“Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead, so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable.” – Hebrews xi, 12.
We do not desire in a brief article upon this Scripture to undertake a particular explanation of the verse itself, but refer to the wonderful connection in which it stands as a description of the power of faith; of the perpetuity and continual development of the “children of promise” (Galatians iv, 28,) the seed of Abraham.
We have often seen, in days that are past among professed Old School Baptists, a disposition to turn aside from the promise of God to earthly inducements, means, or instrumentalities to add to the membership of professed churches supposing that it is well to mix the children of the regeneration with the unregenerate children of Ashdod, or to raise up men to minister among them. Abraham had long waited for the fulfillment of the promise, and finally, as they, took the matter in his own hands, yet he was no nearer the fulfillment of that promise when Ishmael was born than before, for it had been written, “In Isaac shall thy seed be called.”
All the means that have been employed among the Baptists that we have left, in making converts and ministers have but produced “mocking Ishmaelites” (Genesis xxi, 9,) filling the land with a lot of Ashdod Baptists (Nehemiah xiii, 23,) who can neither speak the Truth of the Gospel of the free and sovereign grace of God, nor yet speak a full-fledged Arminianism, “but according to the language of each people.”
We have known instances among Baptists where an over-anxious desire for members or ministers would manifest a worldly lust for an increase; specially pleased perhaps if some likely young fellow, who had become somewhat acquainted with Old School Baptist ways and ideas, should come in and volunteer to preach. After baptizing and starting their young preacher out, would herald it abroad that the Lord had fulfilled His promise in not leaving Himself without a witness.
The young preacher would be specially zealous and loving for awhile, be willing to almost to swallow the bait, hook, line, rod and all in his obedience (Acts vi, 7,) to the faith, but when trials and persecutions come, the outside paint would readily rub off, displaying simply an outward form, without a life-satisfying substance.
The ranks of the mongrel Old School Baptists around us are full of such warriors today, but most sure we do not want the experiment tried among us!
We have an account in II Samuel xviii, of two men, one of whom (Ahimaaz) volunteered to carry tidings of the defeat and death of Absolom. He insisted on going though Joab distinctly told him that he had no tidings ready. And when he finally started he “ran by the way of the plain,” and overran Cushi whom Joab had sent. Yet when Ahimaaz got to David he could tell but little though he brought a very flattering message. Cushi. However, the man who had been sent came with positive testimony, and was not backward to tell the truth in the face of King David, who was so unwilling to hear it.
The lesson of faith before us comes with peculiar application to the condition of our churches to-day, “whose hope is in the Lord.” Faith “ is the substance of things hoped for,” and our hope is in Him to give us members and ministers, “to add to the church daily such as should be saved.” - Acts ii, 47. In the chapter from which our text is taken we have a vivid description of the power of faith, without which it is impossible to please God. As a fruit of the Spirit, as the evidence of unseen things, it centers in God, as emanating from Him, an evidence of His Divine Presence.
Abraham had been brought to know that the promise which God had made to him could not be fulfilled from a natural source, he had come to the end of all earthly dependencies, yet “he staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God.”
“Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead.” “Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham.” - Galatians iii, 7. Here is a development not on natural lines, as the Church of God to-day is in essence as in name, distinctly Anti-means.” No means or instrumentalities of men are used in her development. “Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise.” - Galatians iv, 28. Earthly orders are produced, fostered, and maintained by earthly means, as “every house is builded by some man;” but here is a city “which hath foundations, whose Builder and Maker is God.” - Hebrews xi, 10. A holy city, “coming down from God out of heaven.” - Revelation xxi, 2.
The membership of this wonderful, spiritual development is infinitely beyond the bounds (more numerous) of its visible order, “as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable.” Now as this is a spiritual development, it follows that earthly means are not used, or earthly powers consulted, nor can such prevail (Matthew xvi, 18) to injure or destroy the building of God, which “shall stand forever.” - Daniel ii, 44.
We might count the stars that stud the sky, the leaves that rustle upon the forest trees, the grains of sand washed by ocean waves, and then would yet have an inadequate idea of the countless millions saved by the sovereign free grace of God. “Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are His.” - 2 Timothy ii, 19. “Even so at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace.” - Romans xi, 5. And as the “gates of hell” (Matthew xvi, 18.) shall not prevail against His Church, nor any earthly combination, we may securely rest in the Divine assurance of its safety, security, and perpetuity. We need have no fear for its future for it, “shall never be destroyed.” - Daniel ii, 44. It “shall not be left to other people.” - Daniel ii, 44. The subjects of God’s choice shall inherit it.
Then dear saints of God may we leave all in His hands, for that is where it is, wait upon Him for members, for ministers; implicitly follow where He leads, for “these are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth.” - Revelation xiv, 4. The pathway leads through suffering and sorrow, through tribulation, misrepresentation, affliction, persecution, slander, distress, still do they follow where He leads, “to fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ.” - Colossians i, 24, as “the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.” - Romans viii, 19.
Gospel Truth is our unfailing defence. We look not to members, to wealth, to worldly popularity, bit to Him who has declared; “Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? Who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings? He that walketh righteously, and speaketh uprightly; he that despiseth the gain of oppression, that shaketh his hands from holding of bribes, that stoppeth his ears from hearing of blood, and shutteth his eyes from seeing evil; He shall dwell on high: his place of defence shall be the munitions of rocks: bread shall be given him; his waters shall be sure. Thine eyes shall see the King in His beauty; they shall behold the land that is very far off.” - Isaiah xxxiii, 14-17.
William M. Smoot,