The Future and the Unseen

Heb. 11:1.---' Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.'

The eleventh chapter of Hebrews opens with such a profound and far-reaching saying that we should commit it to memory, and not only commit it to memory, but endeavor to make it the habit of our minds, so that we shall indeed have it by heart, ready to rush to our rescue when a disheartening view of things is beginning to hang about us. 'Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.' Let us give a little more edge to the translation: 'Faith is the giving substance to things hoped for, a conviction concerning things not seen.' 'Faith is the giving substance to things hoped for.' That translation is absolutely literal and sound.

Faith is action. All the Christian graces are activities. They meet God half-way, so to speak. Two things stand over against one another---the grace of God and the faith of man. 'Grace' is a term for 'all the ways in which God comes in to the help of our lives.' And over against it stands faith,' which covers all the ways in which we appropriate the help of God. A small boat is in the bay and wants to cross to the other side. The power which is to help it across is all there in the wind; but when is that power effectual? Only when those on board give it the means of communicating itself to the boat, by hoisting sail. True, the sails are powerless without the wind, but so is the wind useless till a sail is held up for it to fill and drive. Faith is the stretching out of the hand, the hoisting of the sail. There is no Hindu passivity in real apostolic Christianity. Faith is life, protest, movement. It is the giving substance to things hoped for. And how do you give substance to anything you hope for? You believe in it as though you saw it.

You live for the sake of it, by the light of it, under the call of it. You make it as real as your own life. All your truly personal actions, the things you do most truly from your soul, become embodiments of it. You make it part of yourself. You stake yourself upon it. 'faith is the giving substance to things hoped for, it is the conviction concerning things unseen ---that is the thing to keep saying to oneself.

The theme of this stirring chapter, then, is Faith. The closing verses of the 10th chapter contain a warning and an encouragement. 'Now, the just shall live by faith; but if he draw back, my soul hath no pleasure in him. But we are not of backsliding unto perdition, but of faith to the saving of the soul'---that is, the preservation of the true life of the man. In closest connection of thought the 11th chapter opens, 'Now faith is'---and then follow the definition and illustration of faith, and the celebration of its triumphs. Faith---that is, confidence regarding the future, and conviction of the reality of the unseen---has been the secret spring of every great and godly life, the condition of success in the large and true sense, the key to all noble deeds and heroic sufferings. In glowing words the writer tells of the victories which the great cloud of witnesses have gained by their faith, and points, last and chiefly, to Jesus 'the leader and perfector of faith,' bidding the Hebrew Christians look to Him, and so run with patience the race set before them.

Faith, then, has relation to two classes of objects---[1] those that are future, and [2] those that are unseen.

Faith in relation to the future.---It is assurance of the certainty of the glorious future. When a man is confident that, in spite of appearances, the good things promised or hoped for shall be attained, and when the present is dwarfed by the more glorious future, that man exercises faith. In faith, for example, the farmer sows. If the few bushels of grain were sent to the mill and ground, there would be immediate benefit in the shape of so much flour. But faith looks to the harvest time, when twenty-or thirty-fold shall be reaped, and so the little brown seedlings are committed to the ground.

Little children, know what faith is. Some of you have said, when you took seeds out of a ripe apple, "Mother, can I plant this seed in my garden? And will it grow to be an apple tree? And will it have apples on it? And mother said, "Yes, but you will have to wait a long time for it to grow." And then you put it under the earth, and if you had little faith you went after a week or two and dug it up to see if it were growing; and if you had more faith, you waited till the snow came and covered up the earth to keep it warm, and then the sun shone and the rains fell, and by and by you saw a little green thing, just like a weed, coming up, and you would have pulled it up, but mother told you that that was the little apple tree. You thought it didn't look a bit like an apple tree---no branches, no bark, and no apples on it---but still you waited, and year after year you watched it, and at last it grew into a real tree. Well, that planting and waiting, expecting a tree to grow out of that little seed, was just faith working---you had the "assurance of things hoped for."

Boys, you know what faith is when you give up some portion of your pleasure and play, that by harder work you may win the prize at the end of the term. The sun is bright, and the playground charming, and the merry shouts of the players make you almost shut the book and run, for you are a true boy and love ball; but you resolutely deny yourself the present enjoyment, that you may make sure of the future good, which you count better worth having.

Men, some of you know what faith is. When you have come to see that principles and the maintenance of them, is an active exercise of faith.

Is religious faith different from this faith in the child, the boy, the man? Not at all; it only occupies itself with different objects and takes a wider range. Instead of looking for an earthly prize, it looks for 'a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give. . . . unto all them that love his appearings.' Instead of being exercised about an apple tree, it is exercised about 'the tree of life,' which is in the midst of the street of the New Jerusalem, whose leaves are for the healing of the nations. Instead of being occupied with principles of a temporal nature, it is occupied with principles which will secure the holiness and blessedness of redeemed humanity here and hereafter. The believer looks not for the fulfillment of his own theories, but for the fulfillment of God's promises; the coming of Christ; his view is not bounded by the earthly horizon, even though within that horizon he may see purity and social regeneration and righteous laws; but it takes in the eternal ages during which there shall be ceaseless progress in the knowledge of God and fellowship with Him, when the good of all lands and of all generations, their bodies fashioned like unto the body of the glory of Christ, having the spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwelling in them, shall be glorified with Christ for ever and ever.

Faith in relation to the Unseen.---It is 'the conviction of the reality of things not seen'---the conviction of the reality of things not seen. Faith is not necessarily occupied with the future. Have you ever saw an iceberg? Have you ever saw the rich foliage of the tropics? Do you believe in both? How do those of us who have never been out of America know that such places as Asia, Africa, and Europe exist? It is by faith in the testimony of those who have been there. Your eyes tell you that the water in the glass is pure. A friend tell you it is full of living things, which he has seen through a microscope. You believe Him. Your eyes tell you that the stars are little specks in a solid hemisphere; the telescope tells you that they are suns and planets, rolling along with inconceivable rapidity. You never saw the love in your wife's heart, you never will see it: it is one of the things that eye cannot see; and yet you are surer of it than you are of the fact that the Queen of England reigns. You have the 'conviction of things not seen.'

Again we may ask, Is religious faith a different thing? No; but it takes higher flights. It concerns itself not simply about 'the sweet, sweet love of daughter, of son and of wife,' but about the love, sweeter by far and more unfathomable, of God in Christ. It rejoices to believe in heroic doing, and more heroic suffering, on the part of men and women; but it rejoices more to trace these to their fountain-head in the great sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave His life a ransom for all. It delights in the power of even poor human love to lift up the fallen, to soothe the sad, and to succor the dying; but it rises to that 'love Divine, all loves excelling' which stooped to the lowest degradation that it might raise the lost to the dignity and glory of sons of God. It is 'the conviction of the solid reality of things not seen.'

The two senses of faith melt into one in Christ. The faith that looks into the future and the faith that realizes God in the present are the same thing. Christ is the manifestation of the unseen God.

In Christ, timothy. maranatha

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