Adam Clarke's Bible Commentary in 8 Volumes
Volume 8
Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Hebrews
  Chapter 11

A definition of faith, 1, 2. What are its immediate objects, 3. What are its effects, instanced in Abel, 4 In Enoch, 5, 6. In Noah, 7. In Abraham, 8-10. In Sara, 11. In their righteous posterity, 12-16 In Abraham’s offering of his son Isaac, 17-19. In Isaac, 20. In Jacob, 21. In Joseph, 22. In Moses, 23-28. In the Israelites in the wilderness, 29. In the fall of Jericho, 30. In Rahab, 31. In several of the judges, and in David, Samuel, and the prophets, 32-34. The glorious effects produced by it in the primitive martyrs, 35-40.

Notes on Chapter 11.

Verse 1. Faith is the substance of things hoped for— esti de pistiv elpizomenwn upostasiv? Faith is the SUBSISTENCE of things hoped for; pragmatwn elegcov ou blepomenwn? The DEMONSTRATION of things not seen. The word upostasiv, which we translate substance, signifies subsistence, that which becomes a foundation for another thing to stand on. And elegcov signifies such a conviction as is produced in the mind by the demonstration of a problem, after which demonstration no doubt can remain, because we see from it that the thing is; that it cannot but be; and that it cannot be otherwise than as it is, and is proved to be. Such is the faith by which the soul is justified; or rather, such are the effects of justifying faith: on it subsists the peace of God which passeth all understanding; and the love of God is shed abroad in the heart where it lives, by the Holy Ghost. At the same time the Spirit of God witnesses with their spirits who have this faith that their sins are blotted out; and this is as fully manifest to their judgment and conscience as the axioms, “A whole is greater than any of its parts;” “Equal lines and angles, being placed on one another, do not exceed each other;” or as the deduction from prop. 47, book i., Euclid: “The square of the base of a right-angled triangle is equal to the difference of the squares of the other two sides.” elegcov is defined by logicians, Demonstratio quae fit argumentis certis et rationibus indubitatis, qua rei certitudo efficitur. “A demonstration of the certainly of a thing by sure arguments and indubitable reasons.” Aristotle uses it for a mathematical demonstration, and properly defines it thus: elegcov de estiv o mh duvatov allwv exeiv, allΔ outwv wv hmeiv legomen, “ Elenehos, or Demonstration, is that which cannot be otherwise, but is so as we assert.” Rhetor. ad Alexand., cap. 14, peri elegcou. On this account I have adduced the above theorem from Euclid.

Things hoped for Are the peace and approbation of God, and those blessings by which the soul is prepared for the kingdom of heaven. A penitent hopes for the pardon of his sins and the favor of his God; faith in Christ puts him in possession of this pardon, and thus the thing that was hoped for is enjoyed by faith. When this is received, a man has the fullest conviction of the truth and reality of all these blessings though unseen by the eye, they are felt by the heart; and the man has no more doubt of God’s approbation and his own free pardon, than he has of his being.

In an extended sense the things hoped for are the resurrection of the body, the new heavens and the new earth, the introduction of believers into the heavenly country, and the possession of eternal glory.

The things unseen, as distinguished from the things hoped for, are, in an extended sense, the creation of the world from nothing, the destruction of the world by the deluge, the miraculous conception of Christ, his resurrection from the dead, his ascension to glory, his mediation at the right hand of God, his government of the universe, etc., etc., all which we as firmly believe on the testimony of God’s word as if we had seen them. See Macknight. But this faith has particular respect to the being, goodness, providence, grace, and mercy of God, as the subsequent verses sufficiently show.

Verse 2. For by it the elders obtained a good report. By the elders are meant ancestors, forefathers, such as the patriarchs and prophets, several of whom he afterwards particularly names, and produces some fact from the history of their lives.

It is very remarkable that among the whole there is root one word concerning poor Adam and his wife, though both Abraham and Sarah are mentioned. There was no good report concerning them; not a word of their repentance, faith, or holiness. Alas! alas! did ever such bright suns set in so thick a cloud? Had there been any thing praiseworthy in their life after their fall, any act of faith by which they could have been distinguished, it had surely come out here; the mention of their second son Abel would have suggested it. But God has covered the whole of their spiritual and eternal state with a thick and impenetrable veil. Conjectures relative to their state would be very precarious; little else than hope can be exercised in their favor: but as to them the promise of Jesus was given, so we may believe they found redemption in that blood which was shed from the foundation of the world. Adam’s rebellion against his Maker was too great and too glaring to permit his name to be ever after mentioned with honor or respect.

The word emarturhqhsan, which we translate obtained a good report, literally signifies, were witnessed of; and thus leads us naturally to GOD, who by his word, as the succeeding parts of the chapter show, bore testimony to the faith and holiness of his servants. The apostle does not mention one of whom an account is not given in the Old Testament. This, therefore, is God’s witness or testimony concerning them.

Verse 3. Through faith we understand By worlds, touv aiwnav, we are to understand the material fabric of the universe; for aiwn can have no reference here to age or any measurement of time, for he speaks of the things which are SEEN; not being made out of the things which do APPEAR; this therefore must refer to the material creation: and as the word is used in the plural number, it may comprehend, not only the earth and visible heavens, but the whole planetary system; the different worlds which, in our system at least, revolve round the sun. The apostle states that these things were not made out of a pre-existent matter; for if they were, that matter, however extended or modified, must appear in that thing into which it is compounded and modified, consequently it could not be said that the things which are seen are not made of the things that appear; and he shows us also, by these words, that the present mundane fabric was not formed or reformed from one anterior, as some suppose. According to Moses and the apostle we believe that God made all things out of nothing. See the note on “Genesis 1:1”, etc.

At present we see trees of different kinds are produced from trees; beasts, birds, and fishes, from others of the same kind; and man, from man: but we are necessarily led to believe that there was a first man, who owed not his being to man; first there were beasts, etc., which did not derive their being from others of the same kind; and so of all manner of trees, plants, etc. God, therefore, made all these out of nothing; his word tells us so, and we credit that word.

Verse 4. By faith Abel offered-a more excellent sacrifice— pleiona qusian? More sacrifice; as if he had said: Abel, by faith, made more than one offering; and hence it is said, God testified of his GIFTS, toiv dwroiv. The plain state of the case seems to have been this: Cain and Abel both brought offerings to the altar of God, probably the altar erected for the family worship. As Cain was a husbandman, he brought a mincha, or eucharistic offering, of the fruits of the ground, by which he acknowledged the being and providence of God. Abel, being a shepherd or a feeder of cattle, brought, not only the eucharistic offering, but also of the produce of his flock as a sin-offering to God, by which he acknowledged his own sinfulness, God’s justice and mercy, as well as his being and providence. Cain, not at all apprehensive of the demerit of sin, or God’s holiness, contented himself with the mincha, or thank-offering: this God could not, consistently with his holiness and justice, receive with complacency; the other, as referring to him who was the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, God could receive, and did particularly testify his approbation. Though the mincha, or eucharistic offering, was a very proper offering in its place, yet this was not received, because there was no sin-offering. The rest of the history is well known.

Now by this faith, thus exercised, in reference to an atonement, he, Abel, though dead, yet speaketh; i.e. preacheth to mankind the necessity of an atonement, and that God will accept no sacrifice unless connected with this. See this transaction explained at large in my notes on “Genesis 4:3”, etc.

Verse 5. By faith Enoch was translated It is said, in Genesis 5:24, that Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him. Here the apostle explains what God’s taking him means, by saying that he was translated that he should not see death; from which we learn that he did not die, and that God took him to a state of blessedness without obliging him to pass through death. See his history explained at large in the above place, in Genesis 5:22-24.

Verse 6. He that cometh to God The man who professes that it is his duty to worship God, must, if he act rationally, do it on the conviction that there is such a Being infinite, eternal, unoriginated, and self-existent; the cause of all other being; on whom all being depends; and by whose energy, bounty, and providence, all other beings exist, live, and are supplied with the means of continued existence and life. He must believe, also, that he rewards them that diligently seek him; that he is not indifferent about his own worship; that he requires adoration and religious service from men; and that he blesses, and especially protects and saves, those who in simplicity and uprightness of heart seek and serve him. This requires faith, such a faith as is mentioned above; a faith by which we can please God; and now that we have an abundant revelation, a faith according to that revelation; a faith in God through Christ the great sin-offering, without which a man can no more please him, or be accepted of him, than Cain was. As the knowledge of the being of God is of infinite importance in religion, I shall introduce at the end of this chapter a series of propositions, tending to prove the being of God, 1st, a priori; and 2dly, a posteriori; omitting the proofs that are generally produced on those points, for which my readers may refer to works in general circulation on this subject: and 3dly, I shall lay down some phenomena relative to the heavenly bodies, which it will be difficult to account for without acknowledging the infinite skill, power, and continual energy of God.

Verse 7. By faith Noah See the whole of this history, Genesis 6:13.

Warned of God— xrhmatisqeiv. As we know from the history in Genesis that God did warn Noah, we see from this the real import of the verb crhmatizw, as used in various parts of the New Testament; it signifies to utter oracles, to give Divine warning.

Moved with fear— eulabhqeiv? Influenced by religious fear or reverence towards God. This is mentioned to show that he acted not from a fear of losing his life, but from the fear of God; and hence that fear is here properly attributed to faith.

He condemned the world HE credited God, they did not; he walked in the way God had commanded, they did not; he repeatedly admonished them, 1 Peter 3:20, they regarded it not; this aggravated their crimes while it exalted his faith and righteousness. “His faith and obedience condemned the world, i.e. the unbelievers, in the same sense in which every good man’s virtues and exhortations condemn such as will not attend to and imitate them.” Dodd.

Became heir of the righteousness He became entitled to that justification which is by faith; and his temporal deliverance was a pledge of the salvation of his soul.

Verse 8. Abraham, when he was called See on Genesis 12:1-4.

Not knowing whither he went. Therefore his obedience was the fullest proof of his faith in God, and his faith was an implicit faith; he obeyed, and went out from his own country, having no prospect of any good or success but what his implicit faith led him to expect from God, as the rewarder of them that diligently seek him. In all the preceding cases, and in all that follow, the apostle keeps this maxim fully in view.

Verse 9. By faith he sojourned in the land of promise It is remarkable that Abraham did not acquire any right in Canaan, except that of a burying place; nor did he build any house in it; his faith showed him that it was only a type and pledge of a better country, and he kept that better country continually in view: he, with Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs of the same promise, were contented to dwell in tents, without any fixed habitation.

Verse 10. For he looked for a city which hath foundations He knew that earth could afford no permanent residence for an immortal mind, and he looked for that heavenly building of which God is the architect and owner; in a word, he lost sight of earth, that he might keep heaven in view. And all who are partakers of his faith possess the same spirit, walk by the same rule, and mind the same thing.

Whose builder and maker is God. The word tecnithv signifies an architect, one who plans, calculates, and constructs a building. The word dhmiourgov signifies the governor of a people; one who forms them by institutions and laws; the framer of a political constitution. God is here represented the Maker or Father of all the heavenly inhabitants, and the planner of their citizenship in that heavenly country. See Macknight.

Verse 11. Through faith also Sara Her history, as far as the event here is concerned, may be seen Genesis 17:19, and Genesis 21:2. Sarah at first treated the Divine message with ridicule, judging it to be absolutely impossible, not knowing then that it was from God; and this her age and circumstances justified, for, humanly speaking, such an event was impossible: but, when she knew that it was God who said this, it does not appear that she doubted any more, but implicitly believed that what God had promised he was able to perform.

Verse 12. Him as good as dead According to nature, long past the time of the procreation of children. The birth of Isaac, the circumstances of the father and mother considered, was entirely supernatural; and the people who proceeded from this birth were a supernatural people; and were and are most strikingly singular through every period of their history to the present day.

Verse 13. These all died in faith That is, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, and Jacob, continued to believe, to the end of their lives, that God would fulfill this promise; but they neither saw the numerous seed, nor did they get the promised rest in Canaan.

Strangers and pilgrims Strangers, xenoi, persons who are out of their own country, who are in a foreign land: pilgrims, parepidhmoi, sojourners only for a time; not intending to take up their abode in that place, nor to get naturalized in that country.

How many use these expressions, professing to be strangers and pilgrims here below, and yet the whole of their conduct, spirit, and attachments, show that they are perfectly at home! How little consideration and weight are in many of our professions, whether they relate to earth or heaven!

Verse 14. Declare plainly that they seek a country. A man’s country is that in which he has constitutional rights and privileges; no stranger or sojourner has any such rights in the country where he sojourns. These, by declaring that they felt themselves strangers and sojourners, professed their faith in a heavenly country and state, and looked beyond the grave for a place of happiness. No intelligent Jew could suppose that Canaan was all the rest which God had promised to his people.

Verse 15. If they had been mindful of that country They considered their right to the promises of God as dependent on their utter renunciation of Chaldea; and it was this that induced Abraham to cause his steward Eliezer to swear that he would not carry his son Isaac to Chaldea; see Genesis 24:5-8. There idolatry reigned; and God had called them to be the patriarchs and progenitors of a people among whom the knowledge of the true God, and the worship required by him, should be established and preserved.

Verse 16. But now they desire a better They all expected spiritual blessings, and a heavenly inheritance; they sought God as their portion, and in such a way and on such principles that he is not ashamed to be called their God; and he shows his affection for them by preparing for them a city, to wit, heaven, as themselves would seek no city on earth; which is certainly what the apostle has here in view. And from this it is evident that the patriarchs had a proper notion of the immortality of the soul, and expected a place of residence widely different from Canaan. Though to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the promises were made in which Canaan was so particularly included, yet God did not give them any inheritance in that country, no, not so much as to set a foot on; Acts 7:5. Therefore, if they had not understood the promises to belong to spiritual things, far from enduring, as seeing him who is invisible, they must have considered themselves deceived and mocked. The apostle therefore, with the highest propriety, attributes their whole conduct and expectation to faith.

Verse 17. Abraham, when he was tried See the history of this whole transaction explained at large in the notes on Genesis 22:1-9.

Offered up his only-begotten Abraham did, in effect, offer up Isaac; he built an altar, bound his son, laid him upon the altar, had ready the incense, took the knife, and would immediately have slain him had he not been prevented by the same authority by which the sacrifice was enjoined. Isaac is here called his only-begotten, as be was the only son he had by his legitimate wife, who was heir to his property, and heir of the promises of God. The man who proved faithful in such a trial, deserved to have his faith and obedience recorded throughout the world.

Verse 19. To raise him up, even from the dead Abraham staggered not at the promise through unbelief, but was strong in faith, giving glory to God. The resurrection of the dead must have been a doctrine of the patriarchs; they expected a heavenly inheritance, they saw they died as did other men, and they must have known that they could not enjoy it but in consequence of a resurrection from the dead.

He received him in a figure.— en parabolh? In my discourse on parabolical writing at the end of Matthew 13., I have shown (signification_9) that parabolh sometimes means a daring exploit, a jeoparding of the life; and have referred to this place. I think it should be so understood here, as pointing out the very imminent danger he was in of losing his life. The clause may therefore be thus translated: “Accounting that God was able to raise him up from the dead, from whence he had received him, he being in the most imminent danger of losing his life.” It is not, therefore, the natural deadness of Abraham and Sarah to which the apostle alludes, but the death to which Isaac on this occasion was exposed, and which he escaped by the immediate interference of God.

Verse 20. By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau He believed that God would fulfill his promise to his posterity; and God gave him to see what would befall them in their future generations. The apostle does not seem to intimate that one should be an object of the Divine hatred, and the other of Divine love, in reference to their eternal states. This is wholly a discovery of later ages. For an ample consideration of this subject, see the notes on Genesis 27.

Verse 21. Blessed both the sons of Joseph That is, Ephraim and Manasseh. See the account and the notes. Genesis 48:5, etc.

Worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff This subject is particularly considered in the note, See “Genesis 47:31”.

It appears, that at the time Joseph visited his father he was very weak, and generally confined to his couch, having at hand his staff; either that with which he usually supported his feeble body, or that which was the ensign of his office, as patriarch or chief of a very numerous family. The ancient chiefs, in all countries, had this staff or scepter continually at hand. See Homer throughout. It is said, Genesis 48:2, that when Joseph came to see his father Jacob, who was then in his last sickness, Israel strengthened himself, and sat upon the bed. Still I conceive he had his staff or scepter at hand; and while sitting upon the bed, with his feet on the floor, he supported himself with his staff. When Joseph sware to him that he should be carried up from Egypt, he bowed himself on his bed’s head, still supporting himself with his staff, which probably with this last act he laid aside, gathered up his feet, and reclined wholly on his couch. It was therefore indifferent to say that he worshipped or bowed himself on his staff or on his bed’s head. But as hjç shachah signifies, not only to bow, but also to worship, because acts of adoration were performed by bowing and prostration; and as hfm mittah, a bed, by the change of the vowel points becomes matteh, a staff, hence the Septuagint have translated the passage kai prosekunhsen. israhl epi to akron thv rabdou autou? And Israel bowed or worshipped on the head of his staff. This reading the apostle follows here literatim.

Wretched must that cause be which is obliged to have recourse to what, at best, is an equivocal expression, to prove and support a favourite opinion. The Romanists allege this in favor of image worship. This is too contemptible to require confutation. To make it speak this language the Rheims version renders the verse thus: By faith Jacob dying, blessed every one of the sons of Joseph, and adored the top of his rod. A pretty object of adoration, indeed, for a dying patriarch! Here the preposition epi upon, answering to the Hebrew l[ al, is wholly suppressed, to make it favor the corrupt reading of the Vulgate. This preposition is found in the Hebrew text, in the Greek version of the Seventy, the printed Greek text of the New Testament, and in every MS. yet discovered of this epistle. It is also found in the Syriac, AEthiopic, Arabic, and Coptic: in which languages the connection necessarily shows that it is not an idle particle: and by no mode of construction can the text be brought to support image worship, any more than it can to support transubstantiation.

Verse 22. Joseph, when he died— teleutwn, When he was dying, gave commandment concerning his bones. On this subject I refer the reader to the notes on See “Genesis 50:25”. And I have this to add to the account I have given of the sarcophagus now in the British Museum, vulgarly called Alexander’s coffin, that it is more probably the coffin of Joseph himself; and, should the time ever arrive in which the hieroglyphics on it shall he interpreted, this conjecture may appear to have had its foundation in truth.

Verse 23. By faith Moses, etc. See the notes on “Exodus 2:2”, and See “Acts 7:20”. We know that Moses was bred up at the Egyptian court, and there was considered to be the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; and probably might have succeeded to the throne of Egypt: but, finding that God had visited his people, and given them a promise of spiritual and eternal blessings, he chose rather to take the lot of this people, i.e. God as his portion for ever, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin, which, however gratifying to the animal senses, could only be proskairon, temporary.

After the 23d verse, there is a whole clause added by DE, two copies of the Itala, and some copies of the Vulgate. The clause is the following: pistei megav genomenov mwushv aneilen ton aiguption, katanown thn tapeinwsin twn adelfwn autou. By faith Moses, when he was grown up, slew the Egyptian, considering the oppression of his own brethren. This is a remarkable addition, and one of the largest in the whole New Testament. It seems to have been collected from the history of Moses as given in Exodus, and to have been put originally into the margin of some MS., from which it afterwards crept into the text.

Verse 26. The reproach of Christ The Christ or Messiah had been revealed to Moses; of him he prophesied, Deuteronomy 18:15; and the reproach which God’s people had, in consequence of their decided opposition to idolatry, may be termed the reproach of Christ, for they refused to become one people with the Egyptians, because the promise of the rest was made to them, and in this rest CHRIST and his salvation were included: but, although it does not appear these things were known to the Hebrews at large, yet it is evident that there were sufficient intimations given to Moses concerning the Great Deliverer, (of whom himself was a type,) that determined his conduct in the above respect; as he folly understood that he must renounce his interest in the promises, and in the life eternal to which they led, if he did not obey the Divine call in the present instance. Many have been stumbled by the word o cristov, Christ, here; because they cannot see how Moses should have any knowledge of him. It may be said that it was just as easy for God Almighty to reveal Christ to Moses, as it was for him to reveal him to Isaiah, or to the shepherds, or to John Baptist; or to manifest him in the flesh. After all there is much reason to believe that, by tou cristou, here, of Christ or the anointed, the apostle means the whole body of the Israelitish or Hebrew people; for, as the word signifies the anointed, and anointing was a consecration to God, to serve him in some particular office, as prophet, priest, king, or the like, all the Hebrew people were considered thus anointed or consecrated; and it is worthy of remark that cristov is used in this very sense by the Septuagint, 1 Samuel 2:35; Psalm 105:15; and Habakkuk 3:13; where the word is necessarily restrained to this meaning.

He had respect unto the recompense— apeblepe? He looked attentively to it; his eyes were constantly directed to it. This is the import of the original word; and the whole conduct of Moses was an illustration of it.

Verse 27. He forsook Egypt He believed that God would fulfill the promise he had made; and he cheerfully changed an earthly for a heavenly portion.

Not fearing the wrath of the king The apostle speaks here of the departure of Moses with the Israelites, not of his flight to Midian, Exodus 2:14, 15; for he was then in great fear: but when he went to Pharaoh with God’s authority, to demand the dismission of the Hebrews, he was without fear, and acted in the most noble and dignified manner; he then feared nothing but God.

As seeing him who is invisible. He continued to act as one who had the judge of his heart and conduct always before his eyes. By calling the Divine Being the invisible, the apostle distinguishes him from the god’s of Egypt, who were visible, corporeal, gross, and worthless. The Israelites were worshippers of the true God, and this worship was not tolerated in Egypt. His pure and spiritual worship could never comport with the adoration of oxen, goats, monkeys, leeks, and onions.

Verse 28. He kept the passover God told him that he would destroy the first-born of the Egyptians, but would spare all those whose doors were sprinkled with the blood of the paschal lamb. Moses believed this, kept the passover, and sprinkled the blood. See the notes on Exodus 12. One of the Itala adds here, Fide praedaverunt AEgyptios exeuntes. “By faith, when they went out, they spoiled the Egyptians.” This is any thing but genuine.

Verse 29. By faith they passed through the Red Sea See the notes on “Exodus 14:22”. The Egyptians thought they could walk through the sea as well as the Israelites; they tried, and were drowned; while the former passed in perfect safety. The one walked by faith, the other by sight; one perished, the other was saved.

Verse 30. The walls of Jericho fell down This is particularly explained Joshua 6:1, etc. God had promised that the walls of Jericho should fall down, if they compassed them about seven days. They believed, did as they were commanded, and the promise was fulfilled.

Verse 31. The harlot Rahab perished not See this account Joshua 2:1, 9, 11, and 6:23, where it is rendered exceedingly probable that the word hnwz zonah in Hebrew, and pornh in Greek, which we translate harlot, should be rendered innkeeper or tavernkeeper, as there is no proper evidence that the person in question was such a woman as our translation represents her. As to her having been a harlot before and converted afterwards, it is a figment of an idle fancy. She was afterwards married to Salmon, a Jewish prince; see Matthew 1:5. And it is extremely incredible that, had she been what we represent her, he would have sought for such an alliance.

Received the spies with peace.— met/ eirhnhv? The same as µwlçb beshalom, giving them a kind welcome, good fare, and protection. After these words the Slavonic adds: kai etera odw ekbalousa, and sent them out another way.

Verse 32. Time would fail me— me dihgoumenon o cronov. A very usual mode of expression with the best Greek writers, when they wish to intimate that much important intelligence remains to be communicated on the subject already in hand, which must be omitted because of other points which have not yet been handled.

Gedeon Who by faith in God, with 300 men, destroyed a countless multitude of Midianites and Amalekites, and delivered Israel from oppression and slavery. Judges 6., 7., 8.

Barak Who overthrew Jabin, king of Canaan, and delivered Israel from servitude. Jude 4.

Samson Who was appointed by God to deliver Israel from the oppressive yoke of the Philistines; and, by extraordinary assistance, discomfited them on various occasions. Jud. 13. — 16.

Jephthae Who, under the same guidance, defeated the Ammonites, and delivered Israel. Jude 11., 12.

David King of Israel, whose whole life was a life of faith and dependence on God; but whose character will be best seen in those books which contain an account of his reign, and the book of Psalms, to which, and the notes there, the reader must be referred. It is probable he is referred to here for that act of faith and courage which he showed in his combat with Goliah. See 1 Samuel 17.

Samuel The last of the Israelitish judges, to whom succeeded a race of kings, of whom Saul and David were the two first, and were both anointed by this most eminent man. See his history in the first book of Samuel.

All these are said to have performed their various exploits through faith. 1. The faith of Gideon consisted in his throwing down the altar of Baal, and cutting down his grove, in obedience to the command of God. 2. The faith of Barak consisted in his believing the revelation made to Deborah, and the command to go against Jabin’s numerous army. 3. Samson’s faith consisted in his obeying the various impulses produced by the Spirit of God in his own mind. 4. Jephthae’s faith consisted particularly in his believing the promise made to Abraham and his posterity, that they should possess the land of Canaan; and in his resolutely fighting against the Ammonites, that they might not deprive the Israelites of the land between Arnon and Jabbok. It may be observed, here, that the apostle does not produce these in chronological order; for Barak lived before Gideon, and Jephthae before Samson, and Samuel before David. He was not producing facts in their chronological order, but instances of the power of God exerted in the behalf of men who had strong confidence in him.

Verse 33. Who through faith subdued kingdoms As Joshua, who subdued the seven Canaanitish nations; and David, who subdued the Moabites, Syrians, Ammonites, and Edomites. 2 Samuel 8., etc.

Wrought righteousness Did a great variety of works indicative of that faith in God without which it is impossible to do any thing that is good.

Obtained promises This is supposed to refer to Joshua and Caleb, who, through their faith in God, obtained the promised land, while all the rest of the Israelites were excluded; to Phineas also, who, for his act of zealous faith in slaying Zimri and Cosbi, got the promise of an everlasting priesthood; and to David, who, for his faith and obedience, obtained the kingdom of Israel, and had the promise that from his seed the Messiah should spring.

Stopped the mouths of lions Daniel, who, though cast into a den of lions for his fidelity to God, was preserved among them unhurt, and finally came to great honor.

Verse 34. Quenched the violence of fire As in the case of the three faithful Hebrews, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, who, for their steady attachment to God’s worship, were cast into a fiery furnace, in which they were preserved, and from which they escaped unhurt. Dan. 3.

Escaped the edge of the sword Moses, who escaped the sword of Pharaoh, Exodus 18:4; Elijah, that of Jezebel; and David, that of Saul: and many others.

Out of weakness were made strong Were miraculously restored from sickness, which seemed to threaten their life; as Hezekiah, Isaiah 38:21.

Waxed valiant in fight Like Gideon, who overthrew the camp of the Midianites, and Jonathan, that of the Philistines, in such a way as must have proved that God was with them.

Verse 35. Women received their dead As did the widow of Zarephath, 1 Kings 17:21, and the Shunammite, 2 Kings 4:34. What other cases under all the above heads the apostle might have in view, we know not.

Others were tortured— etumpanisqhsan. This is a word concerning the meaning of which the critics are not agreed. tumpanon signifies a stick, or baton, which was used in bastinadoing criminals. And tumpanizw signifies to beat violently, and is thus explained by the best lexicographers. After considering what others have written on this subject, I am inclined to think that the bastinado on the soles of the feet is what is here designed. That this was a most torturing and dangerous punishment, we learn from the most authentic accounts; and it is practised among the Turks and other Mohammedans to the present day. Mr. Antes, of Fulnek, is Yorkshire, twenty years a resident in Egypt, furnishes the latest account I have met with; he himself was the unhappy subject of his own description. See at the end of this chapter, article 4. {See “Hebrews 11:40”}

Not accepting deliverance This looks very like a reference to the case of the mother and her seven sons, mentioned 2Mac 7:1, etc.

Verse 36. Had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings We do not know the cases to which the apostle refers. The mockings here can never mean such as those of Ishmael against Isaac, or the youths of Bethel against Elisha. It is more probable that it refers to public exhibitions of the people of God at idol feasts and the like; and Samson’s case before Dagon, when the Philistines had put out his eyes, is quite in point. As to scourgings, this was a common way of punishing minor culprits: and even those who were to be punished capitally were first scourged. See the case of our Lord.

Bonds and imprisonment Joseph was cast into prison; Jeremiah was cast into a dungeon full of mire, Jeremiah 37:16, and Jeremiah 38:6; and the Prophet Micaiah was imprisoned by Ahab, 1 Kings 22:27.

Verse 37. They were stoned As Zechariah, the son of Barachiah or Jehoida, was, between the altar and the temple; see the account, 2 Chronicles 24:21; and See the notes on “Matthew 23:35”. And as Naboth the Jezreelite, who, on refusing to give up his father’s inheritance to a covetous king, because it had respect to the promise of God, was falsely accused and stoned to death; 1 Kings 21:1-14.

They were sawn asunder There is a tradition that the Prophet Isaiah was thus martyred. In Yevamoth, fol. 49, 2, it is thus written: “Manasseh slew Isaiah; for he commanded that he should be slain with a wooden saw. They then brought the saw, and cut him in two; and when the saw reached his mouth, his soul fled forth.” St. Jerome and others mention the same thing; and among the Jews the tradition is indubitable.

Were tempted— epeirasqhsan. I believe this word has vexed the critics more than any other in the New Testament. How being tempted can be ranked among the heavy sufferings of the primitive martyrs and confessors is not easy to discern, because to be tempted is the common lot of every godly man. This difficulty has induced learned men to mend the text by conjecture: Beza proposes epurwqhsan, they were branded. Junius, Piscator, and others, propose epurasqhsan, they were burnt alive.

Gataker thinks eprhsqhsan, a word of the same import, should be preferred. Tanaquil Faber gives the preference to ephrwqhsan, they were mutilated — had different parts of their bodies lopped off. Sir Norton Knatchbull contends for eparthsan, they were transfixed, or pierced through. Alberti thinks the original reading was espeirasqhsan, they were strangled. About as many more differences have been proposed by learned men, all hearing a very clear resemblance to the words now found in the Greek text. By three MSS. the word is entirely omitted; as also by the Syriac, Arabic of Erpen, the AEthiopic, and by Eusebius and Theophylact. Of all the conjectures, that of Knatchbull appears to me to be the most probable: they were transfixed or impaled; and even the present reading might be construed in this sense.

Were slain with the sword As in the case of the eighty-five priests slain by Doeg, see 1 Samuel 22:18; and the prophets, of whose slaughter by the sword Elijah complains, 1 Kings 19:10. Probably the word means being beheaded, which was formerly done with a sword, and not with an axe; and in the east is done by the sword to the present day.

They wandered about in sheepskins— mhlwtaiv Sheepskins dressed with the wool on. This was probably the sort of mantle that Elijah wore, and which was afterwards used by Elisha; for the Septuagint, in 2 Kings 2:8-13, expressly say: kai elaben 'hliav thn mhlwthn autou? and Elijah took his SHEEPSKIN (mantle.) kai uywse thn mhlwthn 'hliou, h epesen epanwqen autou? And he (Elisha) took the SHEEPSKIN of Elijah which had fallen from off him. It was most probably on this account, as Dr. Macknight conjectures, that Elijah was called a hairy man, 2 Kings 1:8; and not on account of having a preposterously long beard, as those marrers of all the unities of time, place, circumstances, and common sense, the painters, represent him. And it is likely that the prophets themselves wore such garments, and that the false prophets imitated them in this, in order that they might gain the greater credit. And it shall come to pass in that day, that the prophets shall be ashamed every one of his vision-neither shall they wear a rough garment to deceive, Zechariah 13:4; derrin tricinhn, a hairy skin, SEPT., probably the goatskins mentioned above. In general, this was an upper garment; but, in the cases to which the apostle alludes, the sheepskin and goatskin seem to have been the only covering.

Being destitute— Δusteroumenoi? In want of all the comforts and conveniences of life, and often of its necessaries.

Afflicted In consequence of enduring such privations.

Tormented— kakoucoumenoi? Maltreated, harassed, variously persecuted by those to whom they brought the message of salvation.

Verse 38. Of whom the world was not worthy Yet they were obliged to wander by day in deserts and mountains, driven from the society of men, and often obliged to hide by night in dens and caves of the earth, to conceal themselves from the brutal rage of men. Perhaps he refers here principally to the case of Elijah, and the hundred prophets hidden in caves by Obadiah, and fed with bread and water. See 1 Kings 18:4. David was often obliged thus to hide himself from Saul; 1 Samuel 24:3, etc.

Verse 39. Having obtained a good report (having been witnessed to; see ver. 2) through faith It was faith in God which supported all those eminent men who, in different parts of the world, and in different ages, were persecuted for righteousness sake.

Received not the promise They all heard of the promises made to Abraham of a heavenly rest, and of the promise of the Messiah, for this was a constant tradition; but they died without having seen this Anointed of the Lord. Christ was not in any of their times manifested in the flesh; and of him who was the expectation of all nations, they heard only by the hearing of the ear. This must be the promise, without receiving of which the apostle says they died.

Verse 40. God having provided some better thing for us This is the dispensation of the Gospel, with all the privileges and advantages it confers.

That they without us should not be made perfect. Believers before the flood, after the flood, under the law, and since the law, make but one Church. The Gospel dispensation is the last, and the Church cannot be considered as complete till the believers under all dispensations are gathered together. As the Gospel is the last dispensation, the preceding believers cannot be consummated even in glory till the Gospel Church arrive in the heaven of heavens.

There are a great variety of meanings put on this place, but the above seems the most simple and consistent. See Revelation 6:11. “White robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellow servants also, and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled.” This time, and its blessings, are now upon the wing.


DEDUCED FROM A CONSIDERATION of Hebrews 11:6: He that cometh unto God must believe that he is, and that he is the rewarder of them who diligently seek him.

I. METAPHYSICIANS and philosophers, in order to prove the existence of God, have used two modes of argumentation:—

  1. A priori, proofs drawn from the necessity that such a being as God is, must exist: arguments of this kind do not produce any thing in evidence which is derived from his works.
  2. A posteriori, proofs of the being and perfections of God, drawn from his own works.


PROP I. If there be no one being in the universe but such as might possibly not have existed, it would follow that there might possibly have been no existence at all; and if that could be so, it would be also possible that the present existence might have arisen from total nonexistence, which is absurd: therefore it is not possible that there might have been no existence at all. Consequently, an impossibility of not existing must be found somewhere; there must have been a being whose nonexistence is impossible.

II. The whole nature of an unoriginated being, or aggregate of his attributes, must be unoriginated, and necessarily what it is. A being cannot produce its own attributes; for this would suppose it acted before it existed. There is nothing in the nature of this being that is contingent, or could have been otherwise than it is; for whatever is contingent, must have a cause to determine its mode of existence.

III. The attributes of an unoriginated being must be possessed by it unlimitedly; for to possess an attribute imperfectly, or only in a certain degree, must suppose some cause to have modified this being so as to make him incapable of having that attribute in any other than an imperfect degree. But no cause can be admitted in this case, because this is the First of all beings, and the Cause of all things. Farther, an imperfect attribute, or any one that is not in its highest degree, must be capable of improvement by exercise and experience; which would imply that the unoriginated being must be originally imperfect, and that he was deriving farther degrees of perfection from the exercise of his own powers, and acquaintance with his own works.

IV. The unoriginated being must exist everywhere, in the same manner he does anywhere; for if he did not, it would suppose some cause by which his presence was limited; but there can be no cause to limit that presence. See above.
V. This unoriginated being must be a simple uncompounded substance, identically the same everywhere; not consisting of parts, for these must be distinct and independent; nor of whole, for this is the aggregate of parts; nor of magnitude or quantity, for these signify a composition of parts. This being must be as truly one and omnipresent, as the present moment of time is indivisibly one in all places at once; and can no more be limited or measured by time, than the present moment can by duration.

Hence this being cannot be matter or body, because to these belong extension, divisibility, figurability, and mobility, which imply limitation. God and matter have essentially contrary properties.

God is not material. It has already been shown that there necessarily must exist one infinite, unoriginated, and eternal being. Now this being must be a thinking being; for it is as impossible to conceive that unthinking matter could produce a thinking intelligent being, as it is to conceive that nothing could produce matter.

Let us suppose any parcel of matter to be eternal, we shall find it, in itself, unable to produce any thing. Let us suppose its parts firmly at rest together; if there were no other being in the world, must it not eternally remain so, a dead, inactive lump? Is it possible to conceive that it can add motion to itself, or produce it in other portions of matter? Matter, therefore, by its own strength, cannot produce in itself so much as motion. The motion it has must also be from eternity, or else added to matter by some other being more powerful than itself.

But let us suppose motion eternal too; yet matter, unthinking matter, and motion, could never produce thought. Knowledge will still be as far beyond the power of motion and matter to produce, as matter is beyond the power of nothing to produce. Divide matter into as minute parts as you will, vary the figure and motion of it as much as you please, it will operate no other ways upon other bodies of proportionate bulk than it did before this division. The minutest particles of matter strike, impel, and resist one another, just as the greater do; and that is all that they can do. So that if we will suppose nothing eternal, matter can never begin to be. If we suppose bare matter, without motion, eternal, then motion can never begin to be. If we suppose only matter and motion eternal, then thought can never begin to be. For it is impossible to conceive that matter, either with or without motion, could have originally, in and from itself, sense, perception, and knowledge, as is evident from hence, that sense, perception, and knowledge, must be properties eternally separate from matter, and every particle of it.

Since, therefore, whatsoever is the first eternal being must necessarily be a thinking being, and whatsoever is first of all things must necessarily contain in it and actually have, at least, all the perfections that can ever after exist, it necessarily follows that the first eternal being cannot be matter.

VI. This being must possess intelligence and power unlimited, and all other attributes that are in themselves absolute perfections.

Attributes are divided into natural and moral, or primary and secondary. The first are those which essentially belong to the nature of a being considered in itself; the second in its manner of acting toward others. All the attributes of God, being uncontingent, must be unlimited; and therefore his knowledge must extend to every thing that can be known, and his power to every thing that can be done.

VII. There cannot be in the universe more than one unoriginated being; for as this being is possessed of infinite attributes, let us suppose a second unoriginated being; he must possess the same: for both these beings are eternal, and necessarily the same, every where alike present, without any possible difference or distinction, and therefore one and the same. Two such cannot subsist; and the supposition of a second such being is only a mental repetition of the being and attributes of the first.

VIII. All things owe their existence to their first cause, operating according to its own free will. Absolute power does not act of necessity, but freely: the power may exist without exertion; if it did not, then it acts by necessity; and if so, necessity is the agent, and not the free power, of the independent God. He can do what he will, but he will do only what is right, etc.

The like may be said of his omniscience. He knows himself, and what he has formed, and what he can do; but is not necessitated to know as certain what himself has made contingent. If God must continually act because he is omnipotent, and know because he is omniscient, then he must be constantly employed in doing or undoing whatever is possible to be done or undone, and knowing all that is, and all that can be, and what cannot be; which is absurd.

IX. God is a being of infinite goodness, wisdom, mercy, justice, and truth, and all other perfections which become the Framer and Governor of the universe.

GOODNESS consists in being pleased with communicating happiness to others.

WISDOM, in making a right or beneficent use of knowledge or power; for no being, howsoever intelligent or powerful, is said to act wisely, but that which makes a good or beneficent use of knowledge and power. Hence wisdom and goodness must be ever conjoined to make any act of power perfect. As he is wise, he knows what is best to be done; powerful, he can do it; good, he will do it. Justice, mercy, truth, or faithfulness, are not distinct attributes, but denominations given to his power and wisdom, in their various operations on different occasions, in reference to his creatures.

God’s liberty of acting. His power and wisdom being infinite, he cannot be prevented by any outward cause; his nature being essentially good, he can have no opposition from within. His power and all his other attributes, being infinite, eternal, and consequently unlimited, can have no opposition from without. And his liberty consists in his being free to act or not act, or infinitely or limitedly to vary his operations according to his own wisdom, goodness, and truth. See also the late bishop of Ossory, Chevalier Ramsay, Dr. S. Clarke, and others, on this subject.


Recapitulation of the preceding Propositions

II. In the argument a priori, in order to demonstrate the being of a GOD, it was attempted to prove that there must have been a being whose nonexistence is impossible. In arguing on this subject it has been shown:—

  1. That this being was unoriginated.
  2. That all his attributes must also be unoriginated.
  3. That these attributes must be unlimited and absolutely perfect.
  4. That this being must exist everywhere in the same manner he does anywhere.
  5. That he is simple and uncompounded, not consisting of parts, nor of whole, nor of magnitude, nor of quantity.
  6. That he must possess intelligence and power unlimited, and all other attributes that are in themselves absolute perfections.
  7. That there cannot be in the universe any more than one such unoriginated, simple, and infinite being.
  8. That all things owe their existence to this first cause, operating, not according to any kind of necessity, but according to its own free will.
  9. That as, in all his operations, all his attributes must concur and combine, so all the works of his hands must bear the impress of wisdom and goodness; of that wisdom which consists in making a right use of  knowledge and power, i.e. using both beneficially; of that goodness which consists in being pleased with communicating happiness to others.

Hence may be deduced CREATION, the plan of which proceeded from his wisdom, the execution from his power, and the result a proof of his goodness.

From these data we might proceed to prove the being of a God, and his beneficence and moral government of the world, a posteriori, i.e. arguing from the effects to the cause.

And first, a being of infinite wisdom must be expected to form his works so as to evidence that wisdom in their multiplicity, variety, internal structure, arrangement, connections, and dependencies; and, consequently, that these works must be in many respects inscrutable to man. And this, as they are his works, must be one of their characteristics.

Whether there be any other kind of beings than spiritual and material, and such as are of a mixed nature, we cannot tell; but we have no ideas of any other kinds, nor can we conceive the possibility of the existence of any other; as we have no ideas of any figure that is not formed of straight or curved lines, or a mixture of both.

God, the uncreated Spirit, manifests himself by material substances. Created spirits must be manifested in the same way; and though matter may exist without spirit, and spirit without matter, yet without the latter, spirit cannot become manifest. Hence matter appears to have been created for the use of spirit or intellectual beings.

Creation in general demonstrates the being of a God.

The SOLAR SYSTEM and plurality of worlds, magnitude, distances, velocity and gravity, of the celestial bodies, projectile and centripetal forces, center of gravity, ellipsis, double and treble motion, attraction, all demonstrate the wisdom, power, and goodness of God.

VEGETATION. Plants, trees, circulation of nutritious juices, composition of ligneous fibres, dissolution and regeneration of terrestrial productions.

PRESERVATION of genera and species, demonstrations of infinite skill, and of the wisest and most beneficent providence MAN. Life, nutrition, sleep, the senses, particularly vision and muscular motion; each furnishes a series of irresistible arguments.

The HEART and the circulation of the blood afford the most striking proofs; and on this point let the reader particularly fix his attention.

In a healthy state the heart makes eighty pulsations in a minute, and it is calculated that from two ounces to two ounces and a half of blood are expelled into the aorta at each pulsation; consequently at least nine thousand six hundred ounces will be thrown into the aorta in an hour, which would amount to one thousand four hundred and forty pounds in one day!

At each pulsation this quantum of blood is propelled eight inches, which amounts to fifty feet in a minute! The quantity of blood in a human body is, on an average, about thirty pounds, and passes through the heart about twenty-three times in the space of one hour!

A weight of fifty pounds hung to the foot, the leg laid across the opposite knee, was raised by the action of the popliteal artery. Allowing for the distance from the center of motion, this proves that the heart must possess a power of at least four hundred pounds!

The blood circulates by pressure from behind, occasioned by the action of the heart, which pressure having propelled it, according to the laws of gravity to the extremities, reconducts it, contrary to those laws, back to the heart. How is this effected? It has been supposed that the ARTERIES contribute much to the circulation of the blood; were it even so, it would be comparatively useless, as they cease where such an auxiliary power is most wanting, at the extremities, where their anastomosis with the veins takes place, and the veins are not supposed to possess any such propelling power.

But that the arteries possess no such power Bichat has proved by the following experiment: he took the arm of a dead man, placed it in warm water, inserted one end of a tube in the brachial artery, and the other end in the carotid artery of a living dog; the blood circulated in the dead arm, the pulse of which beat regularly by the action of the heart of the living animal. Is there not a wondrous and especial providence of God by which this is effected?

Others have attributed the pulsation of the heart itself to the stimulating nature of the blood. Bichat has disproved this by the following experiments:—

  1. Expose the heart of an animal and empty it, apply a stimulus to its muscles, and it will dilate, and contract, as if it were full.
  2. Puncture all the large vessels connected with the heart, so as to empty it entirely, and the alternate contractions and dilations will continue for some time, notwithstanding the total absence of the blood.
  3. Remove two hearts of equal bulk from two living animals, place the fingers in the ventricles of the one, and grasp the other in the opposite hand, and it will be found that the effort of the latter in its dilation is as forcible as the other in its contraction.

Incessant action of the heart. Its unweariedness. What exhausts all other muscles appears to increase its action and its force! Can any person conceive how it is possible that a muscle can be in incessant action for threescore, fourscore, or a hundred years, without any kind of weariness? There is nothing in nature that can well explain this. Over its motion the mind has no power. This is wisely ordered, as many, in momentary fits of caprice, despair, and passion, would suspend the circulation, and thus put an end to their lives.

Providence, or the economical government of GOD in the provision for men and animals. Never too much, never too little; the produce of the earth being ever in proportion to the consumers, and the consumers to that produce.

Redemption. 1. As all things are intimately known to God, he must know wherein their happiness consists, and may from his goodness be expected to make every provision for that happiness.

  1. Every sentient creature is capable of happiness or misery.
  2. No creature can choose a state of misery for itself, because no creature can desire to be unhappy.
  3. If any being could choose that state for another, he must be led to it by some motive which may make it eligible or desirable; and this must spring

from his envy, jealousy, fear, or a conviction that the wretchedness of the other will contribute to his own happiness. None of these can exist in God the Creator, consequently he must be supposed to have made man for happiness. His counsels never change, and therefore when man had fallen he provided him a Savior; this might be naturally expected from his infinite benevolence.

The moral changes made in sinners, proofs of the being, agency, goodness, and presence of God.

Man’s existence is a proof of the being of God; he feels himself to be the effect of a cause, and that cause to be wise, powerful, and good. There is evidently no cause in nature capable of producing such an effect, for no operation of nature can produce mind or intellect; the wonderful structure of the body, and the astonishing powers of the mind, equally prove that God is our Maker, and that in him we live, move, and have our being.

III. Astronomical phenomena very difficult to be accounted for upon natural principles, which are strong evidences of the being and continual agency of God.


The motion of a planet in an elliptic orbit is truly wonderful, and incapable of a physical demonstration in all its particulars. From its aphelion, or greatest distance from the sun or body round which it revolves, to its perihelion or least distance, its motion is continually accelerated; and from its perihelion to its aphelion is constantly retarded. From what source has the planet derived that power which it opposes to the solar attraction, in such a manner that, when passing from aphelion to perihelion by a continued acceleration, it is prevented from making a nearer approach to the sun? And on the other hand, what prevents the planet, after it has passed by a continued retardation from perihelion to aphelion, from going altogether out of the solar attraction, and causes it to return again to perihelion? In Sir Isaac Newton’s demonstration that this phenomenon is a necessary result of the laws of gravity and projectile forces, it is worthy of observation that, to account for a planet’s moving in an elliptic orbit, little differing from a circle, and having the sun in the lower focus, the projectile force of the planet, or the power by which it would move for ever in a straight line if not acted upon from without, is assumed to be nearly sufficient to counterbalance the planet’s gravitating power, or, which is the same thing, the attraction of the central body; for the demonstration, the particulars of which are too complicated to be here detailed, puts us in possession of the following facts: If a planet be projected in a direction exactly perpendicular to that of the central body, with a velocity equal to what it would acquire by falling half way to the center by attraction alone, it will describe a circle round the central body. If the velocity of projection be greater than this, but not equal to what the planet would acquire in falling to the center, it will move in an elliptical orbit more or less eccentric according to the greater or less degree of projectile force. If the velocity of projection be equal to that which the planet would acquire in falling to the central body, it will move in a parabola; if greater than this, in a hyperbola. Now it cannot be demonstrated, upon physical principles, that a planet should have a certain projectile force and no other, or that it should have any at all; for it is a law of nature, ably demonstrated by Newton in his Principia, that all bodies have such an indifference to rest or motion that, if once at rest, they must remain eternally so, unless acted upon by some power sufficient to move them; and that a body once put in motion will proceed of itself ever after in a straight line, if not diverted out of this rectilinear course by some influence. Every planetary body has a certain projectile force, therefore some previously existing cause must have communicated it. The planets have not only a projectile force, but this power is at the same time nearly a counterbalance to its gravitation, or the attraction of the central body; so that, by virtue of these powers thus harmoniously united, the planets perform their revolutions in orbits nearly circular with the greatest regularity. It hence follows that the cause, which has communicated just so much projectile force as to produce so near an equilibrium in the centrifugal and centripetal powers, is infinitely intelligent; therefore this cause must be God.

As all the planets move in orbits more or less elliptical, when they could have been made to move in circles by a particular adjustment of the attractive and projectile forces, the Divine purpose must be best answered by the eccentric orbit. The habitable earth evidently derives very great advantage from the elliptical orbit; for, in consequence of it, the sun is seven or eight days of every year longer on the northern side of the equator than he is on the southern; i.e. from the 21st of March, when he crosses the equator north ward, to the 23d of September, when he again returns to the equator, there are 186 days; but from the 23d of September, or autumnal equinox, to the 21st of March, or vernal equinox, there are only 179 days. From this circumstance the northern hemisphere, which it has pleased God should contain by far the greatest portion of land, is considerably warmer towards the polar regions than in similar latitudes towards the south pole, where an equal degree of temperature is not needed. Circumnavigators have not yet been able, because of the great cold of the south polar regions, to proceed beyond seventy-two or seventy-three degrees of south latitude, or, which is the same thing, to approach the south pole nearer than about 1200 miles; but the northern frigid zone, possessing a greater temperature, has been explored to within about 600 miles or the pole, i.e. to nearly eighty-two degrees of north latitude.


The double motion of a primary planet, namely, its annual revolution and diurnal rotation, is one of the greatest wonders the science of astronomy presents to our view. The laws which regulate the latter of these motions are so completely hid from man, notwithstanding his present great extension of philosophic research, that the times which the planets employ in their rotations can only be determined by observation. How is it that two motions, so essentially different from each other, should be in the same body at the same time, without one interfering at all with the other? The astonishing accuracy with which celestial observations have been conducted within the last one hundred years, has enabled astronomers to demonstrate that the neighboring planets very sensibly affect the figure of the earth’s orbit, and consequently its motion in its orbit. Of this every one may be convinced who examines the calculus employed in ascertaining for any particular point of time the sun’s place in the heavens; or, which is the same thing, the point of the earth’s orbit which is exactly opposed to the place of the earth in this orbit. Thus the maximum that the earth is affected by Venus is nine seconds and seven-tenths of a degree; by Mars, six seconds and seven-tenths; and by Jupiter, eight seconds, two-thirds, etc. But no 562 astronomer, since the foundation of the world, has been able to demonstrate that the earth’s motion in the heavens is at all accelerated or retarded by the diurnal rotation; or, on the other hand, that the earth’s motion on its axis experiences the least irregularity from the annual revolution. How wonderful is this contrivance! and what incalculable benefits result from it! The uninterrupted and equable diurnal rotation of the earth gives us day and night in their succession, and the annual revolution causes all the varied scenery of the year. If one motion interfered with the other, the return of day and night would be irregular, and the change of seasons attended with uncertainty to the husbandman. These two motions are therefore harmoniously impressed upon the earth, that the gracious promise of the great Creator might be fulfilled: “While the earth remaineth, seed time and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night, shall not cease.” The double motion of a secondary planet is still more singular than that of its primary; for, (taking the moon for an example,) besides its particular revolution round the earth, which is performed in twenty-seven days, seven hours, forty-three minutes, four seconds and a half; it is carried round the sun with the earth once every year. Of all the planetary motions with which we have a tolerable acquaintance, that of the moon is the most intricate: upwards of twenty equations are necessary, in the great majority of cases, to reduce her mean to her true place; yet not one of them is derivable from the circumstance that she accompanies the earth in its revolution round the sun. They depend on the different distances of the earth from the sun in its annual revolution, the position of the lunar nodes, and various other causes, and not on the annual revolution itself; a motion which of all others might be expected to cause greater irregularities in her revolution round the earth, than could be produced in that of the latter by the planetary attractions. Who can form an adequate conception of that influence of the earth which thus draws the moon with it round the sun, precisely in the same manner as if it were a part of the earth’s surface, notwithstanding the intervening distance of about two hundred and forty thousand miles; and at the same time leaves undisturbed the moon’s proper motion round the earth? And what beneficent purposes are subserved by this harmony! In consequence of it we have the periodical returns of new and full moon; and the ebbing and flowing of the sea, which depend on the various lunar phases with respect to the sun and earth, (as is demonstrable from each of these phases being continually contemporaneous with a particular phenomenon of the tides,) always succeed each other with a regularity necessarily equal to that of the causes which produce them.


The impression of an inconceivably rapid motion upon the earth, without disturbing in the smallest degree any thing upon its surface, or in the atmosphere which surrounds it, is another instance of the infinite wisdom of God. That with which God has endued the celestial bodies, in order to accomplish this end, is called gravity or attraction. The existence of this influence is easily demonstrable from the curious law which pervades all the bodies in the solar system, and probably every other body in the whole compass of space. This law, viz. that the squares of the periodic times of the planets are to each other as the cubes of their mean distances from the central body, was first discovered by Kepler, and afterwards demonstrated by Sir Isaac Newton. Thus, if the distance of but one planet from the sun is known, and the periodic revolutions of the whole, the distance of each from the sun is easily ascertained. The mean distance of the earth from the sun has been found, by the transits of Venus in 1761 and 1769, to be about ninety-five and a half millions of English miles; and the periodic times of all the planets are known by direct observation. Thus, to find the distance of Jupiter from the sun, nothing more is necessary than first to square the period of the earth, 365 days, 5 hours, 48 3/4 minutes; and that of Jupiter, 11 years, 315 days, 14 hours and a half; and divide the greater product by the less to find the proportion one bears to the other; then to cube the earth’s mean distance from the sun, 95 1/2 millions, and multiply the cube by the proportion between the periodic times already found, and the cube root of the last product will be the distance required. By this means it was that the distances of the different planets from the sun, and of the satellites from the primaries, (for this law extends to the satellites,) have been calculated. See the Table of the Periodic Revolutions, etc., of the Planets, in the notes on the first chapter of Genesis. From this law it is evident, to every one that deeply considers this subject, that the planets revolve in orbits by an influence emanating from the sun; for the nearer a planet is to the sun, the swifter is its motion  in its orbit, and vice versa. (See the Tables already referred to.) The singular phenomenon of a planet’s describing equal areas in equal times results from gravitation combined with the projectile power; or, in other words, from the union of the centripetal and centrifugal forces. Thus, if a planet describe in twenty-four hours any given arc of its orbit, and the area contained between two straight lines, drawn from the extremities of this arc and meeting in the sun, be ascertained, it will be precisely equal to what the planet will describe in any other twenty-four hours, the greater or less quantity of the arc described being continually compensated by the less or greater extent of the straight lines including the respective areas. We also find that, by virtue of these laws, the motion of a planet in its orbit is not decreased in arithmetical proportion to the increase of the distance from the central body; for the hourly orbitical motion of the Georgium Sidus, for example, is only about five times slower than that of the earth, though its distance from the sun is full nineteen times greater.

Every man may convince himself of the existence of gravity, by observing the phenomena attending falling bodies. Why is it that the velocity of a falling body is continually accelerated till it arrives on the earth? We answer, that the earth continually attracts it; consequently, its velocity must be continually increasing as it falls. It is also observable, that the nature of the influence on falling bodies is precisely the same with that which retains the planets in their orbits. By numerous experiments it is found that, if the falling body descends towards the earth 16 feet in the first second, (a statement very near the truth,) it will fall through three times this space, or 48 feet, in the next second; five times this space, or 80 feet, in the third second; seven times this space, or 112 feet, in the fourth second; nine times this space, or 144 feet, in the fifth second, etc. Hence the spaces fallen through are as the squares of the times of falling, i.e. in the first second the body falls 16 feet, and in the next second, 48 feet; consequently the body falls as many feet in the two first seconds as is equal to the sum of these two numbers, viz. 64, which is 16 multiplied by 4, the square of 2, the number of seconds it took up in falling through the first 64 feet. See Exley’s new theory of physics, page 469.

The above is but a very brief account of the influence of this wonderful principle, which is universally diffused through nature, and capable of attracting every particle of matter under all its possible modifications, and of imparting to each substance, from the lightest gas to the most ponderous metal, that property which constitutes one body specifically heavier or lighter than another. To detail all the benefits which result from it, would be almost to give a history of the whole material creation. But it may be asked, What is gravity? To the solution of this question natural philosophy is unable to lead us. Suffice it to say, all we know of gravity is its mode of operation and that it is, like its great Creator, an all pervading and continued energy. Therefore, that it is, and not in what it consists, is capable of demonstration.

All these things prove, not only that there is a God infinitely powerful and intelligent, but also kind and merciful, working all according to the counsel of his will, and causing all his operations to result in the benefit of his creatures. They prove, also, that God is continually present, supporting all things by his energy; and that, while his working is manifest, his ways are past finding out. Yet, as far as he may be known, we should endeavor to know him; for, he that cometh unto God must know that he is. Without this it is not likely that any man will serve him; for those alone who know him seek him, and they only who put their trust in him can testify he is the rewarder of them who diligently seek him.


IV. On the 15th of Nov. 1779, Mr. Antes, returning from a short country excursion to Grand Cairo, was seized by some of the attendants of Osman Bey, a Mamaluke chief; and after stripping him of his clothes, they demanded money, which he not having about him, they dragged him before the bey, telling him that he was a European, from whom he might get something. In order to extort money from him, the bey ordered him to be bastinadoed. They first threw him down flat on his face, and then bent up his legs, so that the soles of his feet were horizontal; they then brought a strong staff, about six feet long, with an iron chain fixed to it at both ends. This chain they threw round both feet above the ancles, and twisted them together; and two fellows on each side, provided with what they call a corbage, held up the soles of the feet by means of the stick. When thus placed, an officer whispered in his ear, “Do not suffer yourself to be beaten; give him a thousand dollars, and he will let you go.” Mr. Antes, not willing to give up the money which he had received for the goods of other merchants, refused; the two men then began to beat the soles of his feet, at first moderately; but when a second application for money was refused, and then the demand was two thousand dollars, they began to lay on more roughly, and every stroke felt like the application of a red hot poker. Finding they could get no money, supposing he might have some choice goods, a third application was made to him by the officer; he told them he had a fine silver-mounted blunderbuss at his lodging which he would give. The bey asked what he offered; the officer sneered, and said, bir carabina, i.e. “one blunderbuss;” on which the bey said, ettrup il kulp, “beat the dog.” They then began to lay on with all their might. “At first,” says Mr. Antes, “the pain was excruciating; but after some time my feeling grew numb, and it was like beating a bag of wool.” Finding that nothing was to be got from him, and knowing that he had done nothing to deserve punishment, the bey ordered them to let him go. One of the attendants anointed his feet, and bound them up with some rags, put him on an ass, and conducted him to his house in Cairo, and laid him on his bed, where he was confined for six weeks before he could walk, even with crutches; and for more than three years his feet and ancles were very much swelled; and, though twenty years had elapsed when he published this account, his feet and ancles were so affected that, on any strong exertion, they were accustomed to swell.

He mentions instances of the bastinado having been applied for three days successively, and, if the person survived, the feet were rendered useless for life; but in general, he observes, when they have received between five and six hundred strokes, the blood gushes from their mouth and nose, and they die either under or soon after the operation.

How he felt his mind affected on this distressing occasion, he thus piously describes: “I at once gave up myself for lost, well knowing that my life depended on the caprice of a brute in human shape; and, having heard and seen such examples of unrelenting cruelty, I could not expect to fare better than others had done before me; I had therefore nothing left but to cast myself on the mercy of God, commending my soul to him; and indeed I must in gratitude confess, that I experienced his support most powerfully; so that all fear of death was taken from me; and if I could have bought my life for one halfpenny, I should, I believe, have hesitated to accept the offer.” — Observations on the Manners, etc., of the Egyptians, by J. ANTES, Esq. 12mo., Dublin, 1801, p. 146.

If this be the punishment to which the apostle alludes, it may justly rank with the most severe; and, all circumstances considered, this appears to be what is intended in the original word etumpanisqhsan, which we, not knowing what was meant by it, render they were tortured. These holy men needed no mercy from man; and they received no justice. The case above is a specimen of Mohammedan justice, and Mamaluke cruelty; and to rescue such wretches from the government of the French we spent torrents of British blood! It would have been a mercy to man to have left them in the hands of any power that might abate their pride, assuage their malice, and confound their devices. As to their being corrupted by French manners, that is impossible; the Mohammedans in general, and the Turks and Mamalukes of Egypt in particular, are too bad for the devil himself to corrupt. Pity, that political considerations rendered it necessary to restore that corrupt and abominable government. Reader, there is an infinite difference between the Bible and the Koran; the one is from heaven, the other from earth and hell. “Thanks be to God for his holy Gospel!”