apostle ; for whilst they received not these promises, the country which
they looked after was heavenly. And in the close of this discourse, he
affirmeth of them who lived in Canaan in its greatest glory, and pos-
428 AN EXPOSITION OF THE [cH. Xl.
sessed it in quietness, as Samuel and David, that they received not the
promise, ver. 39.
Wherefore this promise is no other but that of the actual exhibition
of Christ in the flesh, with all the privileges of the church thereby*
which the apostle had so fully insisted on, ch. vii. â€” x. foregoing.
So in particular, Abraham's seeing the promises afar off, and embracing
them, is interpreted by his seeing the day of Christ, and rejoicing,
John viii. 56. This was the great fundamental promise of the blessing
Seed made unto Abraham, which virtually comprised in it all other
promises and blessings, temporal and eternal. This was that ' better
thing' which God had provided for us under the new testament, that
they without us should not be made perfect, ver. 40. And,
Obs. V. The due understanding of the whole old testament, with the
nature of the faith and obedience of all the saints under it, depends on
this one truth, that they believed things that were not yet actually ex-
hibited nor enjoyed. This is the line of life and truth that runs through
all their profession and duties ; the whole exercise of their faith and
love, without which it was but a dead carcase. It was Christ in the
promise, even before his coming, that was the life of the church in all
Obs. VI. God would have the church from the beginning of the world
to live on promises not actually accomplished. For although we do
enjoy the accomplishment of the great promise of the incarnation of the
Son of God, yet the church continues still to live on promises which,
in this world, cannot be perfectly fulfilled. And,
Obs. VII. We may receive the promises as to the comfort and benefit
of them, when we do not actually receive the things promised; see
ver. 1. And,
Obs. VIII. As our privileges in the enjoyment of the promises are
above theirs under the old testament, so our faith, thankfulness, and
obedience, ought to excel theirs also.
Thirdly. The third thing in the words is the exercise and actings of
their faith towards those promises which they had not yet received, that
is, in their full accomplishment. And this is expressed under two
heads : 1 . What did immediately respect the promises themselves.
2. What profession they made thereon, as unto all other things.
First. With respect to the promises themselves, there were three de-
grees of the actings of their faith. 1. They saw them afar off. 2. They
were persuaded of them. 3. They embraced them : wherein the whole
work of faith, with reference unto divine promises, is comprised and re-
gularly disposed. For sight or knowledge, with trust or assured per-
suasion, and adherence with love, comprise the whole work of faith.
1. They ' saw them afar off,' at a great distance, TroppwOsv avrag
iÂ£ovtÂ£Â£. This farther makes it evident, that it is the things promised,
and not the promises themselves, that are intended ; for the promises
were present with them, given unto them, and not afar off, The word
respects 'time,' and not 'distance of place:' E longinquo. It was
then a long space of time before those promises were to be accomplished.
And this space was gradually taken off and shortened, until it was said
to be 'a very little while,' Hag. ii. 6, 7, and he that was promised was
VER. 13.} EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS. 429
to come 'suddenly,' Mai. iii. 1. But at present it was far off. This
kept the 'church in a longing expectation and desire of the cominÂ«- of
this day, wherein the principal work of its faith and love did consist.
Obs. IX. No distance of time or place can weaken faith as unto the
accomplishment of divine promises. There are promises still left unto
us upon record, that are, it may be, afar off; such as those which con-
cern the destruction of antichrist, and the glory of the kingdom of
Christ in the latter days. The rule of faith concerning them is given
us, Hab. ii. 3, 4. Yea,
Obs. X. Quiet waiting for the accomplishment of promises at a great
distance, and which most probably will not be in our days, is an emi-
nent fruit of faith. He that believeth will not make haste.
Thus they ' saw them,' idovreg. It is an act of the mind and under-
standing that is expressed by this verb of sense. They understood the
mind of God in the promises, that is, in general ; and had the idea of
the things promised in their minds. It is true, they discerned not dis-
tinctly and particularly the whole of what was contained in them ; but
they considered them, and diligently inquired into the mind of God in
them, 1 Pet. i. 11, 12. They looked on the promises, they saw them
as a map, wherein was drawn up the whole scheme of divine wisdom,
goodness, and grace, for their deliverance from the state of sin and
misery; but at such a distance as that they could not clearly discern the
things themselves, but only saw a shadow of them.
And this is the first act of faith with respect unto divine promises,
namely, the discerning or understanding of the goodness, wisdom, love,
and grace of God in them, suited unto our deliverance and salvation.
And this I take to be intended in this expression, ' they saw them ;'
which expositors take no notice of.
2. They ' were persuaded of them,' Trsicr^vrtg, ' fully or certainly
persuaded of them,' as the word is used frequently. This is the second
act of faith with respect unto divine promises, and it is the mind's satis-
factory acquiescence in the truth of God, as unto their accomplishment ;
for when we discern the excellency of the things contained in them, the
next inquiry is after an assurance of our participation of them. And
herein, on the part of God, his truth and veracity do represent them-
selves unto us, Tit. i. 2. Hence ariseth a firm persuasion of mind con-
cerning their accomplishment. And to confirm this persuasion, God,
in infinite condescension, confirmed his promise and his truth therein
unto Abraham with his oath, as the apostle at large declares, ch. vi.
18â€” -18. Hereon they were assuredly persuaded, that they were not
empty flourishes, mere promises, that they were not subject unto any
disappointment; but notwithstanding their great distance, and the in-
terveniencc of all sorts of difficulties, they should certainly be accom-
plished in their appointed time and season, Isa. lx. 22.
Obs. XI. This firm persuasion of the truth of God in the accom-
plishment of his promises unto us, upon a discovery of their worth and
excellency, is the second act of faith, wherein the life of it doth princi-
3. On this persuasion, they 'embraced them,' aanaaafxtvoi. The
word signifies ' to salute,' and is applied unto such salutations as are
1,30 AN EXPOSITION OF THE [cil. XI.
accompanied with delight and veneration. And because this kind of
salutation is usually expressed by stretching out the hands to receive
and embrace that which is saluted, it is used also for ' to embrace,' which
is the most proper sense of it in this place. Wherefore this embracing
of the promises is the heart's cleaving to them with love, delight, and
complacency, which, if it be not a proper act of faith, yet is it an in-
separable fruit thereof.
The apostle therefore hath here given us a blessed representation of
the faith of these primitive believers, and therein of the frame of their
hearts and minds in their walking before God. God had given unto
them, had confirmed and repeated the great promise of the blessing Seed,
as a recoverer from the state of sin, misery, and death. They knew
that this, as unto the actual accomplishment of it, was yet at a great
distance from them ; howbeit they saw that of the divine wisdom, good-
ness, and grace in it, which was every way suited unto their satisfaction
and reward. Hereon they thrust forth the arms of their love and affec-
tion, to welcome, entertain, and embrace him who was promised. And
of this embracement of the promises, or of the Lord Christ in the pro-
mise, the book of Canticles is a blessed exposition. This was the life,
this was the comfort and support of their souls in all their wanderings,
under all their sufferings, in all the hazards and trials of their pilgrim-
age ; and seeing it succeeded so well with them, as the apostle in the
next verses declares, it is an eminent encouragement unto us to abide
in the profession of the faith of the gospel, notwithstanding all diffi-
culties, oppositions, and persecutions, that we meet withal ; we having
already received that great privilege, whereof they were only in the ex-
And we may observe by the way, the impiety of many in our days,
who even deride such a faith as hath the divine promises for its especial
object, which it embraceth, mixeth itself withal, and which produceth in
them in whom it is, an affiance in God for the accomplishment of these
promises unto themselves. For this was that faith whereby the elders
obtained a good report, and not a mere, naked, barren assent unto divine
revelation, which is all that they will allow unto it.
Secondly. The second effect of their faith was, that they confessed
that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. ' To confess,' is to
grant that which we cannot deny, whether we do it willingly or un-
willingly. But that is not the sense of the word here used : it hath
another signification. 'O/moXoyia is the profession that we make of our
faith and hope, 2 Cor. ix. IS; 1 Tim. vi. 12; Heb. hi. 1, iv. 14,
x. 23. And it is applied unto the witness which the Lord Christ
gave unto himself, and his doctrine, 1 Tim. vi. 13. So is the verb
o/xoXoytw constantly used, ' to avow publicly,' to profess openly, what
is our faith and hope, especially when we meet with danger on the ac-
count of it. See Matt. x. 32 ; Luke xii. 8; Rom. x. 9, 10.
That therefore which is ascribed unto these believers, is, that on all
occasions they avowedly professed that their interest was not in, nor of
this world; but that they had such a satisfactory portion in the promises
which they embraced, that they publicly renounced such a concern in
the world, as other men take whose portion is in this life. And,
VER 14.] EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS. 431
Obs. XII. This avowed renunciation of all other things besides
Christ in the promise, and the good-will of God in him, as to the repose
of any trust or confidence in them for our rest and satisfaction, is an
eminent act of that faith whereby we walk with God ; Jer. iii. 23, 24;
Hos. xiv. 2, 3.
That in particular which they thus professed of themselves, is that
they were Zzvoi icat TrantiriSrjiioi, ' strangers and pilgrims on the earth."
Rest or home is the perfection of our natures or beings ; and it was
originally intrusted with powers of operation for the attaining of it.
But by sin those powers are lost, and the end is no more by them at-
tainable ; yet we cannot but continue still to seek after it, and the most
of men do look for it in this world, in this life. This therefore is their
home, their country, their city of habitation. These believers pro-
fessed that it was not so with them, that this was not their rest, they
did but wander about in the world for a season. This profession made
Abraham, Gen. xxiii. 4, and Jacob, Gen. xlvii. 8, 9, and David, 1
Chron. xxix. 15; Ps. xxxix. 12. And that all believers are such, the
apostle Peter declares, 1 Pet. ii. 11.
If we distinguish these two sorts, %>tvoi, ' strangers,' are such as are
alway moving, having no abiding place at all; such as was the state of
our Lord Jesus Christ, during his ministry, when he had not where to
lay his head : TrapeiriSvpoi, ' or pilgrims,' are such as take up an abode
for a season, without an intermixture with the rights, duties, or privileges
of the place wherein they are.
This they are said to be, cm r>jc Yrjc, ' on the earth,' during their
whole continuance in this world. And an intimation is given of that
other state which they looked for, and wherein their interest did lie,
namely in heaven.
The sum of the whole is, that they professed themselves called out
of the world, separated from the world as unto interest, design, rest,
and reward ; having placed their faith, hope, and trust, as unto all these
things, in heaven above, and the good things to come. What it is to
be strangers and pilgrims in this world ; what actings of faith, what
frames of spirit, ought to be in them that are so, what evils and dangers
they shall be assuredly exposed unto, what duties the consideration
hereof is a motive unto, what use they may make of the world, and the
things of it, what is required to state them in the heavenly polity, where-
by, although they are pilgrims, yet they are not vagabonds, would be
here too long to explain.
Ver. 14. â€” From the profession of these patriarchs, that they were
strangers and pilgrims on the earth, the apostle makes an inference from
what is contained therein, which doth more expressly declare their faith
than the words themselves which they were said to use.
Ver. 14. â€” Ol yap roiavra Xe-yovrtc eptyaviZovaiv on 7rarpi^a Â£7nÂ£Â»j-
Yfr. 14. â€” For they that say such tilings, declare plainly that they
seek a country.
432 AN EXPOSITION OF THE [CH. XI.
Ot yap, 'for they that say such things ;' be they who they will, that
speak such things as these sincerely. Or these persons in their cir-
cumstances saying such things, as they are recorded in the Scripture to
have spoken and publicly avowed.
E/t^avt^ouo-tv, ' declare plainly.' They make it manifest and evident
unto all ; that is, there is this plain open meaning and sense in their
words. This is that which may easily be known to have been their
mind, and what they designed in their words or expressions.
And this was that they did seek a country or a city for themselves, as
the Syriac expresseth it. That Â£7nÂ£rrrou
after it,' as the word signifies, or seek it with diligence.
There is an entrance in these words on a train of evident conse-
quences, one upon and from another, which he pursues in the next verses.
For from their profession, he concludes that they desired a country ;
and if they did so, it must be either that from whence they came, or
some other. That from whence they came it could not be, for the reason
he assigns. And if some other, it must be a better than either that
from whence they came, or where they were ; which could be no other
but a heavenly country, that is, heaven itself.
And some few things we may observe on this first inference of the
apostle ; as,
Obs. I. This is the genuine and proper way of interpreting the Scrip-
ture, when from the words themselves, considered with relation unto
the persons speaking of them, and to all their circumstances, we declare
what was their determinate mind and sense. â€” Hereunto, on the due ap-
prehension of the literal sense of the words themselves, the studious
exercise of reason in all proper ways of arguing, is required. Some
there are who deny all exposition of the Scripture, which is to say, that
it ought not to be understood. Some are feigned to suppose, that there
is nothing needful hereunto but spiritual illumination. And some think
there is no need of any such thing thereunto, but only the common use
of our rational faculties, as in the understanding of other arts and
sciences ; the vanity of all which imaginations, I have at large elsewhere
discovered and disproved.
The inference of the apostle from these words of the patriarchs, is
so evident and uncontrollable, that he affirms that they themselves de-
clare plainly, what he declares to be their sense contained in their
words ; and indeed take the words precisely, without a consideration of
the mind wherewith they were spoken, the circumstances in which, and
the end for which they were spoken, and they do not express any pecu-
liar act or fruit of faith. For the very heathen had an apprehension
that this life is but a kind of pilgrmage. So speaks Cicero, De Se-
nectute. Ex hac vita ita discedo tanquam ex hospitio non tanquam ex
domo. Commorandi enim diversorium natura nobis, non habitandi
dedit. But under their circumstances, there must be another sense in
the words. For they speak them not as the common condition of man-
kind, but as their peculiar portion in the world, with respect unto the
promises of God. And herein in general they declare a sense of want,
of an indigent condition ; that it is not with them as with others, who
have their portion in this life. And whoever declares a sense of want,
VEU. 15.] EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS. 4,33
at the same time declares a desire of a suitable supply of that want,
which is included in the sense of it. And the want which they so de-
clared, consisting in this, that in this world they were strangers and
pilgrims, the only supply whereof is a country of their own for them to
inhabit and enjoy, with all its rights and privileges, they declared plainly
therein, that they sought a country. For it is only when men obtain
that which is wanting to them, as they are strangers and pilgrims, that
they will cease so to be. Most men do meet with, and are sensible of,
sundry wants, yet they are such as may be supplied in the place where
they are in this world ; and their great desire, with their utmost endea-
vour, is that they may be here supplied. Such persons, be they never
so poor, or indigent, or harbourless, are not pilgrims on the earth : this
is their home, although they are but ordinarily provided for. Much less
are they so, who have an affluence of all things unto their satisfaction,
though they sometimes meet with a pinch or loss. They only are so,
who live always in a sense of such wants as this world cannot supply.
Ver. 15. â€” Whereas these patriarchs did thus express their desire of
a country, and diligently sought after it, it may be because having lost
their own country, their relations and enjoyments, meeting with the
difficulties of a wandering course of life, they had a desire to return
home again, where they might have quiet habitations. This objection,
which, if of force, would overthrow his present design, the apostle
obviates and removes in this verse.
Ver. 15. â€” Kcu ei fitv EKttvrjc euvr]fiovtvov a^' i)c e^tjASov, ei^ov av
Ver. 15. â€” And truly if they had been mindful of that from whence
they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned.
There is in the words, 1. A supposition that these pilgrims had ori-
ginally a country of their own whereunto they did belong. 2. An
assertion, First. That they left this country of their own accord.
Secondly. That in the profession they made of their being strangers
and pilgrims, they had no respect to the country they left, nor desire to
return to it; which, 3. Is proved by the possibility and facility of such
1. Originally they had a country of their own, tKtivrig afi f)g t^XOov.
This was ' Ur of the Chaldees,' Gen. xi. 32, called also ' Mesopota-
mia,' Acts vii. 2 ; Gen. xxiv. 10 ; 'the country on the other side of the
flood,' Josh. xxiv. 2. Wherefore respect may be had either to Ur of
the Chaldees, which Abraham first left with his father, or Haran on the
other side of Euphrates, where lie first dwelt.
2. From this country t^XOov, ' they went out.' They left it, they
departed from it on the command of God. That is, Abraham ami
Sarah did so; and Isaac with .Jacob continuing to follow them in obe-
dience to the same call, are said to do so also. And they went forth of
it, not for want, or to increase their riches; for Abraham had posses-
sions and goods therein ; nor were they driven out by external force or
VOL. IV. F F
434 AN EXPOSITION OF THE [cH. XI.
persecution, as the Jews fancy, but in an obediental compliance with
the call of God, and this secured them from all desires of a return.
3. In their profession of being strangers and pilgrims, they had not
respect to this country. Et mvrifjLovevov. Si meminissent, si memores
fuissent ; si recordarentur, si mentionem fecissent. Syr. Si quoerentes
essent. We render it well, ' if they had been mindful,' that is, remem-
bered it with a mind and desire after it. It is natural to all men to
remember, to mind, and desire their own country. Nothing is more
celebrated amongst all sorts of ancient writers, nor more illustrated by
examples, than the love of men to their country, and their fervent de-
sire after the enjoyment of it. Especially it was made evident in many
when they came to die :
Et dulces moriens reminiscitur Argos.
This love to, this desire after their native soil, was mortified in these
holy persons by faith, acting in obedience to the call of God, so as that
no remembrance of their first enjoyments, no impressions from their
native air, no bonds of consanguinity among the people, no difficulties-
they met withal in their wanderings, could kindle in them any peculiar
love to, or desire after this country. They minded it not.
Obs. I. It is in the nature of faith to mortify, not only corrupt and
sinful lusts, but our natural affections, and their most vehement incli-
nations, though in themselves innocent, if they are any way uncompliant
with duties of obedience to the commands of God. Yea, herein lies
the principal trial of the sincerity and power of faith. Our lives, pa-
rents, wives, children, houses, possessions, our country, are the princi-
pal, proper, lawful objects of our natural affections. But when they, or
any of them, stand in the way of God's commands, if they are hinder-
ances to the doing or suffering any thing according to his will, faith
doth not only mortify, weaken, and take off that love, but gives us a
comparative hatred of them ; Matt. x. 37 ; Luke xiv. 26 ; John xii. 25.
4. That they had not respect to this country in the profession they
made, the apostle proves from hence, that they might have returned to
it, if they had any mind thereunto. Wherefore should they thus com-
plain, when they might have gone home when they would ? Et^ov av,
' they might have had,' or as some copies read, only etxov, ' they had,'
which better expresseth the mind of the apostle. For not only they
'might have had,' but really they 'had,' (as we shall see,) sundry
opportunities of returning. Kaipov, tempus, Vul. Lat. opportunitatem,
'a season,' a fit and meet time so to do. For, 1. From the call of
Abraham to the death of Jacob there were two hundred years ; so as
they had time enough for a return if they had a mind to it. 2. There
was no external difficulty thereunto by force or opposition. 3. The
way was not so far, but that Abraham sent his servant thither out of
Canaan, and Jacob went the same journey with his staff. But they
gave sundry evidences also that they would not on any opportunity
return thither ; for the text in the best reading grants that such oppor-
tunities they had. So when Abraham sent his servant to take a wife
for Isaac from thence, on his servant's inquiry whether if the woman
would not come with him he should engage his son to return thither,
VER. 113.] EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS. 135
when so great an opportunity was offered, replied, ' Beware that thou
bring not my son thither,' namely, to the land from whence I came,
Gen. xxiv. 5, 6. And afterwards, when Jacob going thither, on the
like occasion, was increased there greatly with a numerous family,
wives, children, goods, riches, and cattle in abundance ; yet there he
would not stay, but through innumerable hazards returned again into
Canaan, Gen. xxxi. It is therefore most evident, that no opportunity
could draw them to think of aniKupipai, 'a return' into their own coun-
try ; and therefore it could not be that, with respect whereunto they
professed themselves to be strangers and pilgrims ; that was not the
country which they did seek and desire.
Obs. II. And it appears hence, that when the hearts and minds of
believers are fixed on things spiritual and heavenly, as theirs were, it
will take them off from inordinate cleaving to things otherwise greatly
Ver. 16. â€” The apostle hereon draws another inference, wherein he
expresseth the true real object of their faith and desires, with the great
advantage and dignity which they obtained thereon.
Ver. 16. â€” Nvvt Se tcptiTTOVoq onsyovrai, tovtzgtiv, ETrovpaviov' dm
ovk eTrat(T^vvÂ£Tat avrovg b 0Â£oc, Oeoc eiriKaXeia^ai avru)v' i\TOipucsz
yap avroig tto\iv.
Nim Sf. Atqui nunc autem. Syr. Njy>T pNffllT, 'but now it is
lcnown,' or 'certain,' it appears by the event.