ŇBy faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace.Ó Hebrews 11:31.
In this verse the Holy Ghost proceeds further in declaring the power of faith; and for this end, commends unto us the faith of Rahab. The words contain the sum and abridgement of the second and sixth chapters of Joshua; the meaning of them is plain.
The points herein to be considered are three:
I. The person believing, to wit, Rahab.
II. The reward of her faith given by Joshua: She perished not, but was preserved in the destruction of Jericho.
III. The testimony of her faith, so called by St James (Jam. 2:25) and set down in the end of this verse, When she had received the spies peaceably.
I. For the person, Rahab was a woman of Canaan dwelling in Jericho; as we may read in Joshua chapter 2. There she lived and had her abode; she was no Israelite, but a foreigner in regard of her birth, and a stranger from GodŐs church. How then comes it to pass that she is commended for her faith, and here put into the catalogue of these renowned believers? Why are not the rest of the Canaanites preferred to this honour as well as she? Answer: We must know this: that from the beginning of the world to the time of ChristŐs ascension, the church of God was small; sometimes shut up in some few families, as from the flood to the giving of the law; and after, limited to a small kingdom and people in the land of Canaan, where the LordŐs people dwelt. During which time all other nations and people of the world besides this little company, were no people of God, but strangers from the covenant of promise, and (as Paul saith) Without God in the world (Eph. 2:12). And howsoever GodŐs church was thus shut up, as it were in a corner; yet now and then it pleased God to reach out His merciful hand to some of the heathen, calling them into His church, and receiving them into His Covenant; and they are called in the New Testament, proselytes. In AbrahamŐs family, his bondmen and servants were circumcised, and made members of the church of God. And in MosesŐ days, Jethro, Moses father in law, a priest of Midian, obtained this at GodŐs hands, to be joined unto GodŐs church. And so was Ruth the Moabite (Ruth 1:16), and Naaman the Syrian (2 Kin. 5:17), and as some think Nebuchadnezzar (Dan. 4:3), but this is not so certain. And so was the eunuch of Ethiopia, Candace queen of EthiopiaŐs chief governor (Acts 8:27). Now as God in mercy dealt with these, so did He in like mercy call Rahab the harlot above all the people of Jericho; for they trusted to their strong walls, and therefore died; but Rahab believed that the God of Israel was the true God, and so had mercy shewed unto her. Now after the time of ChristŐs ascension, God dealt more bountifully with the world; for he sent the light of His gospel unto all nations; and (as the Scripture saith) their sound went through all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world (Rom. 10:18).
The consideration of this limited estate of the church of God for so long a time, serves to discover unto us the error of those that maintain and hold universal calling of all and every man to the estate of grace and salvation; but if that were so, then in former ages the Gentiles would have believed; whereas we see that before the ascension of Christ, the church of God was but a small remnant, among the people of the Jews only; and not one of ten thousand believed among the Gentiles. Now if all men had been effectually called, then all would have received the promise of the gospel; but many nations in former ages never heard of Christ; and therefore there was never in all ages a general effectual calling of all men.
Objection: Paul saith, God reconciled the world unto Himself by Christ (2 Cor. 5:19), and if that be so, then He called all men effectually. Answer: We must understand the apostle according to his meaning, for (Rom. 11:15) he expounds himself, and shews what he means by the world, saying that the falling away of the Jews is the reconciling of the world; which cannot be understood of men in all the ages, but in the last age of the world after ChristŐs ascension, wherein God offered to all the world life everlasting by Christ.
Further, Rahab is here noted by a notorious vice, she is called an harlot; whereby she was infamous among the men of Jericho. Certain of the Jews which are enemies to the New Testament say that the author of this epistle, and St James, do wrong unto Rahab for calling her an harlot; for (say they) in Joshua she is called but a taverner, or hostess. Answer: We must know that the word which is used in Joshua signifieth two things: a taverner and an harlot. Now take the word properly, and it is generally used in the Old Testament, and then most commonly it is put for an harlot. And therefore in the New Testament, Rahab hath no wrong done her by this title. For it is the thing that Joshua intended, to shew what a one she had been; and therefore in speaking of her to the spies, he bids them Go to that harlotŐs house (Josh. 6:22), using such an article as implies that she had been infamous and notorious in that kind. And yet we must not think that she played the harlot after she had received grace to believe, but long before; for faith purifieth the heart; neither will it suffer any sin to reign therein. She is called an harlot therefore in regard of her life past, for which she was infamous among the men of Jericho, before her calling to the faith.
Question: How could she believe, being an harlot in former times? For it is said that neither fornicators, nor adulterers, shall inherit the kingdom of heaven (1 Cor. 6:9). Answer: That is true according to the law; but the gospel gives this exception: unless they repent. And so are all legal threatenings to be understood in the Word of God.
In this circumstance of the person, and in the quality of her sin, we may note the endless mercy of God towards sinners; for He hath vouchsafed to call the most notorious and grievous sinners to the state of salvation; as Isaiah saith, The Lord is very ready to forgive (Isa. 55:7), yea, with the Lord is plenteous redemption (Psa. 130:7). This appears by vouchsafing mercy to Rahab a notable harlot; and as He dealeth with Rahab here, so hath He shewed like mercy to other notorious sinners. King Manasseh had sold himself to idolatry and witchcraft, and had shed innocent blood exceeding much, and caused Judah to sin (2 Kin. 21:6-16), for which he was led captive; yet when he humbled himself and prayed, God was entreated of him (2 Chr. 33:11-13). And Paul saith of himself, when I was a blasphemer and a persecutor, and an oppressor, I was received to mercy, though I were the chief of all sinners; that Christ might first shew in me all longsuffering, unto the example of them which shall in time come to believe in Him unto everlasting life (1 Tim. 1:13-16).
The consideration of this exceeding mercy of God toward sinners is of great use:
1. First, it armeth a poor soul against despair, whereinto the devil would draw it upon the view of the multitude and greatness of his sins; for many reason thus: My sins are so heinous, so many, and so vile, that I dare not come to God, neither can I be persuaded of the pardon of them. But behold here the endless mercy of God, in forgiving sins to them that repent though they be like crimson and scarlet, and never so many. This must comfort the wounded soul; and encourage all touched hearts to repent, and to sue to the Lord for mercy and pardon.
2. Secondly, it must move every one of us now to begin to repent, if we have not repeated heretofore; and if we have begun, to do it more earnestly; for God is most merciful, and with Him is plenteous redemption. Yet we must beware that we take not occasion hereby to live in sin, because God is merciful; for this is to turn the grace of God into wantonness (Jude 4); which St Jude makes a brand of the ungodly, and a sign of the reprobate, who (as the apostle there saith) are appointed to condemnation; yea, that is a despising of the bountifulness of God which should lead them to repentance; and hereby they heap up unto themselves wrath against the day of wrath (Rom. 2:4,5). Let us therefore remember this counsel of Paul: Shall we sin that grace may abound? God forbid (Rom. 6:1,2). We must all, but especially young men, take heed of this course; for if we bless ourselves in our heart, and say we shall have peace though we live in sin, God will not be merciful unto us, but His wrath shall smoke against us.
Furthermore, that howsoever Rahab was a sinner, and a most infamous harlot; yet when she repents, God doth honour and grace her with the title of a believer; and that among those most renowned believers that ever lived before Christ; even to be one of that cloud of witnesses in whom faith is commended to the church for ever. Hence also it is that St Matthew reckons her in the genealogy of Christ to be one of His predecessors; whenas Amaziah, Ahaz and such like, who (for ought we know) did never repent, are not once named. Herein we may see GodŐs wonderful mercy in honouring sinners, if they do repent. The consideration whereof must move us, not only to learn the doctrine of repentance, and to have it in our mouths, but to labour that it may be settled in our hearts; that we may shew forth the power thereof in our lives. All of us desire honour and reputation among men. Well, if we would be honoured indeed, we must repent, and then God Himself will honour us; neither have our sins made us so infamous, as by our repentance God shall make us honourable.
Further, concerning the party; How could Rahab come by faith, seeing she lived out of the church, where the Word was never preached unto her? Answer: If we read the story, we shall find that she came to believe by a report of GodŐs marvellous acts; for when the Lord delivered the Israelites out of Egypt through the Red Sea, and drowned Pharaoh therein with all his host; and as they went further, He delivered the kings of the nations into their hands, as Og king of Bashan, with the kings of the Amorites and Amalekites. Now, the report hereof came to the people of Jericho; whereupon they were stricken with a wonderful great fear. And howsoever the men of Jericho made no other use of it, but to sin and prepare themselves to resist and bear back the Israelites, yet this report wrought further with Rahab; and therefore she came to the spies, whom she had received, and hid upon the roof of her house, and there confessed the God of Israel to be the true God in heaven above and in the earth beneath.
Here we may note that when ordinary means fail for the beginning and increase of faith, as the Word preached and the sacraments, then God can work faith extraordinarily, even by reports and rumours. And thus Rahab, and many of the heathen, came to believe. We say of the church of Rome, that it is no true church, and that their religion cannot save a man. Hereupon many that favour that way, reply and say: Will you therefore condemn all your forefathers that lived and died in time of popery? We answer, no; we dare not give such censure upon them; but rather judge charitably of them; yea, we have great hope that many of them were saved. For though they wanted preaching and reading, yet God might work faith in them extraordinarily, and bless even good reports and speeches unto them, with the reading of other godly books besides GodŐs Word, which some of them had. We need not then give so hard a censure of them; because God is not tied to ordinary means, but can save extraordinarily when means fail.
Further concerning RahabŐs faith, it may be demanded whether it was weak or strong, because before she had done this act of faith, her whole abode was among the heathen. Answer: We must know that there is in the child of God a certain seed, or beginning, or preparation to a true and lively faith; which our Saviour Christ in the Scriptures doth honour with the title of a true and lively faith; as when a man know no more but this: that Christ Jesus is the true Messiah; having withal a care and conscience to profit and increase in the true knowledge of the gospel, and to join practice therewith, in his life and calling. Examples hereof, we have many in GodŐs Word: A certain ruler came to Christ, and he sought Him to go down and heal his son (John 4:49ff.). Jesus said unto him, Go thy way, thy son liveth; and the ruler believed the word that Jesus spake unto him and his son lived. Now, enquiring of the hour, and finding it to be the same when Jesus said, Thy son liveth, the text saith, He believed and all his household. Now what was this manŐs faith? Surely, he only acknowledged that Christ was the true Messiah; and withal, resigned himself and his family to be instructed further therein. And though they knew nothing particularly of the means whereby Christ should be a Saviour; yet for this willingness to embrace Christ, and readiness to be taught, the Holy Ghost saith, they did believe. So in the same chapter (v.29), the woman of Samaria (being convicted in her conscience of the things that Christ told her) runs to the town and saith, Come see a man that told me all things ever I did. Is not He the Christ? Then the text saith (v.39), Many of the Samaritans believed, because of the saying of the woman. Now what faith had these Samaritans? Surely, they did only acknowledge Him to be the true Messiah, and were willing to be further instructed in His doctrine; which they testified by going to hear Him in their own persons. So likewise, Christ gives a notable testimony to the confession of the apostolic faith (Matt. 16:17,18) in the person of Peter, saying, Thou art Peter, and upon this rock (that is, upon this your faith, which thou confessest) will I build my church; and yet the apostles were ignorant of some main points of the gospel, for a little after, when Christ tells them of His going to Jerusalem and of His passion for the redemption of them, Peter persuades Him to the contrary, saying, Master, spare thyself, these things shall not be unto thee (v.22). Whereby, it appears that Peter did not know how Christ should be a Saviour; neither did the apostles particularly know about ChristŐs resurrection, till He was risen again; yea, at the very time of His ascension, they knew not the nature of ChristŐs kingdom; and therefore they asked Him: Lord, wilt thou now restore the kingdom of Israel? (Acts 1:6), dreaming still of a temporal kingdom; for which Christ rebukes them. And notwithstanding all these wants, Christ saith, they had true faith; yea, such faith as the gates of hell should never prevail against. This then is a most comfortable truth, that a man (in the want of means of further knowledge) do hold Christ Jesus to be the true Messiah, and yield himself willingly to learn the doctrine of the gospel, and (withal) join obedience to his knowledge, the Lord is willing for a time, to accept of this as of true faith.
Now to apply this to RahabŐs faith; her faith was but a weak faith, or rather the seed and beginning of a lively faith afterward. For as we may read, all that she knew was this: that the God of Israel was the only true God, and that He would certainly deliver the land of Canaan into the IsraelitesŐ hands. This was a notable persuasion wrought by a report; and accordingly she joins herself to GodŐs people, and resigns herself to obey the God of Israel; but whether she knew the particular doctrine of salvation by Christ, it is not here set down, and it is very likely that as yet she was altogether ignorant of it. For here are all things set down that tend to her commendation. So that her faith was very weak, and only the seed of a lively faith; and yet here the Holy Ghost doth commend her for her faith amongst the most renowned believers that ever were.
Hence we may learn many good instructions:
1. First, that God makes much account of a little grace; if He sees in a man but the seeds of grace; He doth highly esteem thereof. When the young man came to Christ (Mark 10:17-22), and asked Him what he should do to be saved; Christ tells him he must keep the commandments; the young man answers that he had kept them from his youth; at which answer it is said, Christ looked upon him and loved him. Thus he did for the shew of grace which appeared in his answer; much more then will He like of that which is true grace indeed. So likewise Christ reasoning with the scribe concerning the first and great commandment, and perceiving that he had answered discretely, He said unto him, Thou art not far from the kingdom of God (Mark 12:34), shewing hereby how deeply He tenders the sparks and seeds of true grace; nay, He makes much of a very shew of grace; which if it be so, then if God have given to any of us but one spark of true grace, how ought we to tender it, and cherish it, and to rejoice therein with all thankfulness to God for it? Yea, we must seek to increase the same, for according to our grace is our acceptance and respect with God in Christ.
2. Secondly, whereas RahabŐs weak faith is thus commended, here is comfort for all those that are willing to learn GodŐs Word, and to obey the same. Many are wiling to learn, but they are so wonderfully troubled with dullness and want of memory, that they cannot learn; and hereupon they grow to doubt much of their estate towards God. But these men must comfort themselves; for though they have but little knowledge, yet if they have care to increase in knowledge, and make conscience of obedience to so much as they know, God will account of them as of true believers; and in truth such are to be commended above those which have much knowledge, and so seem to have much faith, and yet shew forth no obedience answerable to their knowledge; for they have a shew of godliness, but want the power of it.
3. Thirdly, this confuteth our ignorant boasters, who say they have as much knowledge as any man needs to have; for they know that a man must love God above all; and that Christ Jesus is the Saviour of the world; and this (say they) is enough; and hereupon they take up their rest for matters of religion, and seek to go no further. But these men know nothing at all; for if they would add to this which they know, though it be but little, a care to increase in knowledge, and with their knowledge join obedience, then it were something. But while they have no care either to get more knowledge or to shew forth obedience to that they know, they do hereby shew plainly that there is no drop of saving knowledge, nor true faith in their hearts.
4. Fourthly, seeing God commends the seeds of true faith, for true faith indeed; this must encourage all men to use all good means to come by true faith and repentance. For though as yet thou hast but little knowledge, and therefore but little faith and repentance; yet if thou join hereto an endeavour to get more knowledge, and have also a care to practice that which thou knowest; then will the Lord increase thy knowledge and thy small faith; till thou have sufficient, and in the mean time accept of thee as a true believer.
And thus much for the measure of RahabŐs faith.
II. The second point to be considered is the reward which Rahab received at the hands of Joshua and the Israelites for her faith: She perished not with them that obeyed not; that is, she with her family was preserved alive, whenas Joshua destroyed all that lived in Jericho, young and old, man, woman and child.
But some will say, the Israelites were the people of God, a religious people; now it may seem to be a cruel part to destroy all; for what had the young infants done? Answer: In manŐs reason it may seem so indeed; yet it could not be a cruel part, because they did no more than that which God commanded them. For it was GodŐs ordinance that the Canaanites should be rooted out, and that the Israelites should shew no compassion on them (Deut. 7:2). Besides, even in reason the Israelites had some cause to deal thus; for God gave this charge to the Israelites, that when they came to any city or people: first, they must offer peace, and if they answered peaceably, then they must be saved, and become their tributaries and servants (Deut. 20:10,11), but if they would not make peace, then they must put them to the edge of the sword (v.17), man, woman and child, being inhabitants of Canaan, or near adjoining. And thus no doubt Joshua dealt when he came to Jericho. First, he offered peace if they would become their tributaries; but they trusted to their strong walls, and would not yield to become their servants; for which cause he put them all to the edge of the sword; and therefore it was no cruelty, because it was GodŐs commandment; for GodŐs will is the rule of justice.
But was not this partial dealing, to spare Rahab with her family, who were inhabitants of Jericho as well as the rest? Answer: There were two causes why she should escape: First, because she yielded herself unto them, and was content to become one of their religion; and therefore the commandment of putting all to death, did not take hold of her. Secondly, Rahab obtained this of the spies, and bound them to it by an oath, that when they came to destroy Jericho, they should spare her and her family; and therefore also did she escape.
In this preservation of Rahab, we may learn sundry points:
1. First, whereas she is saved alive, because of the oath of the spies, we see what special care everyone ought to have for the doing of those lawful things whatsoever they are, whereto he binds himself by an oath. Joshua, knowing this bond of the spies to Rahab (as we may read), gives special charge for her preservation. Hence, David saith, if a man bind himself with an oath, he must keep it, though it be to his own hindrance (Psa. 15:4). Every single promise binds a manŐs conscience, if it be lawful; but when an oath is adjoined, then there is a double bond. And therefore the author to the Hebrews saith, God, to make known the stableness of His counsel promised, bound Himself with an oath; that by two immutable things (to wit, GodŐs promise and oath), we might have strong consolation (Heb. 6:18); so that an oath binds a man double to the performing of his promise. And that this conscience is to be made of a lawful oath, appeareth thus: If man make a lawful oath, and yet be induced to do it by fraud; he must perform it, and not fail; as appeareth by JoshuaŐs act to the Gibeonites (Josh. 9:19). For when they came to the Jews craftily, as though they had been men of a far country, and had brought them to swear that they would not hurt them; though the host of Israel murmured at it, when they came to their cities; and though they might have reasoned thus: that they got it of them by fraud, and therefore they would not keep it; yet, this is the answer of Joshua and the princes unto the people; that they had sworn unto them, by the Lord God of Israel, and therefore they might not touch them. And when king Saul, in zeal to Israel, had broken this oath of Joshua and the princes, by destroying the Gibeonites (2 Sam. 21), there came a plague upon the land for three yearŐs space; and was not stayed till seven of SaulŐs sons were hanged for SaulŐs act. So that the breach of an oath is a most dangerous thing; and therefore, he that hath bound himself thereby, must have great care to keep it.
Yet here some cases may be propounded, worthy of our consideration:
(1) For first, what if a man have taken an oath to do an unlawful thing, must he then keep the oath? Answer: If his conscience tell him out of GodŐs Word that the thing is not lawful, then he must not keep it; for an oath may not be the bond of iniquity; the keeping of it is a doubling of the sin. David, in his anger, had sworn to slay Nabal, and all the men of his family, for denying relief unto his servants (1 Sam. 25:22). This was a rash oath; and therefore afterward, when he was prevented by AbigailŐs good counsel, he blesseth God for it, and breaks his oath which he had made (v.33).
(2) Question 2. What if a man take an oath, and yet afterward in conscience doubts of the lawfulness of that which he had sworn to do; what must be done in this case? Answer: So long as he doubteth, he must defer the performance of it. For he that doth a thing doubtingly, condemneth himself in the thing that he doth, because he doth it not of faith, and whatsoever is not of faith is sin (Rom. 14:23).
(3) Question 3. What if a man be urged by fear to take an oath, must he afterward keep it? As for example, a man is taken of thieves; now wanting money, they charge him on pain of death to fetch them money, and they bind him hereto by an oath; what must be done in this case, considering there must such great care be had in keeping of an oath? Answer: So long as the thing which he is bound by oath to do, respecteth his private damage only, he must keep his oath; yet so as he declare his case to the magistrate, because their course is against the common good; now the magistrate hearing of it, is according to equity, to provide for his defence, and for the safety of his goods.
2. A second point to be considered in RahabŐs preservation is this: Rahab escaped a common danger (but not without all means) only staying herself on the bare promise of the spies; but as she believed in the true God, so she used means whereby she might be sure of her preservation; and that is this: she binds the spies by an oath to save her life, and to spare her household; also she keeps within, and ties the cord of red thread in her window, according to the mutual covenant. Thus she useth means for her temporal safety; and so have others of GodŐs children done in like case. When king Hezekiah (2 Kin. 20:6) was sick, he was certified by the prophet from God that he should live fifteen years longer; yet he neglected not the means whereby he should be healed and live; for he applied dried figs to his boil, and used food and raiment for his bodily life, during the whole space of those fifteen years. So the apostle St Paul, in his voyage by sea to Rome, was assured by a vision that none of them that were with him should perish, but all come safe to land; and yet notwithstanding, when as the mariners would have gone out, he tells the centurion that unless those stayed in the ship (that so they might use ordinary means) they could not be safe (Acts 27:31).
Now as it fareth temporally for the saving of the body; so it is in the spiritual case, for the salvation of the soul; men must use means to come by grace, and so to salvation. But many in this regard are great enemies to their own souls; for they say, God is merciful, and Christ is a Saviour, and I hope He will save me; yet they will not use the means to come to salvation. But if we would be saved, then with our inward faith, we must join the observation of the outward ordinary means whereby God useth to save menŐs souls; as namely, the hearing of GodŐs Word, calling upon God by prayer, and the receiving of the sacraments; that thereby our sinful lives might be amended, and our faith strengthened. This must be remembered of us; for they that condemn or neglect the means, despise the grace and mercy of God offered therein; and therefore Paul saith of the Jews, when they put the gospel from them, that they did judge themselves unworthy of eternal life (Acts 13:46).
With them that disobeyed.
That is, with the people of Jericho. Question: How did they disobey? Answer: Thus: When Joshua and the people came unto them and offered them peace, if so be they would become their tributaries and servants, the inhabitants of Jericho would not yield unto them, but set themselves against the people of Israel, and so against God, in that they would not undertake that estate which God offered unto them; and therefore they are here esteemed disobedient.
Hence we learn that if it shall please God at any time to put us out of these temporary benefits which we enjoy in goods and possessions; we must be contented with GodŐs will and providence, and seek to obey God therein. The inhabitants of Jericho pay dearly for their disobedience in this case; God sets the Israelites as lords over them; and because they will not yield and become their servants, they die for it. DavidŐs practice was commendable in this case; for when he was put out of his own kingdom, by his own son, he murmured not, but said thus: If I shall find favour in the eyes of the Lord, he will bring me again; but if he say thus, I have no delight in thee; behold, here I am, let Him do to me as seemeth good in His eyes (2 Sam. 15:25,26). In other countries we see cities and towns spoiled and sacked; what must the people do? Answer: They must submit themselves to the LordŐs pleasure; knowing that He permitteth it, who may do what He will. And so, if it shall please God to bring us into the like case; as to suffer our enemies to have dominion over us, and to dispossess us of our places; we must submit ourselves to GodŐs good pleasure, when we see no help by lawful means; we must not murmur or rebel; for that is but to disobey, as the people of Jericho did; and so shall we be destroyed as they were. And thus much for the second point.
III. The third thing to be considered in this example is the testimony of her faith in receiving the spies peaceably. This was a notable work of faith, as St James noteth (Jam. 2:25), and the more commendable because she received them into her house and entertained them; yea, she preserved them in danger of her own life; for she did it contrary to the pleasure of the state under which she lived. But against this may be objected:
(1) First, that she lied in this fact; for when the king of JerichoŐs messengers came to search for the spies whom she had hid in the top of her house, she said to the messengers that they were gone another way. Now, how can it be a good work which was done with lying; especially to our superior who hath power to ask us, and to whom we are double bound to speak the truth? Answer: We must know that the work was good which she did; and a work of mercy to preserve GodŐs people, although she failed in the manner of doing it; she received them by faith, though she shewed distrust in lying for their safety. It was a notable work of Rebecca (Gen. 27:10), to cause her son Jacob to get his fatherŐs blessing, for so God had determined, and yet she failed in the manner.
(2) Question: But how could this work be good, being faulty in the manner of doing it? Answer: It might; for RebeccaŐs person stood righteous before God in Christ. Now the worker being acceptable unto God, the work must needs be good also; and though the worker failed in the circumstances, yet the evil of the work was covered in the obedience of Christ; and so the goodness of it was approved, and the fault thereof covered.
The use of this doctrine is twofold: First, it shews that the works of GodŐs children are partly good and partly bad; even the best works they do are imperfect. Secondly, this shews the true meaning of St James, when he saith that Rahab was justified by her works; hereby he means that by her works she declared herself to be just. For that she was not justified by her works appeareth plain; because the work which she did was faulty in the manner, and not perfectly good; and therefore could not be answerable to the perfect justice of God.
(3) But some will say further, that this concealing of the spies and lying to the kingŐs messengers, was a work of treachery against her own country; and therefore was a notorious fault, and so no work of faith. Answer: Treachery indeed is a great villany, as one man can practice against another; and therefore ought to be abhorred and detested of all men; but yet we must know that Rahab in this place is no traitor. For she had a plain certificate in her conscience that the land of Canaan and the city Jericho were given by the Lord to the people of Israel, and that they were the right lords thereof, and should enjoy them; so that she hid the spies not in treachery but in faith.
Thus we see her act. The duties which we learn hence are these:
(1) First, it is said that this harlot Rahab, being by calling an hostess and a victualler, received the spies peaceably. Hence innkeepers are taught their duty. First, if they will shew themselves faithful, they must have special regard and respect unto such guests of theirs as be the servants of God, and fear Him. This was the work of RahabŐs faith towards the spies of GodŐs people. David makes this the property of every godly man, that in his eyes a vile person is contemned, but he honoureth them that fear the Lord (Psa. 15:4). And therefore if innkeepers will shew themselves godly, they must so do. And to encourage each one hereto, our Saviour Christ maketh this notable promise (Matt. 10:41,42), He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet, shall receive a prophetŐs reward; and he that receiveth a just man, shall receive a just manŐs reward. And if any shall give to one of these little ones to drink, a cup of cold water only, in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward.
(2) Also, strangers are here taught that in seeking places for their abode, they must make choice to be with those that fear the Lord; so God directs them. And when Christ sent His disciples to preach, He bade them (Matt. 10:11), when they entered into a city, to enquire who is worthy in that city, and there to abide till they departed. But alas, these duties are little performed; especially the first. For innkeepers and such as entertain strangers do make most of those that give themselves to riot and good fellowship; they are best welcome that spend most in gaming, drinking and lasciviousness. These might learn otherwise of Rahab.
(3) Thirdly, innkeepers must here learn that when a man comes into their house (if he be no malefactor) they must give him protection. Thus Rahab doth here to the spies of the Israelites, even with the danger of her own life. The like also we may read of Lot; for when two angels in the likeness of men came into his house, and the men of Sodom would have had them out; Lot besought them to let them alone (Gen. 19:8), and his reason was because they came under the shadow of his roof.
(4) Again, hence we may learn another general duty; to wit that a Christian man in the time of persecution and danger, is not to discover his fellow brethren, or to detect them; but must rather endanger his own life by concealing them for their preservation. This was practiced by good Obadiah; when Jezabel killed the LordŐs prophets, he hid them by fifties in a cave; which if it had been known, would have cost him his life. And so did the apostles and brethren in the primitive church; when the Jews would have slain Paul in Damascus, the brethren took him by night, and let him down through the wall in a basket to save his life (Acts 9:25). And since those times, in the history of the church under the gospel, we may find that when the Christians were urged by persecutors to reveal their brethren, they rather chose to lay down their own lives than to betray their brethren into their enemies hands. And this is true love indeed, such as the Holy Ghost commendeth, when a man will give his life for his brother (1 John 3:16).
(5) Lastly, whereas Rahab received the spies peaceably, we note that it is a special fruit of faith to be peaceable and kind. The Holy Ghost, repeating the fruits of the Spirit, names peace and meekness amongst them. Now this peace is when a man is kind and peaceable to all, but especially those that be of the household of faith. And undoubtedly, it is a fruit of faith, which the prophet Isaiah foretold should be under the gospel (Isa. 11:6), that then the wolf should dwell with the lamb, and the leopard lie with the kid; signifying that howsoever men by nature were as savage as wolves, yet being converted to the kingdom of Christ, they should become gentle as lambs, being kind and peaceable one to another. This peaceableness is especially to be shewed in the place and calling where a man lives; for there did Rahab shew forth hers, when the spies came unto her. And where this is truly in outward action, there is faith in the heart; it is a good token that a man is at peace with God, when he lives peaceably with men. Which being so, we must learn not to give place to our heady affections, but must rather bridle rage of malice and anger, and endeavour to live peaceably with all, especially with those that be members of GodŐs church. And thus much of this example.