macduff.Hebrews 11:32-40
Jephthah's ExcellenciesW. Gouge.Hebrews 11:32-40
Samson's FaithR . A. Hallam, D. D.Hebrews 11:32-40
The Faith of BarakFamily ChurchmanHebrews 11:32-40
The Heroes of FaithW. Stevenson, M. A.Hebrews 11:32-40
The Moral Meaning of Human HistoryHomilistHebrews 11:32-40
The Nobility of Samson's CharacterProf. W. G. Elmslie.Hebrews 11:32-40
Troubles Made BeautifulJ. Dallas.Hebrews 11:32-40
An Increasing PurposeA. Maclaren, D. D.Hebrews 11:39-40
Christ, the Prime Promise, not Received by True BelieversW. Gouge.Hebrews 11:39-40
Man Perfected Through FellowshipT. G. Selby.Hebrews 11:39-40
Something BetterW. M. Statham, M. A.Hebrews 11:39-40
Successive Stages in the Dispensation of God's Blessings to ManW. Jones Hebrews 11:39, 40
The ArgumentR. W. Dale, LL. D.Hebrews 11:39-40
The Believer's Portion -- Something BetterE. Jerman.Hebrews 11:39-40
The Disposal of the Times and States of the ChurchJohn Owen, D. D.Hebrews 11:39-40
The Future PerfectingE. W. Shalders, B. A.Hebrews 11:39-40
The Greatness of FaithH. Melvill, B. D.Hebrews 11:39-40
The Interdependence of All SaintsNewman Smyth, D. D.Hebrews 11:39-40
The One True ChurchH. McNeile, D. D.Hebrews 11:39-40
The Promise of IncompletenessM. Vincent, D. D.Hebrews 11:39-40
What of the Saintly Dead Prior to the Coming of ChristR. W. Dale, LL. D.Hebrews 11:39-40

And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, etc. Let us consider -

I. THE GOOD REALIZED BY THE OLD TESTAMENT BELIEVERS. The better thing provided for Christians implies that some good thing was bestowed upon the godly under the former covenant. They had:

1. Divine promises. Many were the promises made to the ancient saints; e.g. promises of temporal good, of providential guidance and oversight, of spiritual forgiveness and help, etc. These promises encouraged their hopes, and raised the tone and character of their lives.

2. Fulfillments of Divine promises. Many of the blessings promised to the saints of the earlier dispensation were received and enjoyed by them. They "obtained promises" (ver. 33); i.e. they obtained certain promised blessings. A glance at the names mentioned in this chapter will at once show that this was the case. Abraham received the promised son; Jacob was blessed in his worldly circumstances, purified and ennobled in his character, and brought to the goal of his pilgrimage in a good old age, in peace and in honor. Joseph was wonderfully preserved, guided, exalted, etc.

3. Divine commendations. They "obtained a good report through faith." They "had witness borne to them through their faith." Each one mentioned or referred to in this chapter was commended for some distinguishing excellence, and every one for faith. Abel "had witness borne to him that he was righteous," etc. (ver. 4). Enoch "had witness borne to him that he had been well-pleasing unto God" (ver. 5). They had within themselves the witness of a good conscience; they enjoyed the smile of the Most High; and in his holy Word God has expressed his approbation of their character and conduct.

II. THE BETTER PORTION REALIZED BY NEW TESTAMENT BELIEVERS. The heroes and heroines of faith who are mentioned or referred to in this chapter "received not the promise, God having provided some better thing for us." The promise which they received not, and the better thing provided for us, we take to be the actual fulfillment of the promise of the Messiah, and the blessedness of the gospel age. "Blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear. For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men desired to see the things which ye see, and saw them not; and to hear the things which ye hear, and heard them not." Our portion is a better thing:

1. Because the realization of any genuine good is better than the anticipation of it.

2. Because of the clearer revelation of redemptive truth. "God, having of old time spoken unto the fathers in the prophets by divers portions and in divers manners, hath at the end of these days spoken unto us in his Son" (Hebrews 1:1-4). "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father." He embodied the will of the Father in his character and words and works. He revealed the heart of the Father toward us his sinful and suffering children.

3. Because of the greater fullness and power of redemptive influence. Atonement for sin is now accomplished. The mighty influences of the love of God in the sacrifice of Christ are now brought to bear upon us. Our restraints from sin are more pathetic and powerful than were theirs of the earlier dispensation; our incentives to righteousness and reverence and love are more exalted and constraining than theirs.

III. THE BEST BLESSINGS IS WHICH BOTH THE OLD TESTAMENT AND THE NEW TESTAMENT BELIEVERS ARE SHARERS. "That apart from us they should not be made perfect." This perfection is the holiness and blessedness of the saints in light. "The writer implies," says Alford, "as indeed Hebrews 10:14 seems to testify, that the advent and work of Christ has changed the estate of the Old Testament fathers and saints into greater and perfect bliss; an inference which is forced on us by many other places in Scripture. So that their perfection was dependent on our perfection: their and our perfection was all brought in at the same time when Christ 'by one offering perfected for ever them that are sanctified.' So that the result with regard to them is, that their spirits from the time when Christ descended into Hades and ascended up into heaven, enjoy heavenly blessedness, and are waiting, with all who have followed their glorified High Priest within the veil, for the resurrection of their bodies, the regeneration, the renovation of all things." Then all God's people of all ages and of all lands shall enter into the joy of their one Lord, and participate in the blessedness and glory unspeakable and eternal. - W.J.

These all... received not the promise.
? — It is altogether probable that among the Jewish Christians there would be great anxiety to know what had been the condition, in the unseen world, of their saintly forefathers who had died before the coming of the Messiah. It is probable, too, that on this subject revelations may have been made by the apostles which were not recorded in Holy Scripture, because their chief interest and practical importance would cease before the true tradition of their teaching had been corrupted and passed away. An incidental sentence of this kind seems to imply a knowledge, in primitive times, of the state of good men who had died before Christ came, which has disappeared from the memory of the Church.

(R. W. Dale, LL. D.)

Your fathers, the greatest of them, while they lived, and after they entered Paradise, were waiting and hoping for the coming of Christ. Neither on earth nor in heaven could they be "made perfect" until He came. Till His birth, till His death, till His ascension to glory, their life was a life of faith; and yet you are ready — though the Divine promise is already in part fulfilled — to surrender your confidence in God, because the complete fulfilment is still delayed.

(R. W. Dale, LL. D.)

There was a plain mechanic in a little town in Scotland who feared God; and built houses for a livelihood. He never had more than three months of schooling in his life. Let us draw a circle round the seventy-five years of that life, and look at it merely by itself. Measured by the ordinary standards of the world, how cramped it is I how insignificant! But then can we look at that life in that way? It is plain that we cannot; for every life establishes connections and creates consequences. It is with a life as it is with a large estate. It cannot be closed up at once upon the death of the testator. Certain obligations have a given time to run. Certain outstanding amounts of capital may not be paid in for years. Indeed, it is doubtful if the real sum total of any man's life can be stated until the end of all things. This humble mechanic, for instance, was the father of a son whose name is known and honoured wherever the English language is spoken. To James Carlyle's life must be added the sum of Thomas Carlyle's life and the influence of his writings, and the influence of the men whose thought has been stimulated or shaped by those writings. I have taken this familiar illustration as containing in itself the substance of my text to-day. The truth it gives us is that no man's life can be estimated by itself, but helps to complete the past, and is completed by the future. These people — Abraham, Jacob, Moses, and the rest — were the spiritual heroes of an earlier time, representing the nation's moral high-water mark. They were powers, and society acknowledged and bore witness to their power. Yet there was a good in store, which, though they contributed to it, did not come to them. There was a promise infolded in their life which was not fulfilled to them, but to those who came after them. If their life is to be estimated only in itself, if its record is to cover only the sum of its years, then this state of things seems unjust and cruel, and the life itself of little account. But you at once see that the writer is taking a far wider view than this. He is contemplating these early heroes, not only by themselves, but as links in a great succession of men of faith. He is viewing the results of their life as parts of the great development of humanity at large. Now, the recognition of this as a law of life has a vast influence upon any man's character. It shapes a man of a different type from one who regards his life as an end to itself; and it is here set down to the credit of these Old Testament heroes, as an element of their faith, that they apprehended this larger law and lived by it; that they put mere personal considerations out of sight — were content to be merely stages, and not finalities, in the great growth of human history. So far as this world is concerned their life goes to minister to other lives, and is simply a factor in the progress of mankind as a whole. This is a far wider conception of faith than we commonly form. We are disposed to make faith exclusively personal, to trust God mostly for what He will do for us, or for those most closely bound to us. We say to ourselves, "We must trust God for daily bread, for provision for old age or sickness, for a place in heaven"; and so we must. So Christ commands us to do; but, at the same time, He teaches us to give faith a much wider range. We are parts of a great Divine economy, of a great march of ideas and character; builders on a great building of God, each carving his stone, or laying his few courses of brick; husbandmen in God's vast domain, each tilling his few acres — one sowing, another reaping; one planting, another watering. No man's faith is perfect which regards merely his own salvation; no man's prayer is according to Christ's standard which leaves out "Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." Thus identifying ourselves with the interests of God's kingdom — the whole development of our race — we find ourselves identified with a process. The perfect man, the perfect society, are not created out of hand. They have not come yet, but they are slowly coming, and coming through much crudeness and imperfection by the way. Thus, then, the kingdom of God is no exception to the law which obtains in other kingdoms — that growth involves imperfection and destruction. Take the law as it holds in nature. Growth comes through death. The corn of wheat brings forth fruit only as it dies. In nature's processes we find much which serves merely as the step or the scaffolding to something better and greater and more beautiful, and which, when its purpose is accomplished, passes away. There is the worm. It crawls in the sun, and lies upon the leaf, and then wraps itself in the cocoon; and then springs forth the butterfly in all the glory of gold and purple: and the worm-life and the cocoon-life have done their work, and have given that beautiful creation to the air and the flowers, and they pass away. Go higher up, into the life of man. A perfect, healthy child, how beautiful it is! how winning! how innocent! how natural and graceful its attitudes! What parent has not found himself looking back to the years of infancy with a feeling that the years which have made his children men and women have robbed him of something ineffably sweet and precious? Childhood is only a stage: so is youth, with its flush of hope, its high aims, its fulness and vigour of life; and so manhood, with its strength and achievement. In a normally developed life each stage as it passes away hands over to its successor something better and stronger. Does the process end with old age? Is there not something better beyond the line which we call death? So of society. It passes through crude conditions, which give place to higher and better conditions. One life is spent in evolving the powers of electricity: the man who comes after reaps the full benefit of the telegraph and telephone. A Columbus discovers America, we enjoy it. Go still higher, into the region of religion and worship,. The same law holds. Religion is not given to man full-grown. The true faith works its way into shape and power out of a mesh of false faiths. One by one these fall off and die, leaving only what is essentially true to be taken up into the new and higher form. Not one of the men mentioned in this catalogue in the eleventh of Hebrews can be held up as a perfect model of character for the men of a Christian age. The New Testament morality is higher than that of the old. The humblest Christian believer has what Samuel and Elijah had not. And as to worship, we say, "God is a Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth." We come to God without priest or victim or symbol; but what a stretch between our standpoint and that of the Israelite! — a stretch strewn with broken types. Prophet, priest, king — one after another, God breaks these types in pieces as the fulness of time draws on, when Christ, the Teacher, the great High Priest, the Lord of lords, is to come into the world.

II. We come, then, to the second truth of our text. Having seen the fact of imperfection, WE SEE THAT ALONG WITH THE IMPERFECTION GOES A PROMISE. You notice the peculiar word here, "received not the promise." It is noted as a mark of the faith of these good men that they saw a promise of something better in the imperfection of their own age. Christ bears witness to this in the words, "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day; and he saw it, and was glad." In like manner Moses saw a nation in the rabble which went out of Egypt. To him the desert meant Canaan. So in nature, the seed, even in its falling into the ground and dying, utters the promise of the corn: the blossom, as it is borne down by the wind, promises the fruit. Even the falling leaf, as it settles down to its new task, promises next spring's juices and leaves. So in the moral progress of our race. Paul tells us that "That is not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural," that "The first man is of the earth, earthy"; but in these he sees the promise of something better. "Afterwards, that which is spiritual. As we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption." Society in its best development to-day is imperfect: the ideal form of government is yet to be revealed; but as we turn over to the vision of John on Patmos, we see a perfect society, a holy city, a heavenly Jerusalem, a faultless administration. Now, the practical question for us is, What is our true attitude toward these two facts of imperfection and promise? Our text tells us, by the example of these men of old. There were imperfect men; they saw a possible good which was not for them: but through faith they accepted the imperfection and made the best of it, and cheerfully gave their energy, and endured their suffering, to make the coming man and the coming time better than themselves and their time. We are on the same line. We and our time are simply a stage toward something better. With all our boast of high civilisation, elaborated jurisprudence, rich spiritual acquirement, and vast knowledge, there is something better for the men of the coming time. They will know more, and enjoy more than we do. They will be better men than we are. They will have greater riches of spiritual culture. It is a high test of faith for a man to do his best under temporary conditions, as a mere faction of a great whole, as a mere means to the development of some better thing in a future which he is not to enjoy; and yet that is the lesson which God's administration teaches us. How much care and skill and beauty go into merely temporary things! Take a wheat-corn, that very thing which is to fall into the ground and die, and split it open, and put it under a microscope, and what a perfect and beautiful organism it is! Look at that apple-blossom, which in a few days will be blown away by the wind, and what perfection of form, what delicacy of texture and tint! Each one of those living motes which dances for an hour in the setting sunlight is finished with all the nicety of your own anatomy. Nature is prodigal in her apparent waste of beautiful and perfect things. So, when God gave a temporary system of worship to carry men over to Christ, how carefully selected were the types; how stringent the insistence on details which seem trivial to us! Cannot we read this lesson? Shall we refuse our best because our best is to be merged into something better? Or shall we not rather feel ourselves at once stimulated and honoured by being allowed to contribute our best to the great result which is by and by to gather up into itself the best of all the ages? You have read how, in the old border-wars of Scotland, the tidings of invasion and the summons to arms were carried by the fiery cross. One runner took it and went at full speed to a certain point, telling the news as he went, and then gave it to another, who ran on in like manner. It was not for the messenger to whom that summons came to sit down and prepare for the defence of his own house and the protection of his flocks and herds. He must take the cross and run for the next stage. The message of Christ's Cross points us beyond ourselves and our own interest and our own time. It lays on us the charge of the coming time. It bids us do our best in our own time, as a means to making that Cross the central fact of the future time. Our stage of life contains a promise for the next stage that it shall be better and higher for our faithful toil. Our problem is to push that promise nearer to its fulfilment. Thus, then, let us take the promise of the better thing into the inferior, incomplete conditions of to-day. Let us accept the fact of incompleteness, not passively, nor idly: that were to exclude faith, and faith is the very keynote of this lesson; nor, on the other hand, despairingly nor angrily that were presumptuous and useless as well. But let us recognise in it a promise of completeness, a stage towards it, and a call to promote it. No one of us can be more than a factor in the world's history. The power of each factor will appear only when the whole column shall be cast up. The sum total will be greater than any factor, but for the very reason that it will include all the factors. "We must be slow," as one remarks, "to judge unfinished architecture." Truthfully said the old Greek poet, "The days to come are the wisest witnesses." If there be truth in that theory of development, so widely ,accepted in this day; if we are living in an incomplete physical universe, no less than in partly developed moral and spiritual conditions, that fact goes to show that one law holds from the natural up to the spiritual. That holds out the hope that all the apparent waste in nature will one day be accounted for and shown to be no waste. That points again to the larger hope, that the imperfect work of true men, the imperfect teaching of half-taught men, the imperfect moral development of primitive men, and all the disappointed aspiration and seemingly fruitless toil, and rejected testimony of God's workmen in all times, will be found again, revealed in its true value and power. It was a profound remark of a modern essayist, that the continual failure of eminently endowed men to reach the highest standard has in it something more consoling than disheartening, and contains an " inspiring hint that it is mankind, and not special men, that are to be shaped at last into the image of God; and that the endless life of the generations may hope to come nearer that goal of which the short-breathed three-score years and ten fall too unhappily short." The present, for each of us, bears the sign of the Cross. The crown is in the future.

(M. Vincent, D. D.)


1. The question then agitating men's minds was, Is not this new faith in Christ Jesus the destruction of Judaism? And the writer of this Epistle answers the question by the broad assertion that Christianity is the real Judaism, and that the true line of succession runs through the Church, and not through the synagogue. Fancy a stiff Pharisee's face, at hearing a Christian teacher claim Abraham, Jacob and, most audaciously of all, Moses for his side! But why did he do so? Because the foundation of their lives was faith. The writer will not allow any difference, except that of development, between the call of prophet and psalmist, "Trust ye in the Lord for ever," and the preaching of apostles, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ." There has never been but one way to heaven, and faith has always been one, however different in completeness its creed.

2. It is but applying the same principle in a slightly different direction to say that all in Christian ages who have the same spirit of faith are one. All who lay hold of the same Christ with the same confidence are knit together. But it must be the same Christ, the Divine-human Christ, the world's Redeemer; and the faith must be so far the same that it leans the whole weight of man's weakness on that Incarnate Strength, and hangs all its hopes on that one Lord.

II. THE BETTER THINGS FORESEEN FOR US. There is no such advance within the limits of Christianity as separated it from the earlier revelation. The further "light''' which each age has a right to expect is to "break forth from the Word" already given. "The Christ that is to be" is the Christ that was, and is " the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever." He is " for ever," as being complete. As for truth, all treasures of wisdom and knowledge are in Him, and may be drawn from the deepening understanding of the principles embodied in His life, death, resurrection and reign. All theology, morality, sociology, lie in Him as gold in ore, or diamonds in a matrix. As for powers, all that can be needed or done for the regeneration of the world and of single souls has been done and supplied in the work of Christ. What remains is but the application of the power which has been lodged in humanity. But while objective revelation is complete, and God's treasures contain no "better thing" than the unspeakable gift once bestowed and ever possessed, there is meant to be an advancement in understanding of the truth, and in appropriation of the power. Jesus is inexhaustible. No one man can absorb Him all; no one age can. A thousand mirrors set round that central light will each receive its beam at its own angle, and flash it back in its own fashion. So true progress will consist in a fuller understanding and firmer grasp of Him as Son of God and Redeemer of the world, and in a more complete reception of His Spirit, manifested in more Christlike characters and more Christ-pleasing services.

III. THE YET BETTER THINGS IN RESERVE FOR OUR SUCCESSORS. Naturally the progress is not to stop with us, but will go on as long as there is a Church on earth. We too have but partial light, and have partially appropriated the gifts, and discharged the duties given and enjoined in the partly understood gospel. The Church of the future will have broken down all sects. Religion will one day be harmonised with " science." Christian principles will be applied to social and national life with revolutionary effects. There will be a fuller baptism of the Spirit on the happier Church that is to be, resulting in more consecrated lives, in more missionary and evangelistic effort, and in a finer harmony of nature, and a more systematical and majestic development of capacities in the individual and the community.

IV. THE FINAL PERFECTING IN WHICH ALL ARE UNITED. The saints of the old and the believers of the new covenant are not to be perfected apart.

1. There is to be a perfect union of all in the common joy of possession of the common gift. On the march the pilgrims were widely separated, but in the camp their tents will be near each other. Just as Dante saw Paradise under the symbol of a great rose, whose many petals were yet one flower, and just as astronomers tell us that the giant nebulae, consisting of infinite numbers of suns, are yet each one whole, though we cannot imagine what forces bind together across such bewildering spaces, so all who, in solitude here, and amid misconceptions and diversities have yet loved the one Lord and followed the one Shepherd, shall couch round Him above, and in some mysterious, but most blessed manner, know that they "live together," and "all together with Him," as the bond of their unity, and perhaps the medium Of their intercourse. There will be a united perfecting in the common possession of the whole Christ.

2. There will be united perfection in enjoying the consults of the long unfolding through the ages of the fulness of Christ. Here one generation originates and another completes. But the time comes when all the workers shall share in the gladness of the finished work; when all who, separated by long ages and thick walls of mutual misconception, and divergence in practice and opinions, have yet been unknowingly toiling towards the same end, shall clasp inseparable hands in the great result which contains all their work.

(A. Maclaren, D. D.)

The point in these words on which we wish to fasten is, that it was through faith that the worthies, of whom St. Paul speaks, obtained "a good report." There is here a distinct assertion that faith, and nothing but faith, gained for the most distinguished saints their high pre-eminence; that if they enjoyed a larger than the ordinary share of the Divine favour, it was in consequence of their believing with a more than common steadfastness. Neither does our text stand alone in furnishing such a representation. Throughout Scripture faith is represented as most acceptable to God, and as securing to man the highest privileges and recompenses; and it is on this very account that the gospel is so distasteful to numbers, that numbers would reject it, and devise a better theology for themselves.

I. Now it is very easy, but very unfair, to speak of faith as an act of the mind, which only follows where there is testimony enough, and over which, therefore, a man has little or no control, and which, consequently, ought not to be made the test or criterion of any moral qualities. We call this unfair because it takes no account of the influence which the affections exert over the understanding, in consequence of which a man will readily believe some things, and positively disbelieve others, though there shall be no difference in the two cases in the amount of furnished testimony. Just think for yourselves: if I bring you intelligence of a matter in which you have no personal concern, which you have no interest whatever in either proving or disproving, the mind is likely to be fairly impartial, and to give its decision on a just estimate of the evidence which I adduce. But suppose the intelligence to be of an obnoxious and troublesome character; suppose that if proved true it will compel you to exertions or sacrifices which you shrink from being called upon to make. Here is a widely different case. The strongest feelings of a man will be at once up in arms, and we shall find it needful to make assurance doubly sure before we can gain credit for the unpalatable truth. Apply this to the matter of revealed religion. Let, then, the Bible, with all its credentials, be submitted for the first time to a man whose reason is in full vigour for investigating truth; is he likely to feel any pleasure in the doctrines of the Bible? Are they such as he can be supposed to feel any wish to find and prove true? No; these doctrines present him with a portrait of himself whose accuracy he must undoubtedly be unwilling to admit. And though, indeed, the Bible, not content with exposing to him his condition, offers him a remedy, nevertheless this remedy itself is offensive to his pride. Now tell me, is it fair to say of a man who receives as true a document, thus humbling to himself, thus imposing duties from which nature shrinks; is it fair to say of him that he merely yields to a certain amount of testimony, which left him no choice? Nay, this is altogether wrong: even the evidences of the Christian religion are not such as leave no option to the student; they are such as will be sure to prove convincing, where there is diligent and candid inquiry; where there is a wish to ascertain truth, and a determination to obey it when once ascertained; but it is not such a testimony as is sure to prevail, even in the absence of all such qualifications. It is not a testimony addressing itself to the senses, graven on the earth, or glaring from the firmament, and forcing conviction alike on the careless and the diligent. It is, on the contrary, a testimony which may be overlooked by indolence, and overcome by prejudice. It will not ordinarily commend itself to the man who sits down to its investigation with hostile feelings and bitter prepossessions, hoping to be able to reject it as defective. Therefore you cannot say of the man who yields to this evidence that he only submits to what could not be withstood. He might have resisted, he would have resisted, had he not brought to the inquiry a teachable spirit, a sincere wish to discover truth, and a fixed resolve to conform to its dictates. But go beyond the evidences, go to the truths which revelation unfolds, and you will see still more clearly that believing presupposes the possession, or requires the exercise of dispositions which are confessedly excellent. There must be humility in him who believes, for from the heart he confesses himself unclean and undone. There must be the submission of the understanding to God, for much has to be received which cannot be explained. There must be a willingness to suffer, for Christianity summons to tribulation; there must be a willingness to labour, for Christianity sets a man about the most arduous duties. We do not know any achievement so remarkable, so little to have been expected from a proud, prejudiced, and depraved creature, such as man naturally is, as the believing in a record so humiliating, so condemnatory of lust, so rigid in enjoining duties, as is the gospel of Jesus Christ. You might tell us of great exploits, of splendid deeds, which have earned for those who wrought them surpassing renown; but we should not fear that any of the heroes had done a nobler or a more admirable thing than is effected by any one who exercises the faith of which my text speaks. Yes, give place, ye great ones of the earth, who have drawn the homage of your fellow-men by penetrating the secrets of nature, improving the arts, advancing the commerce, strengthening the institutions, or subduing the enemies of your country. We would bow before a lowlier and, nevertheless, a more illustrious throng; we would find a higher title to respect, and we see that throng, and we acknowledge that title in those of whom an apostle could say, "These all obtained a good report through faith."

II. Let us advance a step further; let us proceed from the preliminaries, as they may be called, to the consequences of faith, and we shall find fresh warrant for that "good report" of which our text speaks. For faith, you observe, cannot be a barren or an uninfluential principle. It is not so with regard to inferior truths, much less can it be so in regard to the truths of the Bible. Let us fasten on certain of the doctrines which God has revealed, and certain of the virtues which God demands, and let us see whether faith in the one will not be of necessity productive of the others. For example: it is a portion of the Scriptural revelation that God is omniscient and omnipresent; that nothing can be hid from His scrutiny, but that He is ever at hand, a vigilant inspector, to note human actions, and register them for judgment. Can this be really believed, and yet the believer fail to be intently earnest to approve himself in God's sight? Will be ever think himself in a solitude, ever act as alone and unobserved? Will not rather his faith produce a holy reverence, an awful fear of the Almighty? The Bible tells him, moreover, of an amazing scheme of rescue, planned and executed by God, on behalf of himself and his fellow-men. Can this be believed, and yet the believer not glow with intense love towards a gracious and benevolent God, who has done such surprising things for his good? Yea, and toward his fellow-men, seeing that they are objects of the same mercy with himself, and therefore equally precious in the sight of his Creator? Oh! will not faith, genuine faith in the mighty truths of redemption, make a man feel as an affectionate son towards God, and as an affectionate brother towards all men? And yet further, along with the revelation of this amazing scheme of mercy, the Bible sets forth conditions, apart from which we can have no share in the blessings procured by Christ's death, imposing duties, on the performance of which our future portion is made to depend, and annexing promises and threatenings, just as though we were to be judged by our own works, irrespective of the work of the Redeemer. It tells us of a heaven, and it tells us of a hell, and dealing with us as accountable creatures. Faith in these things must animate to effort, to obedience, to self-denial; and he who is really a believer in the revealed truths as to man's everlasting state, and the indissoluble connection between conduct here and condition hereafter, will necessarily be one who struggles for mastery, and wages continual war with the world, the flesh, and the devil. There is no strangeness, then, at all. Faith is precisely that condition of the soul which such a Being as God might have been expected to approve; for having given the revelation contained in the Bible, to require faith in its disclosures is to require that the understanding submit itself, that pride be cast down, that the "flesh be crucified with its affections and lusts," and that every energy be consecrated to His service. Where, then, is the marvel if He have been pleased to ordain that it should be through faith that men " obtain a good report."

III. Finally, to impress, it possible, the argument on every hearer, we will represent the nature and achievement of this principle of faith. We, you and I, live in the midst of allurements and temptations, what is without conspiring with what is within to bind us to earth, and make us cleave to it as our home and our all; and whilst we are thus entangled there comes a revelation from the invisible God, a revelation of amazing truths connected with His nature and with His purposes to ourselves, His guilty and depraved creatures; in this revelation you and I are bidden to believe — bidden on the express declaration that in return for our faith we shall be admitted into privileges which thought cannot measure. And is it an easy thing to believe? Easy! it is to lay aside prejudice, it is to become as little children, it is to submit implicitly to God's authority. Easy! it is to abandon what we love, to forego what we desire, to do what we dislike, to endure what we dread! Easy! it is to cut off the right hand, pluck out the right eye, wrestle with principalities and powers, to despise death, and anticipate futurity! Easy! do it, ye who count it so easy. Ye who make so light of believing — believe. Ye who represent faith as a mere nothing, have faith. You would invite us to some great and hard achievement, we invite you to a greater and harder; we match believing against all your doing; we match it in difficulty, we match it in results. There is nothing which you admire which we may not attempt in our own strength, but we must have the power of the Lord God Almighty ere we can believe in Him whom He hath sent.

(H. Melvill, B. D.)

: —Of the believers before mentioned, and of others that lived before Christ, it is said they that received not the promise, that is, saints, under the Old Testament, had not an actual exhibition of Christ. This was one of the promises, concerning which it was said of the patriarchs, they received not the promises (ver. 13). In this respect it is said that many prophets and righteous men desired to see those things (Matthew 13:17), namely, Jesus Christ incarnate, living, preaching, working miracles, &c., and that the prophets inquired and searched diligently about those things (1 Peter 1:10). Therefore they did not enjoy them. God was herein pleased to manifest His wisdom in reserving such a promise to a fulness of time (Galatians 4:4).

1. That His goodness might by degrees increase, as the sun doth, and so be the better discerned. For by degrees it was more clearly revealed.

2. That so great a blessing might be the more expected, inquired after, and longed for.

3. That the patience and other graces of saints might be the better exercised.

4. That Christ Himself might be the more honoured, in that He was reserved to the latter age of the world, as being a blessing which surpassed all other blessings before it.(1) Hereby we have instruction in the nature of faith, which is to rest upon promises for things future, as if they were actually accomplished.(2) This doth much amplify the faith of former believers, in that they did and endured so great things for Christ before they enjoyed Him.(3) It checks our backwardness and dulness in believing, who live in the times wherein the promise may be and is received.(4) This should stir us up to seek to excel them, in that we have received the promise which they received not.

(W. Gouge.)

Borne better thing for us.
Thus faith makes character. The Pyramids of Egypt are dead stone. The pyramids of Israel are holy men. Worldly fortune most of these heroes and heroines had none. Fame indeed came to them; but they did not march up to Fame and say, "Be thou my god." And what was that fame? Not that of eloquence; nor did they gain the laurels of war; they obtained a good report. Their virtues lived after them. Thus faith achieved the great result. And faith in what? A promise. Seeing, then, that faith in a promised Saviour is so good a thing, what can be better than such a promise? The apostle is speaking of the promise fulfilled. We live now not under the promise, but under the full revelation of the Christ.

I. A GLORIOUS REVELATION OF THE CHARACTER OF GOD. "Something better." The works of man often show decrepitude, wasting genius, failing power. Witness Turner in art, and Sir Walter Scott in literature. But all God's works show development — onwardness. Creation in its physical aspect does. Look at the crustaceans and at the silurian fossils, &c. None can fail to see progress — some-thing finer, nobler, better. Look at the moral world! Look at God's revelations of righteousness and truth! How wonderfully superior the light which David had to that which Abel had! Then, as the course of inspiration rolled along, the devout Jew heard descriptions through Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Micah, which filled in the sublimely prophetic history with the story of Messiah's sufferings. In the incarnation and redemption of our Saviour we still see something better. And then our Saviour tells us that there is still something better. He says, "It is expedient for you that I go away," then the Comforter Shall come. Life is not to be a mere obedience even to Christ's words, but a spiritual potency within, God's Spirit in the inner man. The unprejudiced mind is bound to see in all this a revelation of God's character — of His interest in man, of His wisdom, His pity, and His grace! We ought to make history a ground of trust and hope in God, so that in looking back we may say, "I will trust, and not be afraid."

II. A GLORIOUS INTERPRETATION OF CHRISTIAN LIFE. The path of the Christian is like that of the Church, from strength to strength, from glory to glory.

1. Learn to interpret life by the key of this principle. It is the only one that can solve the mysteries of pain and sorrow, or that can soothe the heart in agony and trouble. The motto, "It is better," cannot be ever on our lips, it is true. We should act a lie as if we were false enthusiasts. We cannot say, "I see or feel this to be good"; but we can say, "I believe it to be so." Faith trusts. Faith rests upon the Divine order!

2. This principle of interpretation is supported by human histories. Life only blossoms by slow degrees, and only when it is in full bud do we see how suitable the soil, how perfectly adapted the atmosphere. We would not have had Stephen stoned, but it was better that his dying testimony should aid in turning Saul the persecutor into Paul the apostle, and better for Stephen himself to enjoy so early the welcome where Christ Himself rose from His throne to receive him. It is when the fabric is woven that we see what colours were best to let pass through the loom. It is when the temple is complete that we understand why the crooked stone that puzzled us was placed in its appointed spot. It is when the haven is reached by a circuitous voyage, and a strange tacking to and fro in troubled waters, that the captain tells you all about the sand-banks and the sunken rocks.

3. This principle of interpretation explains the providence of earth. Pitiable are those conceptions of life which treat the universe as though we moved only in some meaningless cycle. There is progress in all that makes for the enrichment of thought, the amplification of life, the elevation of the common lot. It is better to live now than in the old times before us. Nations, as well as men, do rise on stepping-stones of their dead selves to higher things. Doubtless as the waves of the incoming sea seem sometimes to recede, so there appear to be periods of drawback and disheartening. But progress is made. The islands once in darkness do see great light. The gospel does spread. Law does become more equitable. Sanitary science does triumph. Intercommunication between great nations in travel and commerce does increase. Education does spread.

4. This principle of interpretation explains the Saviour's preparation of heaven. The very same word is used — "I go to prepare a place for you." He has "foreseen" all that, and made ready the home. We cannot see the occupations and delights of our departed ones, but we know that they are blessed; we know that where they are there is "something better"; and we know that this prepared home will be soon ready for ourselves. There knowledge is freed from earthly limitation. There love is no more enfeebled by divided affection. And what mean these words? "That they without us should not be made perfect." The temple is incomplete. The table is not full. They are blessed, but our home-coming will add intensity and fulness to their joy. How transfigured would human life be if we studied this text in all its breadth and beauty — if we remembered, as students, that God disciplines human life, so that the golden corn of experience may afterwards be a harvest for others; that as servants the heroism of our faith is remembered in that which is least as well as in that which is greatest, so that "something better" is coming than any earthly reward; that as worshippers, when thrilled at times with the glories of spiritual song, we are nearing the fellowship of the great multitude which no man can number!

(W. M. Statham, M. A.)


1. Religion here in all that constitutes it.

2. Religion future in all its glorious prospects.


1. Certainly better than the world at its worst — in its degrading pleasures, selfish purposes, hatred, and strife.

2. Better than the world at its best.

(1)In the achievements of science.

(2)In art.

(3)In literature.

(4)In its friendship, sympathy, love.

3. Better than the best things of the Patriarchal and Mosaic dispensations.


1. In that it includes God's care and attention, and our help cannot fail.

2. In that it forms His highest and most costly provision.

3. Now it —

(1)Provides for every man.

(2)Fills every holy desire.

(3)Is spiritual in character.

(4)Is certain amid a changing world.

(5)Grows continually better.

4. In the future —

(1)It ends in heaven.

(2)Its blessings will be eternal.Learn:

1. To be sure you are the heirs of this portion.

2. To think of it often.

3. To walk worthy of your vocation.

(E. Jerman.)

I. THE DISPOSAL OF THE STATES AND TIMES OF THE CHURCH, AS UNTO THE COMMUNICATION OF LIGHT, GRACE, AND PRIVILEGES, DEPENDS MERELY ON THE SOVEREIGN PLEASURES AND WILL OF GOD, AND NOT ON ANY MERIT OR PREPARATION IN MAN. The coming of Christ at that time when He came was as little deserved by the men of the age wherein He came as in any age from the foundation of the world.

II. Though God gives more light and grace unto the Church in one season than in another, YET IN EVERY SEASON HE GIVES THAT WHICH IS SUFFICIENT TO GUIDE BELIEVERS IN THEIR FAITH AND OBEDIENCE UNTO ETERNAL LIFE.

III. It is the duty of believers, in every state of the Church, to make use of and IMPROVE THE SPIRITUAL PROVISION THAT GOD HATH MADE FOR THEM, always remembering that unto whom much is given, of them much is required.



VI. ALL THE OUTWARD GLORIOUS WORSHIP OF THE OLD TESTAMENT HAD NO PERFECTION IN IT; AND SO NO GLORY COMPARATIVELY UNTO THAT WHICH IS BROUGHT IN BY THE GOSPEL (2 Corinthians 3:10). VII. ALL PERFECTION, ALL CONSUMMATION, IS IN CHRIST ALONE. For in Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily; and we are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.

(John Owen, D. D.)

That they without us should not be made perfect.
I. THE FUNDAMENTAL GIFTS OF THE RELIGIOUS LIFE CAN BE RECEIVED BY THE INDIVIDUAL IN HIS SEPARATION AND OBSCURITY. We may be ready to ask the question, Was it not hard that these early believers, who had so nobly satisfied God's demand upon their faith, should be shut out from their full and final blessedness for ages? For the present let it suffice to reply that they received, without a single exception, compensations that in the meantime more than filled up the measure of their desires. Each Old Testament saint was assured by some sign or other that he had become acceptable to God. Their comparative ignorance and detachment did not bar them from the possession of this precious rudimentary grace. These religious heroes, upon whom the seal of God's clear approval and acceptance was set, did not belong to great devotional and educating fellowships. They lived apart. In the brain of many a Bedouin sheik, who canters across the desert-sand to-day, you might find a more elaborate theology than in some of these patriarchs. If we, with our modern wealth of learning and abstract divinity and scientific illustration, could have conversed with Abraham or Isaac or Jacob, we should probably have been repelled by the crudeness of their views. Their expectation of the Deliverer had more in it that was akin to inspired instinct than reason. But they were entirely loyal to its leading, and God sealed their faith. In the absence of the fully accomplished promise, a witness of some sort was vital to their sustained fidelity. The God who had called them to His service could not well leave them destitute of it. He could not prove Himself an Egyptian taskmaster, and command His servants to form characters fit to be built into the universal temple, without granting one of the first requisites for the strengthening and consolidation of character, the sense of His favour and acceptance. It was through this assurance that the first believers became capable of an ever-growing fidelity. And then God could not leave an unnecessary burden on the conscience of His people. No organ or faculty of a man's nature can compare with conscience in its sensitiveness. To deny conscience the rightful assaugement of its pain would be a barbarity akin to torture. Whatever disabilities and tribulations might be laid upon the fathers of the Jewish Church, they were brought at least into the light of God's unshadowed favour. They lived in that light, and the light was not quenched when they passed away.

II. THE CROWNING GIFTS OF THE COVENANT ARE VOUCHSAFED TO MEN IN THEIR MUTUAL FELLOWSHIPS. "That they without us should not be made perfect." The world's gray fathers and the youngest child in the latest term of time must be glorified together. The firstborn cannot outrun or anticipate the last. The life of nature is social, and its different parts are perfected together. God does not fashion isolated orbs to shine in solitary splendour. He kindles systems and galaxies and constellations. In all parts of nature there is community of development, fellowship of life and ecstacy. The rapture of one type of life is timed to the ripeness of another. The skylark carols over the springing corn. The nightingale pours its liquid love-plaint into the red heart of the rose. There is a co-perfecting of all the kingdoms of life. God seems to delight in the magnificence of aggregate effects. And is it not so also in the spiritual world? Not till the golden chime is heard that proclaims the approach of God's ripe summer will the life of all the separate ages receive its highest glory and development. We are only in solitary training for the anthems that will usher in the coronation of our common humanity. True music will never be heard till the blended song of Moses and the Lamb awes the listening spheres. The higher you ascend in the scale of life, the more pronounced is this principle of interdependence. The whole of humanity is, after all, one organism. It is very significantly described as "one body". The description is almost as true if looked at from the commercial or political as if viewed from the religious standpoint. Humanity is being slowly bound into an economic whole. With the setting up of the new dispensation some new effusion of light and knowledge and spiritual victory has come to the Old Testament saints in the region of the unseen. The basis of faith must be laid in life; but faith can increase in ever-expanding progression after life has ceased. In respect to all these, of whom it is said they have received together with us the better things of the promise, the basis of faith was well laid in life. They through their faith had received, without exception, some sign of God's approval. And now, in ways unknown to us, they have entered into the fulness of the promises desired and waited for by kings and righteous men of old. In what way were the believing dead spiritually perfected, and made to enter into the fulness of the promise through Christ's manifestation amongst men? They were perfected in knowledge, in conscience, and in character. By that blood of sprinkling to which they came in common with their fellow-believers in the flesh, they learned that the forgiveness of sin was no piece of unthinking indulgence on the part of the Judge of all the earth; they came to recognise a higher significance in sanctity, and to feel their obligations of worship and service measured by a higher ideal of sacrificial love and unselfishness. Besides the richer effusion of joy that came to the first generation of God's servants through the work of God's incarnate Son, their joy is further perfected with the progressive perfecting of human history. The first promise to Abraham looked forward to the blessedness of all nations through his seed. The promise is not fully brought to pass, nor is the large hope of the father of the faithful fulfilled till that has been accomplished. The highest victories of the Church in heaven are only consummated by the victories of the Church on earth. We shall miss nothing by dying. The sunshine will come to us in the far-off land. We shall not be cut off from the supreme triumph. Just as the air of the polar and the equatorial regions is ever changing places and bringing about fresh and tempered atmospheres essential to all life, so between the different epochs of the human race there are grand and consolatory equalisations always going on. The perfecting will be common. Abraham and David and Daniel waited for us, and we in our turn shall wait for others. The perfecting is common for the Church of all ages. Within certain limits we hold in our hands the blessedness of God's servants of olden times, and we work in trust for the dead. Others will one day work in trust for us. There will be no supreme perfecting till the saved whole is brought in. The text suggests that there is a larger fulfilment of the covenant in the last great day, for which the spirits of the old and the new dispensation must alike wait. Before the crowning touch can be put on our destinies we must needs tarry till the most distant heir of the promises and the latest born of all God's sons has come into the horizon. God treated the race as a unity in Adam, He treated it as a unity in Christ, and He will treat it yet again as a unity in the consummation of all things. It is said that sometimes swallows arrive on our eastern coasts before the winter has quite passed away, and the great tide of migration set in. These stray birds have been observed to gather together and fly south, probably to the coast of Spain, for a few days or weeks, till the spring temperature has come, and the carnival of vernal life has begun to quiver in the air. They have had to turn aside to balmier climbs for a little space and await the coming of the rest. So with the saints and prophets and martyrs of the earlier ages. They have passed into the unseen before God's summer sun has begun to shine upon the universe. In some sphere of temporary rest and blessedness, in a more genial land than this, their spirits are refreshed, and they await the completed number of the elect. The rearguard and the vanguard, the sowers and the reapers, the fathers and the children. The quick and the dead, will be gathered into one common circle to share the matchless manifestations of the great day of God. The splendour to which the latest ages have come will flow back into the earliest. The last perfecting benediction will not alight upon us in our isolation, but as members of a countless assembly. The lowliest believer of the coming ages will not be shut out from the consummated bliss and triumph. All parts of humanity, all races, all generations, possibly all hidden worlds of the unknown universe, will be closely and significantly interdependent in their final blessedness. The fact that God should have determined to perfect the men of all ages together shows how much He thinks of those great principles of mutual association and fellowship which we sometimes esteem so little. He shows honour to those lowly disciples and followers of His Son whom we do not sufficiently honour. He will not crown them apart. Their services have been obscure, their prayers secret, but their recompense shall be in presence of all worlds and all generations. Be prompt to recognise God's law of community. He will put supreme honour upon that law by blessing and glorifying at His appearing all members of the saved humanity together. God will not honour those who set aside that law. In helping our brethren we are helping ourselves. Their progress and perfecting is necessary to ours. God seems to be teaching us in this way the humility which can be best learned and exercised through fellowship. It is a check to our pride to be reminded that we can only be crowned in common with the rest. We cannot be crowned alone. The honour would be too high for us to safely sustain. It might imperil the balance of our moral life. And then by perfecting His servants together God seems to remind us of the graciousness and beauty of patience. Disembodied saints of the olden time are waiting for us, and we shall have to wait for them. They had their blessed compensations here, and receive yet better compensations in the presence of their redeeming Lord; but they still wait till the last convert from savagery has been won, the last backsliding disciple reclaimed, the last weak and inconsistent servant of God strengthened and sanctified. They are in the van of the pilgrimage, but they have learnt so much of the gentleness and patience of Christ, that they wait about the fountains of life for the fading of the world's last twilight and the coming up of the last straggler in the far-off rearguard. Do not let us think ourselves isolated pilgrims or travellers. We belong to the sacramental host. Let us watch against selfish hurry and impatience. We shall have to await the weakest for our final blessedness. Let us wait for them with more Christlike patience here, and help them along the pilgrim path. And then God has ordained that the perfecting of our destinies shall be in common, because He wishes to set forth His grace and power upon a scale of incomparable magnificence. How splendid the perfecting for which the holy spirits of so many epochs wait! How sublime the destiny into whose effulgence all elect souls shall be together gathered!

(T. G. Selby.)

The apostle had been speaking of the saints of the Old Testament. He had been building the triumphal arch of Old Testament history. The names of the world's spiritual conquerors are written there, But at the close of this triumphal commemoration you cannot fail to notice the unexpected turn of the text. The conclusion towards which this whole chapter of faith's heroism seems to move would be an ascription of our indebtedness to these valiant servants of the Lord who " have made it a world for us." Without them, the writer of this sacred history would naturally have said, Without them we are not made perfect. But instead he said, "That apart from us they should not be made perfect." We hardly transcend the text, we do but follow the inspired Word out to its larger revelation, when we say, Each Christian generation is necessary to all before; the last saint belongs in some measure to the first; the better thing of each age is for all who have lived and died; not only is it true that we inherit the lives of the saints, but they are to inherit ours; we are for them as well as they for us; neither they nor we are to be made perfect apart; the last century of human history shall crown all the centuries; the consummation of the world is the perfection together of all the saints. This is hardly our customary thought of the saints. We think of them as passed beyond all participation in this world's history, withdrawn from its trials and having no concern henceforth in its warfare and victories; made perfect in their own pure hearts, and their lives elsewhere no more bound up with this world's destiny. We remember with grateful love what they had been to us in the years gone by; we remind one another in our public places of our common inheritance in the lives of good men; we build monuments to the memory of the brave who died for their country; we draw inspiration for youth front the illumined historic page, and the spirit of the martyrs blends still with all sacrifice of love. But while we remember these worthy and sainted ones, we should not forget that we too are to be for them, as they have been for us. If you contemplate, for example, any sacred character from the Old Testament, you will observe that such character is never held apart either from the men of God who went before it, or from the servants of the Lord who are to follow after it. Each of these characters is put in the Bible into relation with all before and all after it — as a link in a chain; all personages that carry on God's gracious revelation, are as links in one continuous chain — and both ends of this unbroken chain of sacred history, running through the ages, with its many links of lives interlocked in one purpose of redemption, are bound to the throne of God, the beginning of it by the first Divine act of creation, and the final end of all in the glory of the Son of Man at the right hand of the majesty on high. The interdependence of all saints, the living and the dead, and those who are to be, appears in certain events in the life of Christ, and may be inferred also from certain inspired hints in the apostolic writings. It is clear from the narrative of the transfiguration, that Moses and Elias had not been cut off by death from personal interest and anticipation in the progress of God's kingdom on earth. What was done here upon a place called Golgotha, was to be done for them also there in that place called Paradise. And it is deeply significant and suggestive that the apostle Peter who was one of the two to witness this revealed intimacy of the saints of the old and the new, and to see upon the Holy Mount this close contiguity of two worlds, is the same apostle who has dropped in his epistle quite incidentally, and as a matter of course, that word concerning Christ's preaching to the spirits in prison, and again concerning the preaching to those that are dead. The Lord's life here, and the life of the dead there, were and are correlated; the history of the two spheres, the realm of the dead, and the kingdom of God on earth, were and are in some way ,connected and parallel histories; the two lands are contiguous, and one Lord passes back and forth across their boundary-line, to-day in the body, to-morrow in the spirit, and the third day risen again, and seen by the disciples; and He has the same administration of perfect justice and grace in both worlds. There is hardly anything more contrary to Scripture than is our common exaggeration of the importance of death. Do we not remember how Jesus seemed always to be putting death into the background as a very secondary and even incidental thing in the history of a soul which has attained the true, the eternal life? He minimized death when He called it a sleep. We magnify it when we call it destiny. The apostles, catching Jesus' diviner tone, called sin death, and love life. Death in the apostolic speech was turned into a metaphor; it served to illustrate something far greater and more important than itself. Conversion to them was the great change; to die may be the greatest event which can happen to a man; but to die is one of the least important things which a man does; to repent of sin, to surrender to God, to live unto Christ — this is the great thing for a man to do. We think of death as a vast gulf between friends; as a great barrier between hearts that would go on loving and being loved for ever; as a wall of adamant suddenly reared by a Divine decree between mother and child, husband and wife; and with the years the great silence widens between men and women who were friends. But when one who had been taught of Jesus had occasion to refer to death, he thinks not of chasm or adamantine wall, but of the veil of the temple — the mere veil between the holy, and the holiest place. "And this hope," he said, "enters within the veil." Does it not revive us like a breath of the Spirit to know this truth of All Saints' day, that we all shall be made perfect together, and none apart; that in God's plan our lives and theirs, whom for a little while we do not see, have been interwoven, and still run on interweaving their threads and colours; that still we are living for them, and they for us in the one kingdom of our Lord; that they in their rest, or in their new activities, are resting, or are ministering, not apart from us, as we in our toils and in our dreams still are living and still are loving not without them; that whatever in higher spheres is transpiring in their lives has also its worth yet to be revealed for us, as our thought and love may have growing worth for them; that whether in some silence in Divine light round about them they are becoming holy and radiant with perfect love in their own pure hearts, or whether along some way of God they are now made strong to run with some glad tidings, or whether with the Lord Christ they be permitted with their dear hands to give some added grace and human, homelike touch to the places in His many mansions which He has gone to prepare for us — still, still, they think, they fly, they rest, they love, not apart from us, and in them and their large happiness the great God thinks also of us; that without us they may not be made perfect in that final unspeakable perfection of all the saints in the last day. And we too — herein is a comfort which we must not suffer any man to take from us — we also are living for them; as the early Church before its Latin corruption did not hesitate in its childlike faith to express in its prayers for the sainted dead this most Christian sense of the mutuality of the believers' lives both here and there. We also are living for our fathers, for our friends who have passed before us, for all the saints, if indeed we are living truly and unselfishly; if we are ripening for their companionships, and becoming strong and pure for celestial thoughts and deeds in the ages of ages. Another lesson from this truth of All Saints' day lies close at hand. I shall have spoken in vain if you do not perceive once more the truth that to be a Christian and to be saved is not merely to become perfect for one's self, and to carry off a crown of glory at the judgment day. It is rather to come to the end of self, and to begin to be a member of a blessed society of spirits. No man is to be saved apart from all the saints. God's law of salvation is a social law, the law of a redeemed society. The social life of the Church, therefore, the social unity of the Church, is not an adjunct or accessory of the Divine constitution of the Church; it is an element of the Divine idea of the Church; it belongs to its essential Christianity. And hence it follows that churches are not revived, and do not grow, if this Divine idea of the covenant of believers and the household of faith, is lost sight of, or practically ignored. Once more, let the lesson come home to us from what I have been trying to say, that individually we cannot grow in grace apart from all saints. There is a beautiful Scripture, the most important clause of which we are too apt to hurry over as we read it: "That ye may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth." The condition of knowledge of the love of Christ is that we find it and share it with all saints. Yet this is just what many of us sometimes are not willing to do. We would know the love of Christ with our favourite saints. With all saints, said Paul. It was Paul, to whom were given personal revelation above measure, who felt the need of learning the love of Christ with all the saints, those unknown saints, those humble saints, those poor saints, untaught, unlearned, are to be your fellow-helpers to the truth. There are faces among them — I have seen some such — in whose light we may learn more of the secret of the Lord than from any books. Oh, when will we understand that our Christ is the universal Christ?

(Newman Smyth, D. D.)

1. There appears to be little doubt, that the persons here spoken of are the Old Testament believers — all of them, not only those mentioned by name in this chapter, but those whose history is more comprehensively alluded to. "These all, having obtained a good report through faith." True religion was always the same, in every age of the world — that is to say, in the substance and vital saving truth of it — however the outward expressions of it may have varied,

2. But now consider, in the next place, what the apostle says concerning these men. He says that they "obtained a good report through faith"; they were well witnessed of, in consequence of the life they led, and that life was a consequence of their faith. The same vital principle which enabled them to rest implicitly on the Word of God, and thereby to be justified in His sight, enabled them also to overcome the world. It rose superior to the attractions and solicitations of sense, to let their light shine before men, so that all could see their good works, and glorify their Father which is in heaven. By faith they were enabled to refuse every inducement which would have driven them off from obedience to their God. By faith they held all personal interests and all natural feelings, the fear or the favour of men, subservient to the one great duty, obedience to the living God. Their works, then, were their credentials upon earth, and by them their profession was justified — the profession of sincerity in the service of God. What a proof was there of the power over them of real religion, that raises man above the fear of his fellow, and gives him holy communion with his God! This, and this alone, in any age, is religion. These men, then, received "a good report through faith." But how agrees this with the fact that they were persecuted, that they were stoned, that they were sawn asunder, that they were cast out as evil? The two things agree well. Their conduct, by contrast, condemned the world; this is expressly recorded of one of them — Noah. Men of the world, condemned by the contrast, resent the affront; and so they that are born of the flesh persecute them that are born after the Spirit. To be commended by the Church is only one-half of the "good report" of the saint; to be condemned by the world is the other half. The Old Testament saints "obtained a good report" both ways "by faith." And are there not in our own times, and in our own country, men who have thus "obtained a good report through faith" — men who have resisted the tide of the times, and what was manifestly the rising tide of advancement and advantage among men — men who have refused to dilute their testimony for God's truth, and have calmly and patiently, and with their eyes open, preferred honourable neglect, yea, contempt and scorn, to any crooked management, any disingenuousness, aye, or any concealment of their sentiments, for the purpose of conciliating compromisers in high places?

3. But now, returning to the Old Testament saints and to the language of the text, we inquire, for further explanation, what it is that the apostle denies them. He says they "received not the promise." And here we must distinguish between the words containing the promise, and the thing promised by the words. The apostle uses the expression in both senses, as you will see readily by a comparison of the thirteenth and seventeenth verses of this chapter. At the thirteenth verse he writes, "These all died in faith, not having received the promises." One of the persons referred to is Abraham. Then in the seventeenth verse the apostle writes thus: "By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac; and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son." Abraham was one of those who had not received the promises, and yet he had received the promises; that is, he had received the words in which the promises were conveyed, but he had not received the things promised. Now, what are we to understand here by the thing promised, which was not then received? Light will be thrown upon this by the language of the apostle, in some of the stirring acts of his true life of faith. See Acts 23:6; Acts 24:14; Acts 26:6-8. Mark how the apostle's mind was fixed upon the great promise of the resurrection of the dead. No doubt "the promise" generally signified Messiah, but especially that blessing which remains to be enjoyed, previously to His second coming — the resurrection of the dead. It was the great hope of the Old Testament saints. Hear one of them. "I know," said he, "that my Redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God." Nothing can be more distinct than this expression of his hope. And another of them said, "I shall be satisfied when I awake up in Thy likeness"; expressing his hope nearly in the same words with the apostle — "We wait for the Lord Jesus Christ, who will change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body." Observe the one hope of the Church; that as there was " one Lord," as we have seen, in the Old and in the New Testament, and "one faith " in Him, and " one baptism " by the Holy Ghost for the remission of sins, so there was "one hope," and they were "called in one hope of their calling." This doctrine of the resurrection of the dead was indeed denied by some of the Jews. There is no truth, however plainly revealed, which will not be denied by some men. The Sadducees had learned a strange secret — to admit the Old Testament, and yet deny the resurrection of the dead. They came to Jesus, and gave Him opportunity to set the matter in its true light; for they came with what they conceived to be an unanswerable difficulty. If by saying that "all live to God" with reference to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, our Lord had intended merely to say that their souls were alive in the presence of God, it would have been no argument at all against the Sadducees. The question was the resurrection of the body. But if our Lord meant to say that the spirit of Abraham is not Abraham, but only part of him, God having made him of both matter and spirit, that when God called Himself "the God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob," He called Himself the God of the men, and not of the spirits of the men merely, and then added, "He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for all live to Him," then it is to the point, for the bodies of those men shall yet live, as well as their spirits; and so it was an answer to the Sadducees. The resurrection was indeed the hope of the Old Testament if properly understood. But this promise was not received by the saints under the Old Testament. They "obtained a good report through faith," as we have seen, but they "received not the promise." They were kept waiting in abeyance. The whole scheme is imperfect as yet.

4. And then follows the reason: "God having provided some better things for us, that they without us should not be made perfect." The preliminary and preparatory steps are given seriatim, to member after member; they are born into this world, they are born again, they are justified, they are in their measure sanctified, they are separated from the flesh; their souls, made perfect, are in felicity with their Lord; but there remains a step, which is not so given: "God having provided some better thing for all, that some without the rest should not be made perfect." Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, must wait for Moses and David; and they must wait for Isaiah and Jeremiah; and they must wait for Peter and James and John; and they must wait for and Ignatius and ; and they must wait for Luther and Calvin and Cranmer; and they must wait for us; and we must wait for others, till He has accomplished the number of His elect, and then all, in the twinkling of an eye, shall receive the promise at the second coming of the Lord Jesus. Here we see, then, the true communion of all the Church — the true oneness of the one true Church — the mystical body of the Lord Jesus, gathering from time to time, in all the preliminary, preparatory steps of it, and all ready at the appointed time to stand up in perfection, in the likeness of the Son of God. It is with this body that we now have communion by faith; not with those around us here upon earth only, but with them that have fallen asleep also, and with them in two divisions, if I may so speak. With some among them we hold communion through memory, as well as faith, for we knew them while they were here. They were faithful and true, and our hearts loved them. They have been taken from us, hidden for a little season from our sight, and are waiting for that better something which God hath prepared for all that love Him. With others we have communion only by faith; memory has nothing to do with it, for we never knew them; but by faith we know what their characters were. They, too, have fallen asleep, and they too are waiting for that better something which God hath prepared for us all. There is consolation, as well as instruction, in this. Every other association must be broken up; every other tie must be snapped asunder; all our business associations, all our social, domestic ties must give way; death is no respecter of any of us; they are all suddenly broken. Here is an association, from which nothing can separate us, the communion of the Church of God, the fellowship with those that have obtained a good report through faith, and are waiting for that something better. Must we, too, leave this sunny world, with all its enjoyments, with all that remains so attractive to the natural heart, in defiance of the disappointment, the mourning and lamentation and woe that prove it to be a fallen world? Must we be drawn from the little family circle, in which it is our delight now to dwell? Ah! remember, it is not to go among strangers; it is to join a larger circle of the same family — it is to be transferred from a small and a suffering circle to a large and a rejoicing circle of the same brotherhood, the First-born in the midst of them.

(H. McNeile, D. D.)

When all whom God has foreknown and predestinated to be conformed to the image of His Son, shall have fought the good fight of faith, then will come the perfecting — the day of the manifestation of the sons of God. At present all who have died in the Lord wait the fulfilment of the promise. Abel, Noah, and Abraham are not to be perfected in glory by the redemption of their bodies until the last soul has been converted to God, and the valley of the shadow of death has been traversed by the last pilgrim. When the top stone of the building has been brought in with shouts of "Grace, grace unto it," from all the redeemed and angelic hosts, then the glory of the Lord will descend upon His spiritual temple and transfigure it with everlasting light. Then, to change the figure, the saints in one glorious company, with no member of the Christ-named family absent, clothed upon with their spiritual bodies, shall enter the gates of the New Jerusalem, and celebrate the marriage supper of the Lamb. There they shall recount their trials and victories, compare their experiences of redeeming love, and drink together of the river of God's pleasures. There is something very sublime in the spectacle presented to us of this ever-gathering host. Daily, nay hourly, the number which no man can number is being increased. If the saints waiting for the resurrection are permitted to hold fellowship with souls as they arrive from this world of sin and sorrow, how they must have lifted up their heads of late years as sinners from earth's remotest end have come bending at the feet of Him who has redeemed them with His blood. Surely His kingdom is increasing, they must think, when from India, China, and the islands of the Pacific saints of God are being gathered in, when the chariots of fire bring up martyrs from heathen lands. This plan of God, to confer redemption on all the saints together, none anticipating the rest, must give Abel, the oldest saint in heaven, an intense interest in the youngest born of the heavenly family, whose birth into the kingdom will herald the long-looked-for day of Christ's appearing. Christians on earth may feel that they have divided interests, but when waiting for the day of glory they must feel that their interests are one. Party names, earthly distinctions, how completely lost these must be in the expectation of this glorious hope.

(E. W. Shalders, B. A.)

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