ŇBy faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, that in Isaac shall thy seed be called: accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.Ó Hebrews 11:17-19.
In the former verses, we heard the faith of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob commended jointly together. Now the Holy Ghost returneth to the commendation of their faith severally. And first, He begins with AbrahamŐs faith, whereof He had formerly propounded two works or actions; first, his going out of his own country, and secondly, his abode in a strange land. Now here followeth the third, which is the most notable work of all, wherein his faith shines most gloriously; and his example here is unmatchable. The particular points herein are these:
I. First, the work of his faith is plainly laid shown in his offering up of Isaac.
II. Secondly, the same work of faith is notably commended by three special arguments; to wit,
1. First, by three great impediments that might have hindered the work of faith, as we shall see in their place (vv.17,18);
2. Secondly, by his victory over these impediments (v.19);
3. Thirdly, by the issue of this temptation, and his work of faith therein, at the end of the 19th verse.
I. For the first, the fact of AbrahamŐs faith here commended is this: That he offered up Isaac his son. It may first of all be demanded, how Abraham could offer up his son by faith, considering it is against the law of nature and the laws of God for a man to kill his own son; which Abraham must do, if he did offer him up in sacrifice to God. For answer hereunto, we need go no further than the story (Gen. 22), and yield unto it; as for example the second commandment forbiddeth any man to make any graven image; even Moses by a special commandment made a brazen serpent in the wilderness to be a figure of Christ. So the sixth commandment Thou shalt not kill, is an ordinary commandment, and bindeth the conscience of every man to obey the same; yet God comes with a special commandment to Abraham and saith, Abraham, kill thy son; and therefore the ordinary commandment of the second table giveth place for the time. And so all the commandments, Thou shalt do thus and thus, unless God command otherwise; for God is an absolute Lord, and so above His own laws, He is not bound unto them, but may dispense with them, and with us for the keeping of them at His will and pleasure. And thus was Abraham warranted to sacrifice his son; namely, by virtue of a special and personal commandment to himself alone.
But if Abraham had not had this particular commandment, the sacrificing of Isaac had been unlawful and abominable; for the killing of a man is a heinous sin; much more is the killing of a manŐs own son without special commandment; for that is against nature; and therefore the Lord by Jeremiah doth severely condemn the Jews for burning their sons and daughters to sacrifice (Jer. 7:31), without any warrant from Him; though it may be they would pretend their imitation of Abraham in the sacrificing of Isaac; yea, and to shew His detestation of that fact, He changeth the name of the place, calling it the valley of slaughter (v.32), and in the New Testament it is used to signify hell (Matt. 5:29,30). And because this sin is so odious, it is rather to be thought that Jephthah did not kill his daughter in sacrifice to the Lord (as some think he did), especially being a man commended for his faith by the Holy Ghost; but thereof we shall speak when we come to his example (v.32).
Thus we see Abraham had ground for this fact to do it by faith, even GodŐs special command. But here it will be said that Abraham did not offer up his son indeed; for though he had bound him, and laid him on the altar, yet when he lifted up the knife to have killed him, the angel stayed his hand, and suffered him not (Gen. 22:11,12). How then can it be true which is here said, that he offered him up? For the writer of the story must make true reports; but it seems the writer hereof is deceived in the very principal point, affirming Isaac was offered, when in truth he was not. Answer: God is the author and indicter of this story, and in GodŐs sight and estimation he was offered, though not in the world; and therefore it is so said in regards of GodŐs acceptance; because AbrahamŐs purpose was to have done it, and if he had not been stayed, he would have done it.
Where we note a point of special comfort, to wit, that God in His children and servants doth accept the will for the deed; so Paul saith (2 Cor. 8:12), If there be a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not; speaking of their relieving of the poor, he telleth them that God regardeth not so much a manŐs work, as the heart wherewith he doth the work. And therefore the poor widow in the gospel (Luke 21:3) is said by our Saviour Christ to have cast more into the treasury (though it were but two mites) than many rich men that cast in great abundance; more in heart, not in substance.
This serveth to stay the heart of many a man that is found bruised in conscience; for seeing his weak obedience, and the greatness of his sins past, he begins to call his election into question. Now what must a man do in this case? Answer: Surely he must go on forward in obedience, and endeavour himself to continue therein; and then though he fail many times through infirmity, yet for his endeavour, God will accept of him, and be pleased with the same.
This doctrine is very comfortable to a distressed conscience; but yet it must not make any man bold to sin; for many abuse this doctrine, and say that though they live in sin, yet God will accept them, for they love God in their heart. But they deceive themselves; for this merciful dealing of God in accepting the will for the deed is only towards those that endeavour themselves sincerely to leave their sins, to believe in God, and to walk in obedience; but such as flatter themselves lying in their sins, God will not be merciful to them (Deut. 29:19,20).
Here further it may well be demanded; How Abraham could take Isaac and bind him, and lay him on the altar to have offered him; for though the common opinion be that he was but thirteen years old, yet the more received opinion of the best writers is that Isaac was 25 or 27 years old. How then could Abraham, being an old man of more than 120 years, be able to bind Isaac being a young and lusty man, and lay him on the altar to kill him? For though Abraham had a commandment to kill Isaac, yet we find not that God commanded Isaac to suffer himself to be killed; now nature moves every one to seek to save his own life, and to resist such as would kill us. How then was Isaac brought to yield thus far to his father?
For answer hereunto, we are to know that Abraham was no ordinary man, but a prophet, and that an excellent and extraordinary prophet; so God testifieth of him to Abimelech; He is a prophet, and he shall pray for thee (Gen. 20:7); yea, he was esteemed and reverenced as a prophet, and an honourable man, even of the heathen. The Hittites tell him, Thou art a prince of God amongst us (Gen. 23:6).
Now being a man of so high place, and so great regard even in the world; doubtless he was of much more authority in his own house. It is therefore very likely that he tells Isaac his son, that he had a special commandment from God to kill him in sacrifice. Now, Isaac being an holy man, and well brought up, hearing this, is contented to be sacrificed, and obeys his father herein.
This I speak, not as certain, but as most probable; and it is the judgment of the best learned, who have good experience in the Scripture.
This circumstance well observed, serves greatly for the commendation of them both; of Abraham the father, that had so religiously brought up his only son, that was most dear unto him that he would not resist the will of God revealed unto him, though it cost him his life. Oh that parents would follow Abraham in so doing to their children; then would it go well with the church of God. Again, IsaacŐs behaviour is here admirable, that he would not resist his weak and aged father, but suffered him to bind him, and to lay him on the altar; yielding himself unto death when his father told him, My son, God will have it so.
This example must be a pattern of obedience, not only for children towards their parents; but for us all towards GodŐs ministers, when they shall tell us what God would have us do; we must submit ourselves and yield, though it turn to our bodily pain and grief; for Isaac yields, though it were to the loss of his life. But alas, who will follow Isaac? For let the minister speak against our carnal pleasure and lawful gain; let him cross our humour and affections, then we refuse to hear and we will not obey. Nay, if the minister of God, as the LordŐs priest, come with the sacrificing knife of GodŐs Word to the throat of our sin, to kill the same in us, that so we may be pure and acceptable sacrifices unto God; do we not resist Him, and say in our hearts, We will none of this doctrine? Or, if he like a prophet of God, come and offer to bind our consciences with the cords of obedience, and to lay our affections on the altar of the law; then we resist, and are either too young, or too old; too rich, or too learned; or too great to be taught and bound to obedience. But let us know that if we will be true Isaacs, even the sons of faith and obedience, and the true heirs of AbrahamŐs faith (as we would bear the world in hand), then as he did submit himself to be bound of his father, so must we yield ourselves to the ministers of God, to be bound by His Word; and suffer the same Word to be in us, the two edged sword of the Spirit, to cut down sin and corruption in us, and to make us new creatures; that so both in body and soul we may become pure and acceptable sacrifices unto our God. This much of the fact itself, wherein AbrahamŐs faith is set forth.
II. Now follow the arguments or reasons whereby the same work of faith is commended unto us.
1. The first argument is taken from the great impediments which might hinder his faith; and they are in number three:
(1) First, that he was brought to this work not by ordinary command, but by an extraordinary course in temptation: Being tempted.
(2) Secondly, that he was to offer his own child; yea, his only begotten son.
(3) Thirdly, that he who had received the promises must offer him and kill him in whom the promise was made.
(1) For the first impediment, in the ordinary translation it is read thus: When he was tried. But that is not so fit, being rather an exposition of the meaning, than a translation of the word. For the very word signifieth to be tempted; and the meaning is, when he was tried. I would therefore rather read it thus: When he was tempted, or being tempted, as the word signifies.
In the handling hereof: (i) first we will intreat of the nature of this temptation, and then (ii) come to the circumstances belonging to the same.
(i) Temptation, as it is here used, may be thus described: It is an action of God, whereby he proveth, and makes experience of the loyalty and obedience of His servants.
(a) First, I say, it is an action of God. This is plain by the testimony of Moses (Gen. 22:1), where (if we read the history) we shall find that God did prove Abraham. Objection: But against this it may be objected that St James saith (James 1:13), that God tempteth no man; and therefore how can temptation be the action of God? Answer: That place in James is thus to be understood: God tempteth no man; that is, God doth not stir up or move any manŐs heart to sin. Yet further it will be said that temptation is an action of Satan, for so in the gospel we may read (Matt. 4:3), that he is called the tempter. Answer: Some temptations are the actions of God, and some the actions of Satan. God tempteth, and Satan tempteth; but there is a great difference in their temptations; first, in the manner, for Satan tempteth a man to sin against the will of God, and to do some evil; God tempteth a man to do something which shall be only against his own affections or his reason. Secondly, God tempteth for the good of His servants; but Satan tempteth for the destruction both of their bodies and souls.
(b) Again I say, whereby he maketh trial &c. Here some will say, God knows every manŐs heart, and what is in them, and what they will do long before; and therefore He needeth not to make trial of any man. Answer: God makes trial of His servants, not because He is ignorant of that which is in their heart; for He understandeth their thoughts long before; but because He will have their obedience made known; partly to themselves, and partly to the world; so that He makes trial of His servants, not for Himself, but for our sakes.
Now further, God tempteth men three ways:
Firstly, His judgments and calamities in this world; so the Lord saith to the Israelites (Deut. 8:2), Thou shalt remember all the way which the Lord thy God led thee this forty years in the wilderness, for to humble thee, for to prove and to know what was in thy heart. That journey might have been gone in forty days, but God did lead them in it forty years, to prove and try by this unwanted calamity, whether they would obey Him or not. So likewise, God suffered false prophets, and dreamers of dreams to come among the people, for this end: to prove them, and to know whether they loved the Lord their God with all their heart, and with all their soul (Deut.13:3). Now this first kind of temptation, by outward judgments, is most grievous, when the Lord layeth His own hand upon His servants so heavily, as they shall think themselves to be quite forsaken. In this temptation was David, as we may read at large in Psalm 6 and 38; and Job being afflicted, not only outwardly in body but inwardly in mind, cryeth out that the arrows of the Almighty were in him (Job 6:4), and through the whole chapter he bewaileth his grievous estate by reason of this temptation.
Secondly, God tempteth his servants by withdrawing His graces from them, and by forsaking them in part; and this temptation is as grievous as the former; herewith was good king Hezekiah, for as we may read, God left him to a sin of vain glory, and the end was to try him, and to prove all that was in his heart (2 Chr. 32:31).
Thirdly, God tempteth His servants by giving unto them some strange and extraordinary commandment; as in the gospel, when the young man came to our Saviour Christ, and asked Him what good thing he might do to have eternal life (Matt. 19:16). Christ biddeth him, Go and sell all that he had, and give to the poor. This commandment had this use: to be a commandment of trial unto the young man, whereby God would prove what was in his heart, that the same might be made manifest both to himself and unto others. And under this kind we must comprehend this temptation of Abraham; for when God said, Abraham, offer up thy son in sacrifice, it was not a commandment requiring actual obedience (for God meant not that Abraham should kill his son), but only of trial, to see what he would do. And these are GodŐs temptations whereby he proveth His servants.
Yet further, the temptations of God whereby He tempteth His children have two ends:
Firstly, They serve to disclose and make evident the graces of God that be hidden in the hearts of His servants; so St James saith, My brethren, count it exceeding great joy when ye fall into divers temptations (Jam. 1;2). The reason followeth: Knowing that the trial of your faith bringeth forth patience (v.3). Where we see the end of temptation set down: to manifest the gift of patience wrought in the heart. And St Peter saith to the church of God, that they were in heaviness through many temptations, that the trial of their faith, being much more precious than gold that perisheth (though it be tried with fire), might be found unto their praise and honour and glory at the appearing of the Lord Jesus (1 Pet. 1:6,7). Where temptations have this use: to make manifest the soundness of menŐs faith in God, as the fire doth prove the gold to be good and precious. So in this place, the temptation of Abraham serveth for this end, to make manifest his notable faith and obedience unto God, with a reverent fear of His majesty, as the Lord Himself testifieth saying, Now I know that thou fearest God, seeing for my sake thou hast not spared thy only son (Gen. 22:12). Meaning this: Now I have made thy faith and love and fear of me so manifest that all the world may see it, and speak of it.
Secondly, GodŐs temptations serve to manifest hidden sins and corruptions, partly to a manŐs own self and partly to the world. And for this end, God tempted Hezekiah. For being recovered of his sickness, after that the king of Assyria his great enemy was vanquished, especially when the ambassadors of the king of Babylon came to inquire of the wonders which were done in the land; God left him, that he might see his sins and the corruptions of his nature, such as pride and vain glory, wherewith he was puffed up at the coming of the ambassadors to him. And thus he, who little thought that pride and vain glory could have taken such hold on him, perceiving how his heart was lifted up in him, was doubtless much humbled at the sight of his so great corruption; for when the prophet came unto him, he submitted himself to the word of reproof (Isa. 39:8).
(a) First, whereas Abraham as the servant of God was tempted, that is, was proved and tried by God Himself; here we are taught that if we persuade ourselves to be the servants of God, as Abraham was, then we must look to have temptations at GodŐs own hand; for his example is a pattern for us; and therefore in him we must see that which we must look to have; for it could not be needful for Abraham, but it may be also needful unto us. In regard whereof St Peter counteth it a thing necessary that men should fall into sundry temptations, that the trial of their faith might be unto their praise (1 Pet. 1:6,7). So that in this life we must look for trial; and the more glorious our faith is, and the more like to our father AbrahamŐs, the more trials shall we undergo.
(b) Secondly, seeing we must be tried, therefore every one of us must labour for soundness of grace in our hearts; as of faith, repentance, hope and of the love of God (though they be but little in measure); for we must come to trial, and it must appear whether we be hot or cold. Now if we have not soundness of grace in us, in the time of trial, then look, as the dross consumeth in the fire, when as gold cometh out more clear; so shall hypocrisy, formality and all temporary profession, come to nothing in the midst of temptation; when sound grace and a good conscience shall pass through, and shine more pure and perfect after than before.
(c) Thirdly, considering we are to look for trials and temptations from God; therefore we must be careful to remember and practice that counsel of Christ to His disciples before His passion: Watch and pray, lest ye enter into temptation (Matt. 26:41). And because they were careless in practising this duty, therefore they fell into temptation; especially Peter fell most grievously, by denying his master. We must persuade ourselves that the same commandment is given to us; for God will prove us by temptations, to make manifest the corruptions that be in our hearts; we therefore considering our own estate, we must pray for GodŐs assisting and strengthening grace, that when temptations shall come, we may be found sound and steadfast in the trial.
(ii) Thus much of the nature of AbrahamŐs temptation; now follow the circumstances to be considered therein. And,
(a) First, of the time when Abraham was tempted. Hereof we may read (Gen. 22:1), After these things, saith Moses, God did prove Abraham. The words will admit a double reference. But this I take to be most proper and fit for that place, to wit; that after God had made most excellent promises unto Abraham, and given him most wonderful blessings and privileges, that then He tempted him.
Here we learn this notable lesson: that those people in GodŐs church which receive from God more graces than others, must look for more temptations. This we shall see to be true in Christ Jesus the Head of the church; for when He was baptised, and had received the Holy Ghost (Matt. 3) in the form of a dove, and had this voice of God the Father pronounced upon Him, that He was His well-beloved Son in whom He was well pleased; then presently followeth this, that he was led into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil (Matt. 4:1), being full of the Holy Ghost, as St Luke saith. So likewise when God had testified of Job that he was an upright and just man, one that feared God, and eschewed evil (Job 1:8), then Satan took occasion thereby to tempt him; as in all the whole course of that book we may plainly see, wherein are set down most wonderful temptations and trials whereby he was proved. So Jacob must wrestle with the Angel (Gen. 32:24,28), and by the power of God, overcome God Himself. This was a notable prerogative, to prevail with the Lord; but yet he must prevail with his foil (v.28), and at the same time, and ever after, draw one of his legs after him, even to his dying day. St Paul was wrapt up into the third heaven, into Paradise, and heard words which cannot be spoken; yea, which are impossible for men to utter; yet lest he should be exalted out of measure through abundance of revelations, there was given unto him a prick in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet him (2 Cor. 12:7). God will honour him with revelations, but yet Satan shall have leave to buffet and beat him, as it were black and blue. In all which we may see that to whom God vouchsafeth a greater measure of grace, to them he appointeth singular trials and temptations above other men. And the reason is: first, because GodŐs graces do better appear in temptations than out of them, as gold is best tried in the fire and thereby proved most pure and perfect; secondly, temptations serve to abase the servant of God, and to bring him down in his own conceit, that he be not proud of those things that are in him, or puffed up with conceit that there is more in him than indeed there is. This we saw in PaulŐs example. He was buffeted of Satan, lest he should be exalted with abundance of revelations. We may see a type hereof in worldly affairs; the best ship that floateth on the sea, when it carrieth in it most precious jewels, is ballasted with gravel or sand, to make it take into the water, and so sail more surely, lest floating too high it should be unstable; even so dealeth the Lord with His servants, when He hath given them a good measure of His graces, then doth He also lay temptations upon them, to humble them, lest they should be puffed up in themselves.
(b) The second circumstance to be considered in this temptation is the greatness thereof. It was the greatest that ever was, for ought we read of, that God should command him to kill his own son. For if God had told Abraham that his son Isaac must have died, it would have been very grievous and sorrowful news unto him; and yet more grievous if he had told him that he should have died a bloody death. But yet this was most grievous of all, that Abraham himself with his own hand should sacrifice his own son; nay, his only son; and that which is more, he must kill his only child, in whom the promise was made that in him should his seed be called; this must needs be a great wound unto his heart; and yet to augment his grief, he must not do it presently, nor where he would, but go three days journey into the wilderness. During which time Satan undoubtedly wrought mightily upon his natural affections to dissuade him from obedience; which could not choose but be far more grievous unto his soul.
Out of the grievousness of this temptation, we may learn this lesson: that God in tempting a man, doth sometime proceed thus far. Not only to cross his sins and corruptions, but even to bring him to nothing, in regard of human reason and natural affections. For this commandment (Abraham, kill thy son) might have made Abraham (if he had consulted with flesh and blood) even distracted in himself, and without reason, not knowing which way to turn himself. And accordingly, let all GodŐs children, especially such as have the greatest graces, look for such temptations, as shall lay their human reason flat upon the ground, and bring them to this point, even utterly to deny themselves.
(c) The third circumstance in this temptation is this: What did Abraham do when he was tempted? The text telleth us that by faith he offered up Isaac, being tempted.
Abraham being thus tempted whether he would obey GodŐs commandment or not; obeys God in offering up his son, and yet lays hold upon GodŐs promise made in him. For we must know that Abraham had a promise of blessing in Isaac; and being now commanded to kill Isaac, he did not now cast off his hope, and desperately think it could not be performed if this commandment were obeyed; but by the great power of faith, he both obeys the commandment and yet still believes the promise; for so saith the text, By faith he offered up Isaac. Therefore in the very action of killing Isaac, he believed the promise that Isaac should live. And this was the excellency of AbrahamŐs faith. For if God should with His own voice bid a man kill his son, it may be that some would be found that would do it; but to do it, and still to believe a contrary promise made before, betokeneth the virtue of an admirable faith.
In this circumstance we may learn a good instruction: to wit, in all temptations that befall us, still to hold fast to the promises of God; though in the devilŐs purpose, they tend to the loosening of our hold; and in all common reason, we have good cause to let them go; yet for all that, we must never let go, but still hold the promise fast, and rather let go all reason in the world than GodŐs promise. And this is not only true faith, but even the excellency of faith. For example, GodŐs promise is (John 3:16), God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son into the world, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. Now when we are in the extremity of all temptations, we must still hold fast this promise, and venture our souls upon the truth of it. This was AbrahamŐs practice; for in this temptation, GodŐs meaning was to try Abraham, and to see what he would do. Now Abraham, he holds fast the promise, and yet obeys God; though all reason in the earth cannot tell how that promise and that commandment could stand together. But this was AbrahamŐs faith, though I know not, nor reason knoweth not; yet God knoweth; and therefore, seeing I have His commandment, I will obey it; and seeing I have His word and promise, I will believe that also, and never forsake it. And even this must we strive to do in all temptations whatsoever; yea, even in those that come from Satan, which are full of malice and all violence. In our heart and conscience we must still hold and believe the promise of God; and this is ever the surest and safest way to get the victory over Satan: to hold that GodŐs promise shall be performed, though we know not how, but rather see the contrary. And though in human reasoning it be a note of ignorance, and want of skill, to stick always to the conclusion and question; yet in spiritual temptations and trials, this is found divinity: always hold to GodŐs promise, and to stick fast to that conclusion, and not to follow Satan in his arguments, neither suffer him by any means to drive us from it.
Further, in this fact of offering up Isaac was only AbrahamŐs trial; we may observe that it did not make him just before God, but only served to prove his faith, and to declare him to be just. And therefore when St. James saith (Jam. 2:21), that Abraham was justified through works, when he offered his son Isaac on the altar; his meaning is that Abraham did manifest himself to be just before God, by offering up his son; and not that by this fact Abraham of a sinner was made just; or, of a righteous man, was made more just. For indeed, good works do not make a man just, but only do prove and declare him to be just.
Thirdly, God gave Abraham this commandment: Abraham, kill thy son; but yet he concealed from him what was his purpose and intent herein; for God meant not that Abraham should kill his son indeed, but only to try what he would do; whether he would still believe and obey Him, or not. When we see that God, who is truth itself, reveals to Abraham His will, but not His whole will; whence ariseth this question: Whether it be lawful for a man, according to this example of God, when He tells a thing to another, to conceal His meaning, in whole or in part? For answer hereunto, we must know that there are two extremities, both which must be avoided in this case: 1. That a man must always express all that is in his mind. 2. That in some cases a man may speak one thing and think another, speaking contrary to his meaning. But this latter is no way lawful, and the other is not always necessary. We therefore must hold a mean between both; to wit, that in some cases a man may conceal his whole meaning, saying nothing, though he be examined; namely, when the concealing thereof doth directly stand with the glory of God and the good of his brother.
Thus godly martyrs have done; for being examined before tyrants, where and with whom they worshipped God; they have chosen rather to die than to disclose their brethren; and this concealing of their minds was lawful; because it touched immediately the glory of God and the good of His church.
Thus did Jonah conceal the condition of mercy from the Ninevites when he preached destruction unto them, saying; within forty more days and Nineveh shall be destroyed (Jon. 3:4); though it is evident by the event that it was GodŐs will they should be spared if they did repent. But that condition God would have concealed because it would not have been for the good of the Ninevites to have known it, sith the concealing of it caused them more speedily and carefully to repent.
But out of these cases, a man (being called to speak) must declare the whole truth, or else he sins greatly against GodŐs commandment, forsaking the property of the godly (Psa. 15:2).
And thus much of the first impediment of AbrahamŐs faith.
(2) The second impediment to AbrahamŐs faith is contained in these words:
Offered his only begotten son.
We know that the love of parents descends to every child naturally, but especially to the only begotten; upon whom (being but one) all that is bestowed, which, when there are many, is divided among them. And therefore in all reason, this might greatly hinder AbrahamŐs obedience, that God should command him to offer his son, yea, his only begotten son; but yet faith overcometh this temptation, breaks through this impediment, and offers up his only son.
Where we note that true faith will make a man overcome his own nature. Love is the strongest affection in the heart, especially from the father to the child, even his only child; and a man would think it impossible to overcome this love in the parent, unless it were by death; there being no cause to the contrary in the child. But yet, behold, Abraham by faith subdued this special love which he bare to his only child; God Himself testified of Abraham, that his love to Isaac was great (Gen. 22:2), and yet by faith he overcometh this his love.
This point is carefully to be marked as declaring the great power of true saving faith; for, if faith can overcome created and sanctified nature, then undoubtedly the power thereof will enable man to overcome the corruptions of his nature and the temptations of the world; for it is an harder thing to overcome our nature which we have by creation, than to subdue the corruption thereof, which comes in by transgression. And hence such excellent things are spoken of faith; it is called the victory that overcometh the world (1 John 5:4). And God is said by faith to purify the heart; faith strengtheneth the heart (Acts 15:9). And through faith we are kept by the power of God unto salvation (1 Pet. 1:5).
Is this the power of faith to overcome nature and the corruption thereof? Then howsoever religion be received, and faith professed generally amongst us, undoubtedly there is little true faith in the world; for even among the professors thereof, how many be there that subdue the sins of their lives, and suppress the works of their wicked nature? Surely very few. Now where corruption beareth sway, and sin reigneth, there sound faith cannot be; for if faith were found in men, it would purify their hearts, and cleanse the corruptions thereof, and bring forth obedience in life.
Secondly, this power of true faith in manŐs heart must teach us not to content ourselves with a general faith and knowledge in religion, but to go further, and to get a sound faith that may purify the heart, at least in some true measure, for saving faith will cleanse a man in every part of soul and body, and strengthen his soul in temptations.
Question: Here it may be asked, How can it be truly said that Isaac was AbrahamŐs only begotten son, seeing Ishmael was also his son, and was born before Isaac, as is evident (Gen. 16)? I answer, two ways: first, that Ishmael by GodŐs appointment was put out of AbrahamŐs house, for it was the express commandment of God to put forth the bondwoman and her son (Gen 21:10), and so was made no child of Abraham. Secondly, Ishmael was his child indeed, yet not by Sarah, but by Hagar a bondwoman; and so was (as I may say) base born, whereupon he is reputed for no son; but Isaac is his only begotten lawfully; which may be an item to beware of the bed defiled, seeing such offspring is so debased with the Lord.
(3) Now followeth the third impediment of AbrahamŐs faith; which is also a notable circumstance whereby the same faith is commended; and it is taken from the person of Abraham in these words:
Who had received the promises.
The meaning of the words:
Who. This must be referred to the person of Abraham, of whom the Holy Ghost here speaketh.
Received the promises. That is, by faith; for when God made His promises unto Abraham, he did not only hear them, but (which is the principal point of all) he believed them, and applied the same effectually unto his own soul; so much doth the word received import. Now it is said that he received not one promise, but the promises plurally; for these causes: first, because God having made one main promise unto him touching Christ, did repeat and renew the same divers times. Secondly, because God had made divers particular promises unto him; as first, that He would be his God, and the God of his seed (Gen. 17:7); secondly, that He would give him a child in his old age (Gen. 17:19); thirdly, that unto him and his seed He would give the land of Canaan for ever (Gen. 13:15); fourthly, that in Isaac He would bless all the nations of the earth (Gen. 21:12). And because the receiving of GodŐs promises in general could seem no great impediment to AbrahamŐs work of faith, therefore the Holy Ghost annexeth his receiving of a particular promise in Isaac here in the 18th verse: To whom it was said, in Isaac shall thy seed be called. Which might seem impossible to stand with the doing of this work in sacrificing his son; and therefore the consideration of it in Abraham must needs be a great impediment to him in this work; for he goes about to kill Isaac (in obedience to GodŐs command) in whose life he believed to receive the blessings promised of God.
Here then observe a most wonderful impediment to AbrahamŐs faith, which above all might have hindered him from obeying God; for, how could he choose but reason thus with himself: God hath made unto me many gracious promises, and that which is more, he hath said, that in my son Isaac the same must be accomplished; and in him all the nations of the earth must be blessed. Now then, if I shall kill and sacrifice my son, how shall these promises be accomplished? And reason in this case would say, I see no way, but that the promise is gone, and all hope lost. But what doth Abraham in this case? For all this, he doth sacrifice his son, and that by faith; still believing and holding assuredly that though Isaac were sacrificed and slain, yet in him should all nations of the earth be blessed.
Here then we note this special point, wherein the faith of Abraham doth notably appear: that when AbrahamŐs case, in respect of enjoying the promises of God, might seem desperate, and void of all hope and comfort, then he believeth; for when Isaac was dead, in all reason he could have no hope of the accomplishing of GodŐs promises unto him, because they were made to him in Isaac; Isaac was the man in whom all nations of the earth should be blessed; and yet when all hope is past in manŐs reason, then good Abraham sets his heart to believe.
This practice of Abraham must be a pattern for us to observe and follow all our lives long, in the matter of our salvation; if it fallout that we shall doubt our salvation, and feel many things in us that would carry us to despair; when we are in this case, and feel no comfort, then let us call to mind AbrahamŐs practice, who believes GodŐs promise, when the foundation thereof is taken away; even so let us do at the same instant, when the promise of God seems to be frustrated, and we have no hope for the accomplishment thereof, that we must cast our souls upon it. For we must not only believe, when we feel comfort in our own conscience concerning GodŐs mercies; but even then when God seems to stand against us, and when we feel in our souls the very gall of hell, then (I say) we must believe.
In PaulŐs dangerous voyage towards Rome, when he was in the ship with the mariners and centurion, there arose a great tempest, and neither sun nor stars appeared for many days; so that as the text saith, all hope that they should be saved was taken away (Acts27:20). Now what saith Paul in this extremity of danger? Now I exhort you to be of good courage; for there shall be no loss of any manŐs life, save the ship only (v.22), and so persuaded them to take bread. Even so, when our case falls out to be this; that either by reason of sin and of the temptations of Satan, or else by reason of some outward calamities and troubles, we feel our soul (as it were) overwhelmed with sorrow, and even entering into destruction, and can neither see (as it were) light of sun or stars; then we must set before us GodŐs promises, and labour to believe the same. So David being in great affliction and grievous temptation, saith thus of himself (Psa. 77:2,7-10), In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord, my sore ran in the night, and ceased not, my soul refused comfort. Yet at the very same instant he prayed, when his spirit was full of anguish; and though he seemed (as it were) to despair when he said, Will the Lord absent Himself forever? Will He shew no more favour? Is His mercy clean gone? Doth His promise fail for evermore? Hath God forgotten to be merciful? &c., yet he checks himself and saith, This is my death and my weakness. Even so, every true member of GodŐs church, in the extremity of all temptations, and in the time of desperation, is bound to believe the promises of God; and indeed, that is the fittest time for faith to shew itself in; for faith (as we have before heard) is the ground of things hoped for, and the subsisting of things which are not seen.
Now, further, it is said , Abraham received GodŐs promises; that is, he applied them to his own soul and conscience, and believed them, and made them his own by faith. This is a notable point, and worthy the marking: God made His promises to Abraham: now Abraham he doth not only hear and learn the promises, but applies them to himself, and by faith makes them his own. And thus ought we to do with all the gracious promises made in Christ. But the manner of our days is far otherwise; for when the merciful promises of God are laid down unto us in the ministry of the Word, we are content to hear, and (it may be) to learn, and know the same; but where is the man to be found, that will apply them to his own conscience, and by faith make them his own? Men commonly are like unto wayfaring men, or travellers on the sea, that pass by many goodly fair buildings, rich towns and islands; which, when they behold, they admit and wonder at; and so go their way, without making purchase of any of them. And thus deal the most men with GodŐs merciful promises. In the ministry of the Word, God lays open unto them His rich mercies and bountiful promises in Christ; and men approve thereof, and like them well; whereupon many do willingly apply themselves to know the same, but for all this, they will not receive them by faith, and so apply them to their own souls.
But we must take a better course; and when we hear of the promises of God made unto us in Christ, we must not content ourselves with a bare knowledge of them, but labour to believe them, and apply them to ourselves, to our souls and consciences; and so by faith make them our own. As it is said of Abraham, and in him of all the faithful, The blessing of Abraham came on the Gentiles, through Jesus Christ, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith (Gal. 3:14). Further observe, the Holy Ghost setteth down that particular promise which God made to Abraham in his son Isaac, to whom it was said that in Isaac should his seed be called (Gen. 21:12, Rom. 9:7). In which places it is said, that in Isaac should his seed be called. The meaning whereof is plain and thus much in effect: Ishmael shall not be thy son and heir, but Isaac is the child which shall be thine heir; he it is in whom I will accomplish the promises of life and salvation made to thee.
From the words thus explained,
(a) First we must observe PaulŐs collection gathered from GodŐs dealing with those two persons (Rom. 9:7), namely, that God before all worlds hath chosen some men to salvation in His eternal counsel, to manifest the glory of His grace; and hath refused and rejected others, leaving them unto themselves, to shew forth His justice upon them.
This doctrine is gathered out of this place, after this manner: Such as is GodŐs practice and dealing toward men in time; such was His eternal counsel and decree (for as God before all time determined to deal with men, so in time He dealeth with them). Now GodŐs practice and dealing with Isaac and Ishmael is this; Ishmael is vouchsafed to be made partaker of temporal blessings; but yet he is cut off from the spiritual covenant of grace; and Isaac is the man that must receive the covenant, and by virtue thereof be made partaker of life everlasting. And so accordingly it is with others; God hath decreed to choose some men to salvation, and these are admitted into the covenant; others He has decreed to reject, and they are cut off from the covenant and from life everlasting. These two persons, Isaac and Ishmael, are types of these two sorts of people whom God doth elect and reject; Isaac representeth those that are chosen to salvation, who become the true members of GodŐs church; and Ishmael is a type of those who are rejected. Now in regard of this different dealing of God with mankind, choosing some and refusing others, we must all put in practice St. PeterŐs lesson with fear and trembling being very careful, and giving all diligence to make our election sure (2 Pet. 1:10), for all be not elected to salvation, but some are rejected; all be not Isaacs, but some are Ishmaelites. If all were elected and chosen to salvation, then no man need to care for it; but seeing some are rejected, and never vouchsafed to come within the covenant indeed, therefore it standeth us greatly in hand to take the good counsel of the apostle and to give all diligence to make our election sure.
(b) Secondly, whereas it is said, Not in Ishmael, but in Isaac shall thy seed be called; we may we may note the state of GodŐs church in this world in regard of the different sorts of men that live therein. For AbrahamŐs family was GodŐs church in those days, and therein were both Isaac and Ishmael; though both his children, yet far differing in estate before God. Ishmael indeed was born in the church, and there brought up, taught and circumcised; but yet he was without the Covenant in GodŐs sight. Now Isaac was not only born and brought up in the church, and circumcised, but also received into the Covenant; and herein differed far from Ishmael; for he is the son of Abraham in whom God will continue the Covenant of grace unto life everlasting, to his posterity. And so it is with GodŐs church at this day. In it there be two sorts of men; one, which are baptised and brought up in the church, hear the Word and receive the sacraments; but yet are not saved, because they have not the promise of the Covenant effectually rooted in their hearts. The other sort are they which, being baptised in the church, hear the Word effectually and receive the LordŐs Supper worthily to their salvation; because God doth establish His Covenant in their hearts. This difference is plain in Scripture, in the parables of the dragnet (Matt. 13), of the sower, and of the tares; as also by ChristŐs behaviour at the last judgment (Matt. 25:32), severing the sheep from the goats, both which live together in the church. And by St Paul, who speaking of those which are born and brought up in the church, saith that some are children of the flesh, and some children of the promise (Rom. 9:8).
This being so, that every one which lives in the church is not of the church; that is, is not a true member of the church and a true child of Abraham; it must make us all careful to use all holy means whereby we may be fully assured that the Covenant of grace belongs unto us; for it is not enough for us to dwell in the church, to hear the Word, and to receive the sacraments (for so did Ishmael, and yet never was saved), unless therewithal we have the Covenant of grace belonging to us, and the assurance thereof sealed in our consciences by GodŐs Holy Spirit.
Again, consider who spake these words: But in Isaac shall thy seed be called. We shall find (Gen. 21:12) that it was God Himself. Let it not (saith God unto Abraham) be grievous in thy sight for the child, and for the bondwoman; in all that Sarah shall say unto thee, hear her voice; which was to cast out the bondwoman and her son Ishmael. For (saith God) in Isaac shall thy seed be called.
Here observe a notable practice of Abraham, as a good direction how we ought to judge of all those that live in the church, submitting themselves outwardly to the ministry and regimen thereof. Abraham here hath two sons, Isaac and Ishmael; he circumciseth them both, and instructs them both (for he taught all his household to know God, and to fear and obey Him (Gen. 18:19)), he judgeth them both to be in one state in regards of GodŐs Covenant; though they were not; but that difference is made by God. Abraham doth not on his own head, and by his own will, put Ishmael out of the church, which was his family; but God bids him put him out, and then he put him out, and not before; till such time he kept him in, and held him to be within the Covenant, as well as Isaac was. Even so must we deal towards those that live in the church; secret judgment must be left to God; and (till God manifest the contrary) in the judgment of charity, we must hold them all elect. This is the practice of St Paul in all his epistles; writing to Corinth (1 Cor. 1:2), he calls them all sanctified; and to the Galatians (Gal. 1:2), he calls them all elect; speaking so in the judgment of charity, although he knew that among them there were many profane and wicked men; and though he reprove many great errors and heinous sins amongst them.
And thus much of the first argument whereby AbrahamŐs faith is commended to us; namely, the great impediments which might hinder the same.
2. Now followeth the second argument or reason whereby his faith is commended; to wit, AbrahamŐs victory over these impediments, or the means whereby he overcame them, and induced himself to obey God in these words:
Ňaccounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.Ó (v.19).
Here is the true cause that made Abraham to offer his son, and yet believe the promise that in him shall his seed be called. We may persuade ourselves that Abraham had rather have died himself (if it might have stood with the will of God) than to have sacrificed his son. How then doth he induce himself to offer him up? Answer: By this which is here set down: he reasoned that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead.
Here are divers points to be considered of us:
(1) First, observe that the text saith not that Abraham murmured, or reasoned against God; but reasoned with himself that God was able to raise up his son again; and thereby induced himself to sacrifice his son unto God.
Hence we learn that when God lays upon us any hard commandment, we must not plead the case with God, or murmur against Him; but with all quietness and meekness obey. This is a notable grace of God commended unto us by God Himself: In rest and quietness (saith God, Isa. 30:15) shall be your strength; in quietness and confidence shall ye be saved. Many think it impossible to endure or do some things which God imposeth on His children; but our spiritual strength stands in these two: in silence, or rest, and in quietness. By these shall we be enabled. When Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, offered strange fire before the Lord, which He had not commanded, There went out a fire from the Lord, and devoured them; so they died before the Lord. Now when Aaron their father asked Moses a cause hereof, Moses said, It was that which the Lord spake, He would be glorified in all that came near Him; which when Aaron heard, the text saith, he held his peace, and said not a word (Lev. 10:3); so David behaved himself in the case of distress: I held my peace, and said nothing, because the Lord didest it (Psa. 39:2,9). And this is a special point for us to learn and practice; we must not grudge or repine at GodŐs hard commandments, nor plead the case with Him, but in all quietness and silence obey God in all that He saith unto us.
(2) Again, whereas it is said that Abraham reasoned that God was able to raise him up again; Here we learn that it is a necessary thing for a man that believes, to have good knowledge in GodŐs Word; that when a temptation comes against his faith, by knowledge and reasoning out of GodŐs Word, he may be able to put back the same; for, all our reasoning in matters of faith must be grounded on the Word. So doth Abraham in this place, against this strong temptation, reason out of GodŐs Word to stay himself; so that knowledge in the Word of God is necessary to him that believes. And therefore that doctrine of the church of Rome is erroneous, and here condemned, which saith that if a man become devout, and believes as the church believeth (though he know not what the church believeth), yet this faith will save him; but this is a mere device of their own, and hath no ground in the Word of God; for (as we see here) knowledge in the Word is necessary for him that hath true saving faith.
But what is AbrahamŐs argument whereby he moves himself to obey God? Surely this: He reasoned that God was able to raise up Isaac from the dead. One part of his reason he takes for granted, which he here conceals; for this promise was made unto him: In Isaac shall thy seed be called. Now this he takes for granted: that God will never change His promise. From whence he reasoneth thus: God is able to raise up Isaac my son from the dead to life again; and therefore I will sacrifice my son according to His commandment; for this I know certainly: In Isaac shall my seed be called, seeing God hath promised that, as well as commanded the other.
In this example we see a means set down unto us to induce us to obey God in all hard and difficult cases imposed by God; which is a point to be considered carefully of every one of us. For say that any of us shall be so touched in conscience for our sins that we even despair of our own salvation; what must we do in this case? We must take AbrahamŐs course, and dispute with ourselves for ourselves, and we must draw out arguments from the promise of God, and from the power of God; we must join the promise and power of God together. As for example: thus we must say: God hath made this promise, this I have heard, and I do believe it, that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believed in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life (John 3:16). This is GodŐs promise, and it shall never be changed. Now therefore howsoever my case be heavy and desolate, yet God is able to comfort me, and to bring my soul out of hell, and from this case of desperation; therefore though He kill me, I will trust in Him, and I will use all holy means whereby I may overcome this hard and grievous temptation. So, if it shall please God to call us to suffer anything for the name of Christ and His holy profession; flesh and blood we know is weak, and nature will make this objection, that life is sweet; what course therefore shall we take? We must do as Abraham here doth; unto the certainty of GodŐs promise we must adjoin His power, and reason thus: God hath made this promise, that He will be with them that suffer anything for His own nameŐs sake, and I know that He is able to deliver me; and though He will not, yet He can make me able to bear it; therefore I will patiently suffer and abide whatsoever His holy hand shall lay upon me.
(3) Thirdly, is a man so troubled with some sin, that he cannot get out nor overcome it? Then also let him set before him this fact of Abraham; and unfeignedly endeavour to do hereafter. For that which is past, let him labour to believe this promise of God: At what time soever a sinner doth repent him of his sin, He will put all his wickedness out of His remembrance. And for the time to come (being first resolved that God can enable him to leave his sins), let him strive by good means to leave his sin, avoiding the occasion of it and praying against it; and this will be as a cable rope to draw him out of the pit of sin. This course we must take, and this do, in every hard case that shall befall us.
And thus much of the means whereby Abraham induced himself to obey God.
3. The third and last reason whereby AbrahamŐs faith is commended unto us, is the issue and event thereof, in these words:
From whence he received him also after a sort.
From whence: that is, from death. After a sort, or (as may be read) in some shew. This is said because Isaac in the thought and purpose of Abraham, was but a dead man; for Abraham was fully resolved with himself upon GodŐs command to have sacrificed him; yea, he had gone so far as to put the sacrificing knife unto his sonŐs throat, and had slain him indeed, had not the angel of God stayed his hand; and therefore when the angel said: Lay not thy hand upon the child, neither do anything to him, even then did Abraham in some shew receive Isaac from death.
Here we learn divers points: That whosoever shall rest on GodŐs providence and good pleasure, even in cases of extremity, when he shall be out of all hope with himself, shall at the last have a good issue. This we see to be true by AbrahamŐs example in this place. As we said before, he himself (no doubt) had rather have died ten thousand times than to have Isaac slain, in whom the promise was made; but yet, believing GodŐs promise, that that should never change, he rests himself on GodŐs good pleasure and providence, and goes on in obedience; and so in the end received a blessed issue. This is very clearly set down unto us in the history recorded by Moses. For when Abraham had gone three days journey in the wilderness, and had built an altar, then Isaac said unto Abraham (Gen. 22:7), Father, here is the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering? Then Abraham said, My son, God will provide Him a lamb for a burnt offering (v.8). And thus yielding himself to GodŐs good pleasure and providence, he received his son again; as a dead child restored to life. So, when we are in cases of extremity, when all goes against us, and when we can see no hope of any good issue or end, and all good means seem to fail us; if we can then cast ourselves on GodŐs providence, and throw ourselves upon God; we shall have comfort in the end, and a good issue out of all. We do all of us in word acknowledge GodŐs providence; but when we come to the pinch, that we fall into cases of extremity, then we sue unlawful means, and do not with Abraham cast ourselves upon God, but seek help of the devil, and wicked men. But all such persons must look for a cursed issue. They therefore that fear the Lord, being put to any plunge or extremity, must cast themselves upon God wholly, and wait for His good time and pleasure; and then will the issue be both joyous and comfortable unto their souls.
Here some circumstances of this fact are to be considered out of the large story.
(1) The first is this: What did God unto Abraham at this time, when he was about to kill his son? Answer: God now gave him a commandment to stay his hand, and not to slay his son; by virtue whereof, Abraham stayed his hand. God before commanded him to go three days journey in the wilderness, and there to sacrifice his son. Hereupon Abraham goes; but now being come to the place, having bound his son, and being ready to cut his throat; God bids him stay his hand; and then also Abraham obeyeth God, and doth not kill his son. Here we see Abraham is at GodŐs command, and as we say, at his beck. He doth not follow his own will and pleasure, but when God calls, he is wonderfully pliable to do GodŐs command, whatsoever it be, one way or other.
This practice of Abraham must be a looking glass for us, wherein to see what manner of persons we ought to be. Look what God commands us to do, that we must do; and what He forbids us, that we must not do. But this is a rare thing to be found in these days; our practice generally is contrary; for in our lives we follow our own humours and affections, never regarding what God doth either will or nil. But if we will be AbrahamŐs children, we must follow AbrahamŐs practice in this place; For the sons of Abraham will do the works of Abraham (John 8:39). Good servants will come and go, do and undo, at their Lords pleasure; and forget themselves to obey their masters; and so must it be with us, if we call God our good Lord and Master.
(2) The second circumstance to be considered is the time when Abraham received his son from death; to wit, at the very same time when his knife was at his sonŐs throat, and he himself ready to offer him up for a sacrifice unto the Lord; at the same instant God spake unto him by His angel from heaven, and said, Abraham, stay thy hand (Gen. 22:12). This circumstance is worth the marking; for God lets him alone three whole days in great perplexity; and Abraham goes forward according to GodŐs command, even to lay his knife to his sonŐs throat.
Here then we see what is the LordŐs dealing with His servants. He lets them alone for a long season in temptation and pitiful distress; and at the length, when it comes even to the extremity, and when the knife is (as it were) at the throat; then He shews Himself, and brings comfort unto them.
The spouse in the Canticles, which is the church of God, or a true Christian soul, whether you will (for it is true both in the general and particular) (Cant. 3:2-4), she seeks Christ everywhere, in the streets and open places, but she finds Him not; then she goes to the watchmen (which are GodŐs ministers) and there enquires after Him whom her soul loved, and they cannot tell her where she might find Him; so that now all hope of finding Him might seem to be past; but when she was a little from them, then she found Him, and Christ comes to her when she was most in fear not to have found Him at all.
The people of Israel were many years in bondage in Egypt; and when the time came that Moses was sent of God to fetch them thence, and to be their guide and deliverer, when he had brought them out, and carried them to the Red Sea, then came Pharaoh with a huge army after them to destroy them (Exod. 14:23). Before, they had been in great affliction and bondage; but now they were quite past all hope of recovery; for they had before them the Red Sea, and on each side of them great hills and mountains, and behind them the huge host of Pharaoh; and therefore they cried out unto Moses; who then by GodŐs commandment did divide the Red Sea, and made it dry land, and delivered them through the midst of the Red Sea. But as for their enemies, Pharaoh and all his host, the Lord drowned them in the midst thereof.
So for ourselves, when God shall exercise any of us in cases of extremity, we must look to be so dealt withal at GodŐs hand. He will let us alone for a time, and never help us till the pinch; and therefore we must wait for His good pleasure with patience; for this He will do to try us to the full, and to make manifest the graces of God wrought in us.
(3) The third circumstance to be considered is this: In what manner did Abraham receive his son from the dead? This we may read of (Gen. 22;13). He must take a ram that was caught behind him in a bush, and offer him instead of Isaac. So Isaac is saved, and the ram is sacrificed and slain.
Now whereas Abraham offered Isaac in sacrifice to God, and yet Isaac liveth, and the ram is slain in his stead; hence some gather this use, and we may profitably consider of the same; to wit, that the sacrifices which we offer unto God now under the gospel, must be living sacrifices; for Isaac he was offered in sacrifice to God, and yet he lived and died not, but the ram is slain for him. So must we offer ourselves in sacrifice unto God, not dead in sin, but living unto God in righteousness and true holiness. And thus shall we offer up ourselves living sacrifices unto God, whenas we consecrate ourselves unto GodŐs service, and obey Him in our lives and callings. And look as under the law, the burnt offerings were burnt all to smoke and ashes; so must we in our lives, wholly and altogether, give ourselves unto God, and renouncing ourselves, be nothing to the world, but wholly dedicated to God. Neither must we come unto Him in our sins; for sin makes our sacrifice dead, lame, halt and blind, which God doth abhor; but we must bring ourselves living sacrifices unto God (as St Paul saith, Rom. 12:1). I beseech you brethren, by the mercies of God, that you give up your bodies a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service of God.
Hence also some gather that this sacrificing of Isaac was a figure and type of ChristŐs sacrifice upon the cross. For as Isaac was sacrificed and lived, so did Christ, though He died, yet rose again, and now liveth for ever; but because it hath no ground in this place, though it be true which is said of both, therefore I will not stand to urge the same.
And thus much of this third reason whereby AbrahamŐs faith is commended, with the circumstance thereof; and consequently of all the examples of holy AbrahamŐs faith.