Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.…
I. First, concerning the ACT. Faith is said to be " the evidence." It is a grace that representeth the things of religion with such clearness and perspicuity of argument, that a believer is compelled to subscribe to the truth and worth of them; as a man yieldeth, when he seeth clear evidence to the contrary. There are in faith four things:
1. A clear light and apprehension. As soon as God converteth the soul, He puts light into it.
2. Faith is a convictive light, that findeth us corrupt and ill-principled, and full of prejudices against the doctrine of the gospel; and it is the work of faith to root out of the soul those carnal prejudices, counsels, reasonings, and carnal excuses which shut out that doctrine which the gospel offereth to us.
3. It is an overpowering and certain conviction, that is, such as dispossesseth us of our corrupt principles, and argueth us into a contrary opinion and belief.
4. It is a practical conviction. He that believeth is so convinced of the truth and worth of these things, that he is resolved to pursue after them, to make preparation for his eternal condition.Use: To put us upon examination and trial, whether we have such a faith or no, as is an evidence or convincing light; you may try it by the parts of it. There is the assent of faith and the consent of faith; a clear light and firm assent, and a free consent to the worth of the things of God.
1. There is a clearness and perspicuity in the light of faith, which doth not only exclude the grossly ignorant, but those that have no saving knowledge.
2. We may know whether faith be an evidence by the firmness of our consent. If men were more convinced there would be a greater conformity in their practices to the rules of religion.
II. I come to the OBJECT, "Things not seen." Faith is an evidence, but what kind of evidence? of things that cannot be otherwise seen, which cloth not disparage the evidence, but declare the excellency of faith. "Not seen," that is, not liable to the judgment of sense and reason. What are those "things not seen"? Things may either be invisible in regard of their nature, or of their distance and absence from us. Some things are invisible in their own nature — as God, angels, and spirits; and all the way and work of the Holy Ghost in and about the spiritual life. Other things are invisible in regard of their distance and absence; and so things past and to come are invisible; we cannot see them with our bodily eyes, but they are discovered to us by faith. In short, these " things not seen," are either matters of constant practical experience, which are not liable to outward sense, or principles of knowledge, which are not suitable to natural reason.
1. Matters of practical experience. The blessings of religion as the enduring substance (Hebrews 10:34), the benefit of affliction, the rewards and supplies of the spiritual life, answers of prayer, they are things not seen in regard of the bodily eye and carnal feeling; but faith expects them with as much assurance as if they were corporeally present, and could be felt and handled, and is assuredly persuaded of them, as if they were before our eyes.
2. Principles of knowledge. There are many mysteries in religion above reason; until nature put on the spectacles of faith, it cannot see them.That the evidence of faith is conversant about things unseen by sense or natural reason.
1. Because much of religion is past, and we have bare testimony and revelation to warrant it; as the creation of the world out of nothing, the incarnation, life, and death of Christ; these are truths not liable to sense, and unlikely to reason — that God should become a man and die. Now upon the revelation of the word, the Spirit of God makes all evident to faith.
2. Much of religion is yet to come, and therefore can only be discerned by faith. Fancy and nature cannot outsee time, and look beyond death (2 Peter 1:9); unless faith hold the candle to hope we cannot see heaven at so great a distance. Heaven and the glorious rewards of religion are yet to come; faith only can see heaven in the promises and look upon the gospel as travailing in birth with a great salvation.
3. That of religion which is of actual and present enjoyment, sense or reason cannot discern the truth or worth of it; therefore faith is still the evidence of things unseen.If the object of faith be things unseen, then —
1. Christians should not murmur if God keep them low and bare, and they have nothing they can see to live upon. As long as they do their duty, they are in the hands of God's providence.
2. In the greatest extremity that can befall us there is work for faith, but no place for discouragement; your faith is never tried till then.
3. A Christian is not to be valued by his enjoyments, but by his hopes. "He hath meat and drink which the world knows not of" (John 4:32).
4. Christ may be out of sight, yet not out of mind.Reproof to those that are all for sense and for present appearance.
1. Such as "do not believe without present feeling.
2. Such as cannot wait upon God without present satisfaction.
(1) This is a great dishonour to God, to trust Him no further than we see Him. You trust the ground with your corn, and can expect a crop out of the dry clods, though you do not see how it grows, nor which way it thrives in order to the harvest.
(2) It is contrary to all the dispensations of God's providence. Before He gives in any mercy there are usually some trials.
(3) It is contrary to the nature of faith.
(4) It will weaken our hands in duty when we look to every present discouragement. If faith be such an evidence of things not seen, then let us examine — have we this faith that can believe things not seen? This is the nature of true faith. Hope built upon outward probability is but carnal hope; but here is the faith and hope we live by, that which is carried out to things not seen with the bodily eye.Take these directions to discover it.
1. How doth it work as to Christ now He is out of sight? Alas! to most Christians Christ is but a name, a fancy, or an empty conceit, such as the heathens had of their topical gods, or we of tutelar saints, some for this country and some for that. Do you pray as seeing Him at God's right hand in heaven pleading your cause, and negotiating with God for you?
2. How doth it work as to His coming to judgment? Is the awe of that day upon your hearts? and do you live as those that must give aa account even for every idle word, when the great God of recompenses shall descend from heaven with a shout?
3. How can you comfort yourselves in the midst of all your straits and sorrows with the unseen glory of another world? Do not you faint in your duty, but bear up with that courage and constancy which becomes Christians (2 Corinthians 4:16). 4, How doth it work as to the threatenings of the Word? Can you mourn for a judgment in its causes, and foresee a storm when the clouds are but a gathering?
5. How doth your heart work upon the promises in difficult cases? Thereby God tries you, and thereby you may try yourselves (John 6:5, 6).
6. You may try your assent to the promises by the adventures you make upon God's word.
7. You may know whether you have this faith, which evidenceth things to come, and find out the weakness or strength of it by observing the great disproportion that is in your affections to things of sense, and things of faith. It is true, a Christian is not all spirit, and therefore sensible things work more with the present state of men than things spiritual. But yet certainly in a child of God, one that believes, that hath the evidence of things not seen, there will be some suitableness.
8. You may know whether you have this faith by your thoughts of the ways of God, when they are despised or opposed. Faith, which is the evidence of things not seen, can see a great deal of beauty in a despised way Of God, and glory in a crucified Christ; as the good thief upon the cross could see Christ as a king, when he hung dying on the cross in disgrace (Luke 23:42).To press you to get this faith, which is the evidence of things not seen, that you may believe that which God hath revealed in His Word, and that solely upon God's authority and the account of His Word; to quicken you to get this faith, which is of such great use to you.
1. Consider that all the difficulty in assenting to doctrines of Scripture was not only in the first age.
2. Consider the benefit of a sound conviction. A clear evidence of the mysteries of salvation is a great ground of all reformation of life.
3. The more faith depends upon the warrant of God's Word the better; and the fewer sensible helps it hath, the more it is prized (John 20:29).
4. Sensible things will not work, if we do not believe the Word; those that think Moses and the prophets are but a cold dispensation in comparison of this, if one should come from the dead, for then they would repent and turn to God, let them read (Luke 16:29-31).
5. We have need now to look after this faith, which is the evidence of things not seen, because the great reigning and prevailing sin is infidelity and unbelief; which is seen by our cavilling at every strict truth, by our carelessness in the things of God, by the looseness and profaneness of those that would be accounted Christians.
6. We ought to look to this faith, because none are so resolved in the great matters of faith, but they may be more resolved; no man doth so believe but he may believe more (1 John 5:13).Direction to get and increase this faith.
1. Beg the illumination of the Spirit of God to show you the truth of the Word, and the good things offered therein. This evidence is from the Spirit; thereof Paul prays for the Ephesians (Ephesians 1:17, 18).
2. Employ your reason, serious consideration, and discourse. The devil throws the golden ball in our way, of honour, pleasure, and profit, to divert us from heavenly things; and the intention of the mind being diverted, the impressions of religion are weak and faint.
3. Labour to get a heart purged from carnal affections. Where there is more purity there will be more clearness (Matthew 5:8).
(T. Manton, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.