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Hebrews 11:4-7 - Homiletics

Faith of the antediluvian saints.

The apostle, having gone to the first page of the Bible for the foundation-doctrine of faith, has only to turn the leaf to find his first historical illustrations.

I. THE EXAMPLE OF ABEL . ( Hebrews 11:4 ) In what respect was Abets sacrifice "more excellent" than Cain's?

1. Some answer—Because its materials were more valuable, and also more carefully selected. Cain presented an oblation el vegetables, taking the first that came to hand; while Abel offered an animal sacrifice, and the choicest which iris flock could supply.

2. Others judge that Abel's sacrifice was "more excellent" because of the living faith of which it was the expression. He worshipped in spirit and in truth; whereas Cain's offering was that of a formalist and a hypocrite.

3. But the true view, we apprehend, must go deeper than either of these. Abel's sacrifice was better, not merely because he brought it in faith, but because his faith led him to select an offering which was in itself more appropriate than that of Cain. "The Lord had respect unto Abel" for what he himself was, as reflected in what he gave ( Genesis 4:4 ). His offering, we may presume, was an act of faith resting upon the Divine testimony regarding "the seed of the woman," and the necessity of atonement by blood. But Cain, in presenting only fruit, declared thereby his disbelief in the gospel promise, and his repudiation of the appointed way of salvation. So, God bore visible witness to Abel "that he was righteous" ( Genesis 4:4-12 ); and the first martyr has in consequence become distinguished as "righteous Abe!" ( Matthew 23:35 ; 1 John 3:12 ). Indeed, Abel still speaks to the whole Church by his faith. He teaches us that we can only approach God through the propitiation of Christ, and that in pleading the one propitiation we must bring also the sacrifice of "a broken spirit."

II. THE EXAMPLE OF ENOCH . ( Hebrews 11:5 , Hebrews 11:6 ) What a contrast between the end of Abel's earthly life and that of Enoch! And what a pleasant break in the melancholy monotone of Genesis 5:1-32 ., "And he died," are the sweet words used regarding Enoch's removal: "He was not, for God took him" ( Genesis 5:24 )! Here we have:

1. A statement regarding Enoch ' s translation. ( Genesis 5:5 ) His faith is represented as the reason on account of which he was transported to heaven without tasting of death. His wonderful removal was the reward of his singularly holy life; and that, in turn, was the fruit of his faith.

2. An argument in support of this statement.

III. THE EXAMPLE OF NOAH . ( Genesis 5:7 ) The name of Noah is associated with a stupendous catastrophe, the faith of which, while it was "not seen as yet, "brought deliverance to himself and his family, and constituted him the second lather of the human race.

1. Noah ' s faith was severely tried. The Deluge, of which he was forewarned, was an unprecedented event, and could only take place by a miracle. Then, for more than a century after the warning was given, and. indeed until the very day when it began to be fulfilled, there were no premonitions of its fulfillment. During all that time, too, Noah had to labor at the gigantic task of constructing the ark, amid the jeers of an ungodly world.

2. His faith bravely triumphed. The victory is seen in his "godly fear," and his unquestioning obedience. It appears in his invincible perseverance as the builder of the ark, and. as "a preacher of righteousness." It is reflected in the confidence with which he obeyed the Divine summons to enter the ark while the sky was yet cloudless. And Noah's triumphant faith "condemned the world;" for the event showed that the doom of its unbelief was just.

3. His faith was richly rewarded. It brought him the highest honor. It was the means of confirming his already eminent piety, and of certifying his possession of "righteousness." It made him an "heir of God."

LESSONS . In Abel, we see faith as the condition of acceptable worship; in Enoch, as the root of godliness; in Noah, as the principle of separation from the life and destiny of the ungodly. Again, Abel's faith condemns the spirit which denies the necessity of an expiatory atonement; Enoch's, the spirit of secularism, positivism, agnosticism; Noah's, the spirit which stumbles at the possibility of miracles.

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