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Hebrews 11

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THE general nature of this epistle, as unto the kind of writing, is parenetical or hortatory; which is taken from its end and design. And the exhortation proposed is unto constancy and perseverance in the faith of the Lord Jesus Christ and profession of the gospel, against temptations and persecutions. Both these the Hebrews had to conflict withal in their profession; the one from the Judaical church-state itself; the other from the members of it. Their temptations to draw back and forsake their profession, arose from the consideration of the Judaical church-state and Mosaical ordinances of worship, which they were called unto a relinquishment of by the gospel. The divine institution of that state, with its worship; the solemnity of the covenant whereon it was established; the glory of its priesthood, sacrifices, and other divine ordinances (as Romans 9:4), with their efficacy for acceptance with God; were continually proposed unto them and pressed on them, to allure and draw them off from the gospel. And the trial was very great, after the inconsistency of the two states was made manifest. This gave occasion unto the whole doctrinal part of the epistle, whose exposition, by divine grace and assistance, we have passed through. For therein declaring the nature, use, end, and signification, of all divine institutions under the old testament, and allowing unto them all the glory and efficacy which they could pretend unto, he evidently declares, from the Scripture itself, that the state of the gospel-church, in its high priest, sacrifice, covenant, worship, privileges, and efficacy, is incomparably to be preferred above that of the old testament; yea, that all the excellency and glory of that state, and all that belonged unto it, consisted only in the representation that was made thereby of the greater glory of Christ and the gospel, without which they were of no use, and therefore ruinous or pernicious to be persisted in.

After he hath fixed their minds in the truth, and armed them against the temptations which they were continually exposed unto, the apostle proceeds to the second means whereby their steadiness and constancy in the profession of the gospel, which he exhorted them unto, was already assaulted, and was yet like to be so with greater force and fury; and this was from the opposition which befell them, and persecutions of all sorts that they did and were like to undergo, for their faith in Christ Jesus, with the profession thereof and observance of the holy worship ordained in the gospel. This they met withal from the obstinate members of the Jewish church, as they did the other from the state of that church itself.

An account hereof the apostle enters upon in the close of the foregoing chapter; and withal declares unto them the only way and means, on their part, whereby they may be preserved and kept constant unto their profession, notwithstanding all the evils that might befall them therein; and this is by faith alone. From their temptations they were delivered by the doctrine of truth; and from the opposition made unto them, by faith in exercise.

But whereas they were things grievous and dreadful that were like to befall them, which would at length probably arise to blood, or the loss of their lives, Hebrews 12:4, it was necessary to know what this faith is, and what evidence can be produced to prove that it is able to effect this great work of preserving the souls of men in the profession of the truth under bloody and destructive persecutions.

To comply with and give satisfaction on this necessary inquiry, the apostle in this whole chapter diverts to give a description or declaration of faith in general, whence it is meet and suited to produce that effect in the minds of believers; as also, to confirm by instances, that it had formerly, even from the beginning of the world, wrought effects of the same nature, or those which in greatness and glory were parallel thereunto. And hereon he takes advantage, according unto his constant method in this epistle, to make a full transition unto the hortatory part of the epistle, which gives life unto the whole; and which he made provision for, and some entrance into, Hebrews 10:19, as hath been declared.

And that this is the design of the apostle, is evident beyond contradiction, in the inference which he makes from his whole discourse hereon, with the exhortation he presseth from it, in the beginning of the next chapter, verses 1-3, “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied, and faint in your minds,” etc. This is that which he designed to effect in their mind by his discourse of the nature of faith, and the instances given of its efficacy. The principal way whereby faith worketh in this case, of encountering the difficulties which lie in the way of constancy in profession unto the end, is patience preserving the soul from fainting and weariness. This he had before proposed in the example of Abraham, Hebrews 6:15; whereof see the exposition.

This being the design of the apostle, the missing of it hath caused sundry contests among expositors and others about the nature of justifying faith, which is not here at all spoken unto. For the apostle treats not in this place of justification, or of faith as justifying, or of its interest in justification; but of its efficacy and operation in them that are justified, with respect unto constancy and perseverance in their profession, notwithstanding the difficulties which they have to conflict withal; in the same way as it is treated of James 2:0.

The instances which he chooseth out unto this purpose, in a long season and tract of time, even from the beginning of the world unto the end of the church-state under the old testament, about the space of four thousand years, as unto the variety of their seasons, the distinct nature of the duties, and the effects expressed in them, with their influence into his present argument and exhortation, shall, God willing, be considered in our progress.

This only we may observe in general, that it is faith alone which, from the beginning of the world, in all ages, under all dispensations of divine grace, and all alterations in the church-state and worship, hath been the only principle in the church of living unto God, of obtaining the promises, of inheriting life eternal; and doth continue so to be unto the consummation of all things. For the recording here of what it hath done, is only to evidence what yet it will continue to do. Faith can do all things that belong unto the life of God; and without it nothing can be done. Spiritual life is by faith, Galatians 2:20; and victory, 1 John 5:4; and perseverance, 1 Peter 1:5; and salvation, Ephesians 2:8, 1 Peter 1:9: and so they were from the beginning.

Verse 1

The first verse gives such a description of the nature of faith, as evidenceth its fitness and meetness unto the effecting of the great work assigned unto it, namely, the preservation of believers in the profession of the gospel with constancy and perseverance.

Hebrews 11:1 . ῎Εστι δὲ πίστις ἐλπιζομένων ὑπόστασις , πραγμάτων ἔλεγχος οὐ βλεπομένων .

The Vulgar translation placeth the comma after πραγμάτων ; “sperandarum substantia rerum,” excluding “rerum” from the last clause. Both ἐλπιζομένων and βλεπομένων being of the neuter gender, may either of them agree with πραγμάτων , and the other be used absolutely. “Sperandorum;” that is, “quae sperantur.”

῾Ψπόστασις . “Substantia,” Vulg. Lat. So we, “the substance;” Beza,” illud quo subsistunt;” others, “id quo extant;” that whereby things hoped for exist or subsist Syr., פְיָסָא עַל אִילֵין בְּסַבְרָא אֵיךְ הָו דַּהֲוַי לְהֵין בְּסוּעֲיָנָא “a persuasion of the things that are in hope, as if they were unto them in effect;” which goes a great way towards the true exposition of the words.

῎Ελεγχος . Vulg. Lat., “argumentum illud quod demonstrat;” or “quae demonstrat;” “that which doth evidently prove or declare” Syr, גֶלְיָנָא , “the revelation of things that are not seen.”

῾Ψπόστασις is a word not used in the Scripture, but 2Co 9:4 ; 2 Corinthians 11:17, and in this epistle, wherein it three times occurs. In the first it is applied to express a distinct manner of subsistence in the divine nature, Hebrews 1:3; in the second, a firm persuasion of the truth, supporting our souls in the profession of it, Hebrews 3:14. See the exposition of those places. Here we render it substance. More properly it is a real subsistence: Τῶν ἐν ἀέρι φαντασμάτων , τὰ μέν ἐστι κατ᾿ ἔμφασιν , τὰ δὲ καθ᾿ ὑπόστασιν , Aristot. de Mundo; “Of the things that are seen in the air, some have only an appearance, others have the real subsistence” of nature; are really subsistent, in contradiction unto appearing phantasms. As it is applied to signify a quality in the minds of men, it denotes confidence, or presence of mind without fear, as in the places above, 2 Corinthians 9:4; 2 Corinthians 11:17. Polybius of Cocles, Οὐχ οὕτω τὴν δύναμιν , ὡς τὴν ὑπόστασιν αὐτοῦ , etc.; “They wondered not so much at his strength, as his boldness, courage, confidence.” The first sense is proper to this place; whence it is rendered by many, “that whereby they exist.” And the sense of the place is well expressed in the Greek scholiast:

Επιδὴ γὰρ τὰ ἐν ἐλπίσον ἀνυπόστατά ἐστιν ὠς τέως μὴ παρόντα ἡ πίστις οὐσία τις αὐτῶν καὶ ὑπόστασις γίνεται ει῏ναι αὐτὰ καὶ παρεῖναι τρόππον τινὰ παρσκενάζουσα “Whereas things that are in hope only have no subsistence of their own, as being not present; faith becomes the subsistence of them, making them to be present after a certain manner.”

I shall retain in the translation the word “substance,” as it is opposed unto that which hath no real being or subsistence, but is only an appearance of things.

῎Ελεγχος is usually a “conviction” accompanied with a reproof; “redargutio:” and so the verb is commonly used in the New Testament; as the noun also: Matthew 18:15; Luke 3:19; John 3:20; John 8:46; John 16:8; 1 Corinthians 14:24; Ephesians 5:11; Ephesians 5:13; 1 Timothy 5:20; Titus 1:9; Titus 1:13; 2 Timothy 3:16. Sometimes it is taken absolutely, as a “demonstration,” a convincing, undeniable proof and evidence: that which makes evident. Syr., “the revelation;” the way or means whereby they are [1] made known.’

[1] EXPOSITION. Griesbach and Knapp adopt the following punctuationHebrews 11:1; Hebrews 11:1: ῎Εστι δὲ πίστις , ἐλπιζομένων ὑπόστασις , etc.: which is probably correct; for the following verses, to which the first is an introduction, do not point out the evidence of the πίστις , but its existence (together with its blissful consequences), in the holiest men of the Old Testament history. Besides, γάρ , in verse 2, would be wholly superfluous, if we translated, with most interpreters, “Faith is the substance”or “evidence.” Punctuated as above, the whole is consistent, and the parts well connected: thus, “There is a faith,” a “confidence,” etc.; “for by it the elders obtained a good report.” It should not be overlooked that ἔστι stands in the beginning of the verse; though this in itself is by no means decisive. Winer. Henry Stephens quotes this verse with the punctuation which is commended by Winer. See his Thesaurus. ED.

Hebrews 11:1 . Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

First, The respect and connection of these words unto the preceding discourse is in the particle δέ , which we render “now:” for it is not adversative or exceptive in this place, as it is usually, but illative, denoting the introduction of a further confirmation of what was before declared:

‘That is, faith will do and effect what is ascribed unto it, in the preservation of your souls in the life of God, and constancy in profession; for “it is the substance,” etc.’The observation of the design of the apostle dischargeth all the disputes of expositors on this place about the nature and definition of faith, seeing he describes only one property of it, with respect unto a peculiar end, as was said before.

Secondly, The subject spoken of is “faith,” that faith whereby the just doth live; that is, faith divine, supernatural, justifying, and saving, the faith of God’s elect, the faith that is not of ourselves, that is of the operation of God, wherewith all true believers are endowed from above. It is therefore justifying faith that the apostle here speaks concerning; but he speaks not of it as justifying, but as it is effectually useful in our whole life unto God, especially as unto constancy and perseverance in profession.

Thirdly, Unto this faith two things are ascribed:

1. That it is “the substance of things hoped for.”

2. That it is “the evidence of things not seen.” And,

1. We must first inquire what are these things; and then what are the acts of faith with respect unto them.

These things for the substance of them are the same, the same πράγματα ; but they are proposed under various considerations. For, that they may be useful unto us as they are hoped for, they are to have a present subsistence given unto them; as they are unseen, they are to be made evident: both which are done by faith.

(1.) “Things hoped for,” in general, are things good, promised, future, expected on unfailing grounds. The things, therefore, here intended as “hoped for,” are all the things that are divinely promised unto them that believe, all things of present grace and future glory. For even the things of present grace are the objects of hope:

[1.] With respect unto the degrees and measures of our participation of them. Believers live in the hope of increase of grace, because it is promised.

[2.] Absolutely, as unto the grace of perseverance in grace, which is future until its full accomplishment. As unto the things of future glory, see what hath been discoursed on Hebrews 6:19-20; Hebrews 8:5.

All these things, as they are promised, and so far as they are so, are the objects of our hope. And that the good things of the pro-raises are the things here intended, the apostle declares in his ensuing discourse, where he makes the end and effect of the faith which he doth so commend to be the enjoyment of the promises. Hope in God for these things, to be received in their appointed season, is the great support of believers under all their trials, in the whole course of their profession, temptations, obedience, and sufferings. “We are saved by hope,” Romans 8:24. But yet I will not say that “things hoped for” and “things unseen” are absolutely the same; so as that there should be nothing hoped for but what is unseen, which is true; nor any thing unseen but what is hoped for, which is not so: for there are things which are the objects of faith which are unseen and yet not hoped for, such is the creation of the world, wherein the apostle gives an instance in the first place. But generally they are things of the same nature that are intended, whereunto faith gives present subsistence as they are real, and evidence as they are true.

But still these things as hoped for are future, not yet in themselves enjoyed; and so, although hope comprises in it trust, confidence, and an assured expectation, giving great supportment unto the soul, yet the influence of things hoped for into our comfort and stability is weakened somewhat by their absence and distance.

This is that which faith supplies; it gives those things hoped for, and as they are hoped for, a real subsistence in the minds and souls of them that do believe: and this is the sense of the words. Some would have ὑπόστασις in this place to be “confidence in expectation; which is hope, and not faith. Some render it the “principle,” or foundation; which neither expresseth the sense of the word nor reacheth the scope of the place. But this sense of it is that which both the best translators and the ancient expositors give countenance unto: “Illud ex quo subsistunt, extant.” Faith is that whereby they do subsist. And where do they so subsist as if they were actually in effect, whilst they are yet hoped for “In them,” saith the Syriac translation; that is, in them that do believe. “Faith is the essence of these things, and their subsistence, causing them to be, and to be present, because it believes them,” saith OEcumenius. And Theophylact to the same purpose, “Faith is the essence of those things which yet are not; the subsistence of those which in themselves do not yet subsist.” And yet more plainly in the scholiast before recited: or, it is the substance or subsistence of those things, that is, metonymically or instrumentally, in that it is the cause and means giving them a subsistence. But how this is done hath not been declared. This, therefore, is that which we must briefly inquire into.

(2.) There are several things whereby faith gives a present subsistence unto things future, and so hoped for:

[1.] By m ixing itself with the promises wherein they are contained. Divine promises do not only declare the good things promised, namely, that there are such things which God will bestow on believers, but they contain them by virtue of divine institution. Hence are they called “the breasts of consolations,” Isaiah 66:11, as those which contain the refreshment which they exhibit and convey. They are the treasury wherein God hath laid them up. Hence to “receive a promise,” is to receive the things promised, which are contained in it, and exhibited by it, 2Co 5:1 ; 2 Peter 1:4. Now faith mixeth and incorporateth itself with the word of promise, Hebrews 4:2. See the exposition of it. Hereby what is in the word it makes its own, and so the things themselves believed are enjoyed; which is their subsistence in us.

[2.] By giving unto the soul a taste of their goodness, yea, making them the food thereof; which they cannot be unless they are really present unto it. We do by it, not only “taste that the Lord is gracious,” 1 Peter 2:3, that is, have an experience of the grace of God in the sweetness and goodness of the things he hath promised and doth bestow, but the word itself is the meat, the food, the milk and strong meat of believers; because it doth really exhibit unto their faith the goodness, sweetness, and nourishing virtue of spiritual things. They feed on them, and they incorporate with them; which is their present subsistence.

[3.] It gives an experience of their power, as unto all the ends which they are promised for. Their use and end in general is to change and transform the whole soul into the image of God, by a conformity unto Jesus Christ, the first-born. This we lost by sin, and this the good things of the promise do restore us unto, Ephesians 4:20-24. It is not truth merely as truth, but truth as conveying the things contained in it into the soul, that is powerfully operative unto this end. Truth, faith, and grace, being all united in one living, operative principle in the soul, give the things hoped for a subsistence therein. This is an eminent way of faith’s giving a subsistence unto things hoped for, in the souls of believers. Where this is not, they are unto men as clouds afar off, which yield them no refreshing showers. Expectations of things hoped for, when they are not in this power and efficacy brought by faith into the soul, are ruinous self-deceivings. To have a subsistence in us, is to abide in us in their power and efficacy unto all the ends of our spiritual life. See Ephesians 3:16-19.

[4.] It really communicates unto us, or we do receive by it, the first-fruits of them all. They are present and do subsist, even the greatest, most glorious and heavenly of them, in believers, in their first-fruits. These first- fruits are the Spirit as a Spirit of grace, sanctification, supplication, and consolation, Romans 8:23. For he is the seal, the earnest, and the pledge, of present grace and future glory, of all the good things hoped for, 2 Corinthians 1:22. This Spirit we receive by faith. The world cannot receive him, John 14:17; the law could not give him, Galatians 3:2. And wherever he is, there is an ὑπόστασις , a present subsistence of all things hoped for, namely, in their beginning, assurance, and benefit.

[5.] It doth it by giving a representation of their beauty and glory unto the minds of them that believe, whereby they behold them as if they were present. So Abraham by faith saw the day of Christ, and rejoiced; and the saints under the old testament saw the King in his beauty, 2 Corinthians 3:18; 2 Corinthians 4:6.

In these ways, and by these means, “faith is the substance of things hoped for;” and,

Obs. 1. No faith will carry us through the difficulties of our profession, from oppositions within and without, giving us constancy and perseverance therein unto the end, but that only which gives the good things hoped for a real subsistence in our minds and souls. But when, by mixing itself with the promise, which is the foundation of hope, (for to hope for any thing but what is promised, is to deceive ourselves,) it gives us a taste of their goodness, an experience of their power, the inhabitation of their first-fruits, and a view of their glory, it will infallibly effect this blessed end.

2. It is said in the description of this faith, that it is “the evidence of things not seen.” And we must inquire,

(1.) What are the things that are not seen;

(2.) How faith is the evidence of them;

(3.) How it conduceth, in its being so, unto patience, constancy, and perseverance in profession.

(1.) By “things not seen,” the apostle intends all those things which are not objected or proposed unto our outward senses, which may and ought to have an influence into our constancy and perseverance in profession. Now, these are God himself, the holy properties of his nature, the person of Christ, and of the Holy Spirit, all spiritual, heavenly, and eternal things that are promised, and not yet actually enjoyed. All these things are either absolutely invisible unto sense and reason, or at least so far, and under those considerations whereby they may have an influence into our profession. Every thing is invisible which nothing but faith can make use of and improve unto this end, 1 Corinthians 2:9-12.

These invisible things are of three sorts:

[1.] Such as are absolutely so in their own nature, as God himself, with his eternal power and Godhead, or the properties of his nature, Romans 1:20.

[2.] Such as are so in their causes; such is the fabric of heaven and earth, as the apostle declares, Hebrews 11:3.

[3.] Such as are so on the account of their distance from us in time and place; such are all the future glories of heaven, 2 Corinthians 4:18.

Obs. 2. The peculiar specifical nature of faith, whereby it is differenced from all other powers, acts, and graces in the mind, lies in this, that it makes a life on things invisible. It is not only conversant about them, but mixeth itself with them, making them the spiritual nourishment of the soul, 2 Corinthians 4:16-18. And,

Obs. 3. The glory of our religion is, that it depends on, and is resolved into invisible things. They are far more excellent and glorious than any thing that sense can behold or reason discover, 1 Corinthians 2:9.

(2.) Of these invisible things, as they have an influence into our profession, faith is said to be the ἔλεγχος , the “evidence,” the “demonstration,” that which demonstrates; the “revelation.” Properly, it is such a proof or demonstration of any thing as carries with it an answer unto and a confutation of all objections unto the contrary: a convincing evidence, plainly reproving and refuting all things that pretend against the truth so evidenced. So it is sometimes used for a reproof, sometimes for a conviction, sometimes for an evident demonstration. See the use of the verb to this purpose, Matthew 18:15; Luke 3:19; John 3:20; John 8:9; Joh 16:8 ; 1 Corinthians 14:25; Ephesians 5:13; Titus 1:9; James 2:9: and of the noun, 2 Timothy 3:16.

Obs. 4. There are great objections apt to lie against invisible things, when they are externally revealed. Man would desirously live the life of sense, or at least believe no more than what he can have a scientifical demonstration of.

But by these means we cannot have an evidence of invisible things; at best not such as may have an influence into our Christian profession. This is done by faith alone. We may have apprehensions of sundry invisible things by reason and the light of nature, as the apostle declares, Romans 1:0; but we cannot have such an evidence of them as shall have the properties of the ἔλογχος here intended. It will not reprove and silence the objections of unbelief against them; it will not influence our souls into patient continuance in well-doing. Now, faith is not the evidence and demonstration of these things unto all, which the Scripture alone is; but it is an evidence in and unto them that do believe, they have this evidence of them in themselves. For,

[1.] Faith is that gracious power of the mind whereby it firmly assents unto divine revelation upon the sole authority of God, the revealer, as the first essential truth, and fountain of all truth. It is unto faith that the revelation of these invisible things is made; which it mixeth and incorporates itself withal, whereby it gives an evidence unto them. Hence the Syriac translation renders the word by “revelation,” ascribing that unto the act which is the property of the object. This assent of faith is accompanied with a satisfactory evidence of the things themselves. See our discourse of [2] the Divine Original and Authority of the Scriptures.

[2] See vol. 16 p. 281, of miscellaneous works. ED.

[2.] It is by faith that all objections against them, their being and reality, are answered and refuted; which is required unto an ἔλεγχος . Many such there are, over all which faith is victorious, Ephesians 6:16. All the temptations of Satan, especially such as are called his “fiery darts,” consist in objections against invisible things; either as unto their being, or as unto our interest in them. All the actings of unbelief in us are to the same purpose. To reprove and silence them is the work of faith alone; and such a work it is as without which we can maintain our spiritual life neither in its power within nor its profession without. [3.] Faith brings into the soul an experience of their power and efficacy, whereby it is cast into the mould of them, or made conformable unto them, Romans 6:17; Ephesians 4:21-23. This gives an assurance unto the mind, though not of the same nature, yet more excellent than that of any scientific demonstration.

(3.) Faith, in its being thus “the evidence of things not seen,” is the great means of the preservation of believers in constant, patient profession of the gospel, against all opposition, and under the fiercest persecutions; which is the thing the apostle aims to demonstrate. For,

[1.] It plainly discovers, that the worst of what we can undergo in this world, for the profession of the gospel, bears no proportion unto the excellency and glory of those invisible things which it gives us an interest in and a participation of. So the apostle argues, Romans 8:18; 2 Corinthians 4:16-18.

[2.] It brings in such a present sense of their goodness, power, and efficacy, that not only relieves and refresheth the soul under all its sufferings, but makes it joyful in them, and victorious over them, Romans 5:3-5; Romans 8:34-37; 1 Peter 1:6-8.

[3.] It gives an assurance hereby of the greatness and glory of the eternal reward; which is the greatest encouragement unto constancy in believing, 1 Peter 4:12-13.

In this description of faith, the apostle hath laid an assured foundation of his main position, concerning the cause and means of constancy in profession under trouble and persecution; with a discovery of the nature and end of the ensuing instances, with their suitableness unto his purpose. And we may observe in general, that,

Obs. 5. It is faith alone that takes believers out of this world whilst they are in it, that exalts them above it whilst they are under its rage; that enables them to live upon things future and invisible, giving such a real subsistence unto their power in them, and victorious evidence of their reality and truth in themselves, as secures them from fainting under all oppositions, temptations, and persecutions whatever.

Verse 2

That the description which he hath given of faith, and the efficacy which he hath assigned thereunto, are true, and to be relied on, the apostle proves by the effects which, as such, it hath had in those of old in whom it was.

Hebrews 11:2 . ᾿Εν ταύτῃ γὰρ ἑμαρτυρήθησαν οἱ πρεσβύτεροι .

᾿Εν ταύτῃ , “in hac,” “de hac,” “ob hanc,” “ob eam;” all to the same purpose. ᾿Εμαρτυρήθησαν , “testimonium consequuti,” “adepti;” “testimonio ornati.” Syr., בְּהָדָא הֲוָת סָהֲדוּתָא עַל קַשִׁישֵׁא , “And hereof” (or of this faith) “there is extant a testimony concerning the ancients;” which somewhat changeth the sense.

Πρεσβύτεροι , “seniores,” “majores,” “antiqui.” Syr., “those of ancient times;” properly, not הַזְקַנִים but הקַּדְמֹנִים , “priores,” those of old. Μαρτυρέω is “to testify,” “to bear witness,” absolutely; but it is generally used only in the better sense, “to give a good testimony,” “to approve by testimony,” “to adorn with a good testimony.” So is the passive, μαρτυρέομαι , used: which I observe only because the word is here used absolutely, ἐμαρτυρήζησαν , “were witnessed unto;” which we render,” obtained a good report.” So is it also used, Acts 6:3, ἄνδρας μαρτυρουμένους , “men witnessed unto,” “men of good report;” and Acts 10:22, μαρτυρούμενοι ὑπὸ ὅλου τοῦ ἔθνους , “of good report;” and so in other places.

“Were testified unto:” wherein and for what is not expressed; that we shall immediately inquire into. “There is a testimony extant concerning their faith,” as the Syriac reads it, doth not reach the sense of the place; for it intends not so much what good testimony they had, as the way whereby they obtained it, ᾿Εν ταύτῃ for διὰ ταυτῆς , as is usual; “by it,” through it as the means and instrumental cause of it. Our Rhemists render the words somewhat in an uncouth manner, “for in it the old men obtained testimony;” as if it were on purpose to obscure the text.

Hebrews 11:2 . For by it the elders obtained a good report: [or, were well testified unto. ] The coherence of the words with the foregoing is expressed in the conjunctive particle γάρ , “for:” and it declares that a proof is tendered, by way of instance, of what was before asserted. ‘The nature and efficacy of faith is such as I have described; “for by it the elders,” etc.’This they could no way have done, but by that faith whereof these are the properties.

Obs. 1. Instances or examples are the most powerful confirmations of practical truths.

For the exposition of the words, it must be declared,

1. Who were the elders intended.

2. How they were testified unto, or from whom they obtained this testimony.

3. What it was that was testified concerning them.

4. On what account they had this testimony.

1. Who these “elders” were is put beyond dispute by the ensuing discourse. All true believers from the foundation of the world, or the giving of the first promise, unto the end of the dispensation of the old testament, are intended; for in all sorts of them he giveth particular instances, from Abel unto those who suffered the last persecution that the church of the Jews underwent for religion, verses 36-38. What befell them afterward was judgment and punishment for sin, not persecution for religion. All these, by one general name, he calleth “the elders,” comprising all that went before them. ‘Thus was it constantly with all believers from the beginning of the world, the elders, those who lived before us, in ancient times.’

2. This testimony was given unto them in the Scripture; that is, it is so in particular of many of them, and of the rest in the general rules of it. It is the Holy Spirit in the Scripture that gives them this good testimony; for thereunto doth the apostle appeal for the proof of his assertion. In and from the world things were otherwise with them; none so defamed, so reproached, so reviled as they were. If they had had such a good report in the world, their example would not have been of use unto the apostle’s design; for he applies it unto them who were made a “gazing-stock, both by reproaches and afflictions,” Hebrews 10:33; and so it was with many of them, who yet obtained this testimony. They “had trial of cruel mockings,” etc., verses 36,37.

Obs. 2. They who have a good testimony from God shall never want reproaches from the world.

3. What was so testified of them is expressly declared afterwards; and this is, that they “pleased God,” or were accepted with him. The Holy Ghost in Scripture gives testimony unto them, that they pleased God, that they were righteous, that they were justified in the sight of God, verses 4-6, etc.

4. That whereon this testimony was founded, is their “faith.” In, by, or through their believing it was, that they obtained this report. Many other great and excellent things, some heroic actions, some deep sufferings, are ascribed unto them, but their obtaining this testimony is assigned to faith alone; as for other reasons, so because all those other things were fruits of their faith, whose acceptance with God depended thereon. And we may observe,

Obs. 3. It is faith alone which from the beginning of the world (or from the giving of the first promise) was the means and way of obtaining acceptance with God. There hath been great variety in the revelations of the object of this faith. The faith of some, as of Noah and some others, was principally and signally exercised on especial objects, as we shall see in our progress; but it is faith of the same nature and kind in all from first to last that gives acceptance with God. And all the promises of God, as branches of the first promise, are in general the formal object of it; that is, Christ in them, without faith in whom none was ever accepted with God, as we shall see.

Obs. 4. The faith of true believers from the beginning of the world was fixed on things future, hoped for, and invisible; that is, eternal life “obtained a good report,” as the apostle here testifies. So vain is the imagination of them who affirm that all the promises under the old testament respected only things temporal; so making the whole church to have been Sadducees The contrary is here expressly affirmed by the apostle.

Obs. 5. That faith whereby men please God acts itself in a fixed contemplation on things future and invisible, from whence it derives encouragement and strength to endure and abide firm in profession against all oppositions and persecutions.

Obs. 6. However men may be despised, vilified, and reproached in the world, yet if they have faith, if they are true believers, they are accepted with God, and he will give them a good report.

Verse 3

He enters on the confirmation and exemplification of his proposition by instances; first from an especial object of faith, and then proceeds unto the actings of it in them who by virtue of it did actually and really believe. The former he expresseth in this verse.

Hebrews 11:3 . Πίστει νοῦμεν κατηρτίσθαι τοὺς αἰῶνας ῥήματι Θεοῦ , εἰς τὸ μὴ ἐκ φαινομένων τὰ βλεπόμενα γεγονέναι .

Πίστει . Syr., בְּהַיְמָנוּתָא , “by faith.” So all others, “per fidem,” “by faith;” for being put absolutely, it denotes the instrumental cause.

Νοοῦμεν , “intelligimus,” “we understand.” Νοέω is principally in the first place “to consider,” to agitate any thing in the mind; and consequently “to understand,” which is the end of that consideration.

Κατρητίσθαι . Syr., דֶּאתְתַקַנוּ , “were ordained, disposed, ordered.” Vulg. Lat., “aptata;” which the Rhemists render by “framed:” but “aptata” is more significant. Others, “aedificata, constructa, ornata, praeparata, creata, condita;” “built, made, adorned, prepared, created.” For the word signifies “so to make, or be made, as to be prepared, orderly disposed, and adorned.” The active is “to finish, to complete, to make a thing every way perfect.” In the New Testament it is most generally used for “to order, prepare, dispose, to set in order,” Matthew 4:21; Matthew 21:16; Luke 6:40; Romans 9:22; 1 Corinthians 1:10; Galatians 6:1; 1 Thessalonians 3:10. And it is the word used by our apostle to express the providing, making, or preparation of the body of Christ, Hebrews 10:5. See the exposition of that place.

Τοὺς αἰῶνας . “secula,” “seculum,” “mundum;” “the worlds,” or “world.”

Εἰς τὸ μὴ ἐκ φαινομένων . The Syriac, by transposing the words of this latter clause of the verse, makes the sense more plain, “that the things which are seen, were,” or “arose from things that are not seen.” Vulg. Lat., “ut ex invisibilibus visibilia fierent.” “That of invisible things visible things might be made,” Rhem., improperly; γεγονέναι is not “might be made,” but “were made;” and εἰς τό is as much as ὥστε , “so that.” The Arabic and Ethiopic wholly forsake the text, or sense of the words. Some render the words as if they were, εἰς τὸ ἐκ μὴ φαινομένων , by a transposition of the negative particle μή ; and then the negative is to be referred unto φαινομένων , and not to γεγονέναι . In the latter way the sense is, as rendered in our translation, “the things that are seen were not made of the things that appear;” in the other it is, “the things that are seen were made of things that do not appear:” which may have an understanding coincident with the other.

Τὰ βλεπόμενα , “quae cernimus,” “quae cernuntur;” “which we see,” [3] “which are seen.”

[3] VARIOUS READING. Τὸ βλεπόμενον is the reading of the best Mss. “The doctrine negatived is that which teaches that each successive condition of the universe is generated ( γεγονέναι ) from a preceding condition, (as the plant from the seed,) by a mere material development, which had no beginning in a Creator’s will.” Conybeare and Howson. ED.

Hebrews 11:3 . By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God; so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.

In this first instance of the power and efficacy of faith, the apostle hath respect unto the second clause of his general description of it, “the evidence of things not seen.” For although this world, and the things contained in it, are visible, and are here said to be seen, yet the original framing and making of them hath a principal place among things not seen. And to prove that faith hath a respect unto all unseen things as unseen, he gives an instance in that which was so long past as the creation of the world; all his other instances declare its efficacy in the prospect of unseen things that are future.

1. That which is here ascribed unto faith is, that it is the instrumental cause of it: “By faith.” And where faith is spoken of as the instrumental cause of any thing, it always takes in or includes its object as the principal cause of the same thing. So where it is said that we are “justified by faith,” it includes Christ and his righteousness as the principal cause of our justification; faith being only the instrument whereby we apprehend it. And here, where it is said that “by faith we understand that the worlds were framed,” it includes its object, namely, the divine revelation that is made thereof in the word of God. For there is no other way for faith to instruct us herein, or give us an understanding of it, but by its assent unto divine revelation. The revelation of it being made, faith is the only way and means whereby we understand it, and assent unto it. “By faith we understand;” that is, by faith we assent unto the divine revelation of it.

The apostle lays here a good foundation of all his ensuing assertions: for if by faith we are assured of the creation of the world out of nothing, which is contrary to the most received principle of natural reason, “Ex nihilo nihil fit,” “Nothing comes of nothing,” it will bear us out in the belief of other things that seem impossible unto reason, if so be they are revealed. In particular, faith well fixed on the original of all things as made out of nothing, will bear us out in the belief of the final restitution of our bodies at the resurrection, which the apostle instanceth in as unto some of his worthies.

2. That which is ascribed unto faith subjectively, or unto its operation in our minds, is, that “by it we understand.” Upon a due consideration of what is proposed in divine revelation concerning this matter, we come not only to assent unto it as true, but to have a due comprehension of it in its cause, so as that we may be said to understand it. Wherefore, “understanding” here is not opposed only unto an utter nescience or ignorance hereof, but also unto that dark and confused apprehension of the creation of the world which some by the light of reason attained unto.

Obs. 1. Those who firmly assent unto divine revelation, do understand the creation of the world, as to its truth, its season, its cause, its manner, and end. Others do only think about it unsteadily and uncertainly. It was never determined among the ancient sages of the world, the pretended priests of the mysteries of reason. Some said one thing, and some another: some said it had a beginning, some said it had none; and some assigned such a beginning unto it, as it had been better it never had any. Nothing but an assent unto divine revelation can give us a clear understanding hereof. And,

Obs. 2. Then doth faith put forth its power in our minds in a due manner, when it gives us clear and distinct apprehensions of the things we do believe. Faith that gives not understanding, is but fancy.

3. The object of this faith, materially considered, is “the worlds;” and of them three things are affirmed:

(1.) That “they were framed.”

(2.) By what means; “by the word of God.”

(3.) In what manner; so as “that the things which are seen,” etc.

The object of this faith is “the worlds:” for the exposition whereof, name and thing, I must refer the reader unto that of Hebrews 1:2. (1.) Of these worlds, that which we understand by faith is, that “they were framed.” The word here used doth nowhere signify the original production of any thing, but the ordering, disposing, fitting, perfecting, or adorning, of that which is produced. Nor is it anywhere applied to express the creation, or making of the world. Wherefore, although that be included herein (for that which is framed, fashioned, or fitted, must be first made or created), yet something more is intended; namely, the disposal of all created things into that beautiful order which we do behold. For the apostle hath especial respect unto the “things that are seen,” as they are orderly, beautiful, and glorious, setting forth the glory of Him by whom they were made; as Psalms 8:1; Psalms 8:3; Psalms 19:1-2; Romans 1:20. So it is said, that God “by his Spirit garnished the heavens,” Job 26:13, that is, cast them into that curious, glorious frame which we behold; whence they are called “the work of his fingers,” Psalms 8:0, from a curious application of power in their frame and order. Hence he is said to “fashion” this work, Job 10:8, Psalms 119:73; that is, to give it shape and order. And the apostle hath in this word respect unto Genesis 2:1, ויכֻלוּ , “the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished,” perfected, completely framed. Being originally, as unto the matter of them, created out of nothing, in the six days’work they were completely finished and perfected. And,

Obs. 3. As God’s first work was, so all his works shall be perfect. He undertakes nothing but what he will finish and complete in beauty and order. And not only the original production of all things out of nothing, but the framing of them into their present order, is a demonstration of the eternal power of God.

And because the apostle hath respect not merely unto the work of creation, but unto the perfecting and finishing of it in and upon the sixth day’s work, he ascribes the understanding of it unto faith alone. For although some few had notions of the original creation of all things by a divine power, yet none ever knew any thing of this framing of the world, or the reducing of the matter of it into perfect order, but by divine revelation only. So we understand it by faith.

(2.) The efficient cause of this framing the worlds is the “word of God;” that exertion of his almighty power which was expressed by his word, ‘Let it be so and so,’which was the sign of it, and the indication of its exercise. And the apostle treating of the gradual fashioning of the world into its perfection, hath respect unto the repetition of that word in every day’s work, until the whole was accomplished. By this “word of God,” or by the divine power of God, whose gradual operation was signified by the repetition of that creating word, “the worlds were made.”

And the ineffable facility of almighty power in the production of all things out of nothing, and the framing of them into their perfect state, is intimated in this expression, “He spake, and it was made; he commanded, and it stood fast.” It is alike easy to him to dispose of all things that are made. And so faith, as unto the disposal of all things by divine Providence, in times of greatest difficulties and insuperable obstacles, is secured by the consideration of the easy production of all things out of nothing by the same power. And this is that which the apostle intends to fix on the minds of believers in this fundamental instance of the work and effects of faith. But whereas that which he exhorts and encourages his Hebrews unto is a patient continuance in the profession of the gospel, against all difficulties and oppositions, giving them assurance that faith will enable them thereunto; this of its assent unto the creation of the world, a thing so long since past, doth not seem to be of any use or force unto these ends. For although we may believe the creation of the worlds by an act of divine power, yet it doth not seem to follow thence that faith will strengthen us, and make us victorious in our sufferings. But two things the apostle aims to evince herein, which are eminently suited unto this design:

[1.] That “faith is the evidence of things not seen;” thereby to call the Hebrews unto the consideration of its proper object, whereon when it is duly fixed it will carry them comfortably through all their difficulties.

[2.] That they might know how easy it is with God to help, relieve, and deliver them, by changing the nature of all things at his pleasure, who by his word, through an almighty facility, erected and perfected the worlds. And this consideration doth God himself frequently propose for the confirmation of the faith of the church in all their troubles, Isaiah 40:28; Isaiah 44:24; Isaiah 45:12; Isaiah 51:13.

(3.) The way whereby the worlds were thus framed, is declared in the latter part of the verse: “So that things which are seen,” etc.

[1.] The subject spoken of is τὰ βλεπόμενα , “things that are seen.” This is not of the same extent with the τοὺς αἰῶνας , “the worlds,” which were framed; for they comprise all things visible and invisible, in heaven and earth, Colossians 1:16. But the apostle restrains the subject spoken of unto those things which are the objects of our senses, and our reason working by them; these aspectable heavens and the earth, with all their host and ornaments; for these are they that in the first place and immediately “declare the glory of God,” Psalms 8, 19; Romans 1:20. All things that are seen, or that may be seen; the heavenly orbs with all their glorious luminaries, the earth with all that is on it and in it, the sea with all its fullness; all these things that are seen by us, by any of mankind, or that may be so, with these things, their greatness, their glory, their order, their use, the minds of men are and ought to be affected.

[2.] Of these things it is affirmed, that they “were not made of things which do appear.” “Made” they were, but “not of things which do appear;” which seems to be a negation of any pre-existing material cause. Some, as was observed, by the transposition of the negative particle, read the words, “were made of things that do not appear;” that is, they were made by the invisible power of God. So it answers unto that of the same apostle, Romans 1:20, “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead.” These visible things were made by those which are invisible, even the eternal power and wisdom of God. And this sense I would embrace, if the phrase ἐκ φαινομένων would bear it, which seems rather to respect the material than the efficient cause. But we may observe,

1 st . That φαινόμενα are things that “appear clearly, illustriously,” in their shape and order.

2 dly . That the apostle doth not speak absolutely of the first original production of all things out of nothing, but of the forming, framing, and fashioning of all things into their proper state and order, called the “finishing of the heavens and the earth, with their host,” or order and ornaments.

3 dly . There is therefore in the words,

(1st.) A negation of any pre-existing material cause unto the creation of these worlds:

(2dly.) An assignation of the only efficient cause of it, which is the power of God; which things are rather supposed than asserted in the words: (3dly.) Respect unto the order of the creation of all things, in bringing them unto their perfection. Now this was, that all the things which we now behold, in their order, glory, and beauty, did arise or were made by the power of God, out of that chaos, or confused mass of substance, which was itself first made and produced out of nothing, having no cause but the efficiency of divine power. For hereof it is said, that it “was without form, and void, and darkness was upon it,” Genesis 1:2; that is, though absolutely, as a material substance, it was visible, yet it did not appear conspicuously in any shape or form, it was “void, and without form;” no such things at all appeared as the things which we now behold, that were made out of it by the power of God.

Wherefore in these words, which have much of obscurity and difficulty in them, the apostle doth both intimate the original production of all things out of nothing by the efficacy of divine power, and the making or framing of all things as they are in beauty and order to be seen, out of that unaspectable, unappearing matter which was first made out of nothing, and covered with darkness until it was disposed into order.

The understanding hereof we have by faith alone, from divine revelation.: Nothing of the order of the creation can be known or understood any other way. And this the apostle intimates in these particles εἰς τό , that is, ὥστε , “so that.” ‘By faith alone we understand that the worlds were made; namely, “so as that the things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.” And,

Obs. 4. The aids of reason, with the due consideration of the nature, use, and end of all things, ought to be admitted of, to confirm our minds in the persuasion of the original creation of all things; yet are they not to be rested in, but we must betake ourselves unto faith fixed on divine revelation. For,

(1.) If they are alone they will be often shaken with a contrary rational maxim, namely, “Ex nihilo nihil fit.”

(2.) They can give us re light into the way and manner of the creation of all things, which faith alone discovers.

Verse 4

From the proposition of the nature of faith in general, and a declaration of its efficacy with respect unto things believed, the apostle proceeds to give instances of its power and efficacy in particular persons, whose example in believing he proposeth unto the Hebrews for their encouragement. And he begins with Abel, suitably on all accounts unto his design. For,

1. He was the first whose faith is expressly recorded and commended in the Scripture, and so meet to be mentioned in the first place. He was the first in the distribution of the ages of the church that he makes.

2. He was the first that expressed his faith in duties of worship, or made public, solemn profession thereof, the duty which he calls the Hebrews unto.

3. He was the first that suffered in the cause of Christ, or for a testimony given unto faith in him.

4. He suffered the utmost of what any among them could fear, even death itself, by the shedding of his blood; which they had not yet undergone, they had “not yet resisted unto blood.” Wherefore on all accounts this was the meetest instance to begin withal, wherein his whole cause and argument, in all the parts of it, is confirmed.

Hebrews 11:4 . Πίστει πλείονα θυσίαν ῎Αβελ παρὰ Κάϊν προσήνεγκε τῷ Θεῷ , δι᾿ ἧς ἐμαρτυρήθη ει῏ναι δίκαιος , μαρτυροῦντος ἐπὶ τοὶς δώροις αὐτοῦ τοῦ Θεοῦκαὶ δι᾿ [4] αὐτῆς ἀποθανὼν ἔτι λαλεῖται .

[4] VARIOUS READING. There is a great preponderance of critical authority in favor of λαλεῖ , Griesbach, Scholz, Lachmann, and Tischendorf. Ebrard in confirmation of this reading refers to Hebrews 12:24, as somewhat parallel, and remarks that Cain “is spoken of” as well as Abel, so that to read λαλεῖται would express no distinction. ED.

Πλείονα θυσίαν . Vulg. Lat., “plurimam hostiam;” using a word in the superlative degree, because “plurem” in the comparative is not usual. “A greater host,” say the Rhemists, attending to the first signification of the word, but forsaking its sense. The Syriac, דֶּבְחָתָא דַּמְיַתְּאָּא טָב , “a sacrifice more (far more) excellent,” or “precious.” “Hostiam majoris pretii,” Beza; “a sacrifice of more worth” or “value,” referring it to the matter of the sacrifice. “Gratiorem,” “more acceptable.”

᾿Εμαρτυρήθη . Vulg. Lat., “testimonium consecutus est;” “he obtained testimony.” Syr., הֲוָת עֲלַוְהִי סָהֲדוּתָא , “there is extant (recorded) concerning him a testimony.” “Testimonium obtinuit,” “testimonio est ornatus;” he “obtained witness,” he was “adorned with this testimony.” See of the word, verse 2.

᾿Επὶ τοῖς δώροις αὐτοῦ , “muneribus ejus,” “de donis ejus.” Syr., קיּוְבָּנֵהּ על , “concerning his offering,” “the sacrifice that he offered.”

Hebrews 11:4 . By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent [acceptable] sacrifice than Cain; by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of [unto or concerning] his gifts; and by it he being dead yet speaketh, [or is spoken of].

1. The person instanced in is Abel, the second son of Adam, and first son of the promise, and that under the considerations mentioned before.

2. It is affirmed of him, that he “offered sacrifice unto God.”

3. The manner of it is declared in comparison with that of Cain; he “offered a more excellent sacrifice.”

4. Hereon there was with respect unto him a double consequent:

(1) When he was alive, that “he obtained witness that he was righteous;”

(2.) When he was dead, that “he yet speaketh.”

1. The person instanced in is Abel; he who was without example, without outward encouragement, without any visible theater, without any witness of his sufferings to transmit them unto others, but God alone; the first in the world who suffered death in the cause of Christ and his worship. And this he did from his own brother, from one that joined with him in the outward acts of divine worship; to give an example of the two churches, the suffering and the persecuting, to the end of the world. This hath made him famous in all generations; which, as Chrysostom thinks, is intended in the last clause of the words, ἔτι λαλεῖται , “he is yet spoken of;” that is, with fame and renown.

Obs. 1. Every circumstance in suffering shall add to the glory of the sufferer; and those who suffer here for Christ without witness, as many have done to death in prisons and dungeons, have yet an all- seeing Witness to give them testimony in due season. “The righteous shall be had in everlasting remembrance;” and nothing that is done or suffered for God shall be lost for ever. sacrifice to God,” and that he did it “by faith:’An account hereof is given us, Genesis 4:3-5, which the apostle hath respect unto. And it is there declared,

(1.) What time he offered this sacrifice; it was מִקֵּצ יַמִים “after the expiration of some time” or days, namely, after he and Cain were settled in their distinct callings, verse 3. Until then they had been under the instruction of their parents; but being now fixed in their own peculiar stations and callings, they made their distinct solemn profession of the worship of God; which is the sense of the place, though not observed by any expositors.

(2.) The matter of his offering was “the firstlings of his flock, and of the fat thereof.”

[1.] It was of living creatures, and therefore was made by mactation, or the shedding of blood; whence the apostle calls it θυσία , “a sacrifice by mactation;” זֶבַח , though in the text it comes under the name of מִנְחָה , which he renders by δώρον , “a gift.”

[2.] It was of the best.

1 st . Whilst they were alive, “the firstlings of the flock;” which God afterwards took as his portion, Exodus 13:12.

2 dly . When it was dead, it was of “the fat of them;” which God also claimed as his own, Leviticus 3:16; Leviticus 7:25; that is, the fat of those firstlings.

For his sacrifice was a holocaust, wherein, after the blood was shed at the altar, and offered unto God, the fat was burned on the altar, and the whole body at a distance from it it appears, therefore, that the sacrifice of Abel was, as unto the matter of it, both in itself and in God’s esteem, of the most precious and valuable things in the whole creation, subject unto man and his use. And even hence it may be called πλείονα θυσίαν παρὰ Κάϊν , “a more excellent sacrifice than that of Cain,” which was only “of the fruit of the ground,” and that, it may be, gathered “raptim,” without choice or judgment of what was most meet to be offered unto God. And it is for ever dedicated as a rule for the church in all ages, that, that is in our power, with the best of our spiritual abilities; which God afterwards fully confirmed.

(3.) And he offered this sacrifice “to God,” τῷ Θεῷ , ליהָֹוה , Genesis 4:3. This was, from the first institution of it, the highest and most peculiar way of owning and paying homage unto the Divine Being. Unto whomsoever sacrifice is offered, he is owned as God. And therefore when the Gentiles sacrificed to the devil, as they did, 1 Corinthians 10:20, they owned him thereby as “the god of this world,” 2 Corinthians 4:4. And there are many superstitious observances in the Papacy that intrench on this idolatry.

(4.) He offered it “by faith.” Now faith herein respects,

[1.] The institution of the worship; and,

[2.] The heart or mind of the worshippers.

[1.] He did it by faith, because he had respect in what he did unto God’s institution, which consists of a command and a promise, which faith hath regard unto. It was not a service that he himself invented; for if it were, he could not have performed it in faith, unto whose formal nature it belongs to respect a divine command and promise.

[2.] He did it in faith, in that he did it in the exercise of saving faith in God therein. He did it not hypocritically, he did it not in a mere attendance unto the outward duty; but it was kindled in his own heart by the Holy Spirit, before it was fired on the altar from heaven. For,

Obs. 3. God gives no consequential approbation of any duties of believers, but where the principle of a living faith goes previously in their performance.

3. It is observed by the apostle, that he thus offered “a better, a choicer, a more excellent sacrifice than Cain;” for the “plurimam” of the Vulgar Latin is not capable of any good interpretation. And the reason whence it was so must be inquired into. And,

(1.) We observed before, that as to the matter of it, it was better, more valuable and precious, than that of Cain. But this is not a sufficient cause of ascribing such an excellency and preference unto it, as that on the account thereof Abel should obtain such acceptance with God, and a testimony from him. “Firstlings of the flock, and their fat,” were better than ordinary “fruits of the ground;” but yet not so as to constitute such a difference. Besides, the design of the apostle is to declare the efficacy and prevalency of faith, and not of any especial kind of sacrifices. Wherefore δι᾿ ἧς , “for which,” or “whereby,” in the next words, is to be referred unto πίστει , “faith,” and not unto θυσίαν , or “sacrifice,” though that be the next antecedent. Wherefore,

(2.) This difference was from his faith. And two things did depend thereon:

[1.] That his person was justified in the sight of God antecedently unto his sacrifice, as we shall see immediately.

[2.] On the account thereof his sacrifice was grateful and acceptable unto God, as is commonly observed from the order of the words, “The LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering.”

But yet it is not evident where the great difference lay. For Cain also no doubt brought his offering in faith: for he believed the being of God, that God is, with his omnipotent power in the creation of the world, as also his government of it with rewards and punishments; for all this he professed in the sacred offering that he brought unto the Lord. And it is a vain fancy of the Targumist, who introduceth Cain and Abel disputing about these things, and Cain denying them all: for he made profession of them all in his offering or sacrifice. Wherefore it is certain that the faith of Abel and Cain differed, as in their especial nature, so in their acts and objects. For,

(1.) Cain considered God only as a creator and preserver, whereon he offered the fruits of the earth, as an acknowledgment that all these things were made, preserved, and bestowed on man, by him; but he had no respect unto sin, or the way of deliverance from it revealed in the first promise. The faith of Abel was fixed on God, not only as a creator, but as redeemer also; as him who, in infinite wisdom and grace, had appointed the way of redemption by sacrifice and atonement intimated in the first promise. Wherefore his faith was accompanied with a sense of sin and guilt, with his lost condition by the fall, and a trust in the way of redemption and recovery which God had provided. And this he testified in the kind of his sacrifice, which was by death and blood; in the one owning the death which himself by reason of sin was obnoxious unto; in the other the way of atonement, which was to be by blood, the blood of the promised Seed. (2.) They differed in their especial nature and acts. For the faith of Abel was saving, justifying, a principle of holy obedience, an effect of the Holy Spirit in his mind and heart: that of Cain was a naked, barren assent unto the truths before mentioned, which is usually described under the name of a common and temporary faith; which is evident from the event, in that God never accepted his person nor his offerings.

And these are the things which still make the hidden difference between the professors of the same faith and worship in general, whereof God alone is the judge, approving some, and rejecting others. So from the foundation of the world there was provision laid in to warn the church in all ages, that the performance of the outward duties of divine worship is not the rule of the acceptance of men’s persons with God. A distinction is made from the inward principle whence those duties do proceed. Yet will not the world receive the warning unto this day. Nothing is of a higher provocation, than that the same duty should be accepted in some, and rejected in others, and that because the persons of the one are accepted, and not of the other. Many have no greater quarrel at religion, than that God had respect unto Abel and his offering, and not to Cain and his.

4. As to the consequences of Abel’s faith,

The first consequent of this efficacy of faith in Abel is, that “he obtained witness that he was righteous.”

“By which;” that is, by which faith, as we showed before.

“He was testified unto;” “he obtained witness;” that is, from God himself. And this was so famous in the church, that he seems commonly to be called by that name, “the righteous Abel;” as he is by our Savior, speaking of him, Matthew 23:35. But we do not find any such testimony in express words given unto him in the Scripture. Wherefore the apostle proves his assertion by that wherein such a testimony is virtually contained. “For God,” saith he, “testified unto his gifts;” wherein he allegeth those words in Moses, “The LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering.” He testified, in the approbation of his offering, that he had respect unto his person: that is, that he judged, esteemed, and accounted him righteous; for otherwise God is no respecter of persons. Whomsoever God accepts or respects, he testifieth him to be righteous; that is, to be justified, and freely accepted with him. This Abel was by faith antecedently unto his offering. He was not made righteous, he was not justified by his sacrifice; but therein he showed his faith by his works: and God by acceptance of his works of obedience justified him, as Abraham was justified by works; namely, declaratively; he declared him so to be.

Obs. 4. Our persons must be first justified, before our works of obedience can be accepted with God; for by that acceptance he testifies that we are righteous.

By what way God gave this testimony unto the gifts or sacrifice of Abel, is not expressed. Most do judge that it was by causing fire to fall from heaven to kindle and consume his sacrifice on the altar. Certain it is that it was by some such assured token and pledge, as whereby his own faith was strengthened, and Cain provoked. For God did that with respect unto him and his offering which he did not towards Cain and his; whereby both of them knew how things stood between God and them. As Esau knew that Jacob had gotten the blessing, which made him resolve to kill him; so Cain knew that Abel and his offering were accepted with God, whereon he slew him.

And here we have the prototype of the believing and malignant churches in all ages; of them who, under the profession of religion, are “born after the Spirit,” or after the promise; and those that are “born after the flesh” only. Then that began which the apostle affirms still to continue: “He that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit; even so it is now,” Galatians 4:29. This was the first public, visible acting of the enmity between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent; for “Cain was of the wicked one” (the seed of the serpent), “and slew his brother,” 1 John 3:12. And a pledge or representation it was of the death of Christ himself from the same principle. And it being the first instance, and consequently the pattern and example of the two seeds in all ages, we may give a brief account of it.

(1.) The foundation of the difference lay in their inward different principles. The one was a true believer, born of the Spirit, and heir of the promise; the other was of the evil one, under the power of the principles of sin and malice. Yet notwithstanding these different internal principles, they lived together for a season in outward peace, as believers and unbelievers may do, and as yet do.

(2.) The occasion of acting this enmity in Cain, was the visible worship of God. Until that was undertaken and engaged in, he carried things quietly with his brother; as others walking in his way and spirit continue to do. But from hence, on many accounts, they take occasion to act their enmity.

(3.) In this public worship Abel attended diligently unto the mind of God and conduct of faith, as we have showed; Cain trusted unto the formality of the outward work, without much regard to either of them. And there is nothing wherein true believers do more carefully act faith according to the mind of God than in his solemn worship, according to the example of Abel, others adhering for the most part unto their own inventions.

(4.) Hereon God manifested his approbation of the one and his disapprobation of the other; which provoked Cain to exercise his rage and malice unto the death of his brother. Their worship was different in the matter and manner of it. This provoked not Cain; he liked his own way better than his brother’s. But when there was testimony given of God’s acceptance of his brother and his worship, with a disapprobation of him and his, this he would revenge with the blood of his brother. God did not afterwards continue to give, nor doth he now give, any outward testimony of the approbation of one, and the disapprobation of another. Howbeit, a secret sense and fear hereof ariseth in the hearts of evil men, whence Satan fills them with envy and malice, and stirs them up unto persecution. For in themselves they find nothing of that spiritual advantage and refreshment which ariseth in the true worship of God unto sincere believers. And they on the other side do openly avow such a satisfaction in an apprehension of God’s acceptance of them, as that they can undergo any persecutions on the account thereof. This provokes the world; this was the rise, this is the progress of persecution. And we may learn,

Obs. 5. That those whom God approves must expect that the world will disapprove them, and ruin them if it can.

Obs. 6. Where there is a difference within, in the hearts of men, on the account of faith and the want of it, there will for the most part be unavoidable differences about outward worship. So there hath been always between the true church and false worshippers.

Obs. 7. God’s approbation is an abundant recompence for the loss of our lives. All which are plain in this instance of Abel.

The second consequent of the efficacy of the faith of Abel, was after his death: “And by it he being dead yet speaketh.” “By it;” that is, by the same faith; by the means of that faith that was the ground of his acceptance with God, whereon that which is ascribed unto his faith doth depend. And this is, that “he, being dead, yet speaketh.” Λαλεῖται , being of a middle form, may be rendered either “he speaketh,” or “he is spoken of.” And accordingly this expression is variously interpreted. Some take it for the good fame and report that Abel had in all generations; he was celebrated, well spoken of, and yet continueth so to be. And this way the word is applied by most of the ancients. But it is not according to the mind of the apostle. For,

(1.) It is evident that he ascribes something peculiar unto Abel, wherein others were not to be joined with him; but this of a good report is not so, but common to him with Noah, Abraham, and all the patriarchs, they were spoken of, and their praise celebrated in the church no less than Abel’s.

(2.) The apostle plainly proceeds in representing the story concerning him, and what fell out after his death, as expressed in the words of God himself, Genesis 4:10, “The voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground.” This is the speaking of Abel after his death which is here intended; and this was peculiar unto him, it is not affirmed of any one besides in the Scripture.

(3.) The apostle interprets himself, Hebrews 12:24, where he directly ascribes this speaking unto the blood of Abel, as we shall see on that place, if God permit.

Obs. 8. There is a voice in all innocent blood shed by violence . There is an appeal in it from the injustice and cruelty of men unto God as the righteous judge of all. And of all cries, God gives the most open evidence that he hears it, and admits of the appeal. Hence most murders committed secretly are discovered; and most of those that are openly perpetrated, are openly avenged sooner or later by God himself. For his honor and glory are concerned to appear, upon the appeal to his justice which is made by innocent blood. Especially he is so, when men, in taking away the lives of others, would entitle him unto it, by doing it under a pretense of judgment (which is his), by wicked judges and false witnesses, as it was in the case of Naboth; which he will not bear withal. Wherefore this voice, this speaking of blood, ariseth from the eternal law which God hath given unto mankind for the preservation of life from violence, whereof he hath taken on himself the supreme conservation and guarantee, Genesis 9:5-6.

But there is somewhat more in this speaking of the blood of Abel. For by the record of the Scripture God hath designed it unto other ends, in the way of an ordinance; as,

(1.) That it should be a type of the future persecutions and sufferings of the church.

(2.) That it might be a pledge of the certain vengeance that God will take in due time on all murderous persecutors. Abel, being dead, speaketh these words of our Savior, “Shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him? I tell you that he will avenge them speedily,” Luke 18:7-8.

(3.) That it might be instructive unto faith and patience in suffering, as an example approved of God, and giving evidence unto future rewards and punishments.

And from this first instance the apostle hath given a mighty confirmation of his intention concerning the power and efficacy of faith, enabling men with blessed success to do and suffer according to the mind of God. For Abel did, by faith alone,

1. Obtain the blessing of the promise from his elder brother, as did Jacob afterwards.

2. By it, as apprehending the promise, his person was justified and accepted with God.

3. He was directed thereby to worship God, both as to matter and manner, according unto his own will.

4. He had a divine testimony given both as unto his person as righteous, and his duties as accepted, to his unspeakable consolation.

5. He had this honor, that God testified his respect unto him when he was dead, and made his blood as shed an ordinance unto the instruction of the church in all ages.

From these considerations this example was of great force to convince the Hebrews, that if indeed they were true believers, as he supposed of them, Hebrews 10:39, that faith would safely carry them through all the difficulties they had to conflict withal in their profession, unto the glory of God and their own eternal salvation. And we may learn, that,

Obs. 9. Whatever troubles faith may engage us into in the profession of it, with obedience according to the mind of God, it will bring us safely off from them all at last (yea, though we should die in the cause), unto our eternal salvation and honor.

Verse 5

His second instance is in Enoch; for he is the second man unto whom testimony is personally given that he “pleased God,” and was accepted with him. Others no doubt before him did so, and were so accepted; for he was “the seventh from Adam:” but as Abel was the first, so he is the second who was so peculiarly testified unto; and therefore the apostle instanceth in him in the second place, after Abel

Hebrews 11:5 . Πίστει ᾿Ενὼχ μετετέθη τοῦ μὴ ἰδεῖν θάνατον , καὶ οὐχ εὐρίσκετο , διότι μετέθηκεν αὐτὸν ὁ Θεός πρὸ γὰρ τῆς μεταθέσεως αὐτοῦ μεμαρτύρηται εὐηρεστηκέναι τῷ Θεῷ .

Hebrews 11:5 . By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.

This Enoch hath a double testimony given unto him in the Scripture; one in the Old Testament, the other in the New. That in the Old Testament is unto his faith and holiness, Genesis 5:0. That in the New, is unto his being a prophet, and what he prophesied, Jude 1:14-15. But it is probable that all the holy fathers before the flood were prophets and preachers; as Enoch was a prophet, and Noah was a preacher of righteousness, 2 Peter 2:5. In their ministry did the Spirit of God strive with men; which at the flood he put an end unto, Genesis 6:3. Yea, by the Spirit of Christ, which was in them, 1 Peter 1:11, he preached repentance unto them, before they were cast into their eternal prison, 1 Peter 3:19. And these seem to have had a different ministry, for the declaration of the whole counsel of God. Noah was “a preacher of righteousness,” one that proposed the righteousness of God through the promise, to encourage men unto faith and repentance; as we say, a gospel-preacher. And Enoch preached the threatenings of the law, the future judgment, with the vengeance that would be taken on ungodly sinners, especially scoffers and persecutors; which is the substance of his prophecy or sermon recorded in the Epistle of Jude. And he seems to have given his name unto his son in a spirit of prophecy; for he called him מְתוּשָׁלַח , Genesis 5:21; that is, “when he dieth,” there shall be a “dismission,” namely, of mankind from the earth; for he died just before the flood. The first of these testimonies the apostle here makes use of, and so expounds it as to take away sundry difficulties that in itself it is liable to. לָקַח אֹתוֹ אַלהִֹים , God took him;” which the author of the Book of Wisdom expounds in a severe sense, “God took him away, lest wickedness should alter his understanding,” Wis 4:11 , groundlessly. The apostle renders it by “translated him;” that is, into a more blessed state. And וְאֵינֶנּוּ , “and he Was not,” which some of the Jews would have to intimate his death, the apostle renders by, “he was not found,” that is, any more amongst men; and gives the reason of it, namely, “because God had translated him” into another world. And as unto what is affirmed in the story, that he “walked with God,” the apostle interprets it as a testimony that “he pleased God;” which makes plain the mind of the Holy Ghost in the words of Moses.

Of this Enoch it is affirmed,

1. That he was “translated;”

2. The end of that translation is declared, “that he should not see death;”

3. The consequent of it, “he was not found;”

4. The efficient cause of that translation, and the reason of that consequent, he was not found, “because God had translated him;”

5. The means of this translation on his own part, it was “by faith;”

6. The proof hereof, “for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God:” which must be opened briefly.

1. It is affirmed of him that he was “translated;” translated out of one state and condition into another. There are but two states of good men, such as Enoch was, from first to last:

(1.) The state of faith and obedience here in this world. This Enoch lived in three hundred years; so long he lived and “walked with God.” To “walk with God,” is to lead a life of faith in covenant obedience unto God ויִּתְהַלֵךְ , “he walked;” the same word whereby God prescribeth covenant obedience unto Abraham, הִתְהַלֵךְ לְפָנַי , Genesis 17:1. The word in both places, in the same conjugation of Hithpael, signifies a “continued walk up and down,” every way. So to walk with God, is in all our ways, actions, and duties, to have a continual regard unto God, by faith in him, dependence on him, and submission to him. This state Enoch had lived in and passed through.

(2.) The other state is a blessedness in the enjoyment of God. No other state of good men is once intimated in the Scripture, or consistent with God’s covenant. Wherefore Enoch being translated from the one, was immediately instated in the other, as was Elijah afterwards.

As unto any further conjectures of the particular place where, or condition wherein he is, the Scripture leaves no room for them; and those that have been made have been rash and foolish. Some things we may observe, to explain this translation.

(1.) It was of the whole person, as unto state and condition. “Enoch was translated;” his whole person, soul and body, was taken out of one condition, and placed in another.

(2.) Such a translation, without a dissolution of the person, is possible; for as it was afterwards actually made in Elijah, so the apostle intimates the desirable glory of it, 2 Corinthians 5:4, “We groan, not that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life.”

(3.) Unto this translation there is a change required, such as they shall have who will be found alive at the coming of Christ: “We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,” 1 Corinthians 15:51. The same change in the bodies of them that are translated as there is in those that are raised from the grave is necessary unto this translation. They must be made incorrupt, powerful, glorious, spiritual, 1 Corinthians 15:42-44. So was it with the body of Enoch, by the power of God who translated him; his body was made in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, incorrupt, spiritual, immortal, meet for the blessed habitation above. So was Enoch translated.

(4.) If any one shall ask why Enoch was not joined with Elijah, who was afterwards in like manner translated, at his appearance with the Lord Christ in his transfiguration, but Moses rather, who died, Matthew 17:3; I say, although I abhor all curiosities in sacred things, yet it seems to be agreeable unto the mind of God, that, the discourse which they had then with the Lord Jesus Christ being about the accomplishment of the law in his death, as it was, Moses who was the lawgiver, and Elijah the most zealous defender of it, should be employed in that service, and not Enoch, who was not concerned therein.

2. The next end of this translation was, “that he should not see death;” or this was the effect of it, that he should not die. Death being the great object of sensible consideration, it is expressed by words of sense, seeing it tasting it, and the like. And two things are intended herein:

(1.) That this translation was without death, it was not by death. The Hebrew word לָקַח , “took,” “God took him,” Genesis 5:24, being applied unto his taking away a person by death, Ezekiel 24:16; Ezekiel 24:18, doth not necessarily prove that he died not. But it is here interpreted by the apostle that this taking away was by a translation from one state unto another, without the intervention of death.

(2.) That, in a way of eminent grace and favor, he was freed from death. The great Lawgiver put in an exception unto the general sanction of the law, that all sinners should die: and this being in itself and its own nature penal, as also destructive of our present constitution, in the dissolution of soul and body, an exemption from it was a signal grace and favor.

And this was a divine testimony that the body itself is also capable of eternal life. When all mankind saw that their bodies went into the dust and corruption universally, it was not easy for them to believe that they were capable of any other condition, but that the grave was to be their eternal habitation, according to the divine sentence on the entrance of sin, “Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” But herein God gave us a pledge and assurance that the body itself hath a capacity of eternal blessedness in heaven. But whereas this evidence of a capacity in the body to enjoy eternal life and blessedness was confined unto such as never died, it could not be a convincing pledge of the resurrection of bodies over which death once had a dominion. This, therefore, was reserved for the resurrection of Christ.

3 . Another consequent of this translation is, that” he was not found.” In the text of Moses it is only וְאֵינֶנּוּ , “and he was not.” He went away, and was no more among men; as David expresseth his departure from among men, Psalms 39:13, בְּטֶרֶם אֵלֵךְ וְאֵינֶנִּי , before I go away, and I be not;” that is, in this world any more. But in the exposition of the apostle something further is intimated. Enoch was the principal patriarch in the world, and besides, a great prophet and preacher. The eyes of all men about were upon him. How God “took him” is not declared. Whether there was any visible sign of it, as there was unto Elisha in the taking up of Elijah, 2 Kings 2:11, is uncertain. But doubtless, upon the disappearing of so great a person from the world, there was great inquiry after him. So when Elijah was taken up into heaven, though there was a visible sign of it, and his divine rapture was evident, yet the sons of the prophets, because of the rarity of the thing, would search whether he were not let down again on some mountain, or in some valley; “and they sought three days, and found him not,” 2 Kings 2:16-17. The apostle seems to intimate some such thing in the old world upon the disappearance of Enoch: they made great search after him, but “he was not found.” And therefore,

4. He adds the reason why he could not be found on the earth, namely, “because God had translated him” into another state and condition. And herein he gives us the principal efficient cause of his translation; it was an act of God himself, namely, of his power, grace, and favor. And when he did no more appear ( אֵינֶנּוּ ), when he was not found ( οὐχ εὐρίσκετο ), this was that which all the godly were satisfied in, it was because God had translated him; whereof there was such evidence as was sufficient security for their faith, although at present we know not what it was in particular. But the apostle doth not only declare the truth of the thing, but also that it was a matter known unto the church in those days; whereon its use did depend.

5. This the apostle (which was alone unto his present purpose), ascribes unto his faith: “By faith he was translated.” He was so,

(1.) Not efficiently; faith was not the efficient cause of this translation; it was an immediate act of divine power.

(2.) Not meritoriously; for it is recorded as an act of sovereign grace and favor. But,

(3.) Instrumentally only, in that thereby he was brought into that state and condition, so accepted with God, as that he was capable of so great grace and favor. But his being made an instance of this divine grace, for the edification of the church in all ages, was an act of sovereignty alone.

And this is peculiar unto these first two instances of the power of faith; that in the one it led him unto death, a bloody death; in the other it delivered him from death, that he did not die at all.

In the field of conjectures used on this occasion, I judge it probable,

(1.) That his rapture was visible, in the sight of many that feared God, who were to be witnesses of it unto the world, that it might be his ordinance for the conviction of sinners, and the strengthening of the faith of the church, as also an exposition of the first promise.

(2.) That it was by the ministry of angels, as was that of Elijah.

(3.) That he was carried immediately into heaven itself, and the presence of God therein

(4.) That he was made partaker of all the glory which was allotted unto the heavenly state before the ascension of Christ; concerning which see our [5] discourse of the Person of Christ.

[5] Vol. 1 of miscellaneous works. ED.

But, Obs. 1. Whatever be the outward different events of faith in believers in this world, they are all alike accepted with God, approved by him, and shall all equally enjoy the eternal inheritance.

Obs. 2. God can and doth put a great difference, as unto outward things, between such as are equally accepted before him. Abel shall die, and Enoch shall be taken alive into heaven.

I am fully satisfied, from the prophecy of Enoch, recorded by Jude, that he had a great contest with the world about faith, obe dience, the worship of God, with the certainty of divine vengeance on ungodly sinners, with the eternal reward of the righteous. And as this contest for God against the world is exceeding acceptable unto him, as he manifested afterwards in his taking of Elijah to himself, who had managed it with a fiery zeal; so in this translation of Enoch upon the like contest, he visibly judged the cause on his side, confirming his ministry, to the strengthening of the faith of the church, and condemnation of the world.

Wherefore, although it be a dream, that the two witnesses mentioned Revelation 11:3-5 are Enoch and Elias personally, yet because their ministry is to bear testimony for God and Christ against the world, thereby plaguing and tormenting the men that dwell on the earth, verse 10, as they also did, there may be an allusion unto them and their ministry. And whereas there are two ways of the confirmation of a ministry; first, By suffering, and that sometimes to death, as did Abel; and, secondly, By God’s visible owning of them, as he did Enoch: both these are to befall these two witnesses, who are first to be slain, and then taken up into heaven; first to suffer, and then to be exalted. Obs. 3. There is no such acceptable service unto God, none that he hath set such signal pledges of his favor upon, as zealously to contend against the world in giving witness to his ways, his worship, and his kingdom, or the rule of Christ over all. And,

Obs. 4. It is a part of our testimony, to declare and witness that vengeance is prepared for ungodly persecutors, and all sorts of impenitent sinners, however they are and may be provoked thereby.

Obs. 5. The principal part of this testimony consists in our own personal obedience, or visible walking with God in holy obedience, according to the tenor of the covenant, 2Pe 3:11 ; 2 Peter 3:14. And,

6. This the apostle affirms of Enoch in the last place: “For before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.”

These words are an entrance into the proof of the apostle’s assertion, namely, that it was “by faith Enoch was translated; which he pursues and confirms in the next verse. He was translated by faith; for before that translation he had that testimony. For it is said of him, that “he walked with God three hundred years;” after which he was translated. The apostle doth not say that this was testified of him before his translation, as signifying the time of the giving that testimony unto him; for it was not until many generations afterward: but this testimony, when given him, did concern the time before his translation, as it doth evidently, Genesis 5:22; Genesis 5:24.

That of “walking with God,” in Moses, the apostle renders by “pleasing of God; for this alone is well-pleasing to him. His pleasure, his delight is in them that fear him, that walk before him. And the apostle gives us the whole sense of the divine testimony, that he walked with God, namely, so as that his walk with God was well-pleasing unto him, that it was accepted with him, and his person therein.

And this also is peculiar unto these first two instances, that they had an especial testimony from God, as unto the acceptance of them and their services. So it is testified of Abel, that “the LORD had respect unto him and to his offering;” and of Enoch, that “he pleased God;” both of them being declared to be righteous by faith.

And we may observe from the whole, that,

Obs. 6. It is an effect of divine wisdom, as to dispose the works of his providence and the accomplishment of his promises unto an ordinary established rule, declared in his word, which is the only guidance of faith; so sometimes to give extraordinary instances in each kind, both in a way of judgment and in a way of grace and favor. Of the latter sort was the taking of Enoch into heaven; and of the former was the firing of Sodom and Gomorrah from heaven. Such extraordinary acts, either the wicked security of the world or the edification of the church doth sometimes make necessary.

Obs. 7. Faith in God through Christ hath an efficacy in the procuring of such grace, mercy, and favor in particular, as it hath no ground in particular to believe. Enoch was translated by faith; yet did not Enoch believe he should be translated, until he had a particular revelation of it.. So there are many particular mercies which faith hath no word of promise to mix itself withal, as unto their actual communication unto us; but yet, keeping itself within its bounds of trust and reliance on God, and acting by patience and prayer, it may be, and is, instrumental in the procurement of them.

Obs. 8. They must walk with God here who design to live with him hereafter, or they must please God in this world who would be blessed with him in another.

Obs. 9. That faith which can translate a man out of this world, can carry him through the difficulties which he may meet withal in the profession of faith and obedience in this world Herein lies the apostle’s argument. And this latter, the Lord Jesus Christ hath determined to be the lot and portion of his disciples. So he testifies, John 17:15,

“I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world; but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.”

In these two instances of Abel and Enoch we have a representation of the state of the old world before the flood. There were two sorts of persons in it; believers, and such as believed not. Among these there were differences about religion and the worship of God, as between Abel and Cain. Some of them were approved of God, and some were not. Hence arose persecution on the part of the world; and in the church, the wicked, scoffing, persecuting world, was threatened by predictions of judgments and divine vengeance to come, as they were in the preaching and prophecy of Enoch. God in the meantime exercised patience and long-suffering towards them that were disobedient, 1 Peter 3:20; yet not without some instances of his especial favor towards believers. And thus it is at this day.

Verse 6

There being no direct mention made of faith in the testimony given unto Enoch, but only that by walking with God he pleased him, the apostle in this verse proves from thence that it was by faith that he so pleased God, and consequently that thereby he obtained his translation.

Hebrews 11:6 . Χωρἰς δὲ πίστεως ἀδύνατον εὐαρεστῆσαι· πιστεῦσαι γὰρ δεὶ τὸν προσερχόμενον τῷ Θεῷ ἐστὶ , καὶ τοῖς ἐκζητοῦσιν αὐτόν μισθαποδότης γίνεται .

Εὐαρεστῆσαι . Τῷ Θεῷ is not in the original, but is in all the old translations, and is to be supplied. We add “him,” as contained in the word, and not as a supplement.

Hebrews 11:6 . But without faith [it is] impossible to please him. For it behoveth him that cometh to God, to believe that he is [a God to him, or his God], and [that] he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

The assertion of the apostle whereon he builds his exhortation is, that Enoch was translated by faith. The proof of this assertion he expresseth in the way of a syllogistical argument. The proposition he lays down in the verse foregoing, Enoch had a divine testimony that he pleased God. The assumption consists in this sacred maxim, “Without faith it is impossible to please God:” whence the conclusion follows, by the interposition of another argument of the same kind, namely, that whereby Enoch pleased God, by that he was translated; for his translation was the consequent and effect of his pleasing God. And, thirdly, he gives an illustration and confirmation of his assumption, “For he that cometh to God,” etc.

The adversative particle δέ , “but,” constitutes this form of argument, “He pleased God; but without faith it is impossible,” etc.

1. In the proposition itself, the form and matter of it may be considered.

(1.) As unto the form, there is a positive affirmation included in the negative: “Without ‘faith it is impossible to please God;” that is, faith is the only way and means whereby any one may please God. So χωρίς is frequently used to intimate the affirmation of the contrary unto what is denied. John 1:3, Χωρὶς αὐτοῦ , “Without him nothing was made;” that is, ‘Every thing was made by him.’ John 15:5, Χωρὶς ἐμοῦ , “Without me ye can do nothing;” that is, ‘By me, or my strength, ye must do all things.’ Romans 10:14, “How shall they hear χωρὶς χηρύσσοντος ;” “without a preacher?” that is, ‘All hearing is by a preacher.’SeeHebrews 7:20; Hebrews 7:20; Hebrews 9:7; Hebrews 9:18. Wherefore, “Without faith it is impossible to please God,” is the same with, ‘All pleasing of God is, and must be, by faith, it being impossible it should be otherwise.’And this sense of the words is necessary unto the argument of the apostle, which is to prove the power and efficacy of faith with respect unto our acceptation with God.

(2.) As unto the matter of the proposition, that which is denied without faith, or that which is enclosed unto the sole agency of faith, is εὐαρεστῆσαι , “to please,” “placere,” “beneplacere.” The verb is used only in this epistle, in these two verses, and Hebrews 13:16, in the passive voice, “God is well-pleased;” “promeretur Deus,” Vulg. Lat., without any signification. The adjective, εὐάρεστος , is used frequently, and constantly applied unto persons or things that are accepted with God, Romans 12:1-2, 2 Corinthians 5:9; Ephesians 5:10; Philippians 4:18; Colossians 3:20. Three things are here included in it:

[1.] That the person be accepted with God, that God be well-pleased with him.

[2.] That his duties do please God, that he is well-pleased with them, as he was with the gifts of Abel and the obedience of Enoch. So Hebrews 13:16.

[3.] That such a person have testimony that he is righteous, just or justified, as Abel and Enoch had, and as all true believers have in the Scripture.

This is that pleasing, of God which is enclosed unto faith alone. Otherwise there may be many acts and duties which may be materially such as God is pleased with, and which he will reward in this world, without faith: such was the destruction of the house of Ahab by Jehu. But the pleasing of God under consideration includes the acceptance with God of the person and his duties, or his justification before him. And this regulates the sense of the last clause of the verse. Our coming unto God, and believing in him, must be interpreted with respect unto this well-pleasing of him.

This is so by faith, as that without it is “impossible.” Many in all ages have attempted thus to please God without faith, and yet continue so to do. Cain began it. His design in his offering was to please God; but he did it not in faith, and failed in his design. And this is the great difference always in the visible church. All in their divine worship profess a desire to please God, and hope that so they shall do, to what purpose else was it to serve him? but, as our apostle speaks, many of them seek it not by faith, but by their own works and duties which they do and perform, Romans 9:32. Those alone attain their end who seek it by faith. And therefore God frequently rejects the greatest multiplication of duties, where faith is wanting, Isaiah 1:11-15, Psalms 40:0.

2. Wherefore, saith the apostle, this is a fundamental maxim of religion, namely, ‘It is impossible to please God any other way but by faith.’Let men desire, design, and aim at it whilst they please, they shall never attain unto it. And it is so impossible,

(1.) From divine constitution. Hereunto the Scripture bears testimony from first to last, namely, that none can, that none shall, ever please God but by faith, as our apostle pleads at large, Romans 3:5.

(2.) From the nature of the thing itself, faith being the first regular motion of the soul towards God, as we shall see immediately.

Howbeit the contrary apprehension, namely, that men by their works and duties may please God without faith, as well as by faith, or in the same manner as with faith, is so deeply fixed in the minds of men, as that it hath produced various evil consequences. For,

(1.) Some have disputed with God himself, as if he dealt not equally and justly with them, when he was not well pleased with their duties, nor accepted themselves. Cain was so, being thereon not more wrathful with his brother than with God himself, as is plain in the rebuke given unto him, Genesis 4:5-7. So did the Jews frequently: “Wherefore have we fasted, and thou seest not?” Isaiah 58:3. And so it is with all hypocrites unto this day: should they at any time be convinced that God is not pleased either with their persons or their duties, especially the duties of religious worship which they perform unto him, which they judge to be every whit as good as theirs who are accepted, they are angry in their hearts with God himself, and judge that he deals not well with them at all.

(2.) This is that which keeps up hatred, feuds, and persecutions, in the visible church. The greatest part generally are contented with the outward performance of duties, not doubting but that by them they shall please God. But when they find others professing that the sincerity of saving faith, and that working, in serious repentance, and universal obedience unto God, are necessary unto this pleasing of God, whereby their duties are condemned, their countenances fall, and they are full of wrath, and are ready even to slay their brethren. There is the same difference, the same grounds and reasons of it, between true believers and persecuting hypocrites still, as was between Abel and Cain. All profess a design to please God, as they both did; all perform the same outward duties, the one commonly more attending unto the rule of them than the other, as they did: but the one sort plead a secret interest in divine favor and acceptation by faith, that is invisible; the other trust unto their outward works; whence an endless difference doth arise between them.

(3.) This hath been the foundation of all superstition in divine worship. For a secret apprehension that God was to be pleased with outward works and duties, as Cain thought, was the reason of the multiplication of innumerable rites and ceremonies in divine service; of all the masses, purgatories, pilgrimages, vows, disciplines, idolatries, that constitute the Roman church. They were all found out in answer unto the inquiry made, Micah 6:6-7; Micah 6:6-7, “Wherewith shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before the high God? Shall I come before him with burnt-offerings, with calves of a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my first-born for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” Hence one pretended duty, that shall have something to commend it, as its charge, its difficulty, or its beauty as it is adorned, must be added unto another; all to please God without faith.

(4.) This hath stirred up and maintained innumerable controversies in the church in all ages. Some openly contend that this pleasing of God is the fruit of the merit of our own works, and is not attained by faith. And others endlessly contend to bring our works and duties into the same order and causality, as unto our acceptance before God, with faith itself; and think it as true. as unto the end of the apostle’s discourse, namely, our pleasing of God and being accepted with him, that without our works it is impossible to please God, as it is that without faith it is impossible to please him: which is to overthrow both his argument and design.

Wherefore, unless we hold fast this truth, namely, that whatever be the necessity of other graces and duties, yet it is faith alone whereby we please God, and obtain acceptance with him, we condemn the generation of the righteous in their cause from the foundation of the world, take part with Cain against Abel, and forego our testimony unto the righteousness of God in Christ. And,

Obs. 1. Where God hath put an impossibility upon any thing, it is in vain for men to attempt it. From the days of Cain multitudes have been designing to please God without faith, all in vain; like them that would have built a tower whose top should reach to heaven. And,

Obs. 2. It is of the highest importance to examine well into the sincerity of our faith, whether it be of the true kind or no, seeing thereon depends the acceptance of our persons and all our duties. None ever thought that God was to be pleased without any faith at all; the very design of pleasing him avows some kind of faith: but that especial kind of faith whereby we may be justified, they regard not. Of these things I have treated fully in my book of [6] Justification.

[6] See miscellaneous works, volume 5. ED.

3. Of this assertion the apostle gives a further confirmation or illustration, by showing the necessity of faith unto acceptance with God. And this he doth by declaring the duty of every one that would be so accepted: “For it behoveth him that cometh unto God to believe,” etc. Wherein we have,

(1.) The assertion of the duty prescribed; “It behoveth him,” or he must.

(2.) The subject spoken of; which is, “he that cometh unto God.”

(3.) the duty prescribed; which is, to “believe.”

[1.] That “God is;”

[2.] That “he is the rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”

That he gives a reason and proof of what he had before asserted is declared in the illative conjunction, “for:” This makes the truth herein manifest.

(1.) He makes application of his assertion to every one concerned in particular in a way of duty. ‘Whoever he be that hath this design to come to God, and to be accepted with him, he ought, he must do so. This is his duty, from which no one living shall have an exemption.’

(2.) The subject spoken of is, “He that cometh unto God.” Προσέρχομαι in general signifies any access, or coming to any person or thing; nor is it used in a sacred sense anywhere in the New Testament but only in this epistle, and 1 Peter 2:4. But the simple verb, ἔρχομαι , is frequently so used. And this coming unto God signifies in particular an access or approach unto him in sacred worship. See Hebrews 10:1, with the exposition. But in general, as in this place, and 1 Peter 2:4, it denotes an access of the person into the favor of God, including the particular addresses unto him with his duties. We must therefore inquire what it is thus to come to God, and what is required thereunto; that we may understand what it is that the apostle makes believing so necessary unto, and whereby he proves that “without faith it is impossible to please God.” And,

[1.] There is required thereunto a previous sense of a wanting, lost condition in ourselves, by a distance from God. No man designs to come to God but it is for relief, satisfaction, and rest. It must be out of an apprehension that he is yet at such a distance from God as not to be capable of relief or rest from him; and that in this distance he is in a condition indigent and miserable; as also that there is relief and rest for him in God.

Without these apprehensions no man will ever engage in a design to come unto God, as having no reason for it nor end in it. And this can be wrought in none sincerely but by faith. All other powers and faculties in the souls of men, without faith, do incline and direct them to look for rest and satisfaction in themselves. This was the highest notion of those philosophers who raised human wisdom into an admiration, namely, the Stoics, “That every one was to seek for all rest and satisfaction in himself, and in nothing else;” and so they came at length expressly to make every man a god to himself. Faith alone is the gracious power which takes us off from all confidence in ourselves, and directs us to look for all in another; that is, in God himself. And therefore it must see that in God which is suited to give relief in this condition. And this is contained in the object of it as here proposed, as we shall see. [2.] There must antecedently hereunto be some encouragement given unto him that will come to God, and that from God himself. A discovery of our wants, indigence, and misery, makes it necessary that we should do so; but it gives no encouragement so to do, for it is accompanied with a discovery of our unworthiness so to do, and be accepted in doing it. Nor can any encouragement be taken from the consideration of the being of God, and his glorious excellencies absolutely; nor is that anywhere in the Scripture absolutely and in the first place proposed for our encouragement. This, therefore, can be nothing but his free, gracious promise to receive them that come unto him in a due manner; that is, by Christ, as the whole Scripture testifieth. For what some pretend concerning coining unto God by encouragements taken from general notions of his nature, and his works of creation and providence, without any promise, is an empty speculation; nor can they give any single instance of any one person that ever came to God, and found acceptance with him, without the encouragement of divine revelation, which hath in it the nature of a promise. Faith, therefore, is necessary unto this coming to God, because thereby alone we receive, lay hold of, embrace the promises, and are made partakers of them; which the apostle not only expressly affirmeth, but makes it his design to prove in a great part of the chapter, as we shall see. There is nothing, therefore, more fond, more foreign to the apostle’s intention, than what is here ignorantly and weakly by some pretended; namely, that faith here is nothing but an “assent unto the truth of the being of God, and his distribution of rewards and punishments,” without any respect unto the promise, that is, unto Christ and his mediation, as will yet further appear. Wherefore,

[3.] To come to God, is to have an access into his favor, to “please God,” as did Enoch; so to come as to be accepted with him. There may be a coming to God with our duties and services, as did Cain, when we are not accepted; but the apostle treats in this place only of an access with acceptance into his grace and favor, as is manifest from his instance, his design, and argument.

(3.) For those that have this design, it is their duty to “believe.” This is the only way and means of attaining that end. Whence believing itself is often called coming to God, or coming to Christ, Isaiah 55:1; Isaiah 55:3; John 6:37; John 6:44; John 7:37. And it is by faith alone that we have an access into this grace, Romans 5:2; that is, whereby we thus come to God.

(4.) The object of this faith, or what in this case we ought to believe, is twofold:

[1.] The being of God; “Believe that he is.”

[2.] His office; in that “he is the rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”

The Syriac translation seems to make but one entire object of faith in the words, namely, that God is a rewarder, referring both the verb ἔστι , and γίνεται , unto μισθαποδότης : as if it were said, “must believe that God is, and will be, the rewarder of them that diligently seek him,” namely, in this world and hereafter also. But I shall follow the usual distinction of the words.

[1.] The first thing to be believed is, that “God is.” The expression seems to be imperfect, and something more is intended than the divine being absolutely, as, his God.

The schoolmen, and sundry expositors on the place, as Catharinus, Salmeron, Tena, etc., dispute earnestly how the being of God, which is the object of natural science, seeing it may be known by the light of reason, can be proposed as the object of faith, which respects only things unseen, inevident, supernatural, made known by revelation only. And many distinctions they apply unto the solution of this difficulty. For my part, I no way doubt but the same thing or verity may on diverse respects be the object of reason and faith also. So is it when that which is consistent with reason, and in general discoverable by it, as the creation of the world, is more distinctly and clearly proposed unto faith by divine revelation; which doth not destroy the former assent on principles of reason, but confirms the mind in the persuasion of the same truth by a new evidence given unto it. But the apostle speaks not here of any such assent unto the truth of the being and existence of God as may be attained by reason or the light of nature; but that which is the pure object of faith, which the light of reason can no way reach unto. For that he treats of such things only, is evident from the description which he premiseth of the nature of faith, namely, that it is “the evidence of things not seen.” And it is such a believing of the being of God as gives encouragement to come unto him, that we who are sinners may find favor and acceptance with him. And that apprehension which men may have of the being of God by the light of nature, yea, and of his being a rewarder, Cain had, as we have showed; and yet he had no share in that faith which the apostle here requires. Wherefore it is evident, from the context, the circumstances of the subject-matter treated on, and the design of the apostle, that the being or existence of God proposed as the object of our faith, to be believed in a way of duty, is the divine nature with its glorious properties or perfections, as engaged and acting themselves in a way of giving rest, satisfaction, and blessedness, unto them that come unto him.

When we are obliged to believe that he is, it is what he proposeth when he declareth himself by that name, I AM, Exodus 3:14; whereby he did not only signify his existence absolutely, but that he so was, as that he would actually give existence and accomplishment unto all his promises unto the church. So when he revealed himself unto Abraham by the name of “Almighty God,” Genesis 17:1, he was not obliged to believe only his “eternal power and Godhead,” which are intelligible by the light of nature, Romans 1:20, but also that he would be so unto him, in exerting his almighty power on his behalf; whereon he requires of him that he should “walk before him and be perfect.” Wherefore the believing that God is, “I AM,” the “Almighty God,” is to believe him as our God in covenant, exercising the holy properties of his nature, his power, wisdom, goodness, grace, and the like, in a way of giving rest and blessedness unto our souls. For all this he required Abraham to believe, as the ground of the covenant on his part; whereon he requires universal obedience from him.

To suppose that the apostle intends by that faith whereby we may come to God, and find acceptance with him, nothing but an assent unto the being of God absolutely considered, which is altogether fruitless in the generality of mankind, is a vain notion, unsuited unto his design. Wherefore,

Obs. 3. God himself, in his self-sufficiency and his all-sufficiency, meet to act towards poor sinners in a way of bounty, is the first motive or encouragement unto, and the last object of faith. See Isaiah 50:10; 1 Peter 1:21.

[2.] The second thing which, in order unto the same end of acceptance with God, we are required to believe, is, “that he is, or will be, “a rewarder of them that diligently seek him;” that is, he will act in all things towards them suitably unto the proposal which he makes of himself unto faith when he says, “I AM,” and “I am God Almighty,” or the like.

Two things may be considered in this object of faith:

1 st . The assertion of the truth itself; “God is a rewarder.”

2 dly . The limitation of the exercise of that property as unto its object; unto “them that diligently seek him.”

And this limitation wholly excludes the general notion, of believing in rewards and punishments from God, present and future, from being here intended; for it is confined only unto the goodness and bounty of God towards believers, “those that seek him.” His dealing with them is not exactly according unto distributive justice with respect unto themselves, but in a way of mercy, grace, and bounty. For “the reward is of grace, and not of works.”

1st . That which these words of the apostle have respect unto, and which is the ground of the faith here required, is contained in the revelation that God made of himself unto Abraham, Genesis 15:1, “Fear not, Abram; I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.” God is so a rewarder unto them that seek him, as that he himself is their reward; which eternally excludes all thoughts of merit in them that are so rewarded. Who can merit God to be his reward? Rewarding in God, especially where he himself is the reward, is an act of infinite grace and bounty. And this gives us full direction unto the object of faith here intended, namely, God in Christ, as revealed in the promise of him, giving himself unto believers as a reward (to be their God), in a way of infinite goodness and bounty. The proposal hereof is that alone which gives encouragement to come unto him, which the apostle designs to declare.

2dly . This further appears from the limitation of the object, or of those unto whom he is thus a rewarder; namely, such as “diligently seek him.” Ζητεῖν , to “seek” the Lord, is used in general for any inquiry after him, from the light of nature or otherwise, Acts 17:27; Acts 17:27. But ἐκζητεῖν , the word here used by the apostle, argues a peculiar manner of seeking, whence we render it “diligently seek him.” But this duty of seeking God is so frequently enjoined in the Scripture, and so declared to consist in faith acting itself in prayer, patience, and diligent attendance unto the ways of God’s manifestation of himself in his ordinances of worship, that I shall not here insist upon it. Only I shall observe some things that are necessary unto the interpretation of the place.

(1st.) To seek God, is to do so according to some rule, guiding us both what way we are to go, and what we are to expect with him and from him. Those that sought him without such a rule, as the apostle tells them, did but strive εἰ ψηλαφήσειαν , to “feel after him,” as men feel after a thing in the dark, when they know neither what it is nor how to come at it, Acts 17:27.

(2dly.) This rule neither is, nor ever was, nor can be, any other but the rule of God’s covenant with us, and the revelation made of himself therein. In the state of original righteousness, man was bound to seek God (for this is eternally indispensable to all creatures, until we come to the full fruition of him) according to the tenor of the covenant of works. His seeking of God consisted in the faith and works of obedience required in that covenant. And there is now no way to seek God but according to the revelation that he hath made of himself in the covenant of grace, and the terms of obedience required therein. All other seeking of God is vain, and not prescribed unto us in a way of duty. All those who do attempt it do “wax vain in their imaginations, and their foolish hearts are darkened.” When once we have the knowledge of this rule, when God hath revealed his covenant unto us, and the confirmation of it in Christ, all things are plain and clear, both how we may find God, and what we shall find in him.

(3dly.) This seeking of God is progressive, and hath various degrees. For there is,

[1 st .] Antecedent unto it, God’s finding of us in a way of sovereign grace and mercy. So “he is found of them that sought him not,”

Isaiah 65:1. And if he had not so sought us, we should never have sought after him; for “herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us” first.

[2 dly .] In itself, it takes in our first conversion unto God. To seek God, is to seek his grace and favor in Christ Jesus, to seek his kingdom and righteousness, to turn and adhere unto him in faith and love unfeigned.

[3 dly .] A diligent attendance unto all the ways of duty and obedience which he hath prescribed unto us. “Hearken to me, ye that follow after righteousness, ye that seek the LORD,” Isaiah 51:1.

[4 thly .] A patient waiting for the accomplishment of the promises, which the apostle so celebrates in Abraham. Wherefore,

(4thly.) This diligent seeking of God, in them unto whom God will be a rewarder in a way of goodness and bounty, is an access unto him by faith, initial and progressive, according to the tenor of the covenant of grace in Christ Jesus, that we may find favor and acceptance with him. So did Abel seek God, when he offered a bloody sacrifice, in faith of the future propitiation by the Seed of the woman. So did Enoch seek God, when he walked before him in covenant-obedience. Neither will God be such a rewarder as is here intended, he will not give himself as a reward unto any but those that seek him after this way.

Obs. 4. Those who seek God only according to the light of nature, do but feel after him in the dark, and they shall never find him as a rewarder, namely, such as is here described, though they may have pregnant notions of his justice, and of rewards and punishments according unto it.

Obs. 5. Those who seek him according to the law of works, and by the best of their obedience thereunto, shall never find him as a rewarder, nor attain that which they seek after; as the apostle expressly declares, Romans 9:31-32.

I have insisted the longer on the exposition of this verse, both on the account of the important truths contained in it, as also because some of late have endeavored to wrest this text, as they do other scriptures, as though it should teach that no other faith was required unto the justification of them of old but only an assent unto the being of God, and his wisdom, righteousness, and power, in governing the world with rewards and punishments; so to exclude all consideration of the promise of the Lord Christ and his mediation from their faith. So is the place expounded by Crellius, and Grotius who followeth him, with his admirers, and others that borrow falsehoods from them. But as that assent is supposed and included herein, as necessary unto all religion, so that it is what, and all that is here proposed and required, is consistent neither with the scope of the place, the design of the apostle, nor any expression in the text rightly understood. Observe,

Obs. 6. It is the most proper act of faith, to come and cleave unto God as a rewarder in the way of grace and bounty, as proposing himself for our reward. Obs. 7. That faith is vain which doth not put men on a diligent inquiry after God.

Obs. 8. The whole issue of our finding of God when we seek him, depends on the way and rule which we take and use in our so doing.

Verse 7

Noah is the third person mentioned in the Scripture, unto whom testimony was given in particular that “he was righteous;” and therefore the apostle produceth him in the third place, as an instance of the power and efficacy of faith, declaring also wherein his faith wrought and was effectual

Hebrews 11:7 . Πίστει χρηματισθεὶς Νῶε περὶ τῶν μηδέπω βλεπομένων , εὐλαβηθεὶς κατεσκεύασε κιβωτὸν εἰς σωτηρίαν τοῦ οἴκου αὑτοῦ· δἰ ἧς κατέκρινε τὸν κόσμον , καὶ τῆς κατὰ πίστιν δικαιοσύνης ἐγένετο κληρονόμος .

Κρηματισθείς . Vulg. Lat., “responso accepto;” Rhem., “having received an answer.” Hence sundry expositors, who adhere unto that translation, inquire how Noah may be said to have an answer from God, whereas no mention is made of any inquiry of his in this matter. Some say, that Adam had foretold that the world should be twice destroyed, once by water, and again by fire. Hereon Noah inquired of God to know when the first of them should fall out, and received this answer, that it was now approaching. Some say, that “to answer,” in Scripture, is ofttimes used for “to begin a speech unto another,” when there was nothing spoken before; whereof they give instances, I mention these things only to show what needless pains men put themselves unto, out of a prejudicate adherence unto what may deceive them, as they do here, by following a false translation; for in the original word there is nothing that intimates an answer upon an inquiry. But the truth is, the translation hath not so much deceived them as they have deceived themselves. For “responsum” in Latin is a “divine oracle,” and so used in all good authors. “Responsa deorum,” “reponsa Aruspicum,” are oracular directions; and so is “responsum” absolutely. Syr., כּר אֶתְמַלֵל עַמֵהּ , “when he was spoken to,” “when there was a word with him.” “Divinitus admonitus,” as we say properly, “warned of God.”

Περὶ τῶν μηδέπω βλεπομένων . Syr., “of those things which are not seen;” omitting μηδέπω , “nondum;” “nondum adhue,” as all other translations. Arab., “when it was revealed to Noah about things which yet were not seen.” Εὐλαβηθείς , “veritus,” “reveritus,” “metuens,” “timuit,” “venerabundus;” “fearing,” he feared, “moved with fear,” a reverential fear. Κατεσκεύασε , “apparavit,” he “prepared;” Vulg. Lat., “aptavit,” he “fitted” by preparing and making of it; Syr., עֲבַר , “fecit,” “condidit;” he “made” or “built” an ark.

Εἰς σωτηρίαν τοῦ οἴκου αὑτοῦ . Syr., לְחַיֵּא דַּבְּנַי בַּיְתֵהּ , “unto the lives” (that is, the saving of the lives) “of the sons of his house” or family.

Hebrews 11:7 . By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not as yet seen, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.

Chrysostom well commends this instance of the apostle, in that it not only gives a demonstration of the efficacy of faith on the one hand, in Noah, but also of the effect and consequent of unbelief on the other, in the whole world besides. Hence the application of this example was exceedingly seasonable and proper unto these Hebrews, who stood now on their trial of what they would follow and abide by. Here they might see, as in a glass, what would be the effect of the one and the other.

There is in the words,

1. The person spoken of or instanced in; which is Noah.

2. What is affirmed of him; that he was “warned of God of things not yet seen.”

3. The effect hereof by faith:

(1.) Internal, in himself; he was “moved with fear:”

(2.) External, in obedience; he “built an ark.”

4. The consequent of his so doing:

(1.) The saving of his own family;

(2.) The condemnation of the world;

(3.) His own becoming an “heir of the righteousness which is by faith.”

1. The person spoken of is Noah, concerning whom some things may be observed that relate unto the sense of the place.

(1.) Being designed of God unto the great work which he was to be called unto, to live and act at that time and that season wherein God would destroy the world for sin, he had his name given him by a spirit of prophecy. His father, Lamech, called him בֹחַ ; whereof he gave this reason, זֶה יֵנַחֲמֵנו , “This shall comfort us concerning our work and toil of our hands, because of the ground which the LORD hath cursed,” Genesis 5:29. He foresaw that by him, and in his days, relief would come from the effects of the curse: which there did,

[1.] In the just destruction of the wicked world, whereon the earth for a while had rest from its bondage under which it groaned, Romans 8:0;

[2.] In that in him the promise of the blessed Seed should be preserved, whence all rest and comfort do proceed. But “to rest,” or “cause either the name of נֹחַ is not derived from נוּחַ , to rest,” but from נִחַם , “to comfort,” mem being rejected in the framing of the name; or else there is not in the words of Lamech, זֶה יְנַחֲמֵנוּ , “This same shall comfort us, a respect unto the etymology of the word, but an expression of the thing signified.

(2.) As unto his state and condition antecedent unto what is here declared of him, two things are affirmed:

[1.] That he “found grace in the eyes of the LORD,” Genesis 6:8.

[2.] That he was “just, perfect in his generations, and walked with God,” verse 9. He was accepted with God, justified, and walked in acceptable obedience, before he was thus divinely warned, with what followed thereon. Wherefore these things did not belong unto his first believing, but unto the exercise of that faith which he had before received. Nor was he then first made an “heir of righteousness,” but declared so to be, as Abraham was justified when he offered Isaac his son.

(3.) His employment in the world was, that he was “a preacher of righteousness,” 2 Peter 2:5; that is, of the righteousness of God by faith; and of righteousness by repentance and obedience among men. And there is no doubt but that before, and whilst he was building the ark, he was urgent with mankind to call them to repentance, by declaring the promises and threatenings of God. And in a blessed state he was, to be a preacher of righteousness unto others, and an heir of righteousness in himself. (4.) He is said to be ὄγδοος , 2 Peter 2:5, “the eighth person.” But whereas Enoch was “the seventh from Adam,” and he the third from Enoch, he could not be the eighth, but was the tenth on the line of genealogy from Adam. He is therefore called the eighth, because he was the head of the eight that were saved, the other seven depending on him, and saved by him; unless we shall suppose him to be called the eighth preacher of righteousness, that is, from Enosh, when the separation was first made between the wicked and the godly, and wickedness increasing, those who feared God began publicly to preach repentance, Genesis 4:26.

2. That which is affirmed of him is, that he was “warned of God of things not as yet seen.” Χρηματίζω , is “to give an answer with authority,” by kings or magistrates unto ambassadors or orators. It is noted by Plutarch, that it was one cause of the conspiracy against Caesar, that he miscarried herein: Προσιόντων δὲ ὑπάτων καὶ στρατηγῶν , ἅμα δὲ καὶ τῆς βουλῆς ἑπομένης , οὔχ ὑπεξαναστὰς , ἀλλ᾿ ὥσπερ ἰδιώταις χρηματίζων ἀπεκρίνατο· , “The consuls, with the proctors and the whole senate following them, coming to him, he arose not, but spake as unto a company of private men.” And χρηματίζομαι , is used in the Scripture in a common sense, to be “called” or named, Acts 11:26; Romans 7:3. But its more frequent use is for a divine warning, Matthew 2:12; Matthew 2:22; Luke 2:26; Acts 10:22; Hebrews 8:5. And χρηματισμός is a divine oracle, Romans 11:4. And it is used to express any kind of divine revelation; as by inspiration of the Holy Ghost, Luke 2:26; by the ministry of angels, Acts 10:22; by dreams, Matthew 2:12; Matthew 2:22; by an immediate voice of God, Romans 11:4.

And this warning of God was no other but that which is recorded Genesis 6:13-16. And there were two parts of it, the first minatory, or a declaration of the purpose of God to destroy the whole world, verse 13. The second is directory, of what he required of him in making an ark, verses 14-16. Accordingly, as we shall see, it had a twofold effect on Noah; the first, of fear in himself from the threatening; the other of obedience, in building the ark according to direction. Both parts of this divine warning were of “things not yet seen.”

Things of this sort, namely, “things not seen,” he had before declared to be the proper object of faith, verse 1. But the things here intended were not in their own nature invisible; they were sufficiently seen when they did exist. Therefore the apostle saith, they were “not yet seen;” namely, the flood, and the saving of himself in an ark. These were not seen when Noah was warned about them, nor in a hundred years after. They were seen neither in themselves nor in their causes. For although in the morally procuring cause of the flood, namely, the wickedness of the world, it was present, yet there was nothing then to be seen or learned of its destruction by a flood: and efficient cause it had none, but the invisible power of God. Wherefore it was a pure act of faith in Noah, to believe that which he had no evidence for, but by divine revelation; especially considering that the thing itself revealed was in itself strange, direful, and unto human reason every way incredible. And we may observe,

Obs. 1. It is a high commendation to faith, to believe things, on the word of God, that in themselves and all second causes are invisible, and seem impossible, Romans 4:17-21; Romans 4:17-21.

Obs. 2. No obstacle can stand in the way of faith, when it fixeth itself on the almighty power of God, and his infinite veracity, Romans 11:23; Titus 1:2.

Obs. 3. It is a great encouragement and strengthening unto faith, when the things which it believes as promised or threatened are suitable unto the properties of the divine nature, his righteousness, holiness, goodness, and the like, such as it becometh God to do. Such was the destruction of the world, when it was filled with wickedness and violence.

Obs. 4. We have here a pledge of the certain accomplishment of all divine threatenings against ungodly sinners and enemies of the church, though the time of it may be yet far distant, and the means of it inevident. Unto this end is this example made use of, 2 Peter 2:5.

3. Of this warning of God given unto Noah,

(1.) The first effect, as we observed, respected the first part of the warning, which was a threatening of total destruction. He was “moved with fear.” And here faith in its efficacy begins to take place. For although he may be said to be warned of God through faith, inasmuch as he became accepted with God by faith, whereon he received the especial favor of this divine warning; yet here respect seems to be had unto the effect which it had in Noah, with the consequents thereof. “By faith he was moved with fear.” His believing the word of God had this effect on him.

Of the meaning of the word, see the exposition on Hebrews 5:7. A reverential fear it is of God’s threatenings, and not an anxious, solicitous fear of the evil threatened. In the warning given him, he considered the greatness, the holiness, and the power of God, with the vengeance becoming those holy properties of his nature, which he threatened to bring on the world. Seeing God by faith under this representation of him, he was filled with a reverential fear of him. See Habakkuk 3:16; Psalms 119:120; Malachi 2:5.

Neither is this fear that effect wherein his faith did ultimately acquiesce, but he used it only as a means unto the further end of obedience in building the ark; and therefore we render it, “moved with fear.” This fear, which arose from faith, was used by the same faith to excite and stir him up unto his duty. And therefore this reverential fear of God is frequently in the Scripture used for the whole worship of God, and all the obedience required of us; because it is a continual motive unto it, and a means of a due performance of it. So then,

Obs. 5. A reverential fear of God, as threatening vengeance unto impenitent sinners, is a fruit of saving faith, and acceptable unto God. See the exposition on Hebrews 4:1.

Obs. 6. It is one thing to fear God as threatening, with a holy reverence; another to be afraid of the evil threatened, merely as it is penal and destructive, which the worst of men cannot avoid.

Obs. 7. Faith produceth various effects in the minds of believers, according to the variety of objects that it is fixed on; sometimes joy and confidence, sometimes fear and reverence.

Obs. 8. Then is fear a fruit of faith, when it engageth us unto diligence in our duty; as it did here in Noah: “being moved by fear, he prepared an ark.”

(2.) This was the second effect of his faith, with respect unto the second part. of the divine warning, “Make thee an ark,” Genesis 6:14. God said unto him, “Make thee an ark,” and in compliance with that command and direction, it is here said that he “prepared an ark.” The word here used is variously rendered, as we have showed. Our translation, by “prepared,” is proper; for it compriseth all that Noah did, from the first provision unto the last finishing of it. All the preparation of materials, all their disposition into a fabric by divine direction, and the finishing of them in their order, are comprised in this word. And we may observe about it,

[1.] That the preparing, building, and finishing of this vessel, meet to swim in the water, which, from the Hebrew תֵּבָה the Greeks rendered κιβωτός , the Latins arca, and we from them, an “ark,” was a thing new in the earth, great, requiring labor and expense in a long continuance of time; as is supposed, an hundred and twenty years. And a strange thing no doubt it was in the world, to see a man with so great an endeavor build a ship where there was no water near him.

[2.] During the preparation of this ark he continued to preach righteousness and repentance unto the inhabitants of the world; nor could it be avoided, but that he must, in what he did, let them know in what way they should be destroyed if they did not repent.

[3.] In this state of things, the Scripture observeth three things concerning the inhabitants of the old world:

1 st . That they were disobedient; they did not repent, they did not return unto God upon his preaching, and the striving of the Spirit of Christ with them therein, 1 Peter 3:19-20. For which cause they were not only temporally destroyed, but shut up in the everlasting prison.

2dly . That they were secure, not having the least thought, fear, or expectation of the destruction which he denounced approaching to them, being not moved with his threatenings to the last hour: Matthew 24:38-39, “They knew not until the flood came, and took them all away.”

3dly . That they were scoffers, as is plainly intimated, 2 Peter 3:3-6. They scorned and derided Noah, both in his preaching and his building.

And we may hence further observe,

Obs. 9. That all these things tend unto the commendation of the faith of Noah. Neither the difficulty, nor the length of the work itself, nor his want of success in preaching, as unto their repentance and conversion to God, nor the contempt and scorn which were cast upon him by the whole world, did weaken or discourage him in the least from going on with the work and duty whereunto he was divinely called. A great precedent and example it was unto all who may be called to bear testimony for God in times of difficulty and opposition.

Obs. 10. We have here an eminent figure of the state of impenitent sinners, and God’s dealing with them, in all ages:

(1.) When their sins are coming to the height, he gives them a peculiar time and space for repentance, with sufficient evidence that it is a season granted for that end.

(2.) During this space the long-suffering of God waits for their conversion; and he makes it known that it doth so.

(3.) He allows them the outward means of conversion, as he did to the old world in the preaching of Noah.

(4.) He warns them in particular of the judgments that are approaching them, which they cannot escape; as he did by the building of the ark. And such are the dealings of God with impenitent sinners in some measure and proportion in all ages.

They, on the other side, in such a season,

(1.) Continue disobedient under the most effectual means of conversion. No means shall be effectual unto that end, Isaiah 6:9-12; Isaiah 6:9-12. Anti when the preaching of righteousness loseth its efficacy in the conversion of sinners, it is a token of approaching desolations.

(2.) They are secure as unto any fear, or expectation of judgments; and shall be so until they are overwhelmed in them, Revelation 18:7-8.

(3.) There are always amongst them scoffers, that deride all that are moved with fear at the threatenings of God, and behave themselves accordingly; which is an exact portraiture of the present condition of the world.

4. Of this faith of Noah, and the fruits of it in fear and obedience,

(1.) The immediate effect was the saving of his family. He did it “to the saving of his household;” that is, he himself, his wife, his three sons, and their wives, that is, such as on the foresight of the flood they had espoused, for probably they came not together in conjugal duties until after the flood, for they had no child until then, Genesis 10:1, and eight persons only were to be saved.

This family, God in sovereign grace and mercy would preserve and deliver, principally to continue the conveyance of the promised Seed, which was to be produced from Adam, Luke 3:38, and was not, in the immutable counsel of God, liable to an intercision; which it would have been if God had destroyed all mankind, and created a new race of them upon the earth: and in the next place, for the continuation and propagation of a church, to be brought unto God by virtue of that promise.

And in this saving of the family of Noah by the ark, we have a figure of God’s saving and preserving a remnant in all ages, when desolating judgments have destroyed apostatized churches and nations. So the apostle Peter declares with respect unto the vengeance and overwhelming destruction that was coming on the apostatized church of the Jews: 1 Peter 3:20-21,

“The ark, wherein few, that is eight souls, were saved by water. The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us.”

I deny not but that there is a great allusion in general between salvation by the ark and that by baptism, inasmuch as the one did represent and the other doth exhibit Christ himself. But the apostle hath a particular design in this comparison. For judgment by a universal destruction was then coming on the whole church and people of the Jews, but God would save a few by baptism, that is, their initiation into gospel faith and repentance, whereby they were separated from the perishing infidels, and were really and actually delivered from the destruction that befell them; as Noah and his family were in the ark. So then,

Obs. 11. The visible, professing church shall never fall into such an apostasy, nor be so totally destroyed, but that God will preserve a remnant, for a seed to future generations, Isaiah 6:11-13; Isaiah 6:11-13; Romans 9:27; Revelation 18:4.

(2.) Lastly, There is a double consequent of this faith of Noah and his obedience therein;

[1.] With respect unto the world, “he condemned it;”

[2.] With respect unto himself, he “became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.” Both these are ascribed unto Noah. And the way whereby he din them is expressed in these words, “By the which.” That is, say some, “by which ark;” others, “by which faith;” for the relative agrees with either of these antecedents. I shall not contend about it.

The meaning is, by the which faith, acting and evidencing itself in the building of the ark, these things were wrought.

[1.] He “condemned the world.” Not as the judge of it, properly and authoritatively; but as an advocate and a witness, by plea and testimony. He condemned it by his doctrine, by his obedience, by his example, by his faith in them all. He did so,

1 st . In that he justified God. God had had a long contest with the world, “his Spirit strove with them;” and now in the issue, after much patience and forbearance, he was coming to destroy them. Herein “God would be justified in his sayings, and overcome when he was judged,” as the apostle speaks, Romans 3:4. This was done by Noah: he cleared and justified God in his threatenings and the execution of them; and therein condemned the world as guilty, and justly deserving the punishment inflicted on it.

2 dly . He condemned the world by casting a weighty aggravation on its guilt, in that he believed and obeyed when they refused so to do. It was not any thing evil, grievous, or impossible, that was required of them, but what he gave them an example of in himself; which greatly aggravated their sin. So is the expression used, Matthew 12:41, “The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here.” Their example being not followed, did aggravate the guilt of that generation.

3 dly. He condemned the world, by leaving it utterly without excuse. He that takes away the principal plea that a guilty person can make in his own defense, may justly be said to condemn him. And this Noah did towards the old world. He left them no pretense that they had not been warned of their sin and approaching ruin; so as that they had nothing to plead for themselves why the execution of judgment should be respited for one moment.

4 thly . He condemned the world, by approving of the vengeance that befell them, though very severe. So shall the saints judge and condemn fallen angels at the last day, 1 Corinthians 6:3. And we may observe, that

Obs. 12. Those whom God calleth unto, fitteth for, and employeth in any work, are therein συνεργοὶ Θεοῦ , “co-workers with God,” 1 Corinthians 3:9; 2 Corinthians 6:1: so as that what God doth himself efficiently, is ascribed unto them instrumentally, as working with him, and for him. So the preachers of the word do save men, 1 Timothy 4:16; and so are they said to condemn them.

Obs. 13. Let those that are employed in the declaration of God’s promises and threatenings take heed unto themselves, to answer the will of him by whom they are employed, whoso work it is wherein they are engaged.

Obs. 14. It ought to be a motive unto diligence in exemplary obedience, that therein we bear testimony for God against the impenitent world, which he will judge and punish.

[2.] The last thing in the words, or the second consequent of his faith and obedience, is, that he “became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.”

What the righteousness here intended is, the “righteousness of faith,” is so fully declared by the apostle in all his other writings, and so laid down in the close of the foregoing chapter, that there can be no question about it. The nature of this righteousness, with the way of attaining it, I have so [7] fully manifested in my treatise of Justification,

[7] See vol. 5 of miscellaneous works. ED.

that I shall not at all here speak to it. He calls it elsewhere, sometimes “the righteousness of God” absolutely, sometimes “the righteousness of God which is by faith,” sometimes “the gift of righteousness by Christ,” sometimes “the righteousness of faith,” or “the righteousness which is by faith,” as in this place. In all which our free, gratuitous justification by the righteousness of Christ, imputed unto us by faith, or through believing, is intended. This Noah obtained by faith. For that in this faith of the patriarchs no respect was had unto Christ and his righteousness, is such a putid figment, so destructive of the first promise and all true faith in the church of old, so inconsistent with and contrary to the design of the apostle, and utterly destroying the whole force of his argument, as we shall show afterwards that it deserves no consideration. Grotius and his follower say, “That Noah, as a reward of his faith, was left possessor of the whole earth, as an inheritance unto him and his children;” which is a wild exposition of being an “heir of the righteousness of faith,” and needs no confutation.

The way whereby he obtained this righteousness is, that he was made the “heir” of it. Some say ‘he is so called and said to be because this righteousness utterly failing in the old world before the flood, it was left in Noah as his right and inheritance, which he carried along with him into the new world after the flood. Righteousness did not utterly perish; Noah had a title unto it, and continued in the possession of it.’

But there is somewhat more in this expression. The way whereby we come to be made partakers of this righteousness, is by gratuitous adoption. This is by faith, John 1:12. Whatever we receive upon or by virtue of our adoption belongs unto our inheritance; thereof we are heirs. See Romans 8:15-17. So in justification, forgiveness of sin and the inheritance go together, Acts 26:18. And this inheritance is by the promise, not by the law or works, Galatians 3:18-19; Romans 4:14. Wherefore Noah was the “heir of the righteousness which is by faith,” in that by free adoption, through faith, he came to have an interest in and right unto the righteousness which is tendered in the promise, whereby it is conveyed unto us as an inheritance. And whereas it is said that he “became” so, if respect be had unto his faith in building of the ark, the meaning is, that he was then evidenced and declared so to be. As Abraham was said to be “justified when he offered Isaac,” who was personally justified long before; so also was Noah, by the testimony of God himself, before he was warned to build an ark. And we may learn,

Obs. 15. That all right unto spiritual privileges and mercies is by gratuitous adoption.

Obs. 16. That the righteousness of faith is the best inheritance for thereby we become “heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ.”

Verse 8

The apostle hath now passed over the first period of Scripture records, namely, from the beginning of the world unto the flood; and therein he hath considered the examples of all concerning whom it is testified in particular that they “pleased God,” and were accepted with him in their obedience. And two things he proves from them with respect unto his present purpose:

1. That they all pleased God and were righteous by faith.

2. That their faith was effectual to secure them in that state of divine favor, by enabling them unto all duties of obedience, notwithstanding the difficulties and oppositions which they met withal.

Hereby he makes good his design with respect unto these Hebrews, namely, to convince them that if they did not persevere in their profession, it was because of their unbelief, for that true faith would certainly carry them through with constancy and perseverance, whatever difficulties they should meet withal, giving them encouragement from what it wrought in others from the beginning.

Hence he proceeds unto the next period of time, from the flood, and the renovation of the world in the family of Noah, unto the giving of the law; so to manifest that in every state of the church the way of pleasing God was one and the same; as also, that faith still retained its efficacy under all alterations.

He who, in this period of time, is first testified unto in the Scripture, is he whose example on all accounts was most forcible with these Hebrews, which he had before at large proposed unto them and insisted on, Hebrews 6:11-15; the exposition of which place may be consulted, to give light to this context. This is Abraham; whose example, by reason of the eminency of his person, the relation of the Hebrews unto him, from whom they derived all their privileges temporal and spiritual, the efficacy of his faith, with the various successful exercises of it, he declares and urgeth at large from hence unto the end of the 19th verse.

Hebrews 11:8 . Πίστει καλούμενος ᾿Αβραὰμ ὑπήκουσεν ἐξελθεῖν εἰς τὸν τόπον ὅν ἤμελλε λαμβάνειν εἰς κληρονομίαν , καὶ ἐξῆλθε μὴ ἐπιστάμενος ποῦ ἔρχεται .

Καλούμενος ᾿Αζβαάμ . Vulg. Lat., “qui vocatur Abraham;” Rhem., “he who is called Abraham:” which can no way be reconciled unto the text. Those who will adhere unto that translation do suppose that the change of his name is here intimated, when from Abram he was called Abraham: but that is not “vocatus,” but “cognominatus;” not καλούμενος , but προσαγορευθείς . And if καλούμενος were ever used in such a sense, as it is not, it should have been ὅς ἐκλήθη , and not καλούμενος , without any article. Besides, as the apostle had no reason to speak of Abraham in that manner, “he who is called Abraham,” as if he were a person but little known to them, so this interpretation takes away the whole foundation of the faith of Abraham, and of all the effects of it, and so of the whole argument of the apostle, which was his divine call, which he refers unto. Wherefore all other translations avoid this mistake. Syr., כּד אֶתְקְרִי , “ ַ when he was called.” “Evocatus,” “called forth.” ῾Ψπήκουσεν ἐξελθεῖν , “obedivit exire,” “obeyed to go forth.” Syr., “dicto audiens fuit,” “auscultavit ut exiret,” “ut abiret,” “ut emigraret; “hearkened,” “obeyed to go forth,” “to wander away.” Some supply “Deo” to “ auscultavit;” which may be better supplied to “called,” “called of God.” Our English translation makes a transposition of the words: instead of, “he obeyed to go forth” unto the place, it refers ἐξελθεῖν , “to go forth,” unto καλούμενος , being “called to go out” unto a place; and so refers “obeyed” afterwards not only to the call of Abraham, but also unto what he did in compliance therewithall.

῾Ψπηκουσενv , “auscultavit,” “ditto audivit;” a word proper to answer καλούμενος : “being called,” he so “heard” as to yield obedience. So “to hearken or hear” is frequently used in the Scripture.

Hebrews 11:8 . By faith Abraham, being called [ of God ], obeyed to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.

In Abraham there was a foundation laid of a new state of the church after the flood, more excellent than that which preceded. He was the first also after the flood unto whom testimony was given in particular that he pleased God. He was the progenitor of the Hebrews, from whom they derived all their privileges, in whose person they were initiated into the covenant, with a right unto the promises. He was also by promise “the father of all that believe.” And therefore it was the great concernment of those Hebrews then, and is so now of us, to consider aright the example of his faith and obedience.

Designing to give many illustrious instances of the power and efficacy of the faith of Abraham, the apostle begins with that which was the beginning and foundation of them all, namely, the call of God, and his compliance therewithal

And the nature, life, and power of faith, are represented in three words in this instance: πίστει , καλούμενος , ὑπήκουσε . It respects the call of God, which it rests upon, and which it is resolved into; and it acts itself in obedience to all the commands of God. This alone is that faith which the apostle celebrates, and whereunto he ascribes the great effect of our pleasing God.

In the words of the verse there is proposed unto us,

1. The foundation of the faith and obedience of Abraham, which was his call of God.

2. What he was called unto, which was a journey or pilgrimage; described,

(1.) By the term from whence he went, “go out;” and,

(2.) From the term whither he went, “unto a place,” etc.

3. The exercise of his faith, and the effects of it, “he obeyed.”

4. The commendation of his faith, from the difficulty wherewith his obedience was accompanied, with respect unto what he was called unto, “not knowing,” etc.

First, He was “called;” that is, of God, by an immediate word of command from him.

1. He did it not without a command, H e did not leave all his present satisfactions, he did not put himself on innumerable hazards for the future, merely of his own accord. Had he not had a divine call, there had been no work for faith. Where there is no call from God, there can be no faith or trust in God. Where the call is general, as in our ordinary occasions, so is our faith in God, resigning all circumstances unto his disposal; but this especial call of Abraham required a special faith.

2. Concerning this call of Abraham, there are many difficulties arising from the record of it, Genesis 12:1-3, with its repetition by Stephen, Acts 7:2-4. For Genesis 12:0, it is reported as made after the death of Terah, his father, in Haran, Genesis 11:31-32; by Stephen it is assigned unto his being in Mesopotamia, before he left the land of the Chaldees. Besides, Haran, or Charran, was in Mesopotamia; where, in the relation of Stephen, he is said to dwell after he left Mesopotamia. Wherefore some say he was twice called, once in the land of the Chaldees, and again in Haran. Others say his call was but one; but then some say it was at Ur of the Chaldees, before he first went thence with his father; others, at Haran, after his father’s death.

It will not consist with my design, nor the nature of an exposition, to insist at large on these things. Some few observations will clear the whole difficulty, so far as is necessary unto our purpose; as,

(1.) Mesopotamia is in good authors sometimes taken largely for all that part of Asia which is separated from Syria by the river Euphrates, comprehending both Assyria and Chaldea; and sometimes strictly and properly for the country between the two rivers of Euphrates and Tigris, whence it hath its denomination. Hence, when Stephen affirms that “the God of glory appeared unto Abraham in Mesopotamia,” he takes it in the largest sense, comprehending Chaldea, wherein Ur was, as is plain, verses 2, 4. And Abraham coming thence unto Haran, came into a city of Mesopotamia properly so called, and that near to Euphrates, which he was to pass over into Syria.

(2.) By assigning the appearance of God unto Abraham before he left the land of the Chaldees, Stephen directly affirms his call to have been whilst he was there, before he departed with his father and came to Haran. And this is evident from the story in Moses, when it is said that he and his father “went forth from Ur of the Chaldees, to go into the land of Canaan,” Genesis 11:31; for they could have no design to leave their native country, with all their possessions and relations, to go into so remote and unknown a country, without some especial call and direction from God.

(3.) Wherefore those words of Moses, ויּאֹמֶר יְהָֹוה אֶאלאּאַבְרָם , Genesis 12:1, are well rendered by our translators, “Now the LORD had said unto Abram;” that is, he had so whilst he was in Ur of the Chaldees, before he and his father departed thence to go into the land of Canaan, Genesis 11:31. And because this call had no respect unto Terah, but unto Abraham only, Moses first records his journey with his father toward Canaan, and then, on the death of his father, takes up again and particularly expresseth his call, Genesis 12:1. The pursuit whereof from thence he distinctly declares.

(4.) And this is evident from the call itself, “Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house,” Genesis 12:1. For Abraham had all these in Ur of the Chaldees, and not in Haran.

Wherefore this call of Abraham was but one, and given at once; namely, whilst he was in Ur of the Chaldees, before his going out from thence with his father, and the death of his father thereon; which place Stephen reckons to Mesopotamia in the large notation of it. And this one call is particularly recorded, Genesis 12:1-3, after the death of Terah, when he only remained who was alone concerned therein. But the reader may see these things fully discoursed, with a just reconciliation of Moses with Stephen, in our Exercitations on the first volume of the Exposition, Exercitation 19.

Of this call of Abraham there were two parts:

(1.) A command, Genesis 12:1, “Get thee out of thy country,” etc.

(2.) A promise, Genesis 12:2-3, “And I will make of thee,” etc. Of this promise there were two parts:

[1.] A temporal blessing, in the multiplication of his seed, Genesis 12:2.

[2.] A spiritual blessing, in confining the promised blessing Seed unto him and his family, in whom all the families of the earth were to be blessed, verse 3. And it is a thing most absurd, and contrary to the whole design of the Scripture and the dispensation of the covenant, to confine the faith of Abraham unto the land of Canaan, and the glory of his posterity therein. For the life of the promise made unto him on his call, whereby his faith was animated, was in the blessing of all the families of the earth in him; which was in Christ alone, the promised seed, as all but infidels must confess.

Secondly, The apostle takes notice only of the first part of the call, namely, the command. And therein two things are considerable:

1. From what he was to go and depart.

2. What he was to go unto. He was to go out: καλούμενος ἐξελθεῖν . He was “called to go out; so our translation disposeth the words: or, being called, ὑπήκουσεν ἐξελθεῖν , “he obeyed to go out,” or “in going out,” as they lie in the original. They are both to the same purpose.

In the latter way, “obeyed” is immediately referred to faith; in the former, “going out” is so; his faith wrought by obedience in his going out.

1. It is said he was “called to go out.” From whence and from what, we are referred unto the story: Genesis 12:1, “Get thee” ( לֶאֱּלְךָ , “vade tibi”) “out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house;” that is, ‘leave and forsake all things that are pleasant, useful, desirable unto thee;’for these three things, “country, kindred, and father’s house,” comprise them all. And they fall under two considerations:

(1.) As man is naturally inclined to the love of them, to adhere unto them, to value them and delight in them. These are the things which, by all sorts of circumstances, do from their nativity insinuate themselves into the minds and affections of men, so as that they cannot be separated from them without the greatest convulsions of nature. And we have the testimony of mankind hereunto, with sundry instances of such as have preferred these things before their own lives.

(2.) They may be considered as useful and beneficial unto life and the comforts of it. Whatever is so, is contained in these things. Whereas, therefore, natural affection and sense of usefulness unto all the advantages and comforts of life, are the two cords that bind us unto any thing whatever, the forsaking of all things that fall under both of them, must needs proceed from some great cause and efficacious impulse.

This, therefore, commends the faith of Abraham in the first place, and evinceth the powerful efficacy of faith in general, that under its conduct, in obedience unto the call of God, he could and did relinquish all these things, cast out their insinuations into his affections, and break the cords of delight and interest which they cast upon him. And we may see herein that,

Obs. 1. It becomes the infinite greatness and all-satisfactory goodness of God, at the very first revelation of himself unto any of his creatures, to require of them a renunciation of all other things, and their interest in them, in compliance with his commands. ‘Get thee away from country, friends, relations, and enjoyments,’is a command becoming the greatness of God. “I am the LORD thy God,” is his first word unto us. And the next is, ‘“Thou shalt have no other gods but me,” with me, before me, besides me, nothing to be in my place, in comparison of me, in competition with me; forsake all, and be mine only.’Unless we have a sense of that greatness of God which makes such commands alone to become him, we yield no obedience unto him in a due manner.

Obs. 2. The power of sovereign grace in calling men to God, and the mighty efficacy of faith complying therewithal. Whilst Abraham lived with his father on the other side of the river, “they served other gods,” Joshua 24:2, or were engaged in the superstition and idolatry then prevalent in the world. And the minds of men being once thoroughly infected with them, as having received them by tradition from their fathers, are very hardly recovered from their snares. In this state he had all worldly accommodations that his own country, kindred, and inheritance, could afford him; yet such was the powerful efficacy of sovereign grace in his call by God, that it enabled him by faith to relinquish and renounce them all, and to betake himself at once unto a new state and condition, both as unto things temporal and eternal. It is well if all of us who make profession of the same faith, have an experience of the same grace.

Obs. 3. It is the call of God alone that makes a distinction amongst mankind, as unto faith and obedience, with all the effects of them. Abraham thus believed and obeyed God, because he was called; and he was called, not because he was better or wiser than others, but because it pleased God to call him and not others, 1 Corinthians 1:26-31.

Obs. 4. The church of believers consists of those that are called out of the world. The call of Abraham is a pattern of the call of the church, Psa 45:10 ; 2 Corinthians 6:17-18.

Obs. 5. Self-denial, in fact or resolution, is the foundation of all sincere profession. This Abraham began his profession in the practice of, and proceeded unto the height in the greatest instances imaginable. And the instruction that our Savior gives herein, Matthew 10:37-38; Matthew 16:24-25, amounts but unto this, ‘If you intend to have the faith of Abraham, with the fruits and blessings attending it, you must lay the foundation of it in self-denial, and the relinquishment of all things, if called thereunto, as he did.’ Wherefore, the faith of Abraham being everywhere in the Scripture set up as the measure and standard of the faith of believers in all ages, and the apostle in this place giving us an account of the beginning and progress of it for our example, there is nothing that belongs more directly unto the exposition of the place than a due observation of its nature, actings, and effects, for our instruction, without which the mind of the Holy Ghost in the context is not understood; though expositors take very little notice of these things. Now, the foundation of the whole is laid herein, that the first act of saving faith consists in the discovery and sight of the infinite greatness goodness, and other excellencies of the divine nature, so as to judge it our duty, upon his call, his command and promise, to deny ourselves, to relinquish all things, and to do so accordingly.

2. We have seen what Abraham was called from: the next thing in the words is, what he was called unto; namely, “a place which he should after receive for an inheritance.”

He was not called merely to forsake the place where he was, and then left to rove and wander up and down uncertainly; but he was called unto a certain place. For it so falls out many times, that men, wearied by one means or another, (as convictions or afflictions,) of their present spiritual state and condition, so as to have a mind to relinquish it, yet having no discovery of another, of a better state, with rest in Christ by the gospel, they rove up and down in their minds and affections for a season, and then return to the state or place from which they came out, (which the patriarchs refused to do, verse 15,) or else perish in their wanderings.

This place whereunto he went is described by his future relation unto it and interest in it; he was “afterwards to receive it for an inheritance.” At present he received it not, but only in right and title; nor during his life. He, nor his posterity for some generations, had no inheritance in it; only he bought a burying-place in it of the children of Heth, whereby he took seizin of the whole. But he received it afterwards in his posterity, as is known.

And he is said to “receive” it. It was given unto him, bestowed on him by way of a free gift, or donation.: He did only “receive” it. And so it is with respect unto all good things betwixt God and us; he is the free donor of them, we are but passive recipients.

And he received this country “for an inheritance.” And unto an inheritance there is required right and title unto it, that a man may be a lawful possessor of it. Now, this country was before possessed by others, who enjoyed it by a prescription from its first plantation. But God, as the great possessor of heaven and earth, as the sovereign Lord of all things, transferred their right and title unto that land, and invested it in Abraham. So it is frequently repeated, that God gave them this or that land.

Obs. 6. There is no right, title, or possession, that can prescribe against the righteousness of God in the disposal of all inheritances here below at his pleasure. Whatever single persons, ‘whatever whole nations, may think or boast of their title and right, as unto God, they are all but tenants at will and pleasure. He can disinherit and disseize them of all as he sees good; and when he will do so, (as he gives instances of his so doing in all ages,) no plea will be admitted against his right, and the exercise of it. So do kings hold their crowns, nations their soil, and private men their possessions.

Obs. 7. God’s grant of things unto any is the best of titles, and most sure against all pretences or impeachments. Judges 11:24,

‘We will possess what the LORD our God gives us to possess.’

Obs. 8. Possession belongs unto an inheritance enjoyed. This God gave unto Abraham in his posterity, with a mighty hand and stretched-out arm; and he divided it unto them by lot.

Obs. 9. An inheritance is capable of a limited season. The title unto it may be continued unto a prefixed period. So was it with this inheritance; for although it is called an “everlasting inheritance,” yet it was so only on two accounts:

(1.) That it was typical of that heavenly inheritance which is eternal. (2.) Because, as unto right and title, it was to be continued unto the end of that limited perpetuity which God granted unto the church-state in that land; that is, unto the coming of the promised Seed, in whom all nations should be blessed, which the call and faith of Abraham did principally regard. Until that time was expired, although many incursions were made into and upon this inheritance of Abraham, yet were all that made them oppressors; and they were punished for their usurpation. But when the grant of it to them expired, and those wicked tenants of God’s vineyard forfeited their right unto it by their unbelief, and murdering of the true Heir, God disinherited them, dispossessed them, and left them neither right nor title to, nor any interest in this inheritance; as it is at this day. It is no more the inheritance of Abraham; but in Christ he is become “heir of the world,” and his spiritual posterity enjoy all the privileges of it.

Wherefore the grant of this land, for an inheritance unto Abraham in his posterity, had a season limited unto it. Upon the expiration of that term, their right and title unto it were cancelled and disannulled. And thereon God in his providence sent the armies of the Romans to dispossess them; which they did accordingly, unto this day. Nor have the present Jews any more or better title unto the land of Canaan than unto any other country in the world. Nor shall their title be renewed thereunto upon their conversion unto God. For the limitation of their right was unto that time wherein it was typical of the heavenly inheritance: that now ceasing for ever, there can be no especial title unto it revived. And we see herein,

Obs. 10. That it is faith alone that gives the soul satisfaction in future rewards in the midst of present difficulties and distresses. So it did to Abraham, who, in the whole course of his pilgrimage, attained nothing of this promised inheritance. And,

Obs. 11. The assurance given us by divine promises is sufficient to encourage us unto the most difficult course of obedience.

Thirdly, The last thing in the words is, the commendation of the faith of Abraham, from his ignorance of the place whither he was to go upon the call of God. He had only said unto him that he should go into a land that he would show him, Genesis 12:1.

1. But of what nature the land was, how or by whom inhabited, or what way he was to go into it, he told him not. It should seem, indeed, that God had told him from the beginning that it was the land of Canaan which he designed; for when he first left Ur of the Chaldees, he steered his course towards Canaan, Genesis 11:31: but it it is yet said that “he knew it not.” He did not understand any thing of the circumstances of it, nor what in that land he was called unto, nor where it was; so that it may be well said that he went whither he knew not. The sum is, that he wholly committed himself unto the power, faithfulness, goodness, and conduct of God, without the least encouragement from a prospect of the place whither he was going.

2. All these things being put together, namely, what he was called from; what he was called unto; his readiness in obedience; the ground of his whole undertaking, namely, the call of God, which he received, and obeyed by faith: here is not only an eminent instance of his faith recorded, but an invincible encouragement given unto those Hebrews unto whom the apostle wrote, and unto us with them, that faith is able to carry us through all the difficulties of our profession, unto the full enjoyment of the promise. This I look upon as a second instance of the faith of Abraham, wherein it was signally exemplary. He did not only on the first call of God, through a view of his greatness and sovereign authority, forego all that he had at present, but engaged himself unto absolute obedience, without any prospect what it might cost him, or what he was to undergo on the account of it, or what was the reward proposed unto him. And the same is required of us.

Verse 9

Having declared the foundation of the faith of Abraham, and given the first signal instance of it, he proceeds to declare his progress in its exercise, first in general, and then in particular acts and duties; wherein he intermixeth some especial acts of it, whereby he was enabled and encouraged in and unto all other duties of it.

That which he ascribes unto his faith in general is laid down in this verse; whereunto he adjoins that encouraging act of it which enabled him in his duty, verse 10.

Hebrews 11:9 . Πίστει παρῴκησεν εἰς τὴν γὴν τῆς ἐπαγγελίας ὡς ἀλλοτρίαν , ἐν σκηναῖς κατοικήσας μετὰ ᾿Ισαὰκ καὶ ᾿Ιακὼβ τῶν συγκληρονόμων τῆς ἐπαγγελίας τῆς αὐτῆς . Παρῴκησεν . Syr., הוָא תַּיְחָבָא , “he was a stranger,” “a sojourner.” Vulg. Lat., “demoratus est,”’”he tarried.” Rhem., “he abode.” Erasm., “commigravit;” that is, μετῴκησεν , saith Beza, “be went,” or “wandered,” to answer the preposition εἰς following, “he went into the land.” Beza, “commoratus est,” “he abode;” and then it must refer unto κατοικήσας , “he dwelt in tents.” Others, “advena fuit;” he was “a stranger,” “a guest,” “a sojourner.” Heb., גֵּי הָיָה , “he was a stranger,” or גּוּר , “he sojourned.”

᾿Εν σκηναῖς . Vulg. Lat., “in casulis.” Rhem., “in cottages.” “In tentoriis,” “in tents” or “tabernacles.”

Hebrews 11:9 . By faith he sojourned in the land of promise as [in] a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles, with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise.

1. That which is assigned in general unto the faith of Abraham is, that “he sojourned.”

2. The place where is added; “in the land of promise.”

3. How he esteemed of that land, and how he used it; “as in a strange country.”

4. Who were his companions therein; namely, “Isaac and Jacob,” on the same account with himself, as “the heirs of promise.”

1. “He sojourned.” Παροικέω is “commoror,” “to abide;” but it is to abide as a stranger. So it is used Luke 24:18, Σὺ μόνος παροικεῖς ἐν ῾Ιερουσαλήμ ; “Art thou only a stranger in Jerusalem?” a sojourner there for a season, not an inhabitant of the place. And it is nowhere else used. Thence is πάροικος , “a stranger,” “a sojourner :” Acts 7:6, “Thy seed shall be γῇ ἀλλοτρίᾳ a stranger; “should sojourn in a strange land.” So πάροικοι , are joined with παρεπίδημοι , 1 Peter 2:11, “Strangers and pilgrims;” and with ξένοι , Ephesians 2:19, “foreigners;” and are opposed to πολῖτοι , “citizens,” or the constant inhabitants of any place. Χρόνος παροικίας , is the “time of our pilgrimage” here, 1 Peter 1:17. Wherefore παρώκησε , is, “he abode as a stranger,” not as a free denizen of the place; not as an inheritor, for he had no inheritance, not a foot-breadth in that place, Acts 7:5; not as a constant inhabitant or house-dweller, but as a stranger, that moved up and down as he had occasion. His several motions and stages are recorded by Moses.

2. There is the place of his sojourning; “in the land of promise,” εἰς τὴν γῆν for ἐν τῇ γῇ , “into” for “in the land.” So Acts 7:4, “The land εἰς ἥν ὑμεῖς νῦν κατοικεῖτε ,” “wherein ye now dwell;” Hebrew, בָאָרֶצ .

And from the use of the Hebrew בְּ , εἰς is frequently put for ἐν in the New Testament, and on the contrary. Wherefore not the removal of Abraham into that land, which he had mentioned in the foregoing verse, but his abode as a stranger, a foreigner, a pilgrim in it, is intended. And this was “the land of promise;” that is, which God had newly promised to give unto him, and wherein all the other promises were to be accomplished.

3. He sojourned in this place “as in a strange land.” He built no house in it, purchased no inheritance, but only a burying-place. He entered, indeed, into leagues of peace and amity with some, as with Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre, Genesis 14:13; but it was as a stranger, and not as one that had any thing of his own in the land. He reckoned that land at present no more his own than any other land in the world, no more than Egypt was the land of his posterity when they sojourned there, which God had said was not theirs, nor was so to be. Genesis 15:13.

The manner of his sojourning in this land was, that he “dwelt in tabernacles;” “in cottages,’saith the Vulgar Latin, absurdly It was no unusual thing in those days, and in those parts of the world, for many, yea some nations, to dwell, in such movable habitations. Why Abraham was satisfied with this kind of life the apostle declares in the next verse. And he is said to dwell in tabernacles, or tents, because his family required more than one of them; though sometimes they are called a tent only, with respect unto that which was the peculiar habitation of the master of the family. And the women had tents unto themselves. So Isaac brought Rebekah into his mother Sarah’s tent, Genesis 24:67. So Jacob and his wives had all of them distinct tents, Genesis 31:33. These tents were pitched, fixed, and erected only with stakes and cords, so as that they had no foundation in the earth; whereunto the apostle in the next verse opposeth a habitation that hath a foundation. And with respect unto their flitting condition in these movable houses, God in an especial manner was said to be their dwelling-place, Psalms 90:1.

4. He thus sojourned and dwelt in tents “with Isaac and Jacob.” It is evident that Abraham lived until Jacob was sixteen or eighteen years old; and therefore may be said to live with him, as unto the same time wherein they both lived. Nor is there any force in the objection, that Isaac had a separate tent from Abraham; for it is not said that they lived in the same tents, but that at the same time they all lived in tents. Yet there is no need to confine it unto the same time; the sameness of condition only seems to be intended. For as Abraham was a sojourner in the land of Canaan, without any inheritance or possession, living in tents, so was it also with Isaac and Jacob, and with them alone. Jacob was the last of his posterity who lived as a sojourner in Canaan; all those after him lived in Egypt, and came not into Canaan until they took possession of it for themselves.

And they were “heirs with him of the same promise;” for not only did they inherit the promise as made unto Abraham, but God distinctly renewed the same promise unto them both; unto Isaac, Genesis 26:3-4; Genesis 26:3-4; and unto Jacob, Genesis 28:13-15. So were they heirs with him of the very same promise. SeePsalms 105:9-11; Psalms 105:9-11.

The sense of the words being declared, we may yet further consider the matter contained in them.

We have here an account of the life of Abraham after his call. And it fell under a twofold consideration:

1. As unto the internal principle of it; so it was a life of faith.

2. As unto the external manner of it; so it was a pilgrimage, without a fixed, settled habitation. Both are proposed in the first words of the text, “By faith he sojourned?

1. As unto the internal principle of it, it was a life of faith

(1.) The life which he now led was a life of faith with respect unto things spiritual and eternal. For he had for the foundation and object hereof,

[1.] The promise of the blessed Seed, and the spiritual blessing of all nations in him, as a confirmation of the first fundamental promise to the church, concerning the Seed of the woman that was to break the serpent’s head. And,

[2.] God entered expressly into covenant with him, confirming it with the sea] of circumcision, wherein he obliged himself to be his God, his God almighty, or all-sufficient, for his temporal and eternal good. To suppose that Abraham saw nothing in this promise and covenant but only things confined unto this life, nothing of spiritual grace or mercy, nothing of eternal reward or glory, is so contrary to the analogy of faith, to express testimony of Scripture, so destructive of all the foundations of religion, so unworthy of the nature and properties of God, rendering his title of “the father of the faithful,” and his example in believing, so useless, as that it is a wonder men of any tolerable sobriety should indulge to such an imagination.

(2.) It was a life of faith with respect unto things temporal also. For as he was a sojourner in a strange land, without friends or relations, not incorporated in any political society or dwelling in any city, he was exposed unto all sorts of dangers, oppression and violence, as is usual in such cases. Besides, those amongst whom he sojourned were for the most part wicked and evil men, such as, being fallen into idolatry, were apt to be provoked against him for his profession of faith in the most high God. Hence, on some occurrences of his life that might give them advantage, it is observed, as a matter of danger, that “the Canaanite and the Perizzite dwelled then in the land,” Genesis 13:7; Genesis 12:6. And this he feared, Genesis 20:11. Moreover he had sundry particular trials, wherein he apprehended that his life was in imminent danger, Genesis 12:11-13; Genesis 20:2. In all these dangers and trials, with others innumerable, being helpless in himself, he lived in the continual exercise of faith and trust in God, his power, his all-sufficiency, and faithfulness. Hereof his whole story is full of instances, and his faith in them is celebrated frequently in the Scripture.

(3.) In things of both sorts, spiritual and temporal, he lived by faith, in a constant resignation of himself unto the sovereign will and pleasure of God, when he saw no way or means for the accomplishment of the promise. So was it with him with respect unto the long season that he lived without a child, and under the command he had to offer him for a sacrifice, when he had received him.

On all these accounts he was the father, the pattern, or example of believers in all generations. We saw before the foundation of his faith and the entrances of his believing; here we have a progress of them proposed unto our imitation. And that wherein we are instructed hereby is, that when we are once engaged, and have given up ourselves to God in a way of believing, there must be no choice, no dividing or halting, no halving; but we must; follow him fully, wholly, and universally, living by faith in all things.

2. For the external part, or manner of his life, it was a pilgrimage, it was a sojourning. Two things are required unto such a state of life:

(1.) That a man be in a strange country;

(2.) That he have no fixed habitation of his own.

If a man be free from either of these, he is not a pilgrim. A man may want a habitation of his own as his inheritance, and yet, being in his own country, not be a pilgrim; and a man may be in a strange country, and yet, having a fixed habitation of his own therein, he may not be a pilgrim: but when both these concur, there is a state of pilgrimage. And so it was with Abraham. He was in a strange land. Though it was “the land of promise,” yet having no interest in it, no relation, no possession, no inheritance, it was unto him a strange land. And he did but sojourn in any place, having no habitation of his own. And this of all others is the most disconsolate, the most desolate estate, and most exposed unto dangers; wherefore he had nothing to trust unto or rest upon but divine protection alone. So are his state and protection described, Psalms 106:12-15. And we may observe,

Obs. 1. That when faith enables men to live unto God as unto their eternal concernments, it will enable them to trust unto him in all the difficulties, dangers, and hazards of this life. To pretend a trust in God as unto our souls and invisible things, and not resign our temporal concernments with patience and quietness unto his disposal, is a vain pretense. And we may take hence an eminent trial of our faith. Too many deceive themselves with a presumption of faith in the promises of God, as unto things future and eternal. They suppose that they do so believe as that they shall be eternally saved; but if they are brought into any trial as unto things temporal, wherein they are concerned, they know not what belongs unto the life of faith, nor how to trust in God in a due manner. It was not so with Abraham; his faith acted itself uniformly with respect unto the providences as well as the promises of God. Wherefore,

Obs. 2. If we design to have an interest in the blessing of Abraham, we must walk in the steps of the faith of Abraham. Firm affiance in the promises for grace, mercy, and eternal salvation, trust in his providence for preservation and protection in this world, with a cheerful resignation of all our temporal and eternal concerns unto his disposal, according to the tenor of the covenant, are required hereunto. And they are all indispensably necessary unto that obedience wherein we are to walk with God, as he did. The faith of most men is lame and halt in the principal parts and duties of it.

Obs. 3. When faith is once duly fixed on the promises, it will wait patiently under trials, afflictions, and temptations, for their full accomplishment; as did that of Abraham which is here celebrated. See the exposition on Hebrews 6:12; Hebrews 6:15.

Obs. 4. Faith discerning aright the glory of spiritual promises, will make the soul of a believer contented and well satisfied with the smallest portion of earthly enjoyments, etc.

Verse 10

The apostle gives a full indication in this discourse that Abraham was very well satisfied with the state and condition of a stranger and pilgrim in the world, without possession, without inheritance, which God had called him unto. And therefore he proceeds in the next place to declare the grounds and reasons whereon he was so satisfied.

Hebrews 11:10 . ᾿Εξεδέγετο γάρ τὴν τοὺς θεμελίους ἔχουσαν πόλιν , ἧς τεξνίτης καὶ δημιουργὸς ὁ Θεὸς .

Hebrews 11:10 . For he looked for a city [that city] which hath foundations, whose builder and maker [is] God.

The conjunction γάρ intimates that a reason is given in these words why Abraham behaved himself as a sojourner on the earth; it was because he knew that his portion did not lie in the things here below, but he looked for things of another nature, which by this means were to be obtained. For it is the end that regulates our judgment concerning the means.

And there are in the words,

1. What is assigned unto Abraham, or his faith, namely, an expectation, a looking for somewhat more than at present he enjoyed.

2. What he so looked for, which is “a city;” in opposition unto those tents or movable habitations which he lived in.

3. That city is described,

(1.) From the nature of it, it “hath foundations;”

(2.) From the builder and framer of it, which is “God.”

Our first inquiry must be, what that “city” was; and then how he “looked for it.”

1. Some late expositors, not for want of wit or learning, but out of enmity unto the efficacy of the office of Christ under the old testament, and the benefit of the church thereby, have labored to corrupt this testimony; some by wresting that word, “the city,” the object of Abraham’s expectation; and others that of his looking for or expecting of it: which must therefore be vindicated.

“That city.” The article prefixed denotes an eminency in this city. “That is Jerusalem,” saith Grotius; and so interprets the words: “He hoped that his posterity should in those places have, not wandering habitations, but a city that God would prepare for them in an especial manner.” But he is herein forsaken by his follower. Nor do the Socinians dare to embrace that interpretation, though suited unto their design. But,

(1.) This is expressly contrary unto the exposition given by the apostle himself of this expression, or rather the repetition of the same thing, verse 16, “They desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for he hath prepared for them a city.” The “city” and “country” which they looked for was “heavenly;” and that in opposition unto the land of Canaan, and Jerusalem the metropolis thereof.

(2.) It is not suitable unto God’s dealing with Abraham, unto his promise unto him, unto the nature and effects of his faith, that he should have nothing to encourage him in his pilgrimage, but a hope that after many generations his posterity should have a city to dwell in in the land of Canaan, wherein the condition of most of them was not better than his in tents.

(3.) Whereas the framing and making of this city respects the being and substance of it, there is no reason why the building of that Jerusalem should be so ascribed unto God, as to exclude the work and workmanship of men, by whom indeed it was built. For the sense of that expression, “Whose builder and maker is God,” is the same with that of Hebrews 8:2, “Which the Lord pitched, and not man.”

(4.) It is plain that this was the ultimate object of the faith of Abraham, the sum and substance of what he looked for from God, on the account of his promise and covenant. To suppose that this was only an earthly city, not to be possessed by his posterity until eight hundred years afterwards, and then but for a limited time, is utterly to overthrow his faith, the nature of the covenant of God with him, and his being an example unto gospel believers, as he is here proposed to be.

This city, therefore, which Abraham looked for, is that heavenly city, that everlasting mansion, which God hath provided and prepared for all true believers with himself after this life, as it is declared, verse 16. It is also sometimes called a house, sometimes a tabernacle, sometimes a mansion, 2 Corinthians 5:1, Luke 16:9, John 14:2; it being the place of their everlasting abode, rest, and refreshment. And herein is comprised also the whole reward and glory of heaven, in the enjoyment of God. With the expectation hereof did Abraham and the following patriarchs support, refresh, and satisfy themselves, in the midst of all the toil and labor of their pilgrimage. For,

Obs. 1. A certain expectation of the heavenly reward, grounded on the promises and covenant of God, is sufficient to support and encourage the souls of believers under all their trials in the whole course of their obedience.

Obs. 2. Heaven is a settled, quiet habitation; a suitable dwelling for them that have had a life of trouble in this world.

(1.) The first part of the description of this city is taken from the nature of it, namely, that it is such as “hath foundations.” It is generally granted that there is an opposition herein unto the tents or tabernacles, such as wherein Abraham sojourned, which had no foundation, being supported only by stakes and cords. But the especial nature of the foundations of this city is intended, in comparison wherewith the foundations of other cities, laid in stone and mortar, are none at all. For experience hath manifested that they all are fading, temporary, and subject to ruin. But these foundations are such as give perpetuity, yea eternity, unto the superstructure, even all that are built upon them. Wherefore these foundations are the eternal power, the infinite wisdom, and immutable counsel of God. On these is the heavenly city founded and established. The purpose of God in his wisdom and power to make the heavenly state of believers immutable and eternal, subject to no change, no alteration, no opposition, is the foundation of this city. For,

Obs. 3. All stability, all perpetuity in every state, here and hereafter, ariseth from the purpose of God, and is resolved thereinto.

(2.) The second part of the description of this city is from “the builder and maker of it;” that is, God. Most expositors judge that both the words here used are of the same signification; and indeed the difference between them is not material, if there be any. Properly, τεχνίτης is “artifex,” he who in building projecteth, contriveth, and designeth the whole frame and fabric, that regularly disposeth of it according to the rules of art. And δημιουργός is “conditor,” the builder or maker; that is, not he whose hands are employed in the work, but he whose the whole work is, at whose charge, on whose design, and for whose service it is made. So are “condo” and “conditor” always applied in Latin authors.

Between these two, namely, “artifex” and “conditor,” the contriver and the chief author and disposer of the whole, there is in other buildings an interposition of them that actually labor in the work itself, the workmen. Here is nothing said of them, because they were supplied in this building by a mere word of infinite and sovereign power, without labor or toil; he said,

‘Let it be so,’and it was so. Wherefore God alone is the only contriver, framer, and erector of the heavenly city, without the least concurrence of any other agents, without the least use of any instrument.

Next unto the constitution of the person of Christ, and the tabernacle which he pitched therein, this was the greatest instance of his infinite wisdom and skill in architecture.

Heaven, with respect unto the visible fabric of it, with its immense spaces, luminaries, and order, is the principal means of the demonstration of the divine glory unto us, among all the works of creation. But here it is considered as the habitation of God himself, with all that enjoy his presence, and the polity or order which is the therein. And this is the most ineffable effect of infinite wisdom and power. And,

Obs. 4. This is that which recommends unto us the city of God, the heavenly state, that it is, as the work of God alone, so the principal effect of his wisdom and power.

2. Of this city it is said that Abraham by faith “looked for it;” that is, he believed eternal rest with God in heaven, whereon he comfortably and constantly sustained the trouble of his pilgrimage in this world. This expectation is an act and fruit of faith, or it is that hope proceeding from faith whereby we are saved; or rather, it is a blessed fruit of faith, trust, and hope, whereby the soul is kept continually looking into and after the things that are promised. This was in Abraham a signal evidence of his faith, as also of the power of his faith in his supportment, and the way whereby it did support him; the same with what the apostle ascribes unto all believers, 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, “For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.”

This is a full description of the faith of Abraham, in the operation and effect here ascribed to it by the apostle. And herein it is exemplary and encouraging unto all believers under their present trials and sufferings; which is the apostle’s present design.

Schlichtingius takes great pains to prove that indeed Abraham did not by faith look for a heavenly city or eternal reward, in direct contradiction unto the express words and argument of the apostle. Some general notions and apprehensions of the future reward he grants he might have, from the goodness and power of God; but faith of an eternal estate he had not, because God had not revealed nor promised it, Why then is it, said that he expected it, or looked for it? “Because God did purpose in himself to do it in his time, it was as certain as if Abraham had believed it; whence he is said to expect it.” But to suppose that Abraham, who had the first promise of a Deliverer and deliverance from all the effects of sin, even the promise of Him in whom all nations should be blessed, and was entered into that covenant with God wherein God engaged himself to be his God after this life, as our Savior expounds it, should have no faith of eternal life, is to deny the faith of God and the church. And we may observe, that

Obs. 5. A constant expectation of an eternal reward argues a vigorous exercise of faith, and a sedulous attendance unto all duties of obedience; for without these it will not be raised nor preserved, 2Co 4:16-17 ; 1 John 3:2.

Verse 11

The instances of the faith of Abraham insisted on by the apostle in this discourse may be referred unto two heads: first, Such as respect his call; secondly, Such as respect the promise made unto him. Those of the first sort are two:

1. His obedience unto the divine call, in leaving his country and father’s family;

2. His patience in enduring the troubles of a pilgrimage all his days, in a land wherein he was a stranger. The consideration of both these we have passed through.

Here he proceeds unto the instances of his faith with respect unto the promise made unto him, namely, that in his seed all the nations of the earth should be blessed. And these also are two:

1. That which concerned the birth of Isaac, by whom the promise was to have its accomplishment;

2. What he did by faith on the command of God, in offering up of the son of the promise.

In the first of these, or what concerned the birth of Isaac, the son of the promise, Abraham was not alone, but Sarah his wife was both naturally and spiritually no less concerned than himself. Wherefore the apostle in the midst of his discourse concerning Abraham and his faith, in this one instance introduceth Sarah in conjunction with him, as on many reasons she ought not to have been omitted.

Hebrews 11:11 . Πίστει καὶ αὐτὴ Ζάῤῥα ( στεῖρα οὗσα ) δύναμιν εἰς καταβολὴν σπέρματος ἔλαβε , καὶ παρὰ καιρὸν ἡλικίας [8] ἔτεκεν , ἐπεὶ πιστὸν ἡγήσατο τὸν ἐπαγγειλάμενον .

[8] VARIOUS READINGS. The words στεῖρα and ἔτεκεν are now omitted in all the critical editions of the New Testament. ED.

Στεῖρα ου῏σα , “being barren.” Vulg. Lat., “sterilis.” Syr., דּעֲקרְתָא חֲוַת , “ ַ who was barren.” And the words are retained in many vulgar translations. We omit them, for they are found only in two copies of the original; nor are they taken notice of by the ancient scholiasts. And it is far move probable that these words were inserted in one or two copies, than that they were left out of all the rest: for there is no color of reason why they should be omitted; but the addition of them, especially containing a truth, seems to set out more fully the greatness of the instance proposed.

Εἰς καταβολὴν σπέρματος . Vulg. Lat., “in conceptione seminis.” Rhem., “received virtue in conceiving seed.” Δύναμις is properly “vis,” “strength,” “power.” The Vulgar renders it here “virtutem;” proper enough in Latin, but “virtue” is very improper in our language, as unto this use of the word. “In the conception,” for “to conceive.” “Ad concipiendum semen,” “ad retinendum semen,” “ad concipiendum et retinendum semen.” Syr., דַּתְּקַבְּלִי צַרְעָא “ut susciperet semen.” The inquiries and disputes of expositors on these words, as unto their precise signification with reference unto Sarah, are useless, and some of them offensive. Strength to conceive a child, after the manner of other women, is all that the apostle intends.

῎Ετεκεν is absent in one ancient Greek copy; which supplies it by τὸ τεκνῶσαι , after ἔλαβε , to “beget children.” It is omitted in the Vulgar, which reads the words etiam praeter tempus aetatis;” “yea, past the time of age.” The Syriac retains it, יֶלְדַת “brought,” or “bare a child.” Those who omit it, refer the whole to the cause, or her conception; those who retain it, express the effect also, in child-bearing.

῾Ηγήσατο . Vulg., “credidit,” she “believed.” So the Syriac, דּאשְׁרַת , “believed assuredly.” “Reputavit,” “judicavit;” “accounted,” “judged.”

Hebrews 11:11 . Through faith also Sarah herself received strength to conceive seed; and was delivered of a child when she was past age; because she judged him faithful who had promised.

1. The person whose faith is here proposed as exemplary, is Sarah. But many expositors suppose that it is not Sarah’s faith, but Abraham’s, which wrought this effect by Sarah, that is commended. The reasons which I have seen on the one side and the other are light, and easily answered. But there are those which are cogent to convince that it is the faith of Sarah that is intended. For,

(1.) The manner of expression is a certain determination of her person to be the subject spoken of: Καὶ αὐτὴ Σάῤῥα , “and,” or “also, Sarah herself.” The words plainly signify the introduction of another person in the same order, or unto the same purpose with him before spoken of.

(2.) As Abraham was the father of the faithful, or the church, so she was the mother of it, so as that the distinct mention of her faith was necessary. She was the free-woman from whence the church sprang, Galatians 4:22-23. And all believing women are her daughters, 1 Peter 3:6. See Genesis 17:16.

(3.) Her working and obedience are proposed unto the church as an example, and therefore her faith may justly be so also, 1 Peter 3:5-6.

(4.) She was equally concerned in the divine revelation with Abraham, and was as sensible of great difficulties in its accomplishment as Abraham, if not more so.

(5.) The blessing of the promised Seed was confined and appropriated unto Sarah no less than unto Abraham: Genesis 17:16, “I will bless her, yea, I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations.” See Genesis 17:19; Genesis 18:10. Herein her faith was necessary, and is here recorded.

Some things may be observed in the proposition of this instance and example; as,

(1.) That it is the faith of a woman that is celebrated. Hence that sex may learn, even that they also may be examples of faith unto the whole church, as Sarah was. And it is necessary for their encouragement; because,

[1.] Of the especial concernment of their sex in the first entrance of sin, which the apostle animadverts upon, for their instruction in humility and subjection unto the will of God, and makes it a matter of especial grace, that “they shall be saved,” 1 Timothy 2:9-15.

[2.] Because of their natural weakness, subject in a peculiar manner unto various temptations; which in this example they are encouraged to conflict withal and overcome by faith. Whence it is that they are “heirs together” with their believing husbands “of the grace of life,” 1 Peter 3:7.

(2.) Here is a signal commendation of the faith of Sarah, even in that very instance wherein it was shaken and failed, though it recovered itself afterward. For whatever working there might be of natural affections in the surprisal which befell her on the promise of a son, whereon she laughed, yet there was a mixture of unbelief in it, as appears from the reproof given her, “Is any thing too hard for the LORD?” Genesis 18:13-14. But being awakened by that reproof, and receiving a fuller evidence that it was the Lord which spake to her, she recovered herself, and rested by faith in his power and truth. Wherefore,

Obs. 1. Faith may be sorely shaken and tossed with difficulties, at their first appearance, lying in the way of the promise, which yet at last it shall overcome. And there be many degrees of its weakness and failure herein; as,

[1.] A mere recoiling with some disorder in the understanding, unable to apprehend the way and manner of the accomplishment of the promise. This was in the blessed Virgin herself, who, on the promise of her conception of a child, replied, “How shall,” or “can this be, seeing I know not a man?” Luke 1:34. But she immediately recovered herself into an acquiescency in the power and faithfulness of God, verses 37,38,45.

[2.] It ariseth unto a distrust of the event of the promises or their accomplishment, because of the difficulties that lie in the way. So was it with Zacharias, the father of John Baptist; who thereon had his own dumbness given him for a sign of the truth of the promise, Luke 1:18; Luke 1:20. So was it with Sarah on this occasion; for which she was reproved. This is denied of Abraham, “He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief,” Romans 4:20. And this at times is found in us all.

[3.] When there is for a season an actual prevalency of unbelief. So it was with the apostle Peter, when he denied his Master; who yet was quickly recovered.

It is therefore our duty,

[1.] To watch that our faith be not surprised, or shaken by the appearance of difficulties and oppositions.

[2.] Not to despond utterly on any degree of its failure; for it is in its nature, by the use of means, to recover its vigor and efficacy.

(3.) The carriage of Sarah is twice repeated by the Holy Ghost, here and 1 Peter 3:6; and in both places only what was good in it, namely, her faith toward God on her recovery after her reproof, and her observance of her husband, whom, speaking to herself, she called “lord,” is mentioned and proposed, without the least remembrance of her failing or miscarriage. And such will be the judgment of Christ at the last day concerning all those whose faith and obedience are sincere, though accompanied with many failings.

2. The second thing in the words is, what is here ascribed unto the faith of Sarah, or what she obtained by virtue of it: “She received strength to conceive seed.”

(1.) She “received” it. It was not what she had in or of herself; she had it in a way of free gift, whereunto she contributed nothing but a passive reception.

(2.) That which she received was “strength;” that is, power and ability for the especial end aimed at: this she had lost through age. And I do believe that this was not a mere miraculous generation, but that she received a general restoration of her nature unto an ability for all its primitive operations, which was before decayed. So was it with Abraham afterward, who after this, after his body was as dead, received strength to have many children by Keturah.

(3.) What she received this strength for by faith; “to conceive seed.” There is no need to debate the precise signification of the word καταβολή in this place, as elsewhere. The arguings of some about it are offensive. It may suffice, that the meaning of the phrase is, to conceive a child in the womb after a natural way and manner, such as there was not in the conception of our Lord Jesus Christ in the womb of the blessed Virgin. Wherefore it is most probable that the holy Virgin conceived in her womb immediately upon the angelical salutation declaring it unto her. But Sarah conceived not until some good while after the divine revelation made unto her that she should have a child. See Genesis 17:21; Genesis 21:2.

Here some copies read στεῖρα ου῏σα , “being barren;” which was true, and increaseth the miracle of her conception; that whereas she had been barren all the usual and ordinary time of women’s bearing children in the course of their lives, she should now in her old age conceive seed. It is observed, indeed, that “Sarai was barren,” Genesis 11:30. But yet when the trial of her faith came, the difficulty did not arise from a natural barrenness, but that the time of life for bearing of children was now past with her. She was old, “and it ceased to be with her after the manner of women,” Genesis 18:11-12; or, as the apostle expounds it, her womb was dead, Romans 4:19. And this is that which here the greatness of this effect of faith is ascribed unto, namely, that she was “delivered of a child when she was past age.” If we read ἔτεκε , with most copies, “she was delivered of a child,” or she “childed,” she “bare a child,” then the particle καί is conjunctive, and denotes an addition unto what was said of her conceiving seed, namely, that she “also childed,” or brought forth a child. If it be absent, it is to be rendered by “even,” to denote a heightening circumstance of what was before effected. “She received strength to conceive seed, event when she was past age.” But the former is to be followed; she conceived, and accordingly bare a son, Genesis 21:2.

That which was eminent herein, manifesting that it was a mere effect of faith, is, that it was thus with her παρὰ καιρὸν ἡλακίας , “after the season of age was past.” So the apostle expounds that passage in Moses, “Sarah was old, and well stricken in age; and it ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women,” Genesis 18:11. She was ninety years old at that time, Genesis 17:17. And this was that which at first shook her faith, for want of a due consideration of the omnipotency of God; for that the improbability hereof, and the impossibility of it in an ordinary way of nature, was that which shook her faith for a season, is evident from the reply made by God unto her, “Is any thing too hard for the LORD

Genesis 18:14. She considered not that where divine veracity was engaged, infinite power would be so also to make it good. And we may observe, that,

Obs. 2. Although God ordinarily worketh by his concurring blessing on the course of nature, yet is he not obliged thereunto. Yet,

Obs. 3. It is no defect in faith, not to expect events and blessings absolutely above the use of means, unless we have a particular warranty for it, as Sarah had in this case.

Obs. 4. The duty and use of faith about temporal mercies are to be regulated by the general rules of the word, where no especial providence doth make application of a promise.

Obs. 5. The mercy here spoken of, concerning a son unto Abraham by Sarah his wife, was absolutely decreed, and absolutely promised; yet God indispensably requires faith in them for the fulfilling of that decree, and the accomplishment of that promise. The great engine whereby men have endeavored to destroy the certainty and efficacy of the grace of God is this, that if he have absolutely decreed and promised any thing which he will accomplish, then all our duty with respect unto it is rendered unnecessary. And if this be so, all the faith of the church under the old testament concerning the promised Seed, or coming of the Messiah, was vain and useless, for it was absolutely decreed and absolutely promised. So would have been the faith of Sarah in this case; nor could she have deserved blame for her unbelief But it is no way inglorious unto the methods of God, as unto his own grace and our obedience, that they are unsuited unto the carnal reasonings of men.

3. The last thing in the words is the ground of the effect declared, or the nature of that faith whereby she obtained the mercy mentioned. And this was, “Because she judged him faithful who had promised.” ᾿Επεί , “quoniam, “because. It doth not intimate the meritorious cause of the thing itself, nor any procuring cause of it; it only shows the reason of what was before asserted, namely, that it was by faith that she obtained a child, “For she judged,” etc.

That which is ascribed unto her on this occasion, which contains the general nature of that faith whereby she received strength, is, that “she judged him faithful who had promised,” etc.

(1.) The act ascribed unto her is, that “she judged,” she reckoned, esteemed, reputed him so to be. Vulg. Lat. and Syr., “she believed:” which is true; but there is more in this word than a naked assent, there is a determinate resolution of the mind and judgment, on a due consideration of the evidence given for its assent unto any truth. And herein the nature of true faith in general doth consist, namely, in the mind’s judging and determination upon the evidence proposed. Sarah’s faith in this ease was the issue of a temptation, a trial. When she first heard the promise, she considered only the thing promised, and was shaken in her faith by the improbability of it, being that which she had lost all expectation and even desire of. But when she recollected herself, and took off her mind from the thing promised unto the Promiser, faith prevailed in her.

(2.) This is manifest in the especial object of her faith, herein; and that was, “He that promised,” that is, God himself in his promise. She first thought of the thing promised, and this seemed unto her altogether incredible; but at length, taking off her thoughts from the consideration of all second causes, she fixed her mind on God himself who had promised, and came unto this resolution, whatever difficulties or oppositions lay in the way of the accomplishment of the promise, he that made it was able to remove them all; and such was his faithfulness, that he would make good his word wherein he had caused her to put her trust.

(3.) So it is added in the last place, that “she judged him faithful. ” She resolved her faith, into, and rested upon the veracity of God in the accomplishment of his promises; which is the immediate proper object of faith, Titus 1:2. But yet also she joined with it the consideration of almighty power; for she thus recollected herself upon those words of God, “Is any thing too hard for the Lord?” And we may see,

Obs. 6. That the formal object of faith in the divine promises is not the things promised in the first place, but God himself in his essential excellencies of truth or faithfulness, and power. To fix our minds on the things themselves promised, to have an expectation or supposition of the enjoyment of them, as suppose mercy, grace, pardon, glory, without a previous acquiescency of mind in the truth and faithfulness of God, or on God himself as faithful, and able to accomplish them, is but a deceiving imagination. But on this exercise of faith in God, we make a comfortable application of the things promised unto our own souls; as did Sarah in this case. And,

Obs. 7. Every promise of God hath this consideration tacitly annexed to it, “Is any thing too hard for the LORD?” There is no divine promise, no promise of the new covenant, but when it comes unto the trial, as unto our closing with it, we apprehend as great a difficulty and improbability of its accomplishment unto us as Sarah did of this. All things seem easy unto them who know not what it is to believe, nor the necessity of believing; they do so to them also who have learned to abuse the grace of God expressed in the promises, and to turn it into wantonness: but poor, humble, broken souls, burdened with sin, and entangled in their own darkness, find insuperable difficulties, as they apprehend, in the way of the accomplishment of the promises. This is their principal retreat in their distress, “Is any thing too hard for the LORD?” This God himself proposeth as the foundation of our faith in our entering into covenant with him, Genesis 17:1-2. And therefore,

Obs. 8. Although the truth, veracity, or faithfulness of God, be in a peculiar manner the immediate object of our faith, yet it takes in the consideration of all other divine excellencies for its encouragement and corroboration. And all of them together are that “name of the LORD,” whereon a believing soul stays itself in all extremities, Isaiah 50:10. And, Thus is “the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith;” that is, the righteousness of Christ as tendered in the promise is made known and communicated from the faith of God therein unto the faith of them by whom it is believed.

Verse 12

In this verse we have an illustration of the fruit of the faith before declared, by the eminent consequent of it, in the numerous or innumerable posterity of Abraham.

Hebrews 11:12 . Διὸ καὶ ἀφ᾿ ἑνὸς ἐγεννήθησαν , καὶ ταῦτα νενεκρωμένου , καθὼς τὰ ἄστρα τοῦ οὐρανοῦ τῷ πλήθει , καὶ ὡς ἡ ἄμμος ἡ παρὰ τὸ χεῖλος τῆς θαλάσσης ἡ ἀναρίθμητος .

Hebrews 11:12 . Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead, [so many] as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the sea-shore, innumerable.

The things contained in this verse, as they were a consequent of the original mercy or fruit of faith in the conception and birth of Isaac, so they are reckoned also themselves unto the gratuitous remuneration of faith, although it be not added particularly that it was by faith. For they are expressly contained in the promise to Abraham, which he received by faith, and that in the very words recorded here by the apostle: Genesis 15:4-5, the Lord said unto him, “He that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir;” which is what was declared in the foregoing verse. And then he adds, “Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them, So shall thy seed be;” as it is in this place:

Genesis 22:17, “I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea-shore.”

Wherefore the belief hereof belonged unto that faith of Abraham which he is commended for. And it had its peculiar difficulties also, that rendered it both acceptable and commendable. For whereas he himself had but one son by virtue of the promise, it was not easy for him to apprehend how he should have such an innumerable posterity.

And it may be observed, that the first testimony given unto the justification of Abraham by faith, was upon his belief of this part of the promise, that his seed should be as the stars of heaven, that cannot be numbered; for thereon it is immediately added, that “he believed in the Lord, and he counted it to him for righteousness,” Genesis 15:5-6. For although this promise concerned things temporal, yet it belonged unto the way of redemption by Christ, the promised seed: so that justifying faith may act itself, and be an evidence of our justification, when we believe promises even about temporal mercies, as they belong unto the covenant; whereof we have innumerable examples under the old testament.

The note of inference, διὸ , “therefore,” respects not a consequence in the way of reasoning, but the introduction of a consequent, or other matter, upon what was before asserted.

And the particle καί in the original is not conjunctive, but emphatical only; so we render it even, “even of one.”

The blessing here declared as a fruit of faith, is, a numerous posterity. Not only had Abraham and Sarah one son, upon their believing, but by him a numerous, yea, an innumerable, posterity.

But it may be inquired, whence this should be such a blessing as to be celebrated amongst the most eminent fruits of faith, as being the subject of a solemn divine promise. I answer, It was so, because the whole church of God, who should be the true worshippers of him under the old testament, was confined unto the posterity of Abraham. Therefore was their multiplication a singular blessing, which all the faithful prayed for and rejoiced 3: So is it stated by Moses, Deuteronomy 1:10-11:

“The LORD your God hath multiplied you, and, behold, ye are this day as the stars of heaven for multitude. The LORD God of your fathers make you a thousand times so many more as ye are, and bless you, as he hath promised you!”


Obs. 1. When God is pleased to increase his church in number, it is on various accounts a matter of rejoicing unto all believers; and a subject of their daily prayers, as that which is frequently promised in the word of truth.

Obs. 2. An ungodly, carnal multitude, combined together in secular interests for their advantage, unto the ends of superstition and sin, calling themselves “the church,” like that of Rome, is set up by the craft of Satan, to evade the truth and debase the glory of these promises. This blessing of a numerous posterity is variously set forth, illustrated, and heightened.

1. From the root of it. It was “one,” one man; that is Abraham. Unto him alone was the great promise of the blessing Seed now confined. And he, though but one, was heir of all the promises. And this privilege of Abraham, the Jews, when they were grown wicked and carnal, boasted of and applied unto themselves. They spake, saying,

“Abraham was one, and he inhabited the land: but we are many; the land is given us for an inheritance,” Ezekiel 33:24; Ezekiel 33:24.

He was that one whose rights and privileges they appropriated unto themselves He was mentioned so here by the apostle, to set off the greatness of the mercy proposed, that so many should spring of one.

2. From the consideration of the state and outward condition of that one when he became the spring of this numerous posterity; “and him as good as dead,” καὶ ταῦτα νενεκρωμένου : so all our translations from Tyndal, much to the sense of the words. So it is expressed, Romans 4:19, Σῶμα ἤδη νενεκρωμένον , “His body now dead;” or rather, “mortified,” brought towards death, made impotent by age; being, as the apostle there observes, “about an hundred years old:” The word ταῦτα is variously rendered; but, as Erasmus observes, it is often used adverbially, and rendered “idque,” “atque,” “id,” “et quidem;” “and that,” “and truly.” And if we shall say that καὶ ταῦτα is taken for καὶ πρὸς ταῦτα , as sometimes it is, the meaning will be plain: “And as unto these things,” that is, the generation of children, “one that was dead.” Otherwise I cannot better express the sense than as it is in our translation. For this sense cannot be allowed, that “there sprang from one, and that after he was dead;” with respect unto the succeeding progenitors of the people: but respect is had unto the then present state of Abraham. His body naturally was as useless unto the end of the procreation of such a posterity as if it had been dead.

Obs. 3. God oftentimes by nature works things above the power of nature in its ordinary efficacy and operations. So by weak and dead means he often produceth mighty effect.

The way of the raising of this posterity from this “one,” we express by, “They sprang from him;” that is, as the word signifies, were “begotten” or born in their several generations, the original spring and fountain of them all being in him.

3. The greatness of this fruit of faith, in a numerous posterity, is expressed by declaring the multitude of them, in a twofold proverbial expression.

(1.) They were for multitude, “as many as the stars in the sky.” I had rather say, “the stars of heaven,” as it is in the original, for so they are constantly called; and in all naturalists the place of their fixation is termed “the starry heaven.”

This expression was first used by God himself, who commanded Abraham to go out, or “brought him forth abroad,” and bade him “look toward heaven and tell the stars, if he were able to number them.” Now, although it is pretended that, by rules of art, those of them which are visible or conspicuous may be numbered, and are not so great a multitude as is supposed, yet it is evident that in a naked view of them, by our eyes, without any outward helps, such as God called Abraham unto, there can be no greater appearance of what is absolutely innumerable.

Besides, I judge that in this comparison of the posterity of Abraham unto the stars of heaven, not only their number, but their beauty and order are also respected. The stars of heaven are like the inhabitants of a well- governed commonwealth, a people digested into order and rule, with great variety as unto their magnitude and aspects. This was a just representation of the numerous posterity of Abraham, disposed into the order of a wise commonwealth in the giving of the law.

(2.) In the other allusion they are declared to be absolutely innumerable. It is not said that they should be as many as the sand by the sea-shore; but as that is “innumerable,” so should they also be. So were they a multitude, in their successive generations, which could be no more numbered than the sand by the sea-shore.

On many considerations there cannot be a greater instance of the absolute certainty of an almighty efficacy in divine promises for their accomplishment, than is in that here proposed. Neither their own sins, nor the oppressions of the world, nor their Egyptian bondage, nor the graves of the wilderness, could hinder this fruit of faith, or the accomplishment of this promise. And hence proceeded the miraculous multiplication of the posterity of Jacob in Egypt, wherein from seventy-five persons, in little more than two hundred years, there sprang “six hundred thousand men, besides women and children.” Wherefore,

Obs. 4. Whatever difficulties and oppositions lie in the way of the accomplishment of the promises under the new testament, made unto Jesus Christ concerning the increase and stability of his church and kingdom, they shall have an assured accomplishment.

Verse 13

Upon the proposal of these instances, because there was somewhat peculiar in them, distinct from those before recounted and those which follow after, namely, their pilgrim estate after the call of Abraham, the apostle diverts unto the declaration of what they did, what they attained, and what they professed in that state, His entrance into it is in this verse.

Hebrews 11:13 . Κατὰ πίστιν ἀπέθανον οὗτοι πάντες , μὴ λαβόντες τὰς ἐπαγγελίας , ἀλλὰ πόῤῥωθεν αὐτὰς ἰδόντες , καὶ πεισθέντες , καὶ ἀσπασάμενοι , καὶ ὁμολογήαντες ὅτι ξένοι καὶ παρεπίδημοί εἰσιν ἐπί τῆς γῆς .

Κατὰ πίστιν . Vulg. Lat, “juxta fidem,” “according to faith.” Syr., בִּהַיְמָנוּתָא , “in faith;” as in the former places, where it is ἐν πίστει . Beza, “secundum fidem;” more properly than “juxta.”

Μὴ λαβόντες τὰς ἐπαγγελίας . Vulg. Lat., “non acceptis repromissionibus,” “having’not received the promises.” Beza, “non adepti promissa,” “having not obtained the promises;” I think less to the mind of the apostle. Syr., מוּלְכָנְהוּן , “their promise,” the promise made to them.

Ethiop., “all these believing, obtained their own promises;” as it is usual with that translator, to contradict the text.

Πόῤῥωθεν , “e longe,” “e longinquo,” “eminus;” “afar off,” at a great distance.

Πεισθέντες is not in the Vulgar Latin nor Syriac, but is in most Greek copies, and is necessary to the sense.

᾿Ασπασάμενοι . Vulg. Lat., “salutantes.” Beza, “amplexi essent;” as we, [9] “embraced.” Syr., וחֲדִיו בֵהּ , “and rejoiced in it.”

[9] VARIOUS READING. Καὶ πεισθέντες are omitted by Griesbach, Scholz, Lachmann, and Tischendorf. ED.

Hebrews 11:13 . These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of [them], and embraced [them], and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.

There is proposed unto us in the words,

1. The persons spoken of; and,

2. What is affirmed of them.

1. The persons spoken of, “All these.” That is, not all that he had instanced in from the beginning of the chapter, although they also, all of them except Enoch, who was translated, died in faith; but ‘those only who left their own country on the especial command of God, living as pilgrims in the land of Canaan, and elsewhere, that is, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, and Jacob. This is evident from what is affirmed of them in the ensuing verses 13-15.

2. Of all these, many things are affirmed.

(1.) That they “died in faith.” That they lived by faith, he had before declared; and now he adds that so they died also. It is in the original, “according to faith;” in the same sense. So, to “walk κατὰ σάρκα ,” Romans 8:4, is the same with living ἐν σαρκί , verse 8. And so it is well rendered, “in faith.

There is no doubt but that the apostle commends the faith of them spoken of, from its perseverance unto the end; as there is no faith genuine or accepted with God but what doth and will do so. Their faith failed them not, neither unto nor in their last moments. But there is also somewhat more intended, namely, the exercise of faith in dying: they died in the exercise of faith as unto their own persons and state. And hereunto is required,

[1.] The firm belief of a substantial existence after this life; without this all faith and hope must perish in death.

[2.] A resignation and trust of their departing souls into the care and power of God, when they understood not how they could continue in their own conduct.

[3.] The belief of a future state of blessedness and rest, here called “an heavenly country,” “a city” prepared for them by God.

[4.] Faith of the resurrection of their bodies after death, that their entire persons, which had undergone the pilgrimage of this life, might be stated in eternal rest. For, on this their dying in faith, God after death “was not ashamed to be called their God,” Hebrews 11:16. Whence our Savior proves the resurrection of the body, Matthew 22:31-32. And,

Obs. 1. It is the glory of true faith, that it will not leave them in whom it is, that it will not cease its actings for their supportment and comfort in their dying; when the hope of the hypocrite doth perish. And,

Obs. 2. The life of faith doth eminently manifest itself in death, when all other reliefs and supportments do fail. And,

Obs. 3. That is the crowning act of faith, the great trial of its vigor and wisdom, namely, in what it doth in our dying. And,

Obs. 4. Hence it is that many of the saints, both of old and of late, have evidenced the most triumphant actings of faith in the approach of death.

(2.) The second thing affirmed of them is, that they “received not the promises.”

It is granted that the “promises” are here taken for the things promised; ἐπαγγελίας for ἐπάγγελτα . For as unto the promises themselves, they “saw them,” they “were persuaded of them,” they “embraced them;” wherefore it cannot be said that they received them not. And of Abraham it is said expressly, that he did receive the promises, verse 17; as also, that all other believers under the old testament did obtain them, verse 33.

Again, “the promises,” in the plural number, is the same with “the promise,” in the singular, verse 39: for the promise intended was but one, but whereas it is frequently renewed, it is called “the promises;” as also because of the manifold occasional additions that were made unto it, and declaratory of it.

This “promise,” or the thing promised, some expositors (as Grotius and his follower) take to be the land of Canaan, which these patriarchs possessed not. But nothing can be more remote from the intention of the 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 possessed it in quietness, as Samuel and David, that they received, not the promise, verse 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, chapters 7-10, 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 8:56. 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 provided for us” under the new testament, “that they without us should not be made perfect,” Hebrews 11:40. And,

Obs. 5. 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, exhibited 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 carcass. It was Christ in the promise, even before his coming, that was the life of the church in all ages. And,

Obs. 6. 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. 7. We may receive the promises as to the comfort and benefit of them, when we do not actually receive the things promised. See verse 1. And,

Obs. 8. 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.

(3.) 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.

[1.] There were three degrees of the actings of their faith, with respect unto the promises themselves:

1 st . They “saw them afar off;”

2 dly . They were “persuaded of them;”

3 dly . They “embraced them:” wherein the whole work of faith with reference unto divine promises is comprised and regularly disposed. For sight or knowledge, with trust or assured persuasion, and adherence with love, comprise the whole work of faith.

1st. They “saw them afar off,” at a great distance. This further 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,” Haggai 2:6-7; and he that was promised was to come “suddenly,” Malachi 3:1. But at present it was “afar off.” This kept the church in a longing expectation and desire of the coming of this day; wherein the principal work of its faith and love did consist.

Obs. 9. No distance of time or place can weaken faith as unto the accomplishment of divine promises. There are such still left unto us upon record, that are, it may be, afar off; such as those which concern 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, Habakkuk 2:3-4. Yea,

Obs. 10. Quiet waiting for the accomplishment of promises at a great distance, and which most probably will not be in our days, is an eminent fruit of faith. “He that believeth will not make haste.”

Thus they saw them: It is an act of the mind and understanding 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 distinctly 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 Peter 1:11-12. 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 dly . They were “persuaded of them,” 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 satisfactory acquiescency 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 themselves unto us, Titus 1:2. Hence ariseth a firm persuasion of mind concerning 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, Hebrews 6:12-18. 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 intervenience of all sorts of difficulties, they should certainly be accomplished in their appointed time and season, Isaiah 60:22.

Obs. 11. This firm persuasion of the truth of God in the accomplishment 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 principally consist.

3 dly . On this persuasion they “embraced them.” The word signifies “to salute,” and is applied unto such salutations as are 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 an inseparable 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, confirmed and repeated, the great promise of the blessing Seed, as a recoverer from the state of sin, misery, and death. This they knew, as unto the actual accomplishment of it, was yet at a great distance from them; howbeit they saw that of the divine wisdom, goodness, and grace in it, as was every way suited unto their satisfaction and reward. Hereon they thrust forth the arms of their love and affection to welcome, entertain, and embrace him who was promised. And of this embracement of the promises, or of the Lord Christ in the promise, the Book of Canticles is a blessed exposition.

This was the life, this was the comfort and supportment of their souls, in all their wanderings, under all their sufferings, in all the hazards and trials of their pilgrimage. 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 difficulties, oppositions, and persecutions that we meet withal; we having already received that great privilege whereof they were only in the expectation.

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 produceth an affiance in God for their accomplishment unto themselves in whom it is. 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.

[2.] 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 unwillingly. But that is not the sense of the word as here used; it hath another signification. ῾Ομολογία is the “profession” that we make of our faith and hope, 2 Corinthians 9:13; 1 Timothy 6:12; Hebrews 3:1; Hebrews 4:14; Hebrews 10:23. And it is applied unto the witness which the Lord Christ gave unto himself and his doctrine, 1 Timothy 6:13. So is the verb, ὁμολογέω , constantly used, “to avow publicly,” “to profess openly” what is our faith and hope; especially when we meet with danger on the account of it. See Matthew 10:32; Luke 12:8; Romans 10:9-10. 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 they had such a satisfactory portion in the promises which they embraced, as that they publicly renounced a concernment in the world like that of other men, whose portion is in this life. And,

Obs. 12. 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, Jeremiah 3:23-24; Hosea 14:2-3.

That, in particular, which they thus professed of themselves is, that “they were 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 attainable. 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 professed 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, Genesis 23:4; and Jacob, Genesis 47:8-9; and David, 1 Chronicles 29:15, Psalms 39:12. And that all believers are such, the apostle Peter declares, 1 Peter 2:11.

If we distinguish these two sorts; ξένοι , “strangers,” are such as are always 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;” παρεπίδημοι , 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 “on the earth,” during their whole continuance here in this world. And an intimation is given of that other state which they looked for, and wherein their interest did lie, namely, 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, whereby, although they are pilgrims, yet they are not vagabonds; would be here too long to explain.

Verse 14

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.

Hebrews 11:14 . Οἱ γὰρ ποιαῦτα λέγοντες ἐμφανίζουσιν ὅτι πατρίδα ἐπιζητοῦσι .

Hebrews 11:14 . For they that say such things, declare plainly that they seek a country.

“For they that say such things;” be they who they will that speak such things as. these sincerely. Or, these persons, in their circumstances, saying such things as they are recorded in the Scripture to have spoken and publicly avowed.

“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 they “diligently inquired after it,” as the word signifies, or sought it with diligence.

There is an entrance in these words on a train of evident consequences, 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. This is the genuine and proper way of the interpretation of the Scripture, when from the words themselves, considered with relation unto the persons speaking them, and all their circumstances, we declare what is their determinate mind and sense. Hereunto, on the due apprehension 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 [10] and disproved.

[10] See vol. 4 of miscellaneous works, book 6, part 2 of Pneumatologia. Ed.

The inference of the apostle from these words of the patriarchs is so evident and uncontrollable, that he affirms themselves to “declare plainly” what he declares to be the 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 peculiar act or fruit of faith; for the very heathen had an apprehension that this life is but a kind of pilgrimage. So speaks Cicero,

“De Senectute,” cap. 23. “Ex vita ita discedo tanquam ex hospitio, non tanquam ex domo. Commorandi enim natura diversorium nobis, non habitandi locum dedit.”

But under their circumstances, there must be another sense in the words For they speak them not as the common condition of mankind, 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, 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 declared 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: that alone is wanting to any as they are strangers and pilgrims; that alone will cause them to 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 endeavor, is, that they may be here supplied. Such persons, be they never so poor, so indigent, so 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.

Verse 15

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.

Hebrews 11:15 . Καὶ εἰ μὲν ἐκείνης ἐμνημόνευον ἀφ᾿ ἧς ἐξῆλθον , ει῏χον ἅν καιρὸν ἀνακάμψαι .

Hebrews 11:15 . 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 originally 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 unto the country they left, nor desire to return unto it. Which,

3. Is proved by the possibility and facility of such a return.

1. Originally they had a country of their own. This was Ur of the Chaldees, Genesis 11:31; called also Mesopotamia, Acts 7:2, Genesis 24:10; the country “on the other side of the flood,” Joshua 24:2. Wherefore respect may be had either unto Ur of the Chaldees, which Abraham first left with his father; or unto Haran on the other side of Euphrates, where he first dwelt.

2. From this country they went out; they left it, they departed from it upon the command of God. That is, Abraham and Sarah did so; and Isaac with Jacob continuing to follow them in obedience unto 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 possessions and goods therein; nor were they driven out by external force or persecution, as the Jews fancy; but in an obediential 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 unto this country. Εἰ ἐμνημόνευον , “si meminissent,” “si memores fuissent, “si recordarentur,” “si mentionem fecissent.” Syr., “si quaerentes essent.” We render it well, “if they had been mindful;” that is, remembered it with a mind and desire after it. It is natural unto 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 unto their country, and their fervent desire after the enjoyment of it. Especially it was made evident in many when they came to die:

“ Et dulces moriens reminiscitur Argos.” Virg. AEn. 10:782.

This love unto, 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 unto or desire after this country. They minded it not.

Obs. 1. It is in the nature of faith to mortify not only corrupt and sinful lusts, but our natural affections, and their most vehement inclinations, though in themselves innocent, if they are any way uncompliant with duties of obedience unto the commands of God. Yea, herein lies the principal trial of the sincerity and power of faith. Our lives, parents, wives, children, houses, possessions, our country, are the principal, 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 hinderances unto 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, Matthew 10:37; Luke 14:26; John 12:25.

4. That they had not respect unto this country in the profession they made, the apostle proves from hence, that they might have returned unto it if they had had any mind thereunto. Wherefore should they thus complain, when they might have gone home when they would? Ει῏χον ἄν , “they might have had;” or, as some copies read, only ει῏χον , 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. Καιρόν , “tempus.” Vulg. 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 that they had time enough for a return, if they had had a mind unto 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 opportunities they had. So when Abraham sent his servant to take a wife for Isaac from thence, upon his servant’s inquiry whether, if the woman would not come with him, he should engage his son to return thither, when so great an opportunity was offered, replied, “Beware that thou bring not my son thither,” namely; ‘unto the land from whence I came,’ Genesis 24:5-6. 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, Genesis 31:0. It is therefore most evident, that no opportunity could draw them to think of a return into their own country; 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. 2. 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 unto things otherwise greatly desirable.

Verse 16

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.

Hebrews 11:16 . Νυνὶ δὲ κρείΤτονος ὀρέγονται , τοῦτ᾿ ἔστιν ἐπουρανίου· διὸ οὐκ ἐπαισχύνεται αὐτοὺς ὁ Θεὸς , Θεὸς ἐπικαλεῖσθαι αὐτῶν· ἡτοίμασε γὰρ αὐτοῖς πόλιν .

Νυνὶ δέ , “atqui,” “nunc autem.” Syr., חָשָׁא דֵּין יִדִיעָא , “but now it is known,” or “certain;” it appears by the event.

Κρείττονος , “meliorem;” the Syr. adds מֶנָּהּ , “than that;” “better than the country which they came from.” Beza, “potiorem;” the same with the Syr. ῾Ορέγονται , “appetunt,” “expetunt,” “desiderant;” “earnestly desire,” in the present tense, speaking historically of what was then done.

᾿Επαισχύνεται . Vulg. Lat.,” confunditur;” Rhem., “is not confounded to be called their God:” very improperly. “Non pudet,” “non erubescit.” Syr., לָא נָכֵ , abstained, refrained not.”

᾿Επικαλεῖσθαι . Vulg. Lat., “vocari,” “cognominari” to have this title of “their God” to be added to his name.

Hebrews 11:16 . But now they [earnestly] desire a better [country], that is, an heavenly. Wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for he hath prepared for them a city.

Here at length the apostle declares what was the acting of their faith in that confession which they made, that they were “strangers and pilgrims on the earth.” For,

1. It was not a mere complaint of their present state and condition; nor,

2. Did it include a desire after any other earthly country, not that in particular from whence they came, where were all their dear concernments and relations: wherefore,

3. It must be another country, of another sort and kind, that they desired and fixed their faith upon; which is here declared.

1. What their faith was exercised in, under the profession which they made, namely, that they did “desire a better country, that is, an heavenly.”

2. What was the consequent thereof: “God is not ashamed to be called their God.”

3. The ground and evidence hereof: “For he hath prepared for them a city.”

1. In the first, the apostle declares that in the midst of the world, and against the world, which contemns things future and invisible in comparison of those which are of present enjoyment and use, they lived in the hope, desire, and expectation of a future, invisible, heavenly country. And in this profession testimony is borne unto the truth and excellency of divine promises. Yea,

Obs. 1. To avow openly in the world, by our ways of walking and living, with a constant public profession, that our portion and inheritance is not in it, but in things invisible, in heaven above, is an illustrious act and fruit of faith. But then, it is incumbent on us that we do not in any thing contradict this testimony. If we love the world like others, use it and abuse it like others, we destroy our own profession, and declare our faith to be vain.

In the first part of the words we may consider,

(1.) The manner of their introduction; “but now.”

(2.) The way of the acting of their faith; it was by “desire.”

(3.) The object of that desire; “a better, that is, an heavenly country.”

(1.) “But now.” Νῦν , “now,” is not in this place an adverb of time, but an illative particle; and joined with δέ , “but,” signifies an adversative inference, as עַתָּה is used in the Hebrew, Psalms 2:10, “Be wise now, therefore.” ‘It was not so with them, they desired not a return into their country; “but they desired.”’

(2.) Their faith acted by desire, earnest desire; so ὀρέλομαι signifies. It is twice used by our apostle in his First Epistle to Timothy, and nowhere else. In the one place it is applied to the desire of episcopacy, 1 Timothy 3:1; and in the other unto that of money, 1 Timothy 6:10; which usually are vehement; in the latter place we render it by “coveted,” a craving desire. They had an earnest, active desire, which put them on all due ways and means of attaining it. Slothful, inactive desires after things spiritual and heavenly, are of little use in or unto the souls of men.

And this kind of earnest desire includes,

[1.] A sense of want, and unsatisfiedness in things present.

[2.] A just apprehension of the worth and excellency of the things desired; without which none can have an earnest desire after any thing.

[3.] A sight of the way and means whereby it may be attained; without which all desire will quickly fade and fail Such a desire in any, is an evidence of faith working in a due manner.

(3.) That which they thus desired, was “a better, that is, an heavenly;” a better,” more excellent “country,” which is to be supplied: not that wherein they were, the land of Canaan; not that from whence they came, the land of the Chaldees; (in the one they were pilgrims, unto the other they would not return;) but another, a “better.”

“Better,” may respect degrees or kinds; a country better in degrees than either of them; better air, better soil; more fruitful, more peaceable: but there was no such on the earth, nor any such did they desire; wherefore it respects a country of another kind, and so the apostle expounds it, “that is, an heavenly.”

He had before declared that they “looked for a city that had foundations, whose framer and builder is God,” verse 10. Here he expresseth where that city is, and what it is; namely, heaven itself, or a habitation with God in the everlasting enjoyment of him.

The apostle here clearly ascribeth unto the holy patriarchs a faith of immortality and glory after this life, and that in heaven above with God himself, who prepared it for them. But great endeavors are used to disprove this faith of theirs, and overthrow it.

If we may believe the Papists, they were deceived in their expectation. For whereas the apostle teacheth that when they died they looked to go to heaven, they affirm that they came short of it, and fell into a limbus they know not where. The Socinians grant a state of immortality and glory to be here intended; but they say that these holy men did not look for it, nor desire it, by virtue of any promise of God. But they are said to do so, because it was that which in the purpose of God would ensue; but they had no ground to believe it. There is herein not only boldness, but wantonness in dealing with the Scripture. For this exposition is not only expressly contradictory unto the words of the apostle in their only sense and meaning, but also destructive of his whole argument and design. For if he proves not that their faith wrought in the desire and expectation of heavenly things, he proves nothing at all unto his purpose.

Grotius and his follower would have the country intended to be the land of Canaan, and the city to be Jerusalem, which yet in a mystical sense were typical of heaven, for these were promised unto their posterity; than which nothing can be more remote from the mind of the Holy Ghost. For,

[1.] That which they looked for and earnestly desired, they did at last enjoy, or their faith was vain, and their hope such as made them ashamed; but they never personally possessed Canaan or Jerusalem.

[2.] This country is directly opposed unto that wherein they were pilgrims, which was the land of Canaan, and called “a better country” in opposition unto it; and so could not be the same.

[3.] The city which was prepared, was that whose only framer and builder was God; that is, heaven itself.

[4.] This country is said to be heavenly; which the land of Canaan and the city of Jerusalem are never said to be, but are opposed unto heaven, or that which is above.

Certainly men follow prejudices, and are under the influence of other corrupt opinions, so as that they advise not with their own minds, who thus express themselves concerning these holy patriarchs. Shall we think that those who were testified unto to have lived by faith, to have walked with God, who gave themselves unto prayer and meditation continually, who denied themselves as unto all worldly accommodations, whose faith produced inimitable instances of obedience, rose no higher in their faith, hopes, desires, and expectations, than those earthly things wherein their posterity were to have no share comparable unto that of many of the worst enemies of God; the whole of it being at this day one of the most contemptible provinces of the Turkish empire? I no way doubt, but on the promise of the blessed Seed, they lived in that faith of heaven and glory which some that oppose their faith were never acquainted withal. But we see here, that

Obs. 2. Faith looks on heaven as the country of believers, a glorious country, an eternal rest and habitation. Thence they derive their original. They are born from above; there is their portion and inheritance. God is the one and the other. Thereunto they have right by their adoption; that is prepared for them as a city, a house full of mansions; therein they have their conversation, and that do they continually long after whilst they are here below. For,

Obs. 3. In all the groans of burdened souls under their present trials, there is included a fervent desire after heaven and the enjoyment of God therein. So was there in this complaint of the patriarchs, that they were strangers and pilgrims, Heaven is in the bottom of the sighs and groans of all believers, whatever may outwardly give occasion unto them, Romans 8:23.

The consequent or effect of their faith acting itself in their earnest desires of a heavenly country, is, that “God is not ashamed to be called their God.”

(1.) The word “wherefore” denotes, not the procuring or meritorious cause of the thing itself, but the consequent, or what ensued thereon, as it doth frequently.

(2.) The privilege granted hereon was, that God would be “called their God.” He doth not say that he would be their God, for that he was absolutely in the first call of Abraham; but that he would be so styled, called, he would take that name and title to himself. So the word signifies, not “vocari,” but “cognominari.” And the apostle respects what is recorded Exodus 3:6; Exodus 3:15, “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob: this is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations.” He assumes unto himself this title, whereby he will be known and called on, as by his own name. And this was the greatest honor that they could be made partakers of. He who is the great possessor of heaven and earth, the God of the whole world, of all nations, of all creatures, would be known, styled, and called on, as their God in a peculiar manner; and he distinguisheth himself thereby from all false gods whatever. It is true, he hath revealed himself unto us by a greater and more glorious name; he hath taken another title unto himself, unto the manifestation of his own glory and the comfort of the church, far above it, namely, “The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ:” howbeit, by reason of the covenant made with them, he is yet known by this name. And whilst this name stands upon record, there is yet hope of the recovery of their posterity from their present forlorn, undone condition.

Obs. 4. This is the greatest privilege, honor, advantage, and security that any can be made partakers of, that God will bear the name and title of their God. And thus is it with all believers, by virtue of their relation unto Christ, as he declares, John 20:17, “I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.’See 2 Corinthians 6:16-18. The privileges and benefits which depend hereon cannot be numbered. Their honor and safety in this life, their resurrection from the dead, as our Savior proves, and eternal life, flow from thence.

Obs. 5. God’s owning of believers as his, and of himself to be their God, is an abundant recompence for all the hardships which they undergo in their pilgrimage.

(3.) There is the way whereby he came to be so called; he was “not ashamed” to be so called, to take that name upon him self. And sundry things are intimated in this expression; as,

[1.] Infinite condescension. Though it seems to be a thing infinitely beneath his glorious majesty, yet he is not ashamed of it. It is a condescension in God to take notice of, “to behold the things that are done in heaven and in the earth,” Psalms 113:5-6. How much more doth he so humble himself in taking this title on him! This infinite condescension is intimated in this peculiar expression, “He is not ashamed.”

[2.] It is so, that it would be unto him a matter of reproach. So it was in the world; innumerable gods were set up in opposition to him, idols acted and animated by devils; but all agreed to reproach and despise the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, three poor pilgrims on the earth. Whilst those idols multiplied unto themselves great swelling titles of vanity, their best conceptions of him were, that he was “the unknown God,” “incerti Judae Dei.” But notwithstanding all the reproaches and contempt of the world, God was not ashamed of them, nor of the title which he had assumed unto himself; nor did he disuse it until he had famished all the gods of the earth, and vindicated his own glorious being and power. But,

[3.] It is usual that in such negative enunciations the contrary positive is included. So the apostle affirms that he was “not ashamed of the gospel of Christ,” Romans 1:16; that is, he gloried in it, or the knowledge and faith of it were his honor, as he everywhere expresses himself. So, “God was not ashamed;” that is, he took this title to himself as his honor and glory. If it be asked, how this title could be any glory unto God; I say, it was so, in that by virtue thereof, and to fill it up, he glorified his grace, his goodness, his truth, and power, above all that he did besides in the world. For he gives himself this name in the confirmation of his covenant, in and by which he glorifies himself in the communication of all good things, temporal and eternal Wherefore, to know God as “the God of Abraham,” eta, is to know him as he glorifies all the holy properties of his nature in the confirmation of the covenant. Therefore he takes this title as his honor and glory.

Besides, in being thus their God, he doth such things in them and for them, that they shall be a glory to him. For until his own Son came in the flesh, he could not be more glorified on the earth by the obedience of his creatures, which is his glory, than he was in that act of Abraham which the apostle immediately instanceth

2. Their graces, their sufferings, their obedience, were his glory. And therefore, as it is said that “he will be for a crown of glory, and for a diadem of beauty unto his people,” Isaiah 28:5, his owning of them shall be their crown and diadem; so is it also said that they “shall be a crown of glory in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem in the hand of their God,” Isaiah 62:3. He will, by his Spirit and graces in them, make them his crown and diadem; which he will hold in his hand, to show it unto all the world. Well, therefore, is it said, that “He is not ashamed to be called their God.” And we may observe, that,

Obs. 6. Divine wisdom hath so ordered the relation between God and the church, that that which is in itself an infinite condescension in God, and a reproach unto him in the wicked, idolatrous world, should also be his glory and honor, wherein he is well pleased. To trace the steps and declare the mystery of this wisdom, is the principal subject of the Scripture, too large a subject to be here entered into.

Obs. 7. When God, in a way of sovereign grace, so infinitely condescends, as to take any into covenant with himself, so as that he may be justly styled their God, he will make them to be such as shall be a glory to himself. And,

Obs. 8. We may see wherein the woful condition of them who are ashamed to be called his people, and make that name a term of reproach unto others.

3. The last clause of the verse, “For he hath prepared for them a city,” doth either give a reason why he was not ashamed to be called their God, or contains an evidence that he was so called.

In the first way, the causal conjunction, “for,” denotes the reason or cause whence it was that God was not ashamed to be called their God. It is true, they were poor wanderers, pilgrims on the earth, who had neither city nor habitation, so that it might be a shame to own them; but saith the apostle,

‘God had not herein respect unto their present state and condition, but that which he had provided for them.’Or it may be an evidence that he was not ashamed to be called their God, in that he did what might become that relation.

The thing itself, which is either the cause or evidence of that title, is, that “he hath prepared for them a city.” What this city is, we have already declared and vindicated, namely, that city whose framer and builder is God, the same with the heavenly country which they desired.

Hereof it is said that God hath “prepared” it for them; an allusion taken from the disposing of colonies into cities and towns, where all things are ready prepared for their habitation and entertainment. And the word here used is constantly applied unto the preparation of heaven and glory for believers, Matthew 20:23; Matthew 25:34; Mark 10:40; John 14:2-3; 1 Corinthians 2:9. And two things are included in it.

(1.) The eternal destination of glory unto all believers: Matthew 25:34, “The kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world;” that is, ‘designed, destinated unto you in the eternal counsel of God.’Thus God had prepared a city for these pilgrims in his eternal purpose, to bring them unto rest and glory.

(2.) It denotes the fitting and suiting of that city unto them, as the means of their eternal rest and blessedness. It is such, so ordered, so furnished, so made meet for them, as to answer all the ends of God’s being their God, and being so called. So our blessed Savior useth the word, John 14:2-3, “I go to prepare a place for you;” his entrance into heaven being prerequisite unto that glorious state which is promised unto the believers of the new testament, as I have showed elsewhere.

This preparation, therefore, of a city denotes,

(1.) An eternal act of the will and wisdom, of God, in designing heaven and glory unto the elect.

(2.) An act of his power and grace, in the actual producing and disposing of it of that nature as may be an everlasting habitation of rest and glory. Thus,

Obs. 9. Eternal rest and glory are made sure for all believers in the eternal purpose of the will of God, and his actual preparation of them by grace; which being embraced by faith, is a sufficient supportment for them under all the trials, troubles, and dangers of this life, Luke 12:32.

Verses 17-19

Having spoken of the faith of the first patriarchs in the third period of time, the second from the flood, in general, with respect unto their peculiar state as pilgrims in the land of Canaan, he now singles them out in particular, giving particular instances of their faith, beginning with Abraham.

Hebrews 11:17-19 . Πίστει προσενήνοχεν ᾿Αβραὰμ τὸν ᾿Ισαὰκ πειραζόμενος , καὶ τὸν μονογενῆ προσέφερεν ὁ τὰς ἐπαγγελίας ἀναδεξάμενος· πρὸς ὅν ἐλαλήθη , ὅτι ἐν ῾Ισαὰκ κληθήσεταί σοι σπέρμα· λογισάμενος ὅτι καὶ ἐκ νεκρῶν ἐγείρειν δυνατὸς ὁ Θεὸς , ὅθεν αὐτὸν καὶ ἐν παραβολῇ ἐκομίσατα .

Προσέφερεν . Syr., אסֵּק לְמַדְבֵחָא , “he lifted him upon the altar;” to intimate, it may be, the event, that he was not actually sacrificed; but the word is the same with that before.

Πειραζόμενος , “tentatus,” “cum tentaretur:” “when he was tried,” say we; more properly, “when he was tempted,” to answer the original word, wherein it is said, “God did tempt Abraham.”

῾Ο τὰς ἐπαγγελίας ἀναδεξάμενος , חֲוָא בְּמוּלְכָנָא “him whom he had received by promise.” But it is the receiving of the promise, and not the accomplishment of it in the birth of Isaac,. that the apostle intends; for he considers it as that which includes the blessing Seed, as well as the type of it in Isaac. Vulg. Lat., “in quo susceperat promissiones,” “in whom he received the promises;” against the words and sense of the place.

Πρὸς ὅν ἐλαλήθη , “ad quem dictum erat,” “to whom it was said.” Others, “respectu cujus dictum est,”” with respect unto whom,” or “concerning whom it was said.” For ὅν , “whom,” may be referred either unto Abraham or Isaac; it was said unto Abraham, or it was said concerning Isaac, namely, unto him. We follow the latter sense, “of whom, that is, concerning whom.

Λογισάμενος . Vulg., “arbitrans,” “thinking.” It reacheth not the force of the word. “Ratiocinatus,” “reasoning, computing, judging.” Syr., וֶאתְרַעִי הֲוֹא בְּנַפְשֵׁהּ , “he thought,” or “computed in his own mind,” he reasoned in himself; properly.

Δυνατὸς ὁ Θεός , “posse Deum,” “that God could.” Others, “potentia . praeditum esse,” “to be endued with power;” that is, to be able. Syr., “that there was faculty,” ability or power, “in the hands of God.”

᾿Εν παραζολῇ . Vulg., “in parabolam.” Rhem., “for a parable.” “Similitudine.” Syr., “in a type.” We, “in a figure;” namely, such a figure as [11] represents somewhat else.

[11] EXPOSITION. These words, ἐν παραβολῇ , are particularly difficult. Calvin, Castalio, Beza, Schlichting, Grotius, Limborch, Kuinoel, Bleek, etc., take παραβολή in the well-known signification, “figure,” but then refer ἐν παραβολῇ to ὅθεν , and obtain this sense: thence, as it were, (namely, ἐκ νεκρῶν , as it were from the grave,) he “received him back.” Others, as Theodoret, Erasmus, Luther, Calov, Bohme, Olshausen, take παραβολή likewise in the signification of . “figure,” b ut with this explanation, “wherefore he received him back as a symbol,” (or in symbol). A third class, Camerarius, Ernesti, Tholuck, etc., take ἐν παραβολῇ as equal to παραβόλως , “against expectation,” (Romans 4:18,) παρ᾿ ἐλπίδα . So far Ebrard, who accompanies this synopsis of these three different views with an expression of his preference for the second of them. Wolf brings out the meaning thus: “Abraham not only received Isaac back alive, but obtained this additional benefit, that his recovery was a figure of Christ’s resurrection.” ED.

Hebrews 11:17-19 . By faith Abraham, when he was tried, [being tempted,] offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only-begotten, of whom it was said, That in Isaac thy seed shall be called, [or, a seed shall be called unto thee.] Accounting that God [was] able even to raise [him] up from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.

We may consider in these words,

1. The person whose faith is instanced in, which is Abraham.

2. The circumstance of time, and occasion of this exercise of his faith, “when he was tried” or “tempted.”

3. The act and effect of his faith, the offering of Isaac.

4. The amplification of the exercise of his faith herein;

(1.) From the person of Isaac, he was “his only-begotten son;

(2.) From the consideration of his own person, in that “he had received the promises;”

(3.) From the subject-matter of these promises, which was concerning a seed by Isaac.

5. The reconciliation that faith made in his mind between the promises and the present duty which he was called unto, “accounting,” etc.

6. The event of his faith and duty, “from whence he received him in a figure.”

1. The person instanced in is Abraham, the father of the faithful: and the instance is such as became him who was to be an example in believing unto all that should succeed him; that whereon he was renowned, and esteemed blessed in all generations, such, so high, so glorious, as nothing under the old testament did equal, nothing under the new can exceed. This was that act and duty of the faith of Abraham whereon he had that signal testimony and approbation from heaven, Genesis 22:15-18. Hereon a close was put unto all his trials of temptations, and an end unto the repetition of the promise. “Now I know,” saith God, ‘It is enough; thou shalt be put to no “that thou fearest me, more difficulties; walk now in assured peace unto the end of thy days.’And the greatness of this instance, with the season of it, teacheth us,

Obs. 1. That God alone knows how to prescribe work and duty proportionate unto the strength of grace received. He knew that Abraham’s faith would carry him through this trial, and thereon he spared him not. As he will enjoin nothing absolutely above our strength, so he is not obliged to spare us in any duty, be it never so grievous, or of what difficult exercise soever it be, which he will give us strength to undergo; as he did here to Abraham.

Obs. 2. That ofttimes God reserves great trials for a well-exercised faith. So this trial befell Abraham when his faith had been victorious in sundry other instances. So he hath called many to lay down their lives by fire, blood, and torments, in their old age.

2. The occasion and season of this exercise of the faith of Abraham, was his being tried, or tempted: “When he was tried.” So it is recorded, Genesis 22:1, “God did tempt Abraham,” וְהָאַלֹהִים נִּסָּה אֶתאּאַבְרָהָם . The word is frequently used for to “tempt,” often in an evil sense; but it is in itself of a middle signification, and denotes to “try,” as unto any end, or with any design good or bad.

But, whereas that which is here ascribed unto God is not without its difficulty, it must be inquired into, and not be left covered under the word “tried,” which hides the difficulty from the English reader, but doth not remove it.

God is said to “tempt Abraham;” but the apostle James saith expressly that “God tempteth no man,” James 1:13. And if these things should be spoken of the same kind of temptation, there is an express contradiction in them. Wherefore I say,

(1.) That the temptation intended by James is directly unto sin as sin, in all its pernicious consequents; as he fully declares in the next words, “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.” So God tempteth no man.

(2.) Both the Hebrew and Greek word are of an indifferent signification, including nothing that is evil, but only in general to make a trial; and the Hebrew word is used most frequently in that sense.

(3.) The formality of an active temptation ariseth from an evil design and end. When one is put by another on that which is evil, if his design therein be also evil, that is a formal temptation unto sin. From this design and end in all his acting, Satan is called “the tempter,” Matthew 4:3. Thus God tempts no man: all his designs are holy, just, and good.

(4.) The temptations ascribed unto God are of two sorts:

[1.] In express command of that which is evil unto us.

[2.] In his providential disposal of things, their circumstances and objects of actions, so as men may take occasion to act according unto their own principles and inclinations.

(5.) In these temptations from God, which are always outward, and about men’s outward concerns, God acts three ways:

[1.] Positively, by supplies of grace to enable those who are tempted to overcome their temptations, or to discharge their duty notwithstanding their temptations;

[2.] Negatively, by withholding such supplies;

[3.] Privatively, by induration and hardening of the hearts of men, whereon they precipitate themselves into the evil which the temptation leads unto; as we may see in instances of each sort.

[1.] The temptation of Abraham was of the first sort, it was by a positive command that he should sacrifice his son; which was unlawful for him to do of his own accord, both as it was a sacrifice that God had not ordained, and he had no such power over the life of an obedient son. But in this command, and by virtue of it, God, in an act of his sovereign right and authority over all, changed the nature of the act, and made it lawful, yea a duty, unto Abraham. Isaac was his absolutely, and by way of sovereignty, before and above any interest of Abraham in him. He is the supreme Lord of life and death, and may appoint what means of them he pleaseth. So when he commanded the Israelites to borrow jewels of the Egyptians, which they carried away with them, he did it by translating the right and title unto them from the one people unto the other, Exodus 12:35-36. Wherefore it was no part of Abraham’s trial, that what he was to do had any thing of sin in it; for he knew full well that God’s command had made it not only lawful, but his indispensable duty; his trial arose, as we shall see, from other considerations. And the internal work of God under this temptation, was the corroboration of the faith of Abraham unto a blessed victory, which was in his design from the beginning.

[2.] Of the second sort of temptations by providences, was that of Hezekiah, 2 Chronicles 32:31. The coining of the ambassadors of the king of Babylon unto him was ordered by divine providence for his trial; and it was his temptation. His trial was, whether he would magnify God, who had wrought the miracles in his land of slaying the Assyrians, and the going backward of the sun on the dial; or set forth his own greatness, riches, and power: which latter way he closed with. And so God doth continually by his providence present unto men various occasions and objects, whereby what is prevalent in them is excited and drawn out into exercise. All opportunities for good or evil, all advantages of profit, power, honor, service, reputation, are of this nature. Now, in this case of Hezekiah, and it is so in many others continually, God acts internally, only negatively; not supplying them with that grace which shall be actually and effectually victorious, but leaving them unto their own strength, whereby they fail and are overcome. So it is said of Hezekiah, that “God left him,” (that is, to himself and his own strength, without supplies of actual grace,) “to try him, that he might know all that was in his heart.”

[3.] But in this case of temptations by outward providences, especially towards evil men, set on sin in their own hearts and minds, according to their power and opportunities, God acts by the induration or hardening of their hearts, whereon they rush with violence and fury into destructive evils; the way whereof is not here to be inquired into.

(6.) This temptation of Abraham is said to be for his trial. And it is so carried in the story, as if God had done it for his own satisfaction in the faith and love of Abraham; for so he says, on the issue of it, “Now I know that thou fearest God,” Genesis 22:12. But these things are spoken after the manner of men. God knew the faith of Abraham what was the strength of it, as also the sincerity of his love, for they were both from himself; he knew what would be the issue of the trial of them, and what he had himself determined concerning the life of Isaac: and therefore “Now I know,” is no more but ‘Now I have made known,’namely, ‘unto thyself and others.’Thus, therefore, he was tried. God by his command, which could not be obeyed but by a vigorous, victorious faith, fervent love, and a reverential fear of God, made it known unto Abraham for his comfort, and to all the church for their example, unto his everlasting honor, what power of grace was in him, and by what principles he was entirely acted in his walking before God.

(7.) The time of this trial of Abraham is marked in the story: “It came to pass after these things,” Genesis 22:1. That which is the most remarkable is, that it was after the casting out of Ishmael, which is reported in the foregoing chapter; so that, he being gone from his family, he had no other son but Isaac only, in whom all his expectations did center, as we shall see immediately. It was also before the death of Sarah, who probably knew nothing of this matter until afterwards; for it was not her trial, but Abraham’s only that was intended. And we may hence observe,

Obs. 3. That faith must be tried; and, of all graces, it is most suited unto trial.

Obs. 4. That God proportions trials for the most part unto the strength of faith.

Obs. 5. Yea, great trials in believers are an evidence of great faith in them, though not understood either by themselves or others before such trials.

Obs. 6. Trials are the only touchstone of faith, without which men must want the best evidence of its sincerity and efficacy, and the best way of testifying it unto others. Wherefore,

Obs. 7. We ought not to be afraid of trials, because of the admirable advantages of faith in and by them See Jas 1:2-4 ; 1 Peter 1:6-7. And,

Obs. 8. Let them be jealous over themselves who have had no especial instances of the trial of their faith. And,

Obs. 9. True faith being tried, will in the issue be victorious.

3. The third thing considerable in these words is the act and effect of his faith, “He offered up Isaac;” and who Isaac was, what was his relation unto him, and what were his circumstances, he afterwards declares. The command was to “offer him for a burnt-offering;” which was, first to be slain, and then consumed with fire. Accordingly, the apostle affirms that he offered him, whereas we know how he was delivered. But the meaning is, that he actually and fully obeyed the command of God herein. He did it in will, heart, and affections, though it was not eventually done; and the will is accepted for the deed. But the true meaning of the words is, that he fully obeyed the command of God. God commanded him to offer him, and he did so unto the uttermost of what was required in the command. Neither did the command of God respect the event, nor was Abraham obliged to believe that he should actually be offered in sacrifice. But he believed that it was his duty to obey the command of God, and he did it accordingly. Look, therefore, in what sense God commanded Isaac to be offered, in the same did Abraham offer him; for he fulfilled the command of God. And we may see his full compliance with the divine command in the particulars of his obedience, For,

(1.) He parted with his own interest in him, and gave him up wholly unto God and his will; which was the principal thing in every offering or sacrifice. This God takes notice of in an especial manner, as that which answered his mind, “Thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son, from me,” Genesis 22:12.

(2.) He complied with the way designed in the command for the giving him up unto God, namely, as a sacrifice by blood and fire, wherein himself was to be the offerer. Herein was the greatest convulsion of nature; his faith had an exercise above it, and beyond it. But this was that which put nature unto it to the utmost, to have an only-begotten son slain by the effusion of his blood, visibly under his eyes, yea, to do it with his own hand, and to stand by his consumption in the fire, was an unparalleled trial We read, indeed, in heathen stories, and in holy writ with reference unto Moloch, that some in overwhelming distresses, inward and outward, for their supposed advantage and deliverance, have sacrificed some of their children in a kind of rage and fury, out of hopes to be gainers by it. But this was not the case of Abraham; he was at perfect peace with God and man, with an affluence of all other things unto the uttermost of his desires. His son had relation unto him in all those singular circumstances which we shall consider. On all accounts he was dear unto him, unto as great a height as it is possible for natural affection to rise unto. Being every way sedate in his mind, without hope or expectation of advantage, yea, to the utter ruin of his family and posterity, he complies with the command for the offering him with his own hand a bloody sacrifice unto God.

(3.) He did as much for the trial of his faith as if his son had been actually slain. There could not have been a greater assault upon it in case he had been offered. He looked on him as dead under his eye; and thence, as we shall see, he is said to “receive him in a figure.” He was, as unto his faith, in the same condition as if he had been dead. Wherefore,

(4.) In compliance with the command of God, he shut his eyes as it were against all difficulties and consequents, resolving to venture Isaac, posterity, truth of promises, all, upon the authority of God; wherein he is principally proposed as our example.

Whereas, therefore, the obedience of Abraham did every way answer the command of God, that being that he should offer his son Isaac, he is justly said to have done it accordingly, though as unto his death actually God otherwise disposed of things in the event.

What in the meantime was the working of the faith of Abraham with respect unto the promise, we shall afterwards inquire. The things we are taught herein are,

Obs. 10. Where there is a divine command, evidencing itself unto our consciences so to be, it is the wisdom and duty of faith to close its eyes against whatsoever seems insuperable in difficulties or inextricable in consequents. Faith may and ought to consider the difficulties that are in obedience, so far as to be prepared for them, provided against them, and resolved to conflict with them. But in case there appear that in them which seems to be overwhelming, which reason cannot contend withal, and when it can by no means look through the consequents of obedience, whether they will be good or no, it will commit the whole unto the authority and veracity of God in his commands and promises, casting out all objections that it cannot solve. For this is the faith of Abraham celebrated, not only in the offering of Isaac, but with respect unto his birth also. “Against hope he believed in hope. He considered not his own body,” Romans 4:18-19.

Obs. 11. Divine revelations did give such an evidence of their being immediately from God unto those who received them, that though in all things they contradicted their reason and interest, yet they received them without any hesitation. If there had been the least room left for a scruple whether the command given unto Abraham was immediately from God or no, whether it was such as, either unto its original or means of communication, might be subject unto any mistake, he could never with any satisfaction have complied with it. See my discourse of the Divine Authority of the [12] Scriptures.

[12] See volume 16 of miscellaneous works. Ed.

Obs. 12. The great glory and commendation of the faith of Abraham consisting in this, that without all dispute, hesitation, or rational consideration of objections to the contrary, by a pure act of his will, he complied with the authority of God, which in some sense may be called blind obedience, wherein the soul resigns the whole conduct of itself unto another, it is a height of blasphemy and profaneness in the popish votaries, especially in the order of the Jesuits, that by vow and oath they oblige themselves unto the same kind of obedience to the commands of those who are their superiors; which their founder, in his Epistle ad Fratres Lusitanos, had the impudence to confirm with the example of Abraham. And hence is it come to pass, that whereas this honor and prerogative are ascribed solely unto God, namely, that his commands are to be obeyed in all things, without examination, reasonings or consideration, as to the matter of them, the righteous government of the world is absolutely provided for; seeing he neither will nor can command any thing but what is holy, just, and good: so, since the ascription of such an authority unto men as to secure blind obedience unto all their commands, as innumerable evils have ensued thereon, as murders, seditions, and the like; so it takes away all grounds of peace and security from mankind. For who knows what a crew or sort of men called “the Jesuits’Superiors,” known only by their restless ambition and other misdemeanours among mankind, will command their vassals, who are sworn unto blind obedience unto them, to perpetrate and execute whatever they enjoin. Let princes and others flatter themselves as they please, if these men, as they profess, are no less obliged in conscience to execute whatever their superiors shall command and enjoin, than Abraham was to obey God in his command for the sacrificing of his only son, they hold their lives on the mercy and good nature of these superiors, who are always safe out of the reach of their revenge. This ascription of a Godlike power to require a blind obedience unto their commands, to be yielded without any exercise or debate of reason, is that which it is a marvel how it is endured among mankind, especially since they have had such experience of its fruits and effects. Yea, though it be that which is absolutely due unto the infinite sovereignty of the Divine Being, yet God designing to govern us according to the principles, powers, and faculties of our natures, which he himself hath given us unto this end, that we may comply with his rule in a way of obedience, requires nothing from us but what is “reasonable service.” But what may be expected from these men, known only by their evil designings, who can tell?

Obs. 13. It is a privilege and advantage to have an offering of price to offer to God, if he call for it. And such are our lives, our names, our reputations, our relations, estates, liberties; as Abraham had his Isaac: it is so, I say, if we have hearts to make use of it.

Obs. 14. Obedience begun in faith, without any reserves, but with a sincere intention to fulfill the whole work of it, is accepted with God as if it were absolutely complete. So the confessors of old, delivered by divine Providence from death, when the sentence of it was denounced against them, were always reckoned in the next degree to martyrs.

4. The fourth thing to be considered, is the amplification of this obedience of Abraham, in the various circumstances of it; as,

(1.) From the person of Isaac, whom he so offered. He was his “only- begotten.” In what sense Isaac is said to be the only-begotten of Abraham, who had one son before him and many after him, is declared partly in the following words, “Concerning whom it was said, In Isaac shall thy seed be called.” He is that only son in whom the promise of the seed shall be accomplished. Further to clear the reason of this expression, it may be observed,

[1.] That the sons of Abraham by Keturah were not yet born.

[2.] Ishmael, who was born, was before this, by the command of God himself, put out of his family, as one that should not be the heir of his family, by whom his seed should be reckoned.

[3.] He was his only-begotten by Sarah, who was concerned in all this affair between God and him no less than himself.

[4.] The Holy Ghost taketh into consideration the whole state of things between God and Abraham, in his call, in his separation from the world, in the covenant made with him, in what he was designed unto in the promise made unto him concerning the blessed Seed; in all which Isaac alone had any concernment; and if he had failed, though Abraham had had an hundred children, they must have all fallen to the ground. Therefore, as Abraham was placed in these circumstances, he was his only-begotten son.

[5.] This expression is used in the Scripture sometimes for as much as peculiarly and entirely beloved, above all others, Proverbs 4:3; and there is great respect had hereunto.

The trial of the faith of Abraham may be referred unto two heads: first, What it was exercised withal; and secondly, What arose from the opposition that seemed to be between the command and the promise. And it is here distributed by the apostle into these two parts. For the conflict which he had with his own natural affections, it is intimated in this expression, “His only-begotten son,” whom he most dearly and entirely affected.

Abraham was very remote from being a person savage or cruel, like Lamech, that could boast of his killing and wounding, Genesis 4:23. Nor did he design that stoical apathy which was so falsely and foolishly boasted of by some of old. Nor was he ἄστοργος , “without natural affection;” which the apostle reckons among the worst vices of the heathens, Romans 1:31. Yea, he was such a tender and affectionate father, that the sending of Ishmael out of his family was more than he could well bear, until God comforted him in it, Genesis 21:11-13. What now must the working of his heart needs be towards Isaac, a son whom he had so long waited for, and prayed for; the only child of his dear wife, the companion of all his wanderings, troubles, and trials; who was now grown up, as is most probable, unto the age of sixteen or seventeen years, and had engaged his affections by all ways possible; the stay of his age, the life of his family, his only hope and comfort in this world? And how was he to deal with him? Not to send him out of his family with some provision and a guide, as he sent Ishmael; not to part with him for a time into a foreign country; but to take him himself, to bind him, slay him with a knife, and then to burn him unto ashes. Who can conceive what convulsions of nature must needs be occasioned hereby? Who can put himself into these circumstances without trembling and horror? The advantages also which Satan might hence take to excite unbelief with respect unto the command of God, are obvious to all. How easy was it for him, under that hurry which naturally his affections were subject unto, to make that ensnaring inquiry which he did unto Eve, “And hath God said so?” and to prevent the working of faith, as he did then, by a sudden reply unto his own question,

‘Nay, but God knoweth that it is otherwise, that it is not the death of thy son that he requires;’or, ‘It is not God that gave the command. Can it be thought that he who is infinitely good, benign, and gracious, should command one who fears him and loves him thus to tear and rend his own bowels, to devour his own offspring, his only son? Hearken a little unto the outcries of love, fear, and sorrow, and be not too hasty to be the executioner of all thine own joy.’

Here, then, the divine power of faith manifested itself under all that storm of disorder which his affections were exposed unto; and in the midst of all the temptations whereunto from thence he was liable, it preserved the mind of this holy person, quiet, sedate, under an annihilation of his own will, unto a destruction of all disorder in nature, in security against the power of temptations, in an entire resignation of himself and all his concernments unto the sovereign pleasure and will of God. “It is the LORD,” prevented all murmurings, silenced all reasonings, and preserved his mind in a frame fit to approach unto God in his holy worship; whereas Moses himself, on far less provocation, resented it so far as not to sanctify the name of God aright in the administration of an ordinance, Numbers 20:10-12. And it is hence evident, that,

Obs. 15. The power of faith in its conflict with and conquest over natural affections, when their unavoidable bent and inclination are contrary unto the will of God, whereby they are exposed to receive impressions from temptations, is an eminent part of its glory, and a blessed evidence of its sincerity. Such is its trial in the loss of dear relations, or their irrecoverable misery in this world, wherein natural affections are apt to indispose the mind, and to hinder it from a quiet submission unto the will of God; whereby David greatly failed in the case of Absalom. But another instance like this of Abraham there never was, nor ever shall be. And all less cases are contained in the greater.

(2.) The excellency of the faith and obedience of Abraham is set forth by the consideration of his own circumstances with respect unto Isaac. And this is expressed,

[1.] In general, that “he had received the promises;”

[2.] In particular, as unto that part of the promises wherein his present fact was immediately concerned, namely, that “in Isaac should his seed be called.”

[1.] It is expressed, as that which recommends his obedience, that he had “received the promises;” which needs some explanation.

1 st . It is twice said in this chapter, that neither he nor any other believer under the old testament did “receive the promise,” Hebrews 11:13; Hebrews 11:39; but here it is affirmed that he “did receive the promises.” The solution is easy. For in those two other places, by “the promise,” the thing promised is intended. And this sufficiently discovers the vanity of those expositors who would have these promises to respect principally, yea only, the land of Canaan, with the numerous posterity of Abraham therein; for this was fully enjoyed by them under the old testament, as much as ever it was to be enjoyed, then when the apostle affirms concerning them, that “they received not the promise.” But Abraham is said to “receive the promises” formally, inasmuch as God made and gave them unto him, and he believed them, or received them by faith.

2dly . The Scripture calleth the same thing indifferently “the promise” or “the promises.” Usually it is called the “promise,” Acts 2:39; Acts 13:32, Romans 4:14; Romans 4:16; Romans 4:20, Galatians 3:17; sometimes “the promises,” Romans 9:4; Romans 15:8. For,

(1st.) It was originally one single promise only, as given unto Adam.

(2dly.) The grace that is in it is one and the same.

(3dly.) The principal subject of them all is one, namely, Christ himself.

But here is mention of “promises,”

(1st.) Because the same promise was several times renewed unto Abraham, so as that formally he received many promises, though materially they were but one.

(2dly.) Sundry things being contained in the same promise of different natures, they do constitute distinct promises.

An account of the nature, subject, and design of these promises, see in the exposition on Hebrews 6:13-18.

[2.] There is the application of these promises as unto their accomplishment unto Isaac. For whereas they concerned a seed, it was said of him that “in Isaac his seed should be called,” Genesis 21:12. He had not only a promise that he should have a son by Sarah his wife, whence he was called the child or son of the promise, Galatians 4:23; Galatians 4:28; but also the accomplishment of the promise was expressly confined unto him, by God himself.

Hebrews 11:18 . “Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called.” “Of whom it was said.” “Of” or “concerning whom;” that is, of Isaac unto Abraham; not unto Abraham concerning Isaac, though both be equally true. The words were spoken unto Abraham concerning Isaac; but the word “whom” immediately relates to Isaac.

“It was said;” that is, by God himself; it was not a conclusion that he made out of other promises, it was not told him by any other, but was expressly spoken unto him by God himself, and that on the occasion of sending Ishmael out of his family, that he might have full assurance of the accomplishment of the promises in him. And this was that which gave the greatest exercise unto his faith, as we shall see immediately.

The Hebraism in the original, בְיִצְחָק יִקָּרֵא לְךָ זָרַע , “In Isaac shall a seed be called unto thee,” is preserved by the apostle, ᾿Εν Ισαὰκ κληθήσεταί , that is, ‘The seed promised unto thee from the beginning shall be given in him; the traduction of it into the world shall be through him and no other.’

(3.) It remains, then, only to consider what was the seed so pro. raised, or what was the principal subject of these promises. Grotius with his follower, and the Socinian expositors, reduce these promises unto two heads:

[1.] That of a numerous posterity.

[2.] That this posterity should inhabit and enjoy the land of Canaan for an inheritance. But this is directly to contradict the apostle, who affirms, that when they had possessed the land of Canaan almost unto the utmost period of its grant unto them, they had not received the promises; that is, the accomplishment of them, verse 39.

I do not deny but that these things also were in the promises annexed unto that which was principal in them, as means and pledges of its accomplishment, as I have at large elsewhere demonstrated; but the principal subject-matter of the promise was no other but Christ himself, with the whole work of his mediation for the redemption and salvation of the church. This is so evident, from the respect herein unto the first promise given unto our first parents, and the faith of the church therein, not to be weakened by promises of an inferior nature; from the repeated words of the promise, namely, that “in this seed all the nations of the earth should be blessed,” which have nothing of truth in them but with respect unto Christ; from the faith of all the saints of the old testament, with all their institutions of worship; and from the exposition given of it in the New Testament, as Acts 2:38-39, Galatians 3:16; that it needs no confirmation.

Supposing, therefore, what we have spoken before concerning the exercise of faith from his natural affections, with reference unto his only son, and this was the present case of Abraham: God had called him from all his relations and enjoyments, to follow him, and live unto him in all things. To encourage him hereunto, he solemnly promiseth unto him that flora his loins the blessing Seed, the Redeemer of himself and the world, should proceed; which was the highest privilege that he could possibly be made partaker of: as also, that as unto the way and means of the accomplishment of this promise, he should have a numerous posterity, whom God would fix and preserve in the land of Canaan, until the original promise should be actually accomplished. In this promise of God did he place his whole temporal and eternal felicity; wherein he was blessed, and without which he was most miserable. In process of time he hath a son born, according to this promise, concerning whom God expressly declares, that in and by him this promise should be accomplished. Hereby the whole truth and all the benefit of the promise did absolutely depend on the life and posterity of Isaac, without which it could not be fulfilled. Add hereunto, that before this Abraham had prayed that the promise might be preserved in Ishmael; which God expressly denied him, Genesis 17:18-19, confining it unto the son of Sarah. In this state of things, when he was under a full persuasion, and the highest satisfaction, that he saw and enjoyed the assured means of the accomplishment of the promises, God commands him to take this Isaac, and offer him for a burnt-offering; that is, first slay him, and then burn him to ashes.

Who can conceive with what heart Abraham received the thunder of this command? what perplexities he was east into, or at least would have been so, had not faith carried him through them all? He seems to be pressed unavoidably with one or the other of the greatest evils in the world, either of them eternally ruinous unto him: either he must disobey the command of God, or he must let go his faith in the promise; either of them being filled with eternal ruin.

What was the faith of Abraham in particular, how his thoughts wrought in him, is not expressed in the original story: yet are two things plain therein;

[1.] That he was not cast into any distraction of mind, any disorderly passions, complaints, or repinings;

[2.] That he immediately, without delay, addressed himself to yield punctual obedience unto the command of God, Genesis 22:1-3. As unto the promise of God, there is no intimation in the story of what his thoughts were concerning it; only it appears in general, that he left unto God the care of his own truth and veracity, concluding, that as sure as he who had commanded was to be obeyed, so he that had promised was to be believed, he being more concerned in the accomplishment of the promise than Abraham himself could be. Wherefore, confirming himself against suggestions, temptations, fleshly reasonings, and giving himself up wholly unto the sovereignty of God, he proceeded in his obedience.

Howbeit, our apostle makes a more particular discovery of the working of Abraham’s faith under this trial in the next verse, where we shall consider it. And we see here,

Obs. 1. That in great and inextricable difficulties, it is the duty, wisdom, and nature of faith, to fix itself on the immense properties of the divine nature, whereby it can effect things inconceivable and incomprehensible. So was it in this case of Abraham. See Isaiah 40:28-31.

Obs. 2. God may justly require the assent and confidence of faith unto all things which infinite power and wisdom can effect, though we can neither see, nor understand, nor comprehend the way whereby it may be accomplished. For faith being placed and fixed on him as God, as God almighty and infinitely wise, it is our duty to believe whatever infinite power and wisdom can extend unto, if it be required of us in any instance, as it was here of Abraham, by divine revelation. See Isaiah 50:10.

Obs. 3. God’s dealings with his church sometimes are such, as that unless we shut our eyes and stop our ears unto all objections and temptations against his promises, opening them only unto divine sovereignty, wisdom, and veracity, we can never abide in a comfortable course of obedience. So is it at this day, wherein all the whole state of things in the world consists in a combination against the accomplishment of divine promises towards the church. See Ezekiel 37:1-2; Ezekiel 37:11-14.

Obs. 4. This is the glory of faith, that it can spiritually compose the soul in the midst of all storms and temptations, under darkness as unto events, so as that it shall in a due manner attend unto all duties of worship and obedience, so as to sanctify the name of God in them, and not to provoke him with any irregularities of mind or actions; as once it fell out with Moses.

Obs. 5. In any surprisal with seemingly insuperable difficulties, it is our duty immediately to set faith at work; not to consult with flesh and blood, nor hearken unto carnal reasonings or contrivances, which will but entangle us and increase our distress. So did Abraham, who immediately, upon the command of God, applied himself unto his duty. In such cases, whatever arguings or reasonings do arise in our minds before faith hath had its due exercise in resignation, trust, and acquiescency in the will of God, are pernicious unto the soul, or destructive unto its comforts. They weaken it, entangle it, and make it unfit to do or suffer. But when faith hath had its work, and hath brought the soul unto a due composure in the will of God, it may take a sedate consideration of all rational means of relief unto its advantage.

Obs. 6. There may sometimes, through God’s providential disposal of all things, be an appearance of such an opposition and inconsistency between his commands and promises, as nothing but faith bowing the soul unto divine sovereignty can reconcile, Genesis 32:8-12. These, and sundry other things of the like nature, we may learn from this great example of the faith of the father of the faithful, here proposed unto us: all which deserve to be handled more at large than the nature of the present work will allow.

The especial working of the faith of Abraham in this case of distress, with the event of it, is declared, verse 19.

Hebrews 11:19 . “Accounting that God [was] able to raise [him] up even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.”

1. The immediate object of his faith in general was the power of God; that “God was able.”

2. The application of that power by faith, was unto the resurrection of the dead; “to raise him from the dead.”

3. The manner of its effectual working in him; it was in a way of reasoning, or of computing one thing from another.

4. The event hereof was,

(1.) The reception of his son back again unto himself, whom he had offered in the manner before described.

(2.) The manner of it; it was “in a figure.” Which things must be explained.

1. [The immediate object of his faith was the power of God.] But unto the right understanding of this, some things must be premised which are supposed in the words; as,

(1.) Abraham firmly believed, not only the immortality of the souls of men, but also the resurrection from the dead. Had he not done so, he could not have betaken himself unto this relief in his distress. Other things he might have thought of, wherein God might have exerted his power; but he could not believe that he would do it in that which itself was not believed by him. And it is in vain to inquire what especial revelation Abraham had of these things; for the resurrection from the dead, which includes the other, was an essential part of the first promise, or no relief is tendered therein against the curse, which was a return unto the dust. And,

Obs. 1. It is good for us to have our faith firmly built on the fundamental articles of religion, such as these are; without which we cannot act it on particular occasions and trials, wherein an application is made of such fundamental principles unto our present cases.

(2.) He owned the omnipotency of God, as able to produce inconceivable effects. He did not limit God, as they did in the wilderness, as the psalmist at large describes their unbelief, Psalms 78:19-20; Psalms 78:40-41. He rested on this, that the power of God could extend itself unto things by him past finding out and incomprehensible. This was the life and soul as it were of the faith of Abraham; he believed that the power of God was infinitely sufficient to secure his truth and veracity in his promises, though he could neither conceive nor understand the way whereby it was to be done. And,

This is the life of faith at present in all that truly believe. Every thing in the world seems to lie cross unto the accomplishment of most eminent divine promises, and wherein the church, next unto things eternal, is most eminently concerned; but yet though things are very dark and dreadful, they are not in such a dismal strait as gluey were when the father of the faithful had his knife at the breast of him on whose life the accomplishment of all the promises did depend. Yet he rested in the power of God to secure his own veracity; and so may we do also at present. Wherefore,

(3.) Abraham still firmly believed the accomplishment of the great promise, although he could not discern the way whereby it would be fulfilled. Had his faith failed herein, his obedience had been needless and useless. And this is the last anchor of faith. It cleaves unto and rests upon the truth of God in his promises, against all objections, temptations, and oppositions, although they are such as reason in its highest exercise can neither conflict with nor conquer. And unto this end, God, who permits such objections to arise against it, or what he hath promised, yea, disposeth such trials and difficulties unto it, as shall be insuperable unto all the rational powers of our souls, giveth security in and from himself alone against them all. “God who cannot lie hath promised,” Titus 1:2. And in further confirmation hereof unto us, “he sware by himself,” Hebrews 6:13. And that faith which cannot rest in God himself, and the consideration of his properties engaged for the accomplishment of his promises, without other helps or corroborating testimonies, yea, against all conclusions and determinations of sense and reason, is weak, if it be sincere, Isaiah 1:10. On these principles, which were fixed immovably in his mind, he, Reasoned within himself as unto the way and man-net whereby the power of God would make good his truth in the accomplishment of the promise: “Accounting;” that is, computing, reasoning in himself from the principles of faith that were fixed in his mind. God making a covenant with him, or taking him into covenant with himself, had peculiarly revealed himself unto him by the name of God Almighty, Genesis 17:1. This, therefore, did Abraham principally consider in all his walking before him. And now he thought was the season wherein he should see an instance of the almighty power of God. How this would work and exert itself, as yet he could not understand; for he had no reserve in his mind that Isaac should not die. This, therefore, on the aforesaid principles, first presented itself unto him, that if there were no other way, yet after he had slain him, and burnt him to ashes, God could again raise him from the dead.

3. The manner of the expression declares the greatness of the matter spoken of, in his apprehension: “Even from the dead.” It is not said, as we supply it, “to raise him up from the dead,” but only, “to raise from the dead.”

The resurrection of the dead is that which is proposed as the object of his faith; the application of it unto Isaac, and at that season, is included in what is expressed. This, then, is that which he reckoned upon in himself:

(1.) That God was able to raise the dead in general.

(2.) That he could so raise up Isaac after his death; which in this reasoning he supposed.

(3.) That after this resurrection, if it should so fall out, it would be the same individual person that was offered; whereby the word which he spake unto his servants, that he and the lad would go and worship and come again to them, Genesis 22:5, would be made good.

But these reasonings were not immediate acts of faith, as unto the object of them, in their application unto Isaac, but effects of it. The conclusions he made were true and right, but the thing itself, or the raising of Isaac from the dead, was not the object of faith; for it was not to be, and nothing but what is true, and what will be eventually true, can be believed with faith divine. No man ever was or can be obliged to believe that to be, which is not; or that that shall be, which shall never be. Only, whereas there was nothing herein that was inconsistent with any divine revelation, he did so far assent unto the possibility of this event, as to quiet his mind in the work and duty which he was called unto.

It is evident, therefore, that by faith he devolved the whole event of things on the sovereignty, power, and truth of God; and in his reasoning thereon thought it most likely that God would raise him from the dead.

4. Lastly, The event of things is expressed, answering the faith of Abraham absolutely, and his reasonings also, in a figurative compliance with them: “From whence also he received him in a figure.”

(1.) The promise was absolutely secured; Isaac was preserved alive, that in him his seed might be called.

(2.) Abraham’s obedience was fully accomplished. For he had parted fully with Isaac; he was no more his than if he had been actually dead; whence it is said that “he received him again.” He was made to be God’s own, to belong unto him alone, as devoted; and God gave him again unto Abraham.

(3.) Isaac was considered in the state of the dead, that is, under the command of God, and in his father’s determination; so as that the apostle says he “offered him;” and therefore it is said that he “received him” from that state. “Whence also:” One expositor conjectures that respect is had herein unto Abraham’s first receiving of Isaac at his nativity from the womb of Sarah, which was as dead; than which nothing can be more remote from the sense of the place, unless it be some other conjectures of the same expositor on the like occasions.

(4.) But whereas Isaac did not die, was not actually dead, he is said to “receive him” from that state only “in a figure.” See the various translations of the word here used before. Conjectures have been multiplied about the meaning of this word: “in a figure, a parable, a representation, a resemblance.” I shall not trouble the reader with them; it is not my manner. Nor have I here any thing to add unto what was first fixed on by the most judicious Calvin, who hath herein been followed by all sober expositors: “He received him as from the dead, in a figure or resemblance of the resurrection from the dead.” For whereas he had offered him up in faith, and thereon looked on him as dead, resting his soul in the power of God alone to raise him from the dead, his restoration, or giving him unto him again, had a complete representation of the resurrection of the dead at the last day. So have I briefly passed through this great instance of the faith of the father of the faithful, with some considerations of the conflicts which he had with temptations, and his conquest over them. And these things, I confess, require a more full search into and contemplation of, if the nature of my present design would admit of it. But yet, when I should have done my uttermost, I can easily discern how short I should fall, not only of discovering the depth of the treasures of divine wisdom herein, but also of the workings and transactions of faith in and by all the faculties of his soul in Abraham himself. I leave them, therefore, as objects of their meditation who have more skill and experience in these divine mysteries than I have attained unto. Some things we may yet observe from the whole; as,

Obs. 2. The privileges and advantages that Abraham obtained on this trial, exercise, and victory of his faith. For,

1. He had hereon the most illustrious immediate testimony from heaven of God’s acceptance and approbation of him that ever any one had in this world, unless it were Jesus Christ himself, Genesis 22:11-12.

2. The promise was solemnly confirmed unto him by the oath of God, which gave him absolutely infallible security that there was no reserved condition in it, on which its accomplishment was suspended, verses 16-18.

3. He was constituted “heir of the world,” verses 17,18; and,

4. The “father of the faithful.” And,

5. An end was put unto all his trials and temptations. After this he was exercised with no more difficulties, but walked in peace unto the end of his days. And we may be assured that,

Obs. 3. Faith obtaining the victory in great trials (as suffering for the truth), and carrying us through difficult duties of obedience, shall have a reward even in this life, in many unspeakable spiritual privileges and advantages.

This one instance is sufficient in itself to confirm the assertion of the apostle and his whole intention, namely, as unto the power and efficacy of faith in carrying believers through all difficulties and oppositions which they may meet withal in the profession of the gospel and the course of their obedience. For if we consider both parts of Abraham’s trial, 1. As unto nature, in the sacrificing of his only son, for whose sake he had undergone a wearisome pilgrimage;

2. As unto grace and faith itself, in the dread of the command, and open appearance of the defeatment of the promise; nothing equal to it can befall us in our profession.

Obs. 4. This example was peculiarly cogent unto the Hebrews, who gloried in being the children of Abraham, from whom they derived all their privileges and advantages. Wherefore they were justly pressed with this instance, as they were before by our Savior, when he told them that “if they were the children of Abraham, they would do the works of Abraham,” John 8:39. And an encouragement it was unto them, to abide in that faith wherein he had had such glorious success.

Obs. 5. We may also consider, that,

1. If we are children of Abraham, we have no reason to expect an exemption from the greatest trials, that the same faith which was in him is able to conflict withal.

2. We have no reason to be afraid of the fiercest and severest trials that may befall us, having so great an instance that faith is able to carry us through them all victoriously.

3. Difficult duties of obedience warranted by divine command, and successes of faith under trials, shall have a present reward in this life. “In keeping thy commandments there is great reward.”

4. Though death should seem to pass on any of the promises concerning the church, yet nothing need shake our faith, whilst we can believe the resurrection of the dead. They will be given as in a figure of it.

Verse 20

Πίστει περὶ μελλόντων εὐλόγησεν ᾿Ισαὰκ τὸν ᾿Ιακὼβ καὶ τὸν ᾿Ησαῦ .

Hebrews 11:20 . By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come.

Isaac was a holy person, who, though a pilgrim, yet, as far as appeareth, spent most of his time in peace, without great perils and dangers. Wherefore there is less spoken of him, and the trials of his faith, than either of his father or his son. Howbeit there is no doubt but that this son of the promise led his life in the faith of the promise; and the promise was particularly renewed unto him, Genesis 26:4.

The apostle chooseth to instance in his faith with respect unto the blessing of his sons, which was in his old age, and was the most eminent act of it, because of the conveyance of the promise unto his seed made thereby.

The story which he reports is recorded Genesis 27:0. And there is none in the Scripture filled with more intricacies and difficulties, as unto a right judgment of the thing related, though the matter of fact be clearly and distinctly set down.

The whole represents unto us divine sovereignty, wisdom, and faithfulness, working effectually through the frailties, infirmities, and sins of all the persons concerned in the matter. It was taken for granted by them all, that, by God’s institution and appointment, the promise, with all the benefits and privileges of it, was to be conveyed by paternal benediction unto one of the sons. Hereon there had been sundry indications of the mind of God, as unto the person to whom it was to be communicated. There was so in the answer of God unto Rebekah, when the children strove in her womb, when he said unto her, “The elder shall serve the younger,” Genesis 25:23. And an immediate indication hereof was given in their birth, wherein Jacob laid hold on the heel of Esau, as being to supplant him, verse 26. It was further manifest when they grew up, partly by the profaneness of Esau, evidenced in marrying evil and idolatrous wives; and partly in his selling his birthright for a mess of pottage, verses 32-34. Yet did not all this prevent the miscarriages of them all in the communication and obtaining this blessing; namely, of Isaac, Rebekah, and Jacob. For,

1. Whatever may be spoken in excuse of Isaac, it is certain he failed greatly in two things:

(1.) In his inordinate love unto Esau, whom he could not but know to be a profane person, and that on so slight an account as eating of his venison, Genesis 25:28.

(2.) In that he had not sufficiently inquired into the mind of God in the oracle that his wife received concerning their sons. There is no question on the one hand, but that he knew of it; nor on the other, that he did not understand it. For if the holy man had known that it was the determinate will of God, he would not have contradicted it. But this arose from want of diligent inquiry by prayer into the mind of God.

2. As for Rebekah, there is no doubt but that she was infallibly certain that it was the mind and will of God that Jacob should have the blessing. So far she had a sufficient ground of faith. But her contrivance for the obtaining of it, when she ought to have committed the event unto the providence of God, whose word was engaged for it, cannot be approved; nor is what she did to be made an example for imitation.

3. Jacob also had, no doubt, sufficient evidence that the birthright was conveyed unto him; yet although he followed his mother’s instructions, and obeyed her commands in what he did, his miscarriages in getting the conveyance of it by his father’s blessing, which were not a few, are not to be excused.

But under all these mistakes and miscarriages we may observe two things:

1. That true faith acted itself in all the persons concerned. The faith of Isaac was true and right in this, that the promise was sure to his seed by virtue of the covenant, and that he was instrumentally, in the way of external evidence, to convey it by his solemn benediction. The first was express in the covenant: the other he had by immediate revelation and inspiration; for his blessing was a “prophecy of things to come,” as it is in the text. But he missed it in the application of it unto the object in his own intention, though in matter of fact, by the divine disposal of circumstances, he was in the right. This mistake hindered not but that he blessed Jacob in faith. One expositor, who abounds in conjectures, and is as unhappy in them as any man well can be, would have it that the blessing of Jacob in faith doth not belong, or is not to be ascribed unto that solemn blessing which he pronounced upon him when he mistook the person, supposing him to be Esau, Genesis 27:27-29, but unto what he said afterwards concerning him unto Esau, verse 33, “I have blessed him, and he shall be blessed;” than which nothing can be more remote from the mind of the Holy Ghost. For in these words to Esau he directly affirms that he had blessed him, and now only declares the consequent of it, namely, that he should enjoy the blessing, “He shall be blessed.” Now this hath respect unto that former blessing; which was therefore in faith, notwithstanding the previous mistake of the person, which he now understood, by what he had done, as being under the immediate conduct of the Spirit of God.

So did true faith act itself both in Rebekah and Jacob, and they were in the right, from divine revelation, that the promises did belong to Jacob. Howbeit they variously miscarried in the way they took for obtaining a pledge of it in the paternal benediction.

Wherefore it cannot be denied but that sometimes, when true faith is rightly fixed on divine promises, those in whom it is, and who truly believe, may, through darkness, infirmities, and temptations, put themselves on irregular ways for the accomplishment of them. And as in these ways they may fail and miscarry, unto the scandal of religion and a dangerous concussion of their own faith; so if they do succeed in such ways, as Jacob did, yet are not their ways accepted or approved of God, as they will quickly under- stand. But although these mistakes may be such as to vitiate their works, and render them unacceptable unto God, yet shall they not condemn their persons in the sight of God, neither here nor hereafter.

Whereas, therefore, there yet remain many promises to be accomplished concerning the church, and its state or condition in this world; as it is our duty firmly to believe them, so it is our wisdom, not, upon any temptations, provocations, or advantages, to attempt their accomplishment in any unwarrantable way and undertaking.

2. We may see herein the infinite purity of the divine will, effectually accomplishing its own purposes and designs through the failings and miscarriages of men, without the least mixture with or approbation of their iniquities or miscarriages. So did God accomplish his purpose and promise unto Jacob, by ordering the outward circumstances of the irregular actings of him and his mother unto his own blessed ends. And although he neither commanded nor approved of these irregularities in them, yet whereas there was true faith in the persons themselves, though misguided as unto some outward actions; and that acted, as they judged, in compliance with his will, without the least design of injury unto any others (for they aimed at nothing but what was their own by his grant and donation); he accepted their persons, pardoned their sins, and effected the matter according to their desire.

And we may yet observe,

Obs. That the failure, error, or mistake of any one leading person, with respect unto divine promises and their accomplishment, may be of dangerous consequence unto others; as here the failing of Isaac was the occasion of casting Jacob and Rebekah into all their irregularities.

These things being premised, as unto the story which respect is here had unto, the words themselves may be briefly opened. And there are three things in them:

1. What is ascribed unto Isaac; namely, that “he blessed his sons.”

2. How he did it; and that was, “by faith.”

3. What was the subject-matter of his blessing; and that was, “things to come.”

1. He blessed them. Those patriarchal blessings were partly euctical, or prayers; partly prophetical, or predictions. And the matter of them was the promise made unto them, with what was contained in them, and nothing else. They did not pray for, they could not foretell, any thing but what God had promised. They were authoritative applications of God’s promises unto the persons unto whom they did belong, for the confirmation of their faith.

So far as they were merely euctical, or consisted in solemn prayer, they were an effect and duty of the ordinary parental ministry, and as such ought to be used by all parents. Not as some, by the trifling custom of daily asking and giving blessing, whilst perhaps a curse is entailed on families by wretched examples; but by solemn reiterated prayer unto that purpose. But there were two things extraordinary in them:

(1.) A certain determination of the promise unto particular persons, as was here done by Isaac; which falls not within the compass of the ordinary paternal ministry. We may fail in our most earnest desires and sincere endeavors for the communication of the promise unto this or that child.

(2.) Prediction of particular future events, falling within the compass and verge of the promise. So was it in the solemn blessings of Isaac, Jacob, and Moses. Herein were they acted by a spirit of prophecy and immediate revelation.

2. Thus he blessed his sons; and he did it “by faith.” But yet there is a difficulty that ariseth on both hands, from the one blessing and the other. For the blessing of Jacob was from immediate inspiration, and not intended by Isaac to be applied unto Jacob; both which considerations seem to exclude his faisth from any interest in this benediction. And the blessing of Esau related only unto temporal things, and that not with respect unto any especial promise.

I answer, That as unto the first, or the blessing of Jacob,

(1.) There was a proper object of his faith, which it was fixed on, namely, the promise of the covenant, that God would be a God to him and his seed, and that in his seed all the nations of the earth should be blessed. Herein was his faith exercised in his blessing of Jacob; which was no way impeded by his mistake of the person. Faith was acted by the promise, and was guided as to its object by God’s providence.

(2.) Immediate inspiration doth no way hinder the actings of faith on preceding revelations. He had the warrant of the word of God before revealed for the ground of his faith, and his immediate inspiration guided him to act according unto it. And,

(3.) As for the blessing of Esau, although it respected only temporal things, yet he gave it him in faith also, in that it was the fruit of his prayer for him, and contained predictions which he had received by divine revelation.

3. The subject-matter of both these blessings were things to come; that is, things that were not yet, nor yet to have their present accomplishment. For that part of the blessing of Jacob, that he should be lord of his brethren, as it is expressed in the blessing of Esau, “Thou shalt serve thy brother,” was not fulfilled in their days, there being a great appearance of the contrary. Wherefore the things contained in these blessings, absolutely considered, were future, and yet for to come, in the days of, and among their posterity.

Now, the blessing of Jacob did not contain only a better portion in this world than that of Esau, as Grotius would have it; nor had there been any need of so great a contest about the difference between the land of Canaan and that of Edom, but as it did comprise also the numerous posterity of Jacob, their quiet habitation, power and dominion in the land of Canaan: so the principal subject of it was the enclosure of the church, the confinement of the covenant, and the enjoyment of the promise of the blessed Seed unto him and his offspring. And it was the contempt hereof, and not of a double portion of earthly things, for which Esau is stigmatized as a “profane person.”

Verse 21

Πίστει ᾿Ιακὼβ ἀποθνήσκων ἓκαστον τῶν υἱῶν ᾿Ιωσὴφ ἐυλόγνσε , καὶ προσεκύνησεν ἐπὶ τὸ ἄχρον τῆς ῥάβδου αὐτοῦ .

᾿Αποθνήσκων , “moriens,” “moriturus,” “cum moreretur;” “when he drew nigh to death,” the present tense; that which was then in the next disposition unto the actual death that shortly ensued; probably a few days before his death.

῝Εκαστον , “singulos filiorum,” for ἑκάτερον or ἄμφω , “each” or “both.” “Utrumque.” Syr., ‘ לְכֻל חַד , “every one.” “Both the sons of Joseph” distinctly.

᾿Επὶ τὸ ἄκρον τῆς ῥάζδου αὐτοῦ . Vulg. Lat., “et adoravit fastigium virgae ejus,” “he adored the top of his rod.” Leaving out the preposition ἐπί , “on,” it corrupts the sense, and forceth the meaning of the words to be, of Joseph’s rod; whence a vain and foolish opinion hath been fancied about adoring or worshipping of creatures, as remote from the sense of this place as from truth. The Syriac properly, וַסְגֵד עַל רִישׁ חוטְרֵהּ “he bowed” (or “adored”) “on the top of his own staff.” Beza supplies [13] “innixus,” which we render “leaning.”

[13] Exposition. In regard to the discrepancy between the meaning of the Masoretic text and the LXX. translation of the Hebrew passage, see vol. 1 of this Exposition, pp. 116,117. Ebrard supposes the apostle quoted the words, not so much as illustrative of the faith of Jacob in praying at his death, as in order to call to the minds of his readers, who were familiar with the Pentateuch, the context, in which Jacob gives orders to carry his bones to Canaan; and hence the natural transition to the analogous command of Joseph mentioned in verse 22. Ed.

Hebrews 11:21 . By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed both the sons of Joseph, [each of them,] and worshipped, [leaning] on the top of his staff.

There are two things mentioned in the words:

1. That “Jacob blessed the sons of Joseph.”

2. That he “worshipped, leaning on the top of his staff.” But they did not fall out in the order wherein they are here expressed. The latter of them is recorded before the former, Genesis 47:31, “And Israel bowed himself upon the bed’s head.” To which is added, that after these things Joseph brought his children unto him, Genesis 48:1.

From Genesis 47:29 unto the end of the Book of Genesis, an account is given us of the dying of Jacob, and what he did in order thereunto, as the apostle expresseth it, “when he was dying.” What space of time, or how many days it took up, is uncertain; probably not many. The first thing he did in order hereunto, was to send for his son Joseph, to give him charge concerning his burial in the land of Canaan; which was an act and duty of faith with respect unto the promise, verses 29-31. This being done, it is said that “Israel bowed himself upon the bed’s head;” that is, he bowed himself, and worshipped God. This is but once mentioned in the whole story; but an intimation is given therein of what Jacob did on the like occasions, especially in all the passages of his dying acts and words. When he had spoken or done any thing, his way was to retire immediately unto God with acknowledgment of his mercy, and requests of more grace.

And such, indeed, is the frame and carriage of holy men in their dying seasons. For as they have occasion to attend unto other things sometimes, so on all advantages they bow down their souls and bodies so far as they are able, in acts of faith, prayer, and thankfulness.

First, The person here whose faith is instanced in is Jacob; but there is some difficulty in the choice of the particular act or duty which the apostle chooseth to give instance in. For Jacob, as he abounded in trials and temptations above all the other patriarchs, so he gave sundry illustrious testimonies of his faith, seeming to be of greater evidence than this of blessing the sons of Joseph. Especially, that was so which is recorded by the Holy Spirit in Hosea 12:3-4,

“By his strength he had power with God: yea, he had power over the Angel, and prevailed: he wept, and made supplication unto him: he found him in Bethel, and there he spake with us.”

In comparison hereof this act of blessing the sons of Joseph is of an inferior consideration.

This is the only difficulty of this place; which yet by expositors is taken no notice of. But if we look into the thing itself, we shall find that it was divine wisdom in the apostle whereby he fixed on this instance of the faith of Jacob. For in his blessing of the sons of Joseph, the good man being near to death, he makes a recapitulation of all the principal concernments of his life, as it was a life of faith; and we shall therefore consider some of those circumstances, which manifest how proper this instance was unto the purpose of the apostle.

1. It was the exercise of his faith in his old age; and not only so, but then when he had a certain prospect of the sudden approach of his death, Genesis 47:29; Genesis 48:21. We have therefore herein a testimony, that notwithstanding all the trials and conflicts which he had met withal, with the weaknesses and disconsolations of old age, he abode firm in faith, and vigorous in the exercise of it. His natural decay did not cause any abatement in his spiritual strength.

2. In this blessing of Joseph and his sons he did solemnly recognise, plead, and assert the covenant made with Abraham: “God, before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac did walk,” Genesis 48:15; that is, with whom God made the everlasting covenant, and who walked therein before him all their days. This is the life of faith, namely, to lay hold on the covenant; which he did herein expressly.

3. As he made a solemn acknowledgment of all spiritual mercies by virtue of the covenant, so he added thereunto that of all temporal mercies also: “The God which fed me all my life long unto this day.” It was a work of faith, to retain a precious, thankful remembrance of divine providence, in a constant provision of all needful temporal supplies, from first to last, during the whole course of his life.

4. He reflects on all the hazards, trials, and evils that befell him, and the exercise of his faith in them all: “Redeemed me from all evil.” Now all his dangers are past, all his evils conquered, all his fears removed, he retains by faith a sense of the goodness and kindness of God in rescuing him out of them all.

5. In particular, he remembers the acting of his faith in the matter recorded by Hosea, before mentioned, and therein of his faith in the Son of God in an especial manner, as he was the Angel of the covenant, the Angel the Redeemer: “The Angel,” saith he, “that redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads.” That by this Angel, the person of the Son of God, as he was to be the Messenger of the covenant, and the Redeemer of the church, is intended, I have proved elsewhere, and it was the sense of all the ancient writers of the church; however, some of the Roman church would abuse this testimony to give countenance unto the invocation of angels, which is little less than blasphemy. Wherefore, in the recognition hereof did faith most eminently act itself.

6. The discerning of the sons of Joseph one from the other when he was blind; the disposal of his hands, his right hand unto the head of Ephraim, and his left unto the head of Manasseh, contrary to the desire of their father; and the proposal of them unto him; with the prediction of their future condition many ages after; were all evidences of the especial presence of God with him, and consequently of his own faith in God.

7. There were other circumstances also that rendered this benediction of Jacob an eminent act of faith: as,

(1.) That he laid the foundation of it in an especial revelation, Genesis 48:3: “And Jacob said unto Joseph, God Almighty” (God in covenant with me) “appeared unto me at Luz in the land of Canaan, and blessed me,” etc.

(2.) That he did solemnly, by divine warrant, adopt Ephraim and Manasseh to be his children; whereby they became to have the interest of distinct tribes in Israel, verse 5. And hereby

(3.) He gave the right of the birthright, as unto a double portion, forfeited by Reuben, unto Joseph.

(4.) He remembers the kindness of God in this, that whereas his beloved wife Rachel died immaturely of her second son, verse 7, yet God would give him a numerous posterity by her, the thing which both he and she so greatly desired.

On all these considerations, it is evident that the apostle for great and weighty reasons fixed on this instance of faith in Jacob, that he “blessed both the sons of Joseph.” And we may see, that,

Obs. 1. It is an eminent mercy, when faith not only holds out unto the end, but waxeth strong towards the last conflict with death; as it was with Jacob.

Obs. 2. It is so also, to be able by faith, in the close of our pilgrimage, to recapitulate all the passages of our lives, in mercies, trials, afflictions, so as to give glory to God with respect unto them all; as Jacob did in this place.

Obs. 3. That which enlivens and encourageth faith as unto all other things, is a peculiar respect unto the Angel the Redeemer, by whom all grace and mercy are communicated unto us

Obs. 4. It is our duty so to live in the constant exercise of faith, as that we may be ready and strong in it when we are dying.

Obs. 5. Though we should die daily, yet there is a peculiar dying season, when death is in its near approach, which requires peculiar actings of faith.

Secondly, The latter clause of the words, or the other instance of the faith of Jacob, that “he worshipped, leaning on the top of his staff,” hath a peculiar difficulty in it, from a difference between the words of the apostle and those of Moses concerning the same thing. The words in Moses are, ויּשתַּחוּ יִשְׂרָאֵל עַלאּראֹשׁ הַטִּטָּה ;

ַ that is, “And Israel bowed himself upon the bed’s head.” This the Septuagint renders by, Καὶ προσεκύνησεν ᾿Ισραὴλ ἐπὶ τὸ ἄχρον τῆς ῥάβδου αὐτοῦ , “And Israel worshipped on the top of his rod.” The Vulgar Latin in that place followeth the original, Adoravit Israel Deum conversus ad lectuli caput,”’ “And Israel worshipped God, turning to the head of the bed.” The apostle in this place makes use of the words as they are in the translation of the LXX.; and the difficulty is increased by the Vulgar translation in this place, which leaving out the preposition ἐπί , renders the words, “And he adored the top of his staff,” or “rod;” that is, say some, the scepter of Joseph. This verbal difference is sufficiently belabored by critical expositors of all sorts: I shall give a brief account of my thoughts concerning it.

1. The words of Moses are the close of the 47th chapter of Genesis (Genesis 47:0), “And Israel bowed himself upon the head of the bed.” Whereas this may denote only a natural action of the old man, who having sat up to confer with his son Joseph, being infirm and weary, when he had finished his discourse, and taken the oath of his son, he “bowed himself unto the head of the bed.” But the Vulgar Latin hath well. supplied, “God,” he “adored God towards the bed’s head;” that is, by bowing down unto him. And so הִשְׁתַּחֲוָה is most frequently used to express an act of divine adoration; and that it was such is here declared by the apostle.

2. That Jacob worshipped the top of Joseph’s staff or scepter, which he carried as an ensign of his authority and power, is rejected by all sober expositors. It hath, indeed, a double countenance given unto it in the Vulgar translation:

(1.) By the omission of the preposition ἐπί , “on” or “upon,” which must include ‘leaning on,’or some word of the same importance; and,

(2.) By rendering αὐτοῦ by “ejus,” and referring it to Joseph; whereas it is often used for ἑαυτοῦ , or reciprocally, “his own;” which must be here supposed, or it answers not the original. And as for any worship of Jacob performed unto Joseph, it is most remote from the text For not only at that instant had Joseph put his hand under his father’s thigh, and sworn unto him, wherein he acknowledged his superiority, but also a little after “he bowed himself” unto him “with his face to the earth,” Genesis 48:12.

3. The apostle doth not in this epistle tie himself unto the express words of the original text in his allegations out of the Old Testament, but only gives the certain sense and meaning of the Holy Ghost in them.

4. The word in the original is מִּטָּה , which may have a different pronunciation by a different supply of vowels; and so a different signification. If we read it “mittah,’it signifies a “bed,” as we render it in Genesis; if we read it “matteh,” it signifies a “staff” or a “rod,” on which a man may lean; both from the same verb, נָטָה , to “extend,” to “incline”. And hence doth the difference arise. And we may observe concerning it.

(1.) It is certain that in the days of Jerome the Hebrew reading was unquestionably “mittah,” a bed as it is now; for he blames the LXX. for misinterpreting the word. Quaest. Hebr.

(2.) Hereon some say, that the translation of the LXX. being in common use among the Jews in all their dispersions, and even in Judea itself, the apostle freely followed it, in compliance with them, there being nothing in it discrepant from the truth as to the substance of it. What is my judgment of this conjecture, I have elsewhere declared.

(3.) Others say, the apostle makes use of this variety in expression to represent the entire posture and action of Jacob in this adoration. For whereas he was very weak and infirm, being near the time of his death, (which is observed in the story,) upon the coming of Joseph to him he sat upon the side of his bed, with his staff in his hand; a posture which he may be easily conceived to be in. At the end of his discourse with him, addressing himself unto the solemn adoration of God, he so bowed towards the bed’s head as that he supported himself with his staff, to preserve himself in a posture of reverence for his divine meditation. Wherefore,

(4.) Although I will not contend that the word in that place hath a double signification, of a “bed” and a “staff,” yet this is the true solution of this difficulty. The apostle did not design a precise translation of the words of Moses, but intended only to express the same thing. And whereas that was undoubtedly the posture of Jacob in the worshipping of God which we have declared, the apostle useth his liberty in expressing it by his “leaning on his staff.” For that he did both, namely, “bow towards the head of the bed,” and at the same time “lean on his staff,” we are assured by comparing the divine writers together.

(5.) There is an expression like unto it concerning David, 1 Kings 1:47, ויִּשְׁתַּחוּ הַמֶּלֶךְ עַלאּהַמִּשְׁכָּב , “And the king bowed himself on his bed;” that is, he bowed down towards the bed’s head in his great weakness, so to adore and worship God. And Jacob’s leaning on his staff therewithal, completes the emblem and representation of his reverence and faith: by the one he bowed down, by the other he sustained himself; as whatever doth sustain and support is in the Scripture called a staff. And we may observe, that,

Obs. 6. In all acts of divine worship, whether stated or occasional, it is our duty to dispose our bodies into such a posture of reverence as may represent the inward frame of our minds So did Jacob here, and it is reckoned as an act and duty of faith.

Obs. 7. There is an allowance for the infirmities of age and sickness, in our outward deportment in divine worship, so as that there be no indulgence unto sloth or custom, but that an evidence of a due reverence of God and holy things be preserved. Those postures which are commended in Jacob, would not, it may be, become others in their health and strength. So David affirms, that he would rise at midnight out of his bed, to give thanks unto God, Psalms 119:62.

Verse 22

Πίστει ᾿Ιωσὴφ τελευτῶν περὶ τῆς ἐξόδου τῶν υἱῶν ᾿Ισραὴλ ἐμνημόνευσε , καὶ περὶ τῶν ὀστέων αὐτοῦ ἐνετείλατο .

Hebrews 11:22 . By faith Joseph, when he died, made mention of the departing of the children of Israel; and gave commandment concerning his bones.

Two instances are here proposed of the faith of Joseph:

1. That “he made mention of the departing of the children of Israel” out of Egypt.

2. That he “gave command concerning his bones” The account hereof is given in the close of the book of Genesis.

1. The first instance proposed of Joseph’s faith, is his “making mention of the departing of the children of Israel” out of Egypt. And for the exposition of the place, we may consider,

(1.) To whom he spake these words, and gave this charge. The words he spake unto his brethren: “Joseph said unto his brethren,” Genesis 50:24. Some of his own brethren were yet alive, as is evident concerning Levi. For Joseph when he died was but an hundred and ten years old, verse 26; and Levi lived an hundred and seven and thirty years, being not twenty years older than Joseph. And probably God might shorten the life of Joseph to make way for the affliction of the people which he had foretold, and which immediately ensued thereon. Also, under the name of his “brethren,” his brothers’sons may be intended, as is usual.

But as unto the command concerning his bones, the expression is changed. For it is said that “he took an oath of the children of Israel; and so if, is again repeated, Exodus 13:19, “he had straitly sworn the children of Israel;” that is, he brought the whole people into this engagement by the heads of their tribes, that they might be obliged in after generations; for he foresaw that it would not be the work of them who were then living.

(2.) The time wherein these things were done; it was when he was dying: “And Joseph said unto his brethren, I die.” This evidence he gave of the steadfastness of his faith, that it had accompanied him through all his afflictions, and all his prosperity, not forsaking him now at his death. He had lived long in glory, power, and wealth; but through all he preserved his faith in the promise of God entire. And if there had been nothing 3: that promise but the inheritance of the land of Canaan, as some imagine, he would not have maintained his faith concerning it unto the death, and in his departure out of the world, enjoying far more in Egypt than what was contained the Romans But,

Obs. 1. It is of great use unto the edification of the church, that such believers as have been eminent in profession, should at their dying testify their faith in the promises of God. So did Jacob, so did Joseph; and others have done so, to the great advantage of them concerned.

(3.) In the way whereby he expressed his faith we may observe,

[1.] The object of it, or what it was which he believed, namely, “the departure of the children of Israel” out of Egypt;

[2.] The manner of his acting that faith, he “made mention” of what he did believe.

[1.] This departure of the children of Israel is not intended absolutely, as a mere departing thence; but such as whereby the promise made unto their fathers should be accomplished. For so it is declared in the story, “God will surely visit you, and bring you out of this land, unto the land which he sware to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob,” Genesis 50:24. The accomplishment of this promise was that which was the especial object of his faith, whereof this departure was a means subservient thereunto. And he seems to have respect unto the promise made unto Abraham, Genesis 15:13-14; wherein the sojourning and affliction of his seed in a strange land was determined before their admission into the land of Canaan.

Obs. 2. After his trial of all that this world could afford, when he was dying he chose the promise for his lot and portion.

[2.] The manner of the acting of his faith towards this object is, that he “made mention of it.” And we may consider in it,

1st . How he did it. And that was in the way of public profession. He called his brethren unto him, and spake of it unto them all, Genesis 1:24. And he did it, as to discharge his own duty, (for “with the mouth confession is made unto salvation,”) so to strengthen their faith. For when they found that he, in all his glory and wealth, yet embraced the promise, and died in the faith of it, it was a great encouragement and provocation unto them, who were in a meaner condition, firmly to cleave unto the same promise. And when men who are great, mighty, and wealthy in the world, do in their public profession prefer the promises of the gospel before and above their present enjoyments, it is of great use in the church.

2dly . He “made mention of it,” or called it to remembrance. It was not that which he had by immediate present revelation; but it was from his reliance on the promises long before given. And these were two:

(1st) The great promise made unto Abraham, that God would give the land of Canaan to his seed for a possession, Genesis 15:7; and,

(2dly.) That they should be delivered out of great bondage and distress before they entered into it, Genesis 15:13-14; Genesis 15:13-14. His faith in these promises he here makes profession of.

3dly . He foresaw the oppression and bondage that they were to undergo, before the accomplishment of this promise. For so he expresseth himself unto his brethren, “God will surely visit you, and bring you out of this land,” Genesis 1:24. And again, “God will surely visit you,” Genesis 1:25. He hath respect unto the words of God to Abraham, Genesis 15:13-14, “Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years: and also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge; and afterward shall they come out with great substance.” This he believed and foresaw, and therefore makes mention of God’s “visiting them;” that is, having respect unto them in their distresses, and providing for their deliverance.

4thly . The prospect of their bondage, and their helpless condition therein, did not at all weaken his faith as unto the accomplishment of the promise. Wherefore, when the apostle says that “he made mention of the departing of the children of Israel,” (that is, from Egypt,) he had not only respect unto the thing itself, but also unto the manner and circumstances of it; namely, that it should be after great oppression, and by a work of almighty power.

5thly . This was a proper season for Joseph to make mention of the promise and its accomplishment; as it is the wisdom of faith to call the promises to remembrance in the seasons that they are suited unto. He was now dying, and upon his death, his brethren, the posterity of Jacob, knew not what would become of them, nor what would be their condition, being deprived of him who was their only protector. At this season, to testify his own faith in the promise, now he had no more concernment in this world, and to encourage them unto the like confidence in it, he makes mention of its accomplishment. And we see,

Obs. 3. That no interposition of difficulties ought to weaken our faith as unto the accomplishment of the promises of God.

2. There is a particular instance of the faith of Joseph, in that “he gave commandment concerning his bones.” And this was peculiar unto himself alone. That which the apostle expresseth by his commanding, or giving commandment, was his taking an oath of his brethren, and their posterity in them, Genesis 50:25. He straitly charged the children of Israel with an oath, Exodus 13:19. As it was an act of authority in him, (for he had the rule of his brethren,) it was a command; the manner of the obligation unto the performance of it was by an oath. So Abraham gave charge and command to Eliezer his servant about taking a wife for Isaac, with an oath, Genesis 24:2-3; Genesis 24:9. And these kinds of oaths, in things lawful, for a good end, not arbitrarily imposed, but entered into by consent, are good in themselves, and in some cases necessary.

The apostle saith only, that “he gave commandment concerning his bones,” and doth not declare what it was that he gave in charge concerning them. But this is expressed in the story, namely, that when God visited them, and delivered them out of Egypt, they should carry his bones along with them into Canaan, Genesis 1:25. In order hereunto, “they embalmed him, and put him in a coffin in Egypt,” Genesis 1:26. Probably the Egyptians left the care of his funeral unto his brethren, and his coffin remained in the custody of their posterity, perhaps his own in particular, until the time of their departure. Then Moses took them into his care, Exodus 13:19. And the issue of the whole was, that into the land of Canaan they were safely carried, according to the oath of the people, and were buried in Shechem, in a parcel of ground whereof Jacob had made a purchase, and left it in legacy unto the children of Joseph, Joshua 24:32.

Thus was it as unto the story; but an inquiry may be made into the reasons why Joseph gave this charge concerning his bones unto his brethren, whereas all their bones rested in Egypt, were not translated into Canaan, nor did they take any care that they should be so. But there were some things peculiar unto Joseph, which caused his faith to act in this way about the disposal of his bones. For,

(1.) He had been of great power, authority, and dignity among the Egyptians. His fame and reputation, for wisdom, righteousness, and law- making, were great among the nations. He might therefore justly have feared, that if he had not thus openly renounced all cognation and alliance with them, he might among posterity have been esteemed an Egyptian; which he abhorred. Therefore he established this lasting monument of his being of the seed and posterity of Abraham, and not an Egyptian.

(2.) As it is supposed that God buried the body of Moses where it should not be known by any, lest the people, prone to superstition and idolatry, should have worshipped it, as they did afterwards the brazen serpent; so had the bones of Joseph been continued in Egypt, they might have been turned into an idol by that foolish people, which hereby was prevented. Yea, it is generally thought that in after ages they did worship him under the name of Serapis, and the symbol of an ox. But this, what lay in him, he prevented by the removal of his bones.

(3.) He did it plainly to encourage the faith and expectation of his brethren and their posterity as unto the certainty of their future deliverance; as also to take them off from all designing to fix or plant themselves in Egypt, seeing he, who had all advantages above them for that end, would not have so much as his bones to abide in the land.

(4.) He might also have respect herein unto the kindness of his father, who gave him a peculiar lot of inheritance in the land of Canaan, wherein, out of a remembrance of his faith in God and love unto him, he would be buried.

However it be, it is most evident that this holy man lived and died in faith, being enabled thereby to prefer the promise of God above all earthly enjoyments. The frame of his spirit now he was dying is a sufficient indication of what it was in the whole course of his life. He is not solicitous about the disposal of his wealth and revenues, which no doubt were very great; but his mind is wholly on the promise, and thereby on the covenant with Abraham. It is highly probable that he had converted his wife, Asenath, a woman of a princely family, from idolatry, unto the knowledge of God and faith in him. Hereon, as is likely, she also was contented that her children and posterity should fall from their parental honor and revenues, to take up their portion among the afflicted people of God. The mighty working of his faith shines out in all these things.

And if a voluntary relinquishment of all earthly enjoyments, by preferring the promises of God before and above them all, be no less glorious and acceptable in the sight of God, a no less eminent effect of faith, than patiently to undergo the loss of them by the power of persecuting enemies; then is this instance of the apostle eminently suited unto the argument which he hath in hand.

The plea of some of the Roman church from this place, for the preservation and veneration of relics, or the bones of saints departed, is weak unto the utmost contempt. For besides that this charge of Joseph concerning his bones and their disposal was singular, such a fruit of faith as could have no place in any other person, nor ever can there be the like occasion in the world, all that was done in compliance with that charge, was but the carrying of them shut up in a coffin into the land of Canaan, and there decently burying of them. To take an example from hence of digging men’s bones out of their graves, of enshrining and placing them on altars, of carrying them up and down in procession, of adoring them with all signs of religious veneration, applying them unto miraculous operations, in curing diseases, casting out of devils, and the like, is fond and ridiculous.

Verse 23

In searching the sacred records for eminent examples of the power and efficacy of faith, the apostle is arrived unto that of Moses. And because this is the greatest instance, next to that of Abraham, he insists on sundry acts and fruits thereof. And indeed, if we consider aright his person and his circumstances; the work which he was called unto; the trials, difficulties, and temptations he had to conflict withal; the concernment of the glory of God and of the whole church in him; the illustrious representation of the redemption and deliverance of the church by Christ in what he did; with his success and victory over all opposition; we must acknowledge that there cannot be a more excellent exemplification of the power of faith than what was given in him. For this cause the apostle takes one step backward, to declare the faith of his parents in his preservation in his infancy, whereon his future life and all that he was called unto did depend. For ofttimes, when God designeth persons to a great work, he giveth some previous indication of it, in or about their nativity: not by a fictitious horoscope, or the position and aspect of planets, a thing common to all born at the same time unto the most different events; but by some peculiar work and divine warning of his own. So was it in the birth of Samson, of Samuel, John the Baptist, and others. And so was it in the birth and preservation of this Moses, as it is declared in this verse.

Hebrews 11:23 . Πίστει Μωϋσῆς γεννηθεὶς ἐκρυβη τρίμηνον ὑπὸ τῶν πατέρων αὑτοῦ , διότι ἀστεῖον τὸ παιδίον , καὶ οὐκ ἐφοβήθησαν τὸ διάταγμα τοῦ βασιλέως .

Hebrews 11:23 . By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid three months of his parents, because they saw [ he was ] a proper child; and they were not afraid of the king’s commandment.

It is the faith of the parents of Moses that is here celebrated. But because it is mentioned principally to introduce the discourse of himself and his faith, and also that what is spoken belongs unto his honor, it is thus peculiarly expressed. He saith not, ‘By faith the parents of Moses, when he was born, hid him;’but, “By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid;” that is, by the faith of his parents, who hid him. This birth of Moses fell out in the very height and fury of the persecution. After that Pharaoh failed in his design of destroying the male children of the Hebrews by the midwives, he gave the execution of it in charge unto all the people, that is, the officers among them; who no doubt were sufficiently diligent and officious in the work committed unto them. About the very entrance of this new, effectual way of the destruction of the male children, when their rage was most fierce, no way abated by compassion, nor wearied by long continuance, nor weakened by any conviction of want of success, which use to abate the edge of persecution, in the wise disposal of divine Providence, Moses is born and preserved, who was to be the deliverer of the whole people out of all their misery.

How blind are poor, sinful mortals, in all their contrivances against the church of God! When they think all things secure, and that they shall not fail of their end; that their counsels are laid so deep as not to be blown up; their power so uncontrollable, and the way wherein they are engaged so effectual, as that God himself can hardly deliver it out of their hands; He that sits on high laughs them to scorn, and with an almighty facility lays in provision for the deliverance of his church, and their utter ruin.

Josephus, giving an account of the nativity of Moses, tells us that Amram his father had a revelation from God, or a divine oracle, that of him and his wife Jochebed he should proceed and be born by whom the people should be delivered out of bondage. And that hereon, seeing the eminent beauty of this child when it was born, he and his wife used the utmost of their industry, with the venture of their lives, for his preservation; for they firmly believed that the divine oracle should be accomplished. And because it is said that they hid him by faith, some expositors do judge that in their faith they had respect unto some immediate divine revelation. But we shall see that they had a sufficient ground of faith for what they did without any such immediate revelation, which is not necessary unto the exercise of faith on all occasions And as for Josephus, it is manifest that in the account he gives of the life of Moses, before his flight out of Egypt, he records many things without sufficient warrant, and some of them inconsistent with the Scripture.

There are five things to be considered in the exposition of the words:

1. Who they were whose faith is here commended; the parents of Moses.

2. Wherein they acted and manifested their faith; they “hid him three months.”

3. What was their motive hereunto; “they saw he was a proper child.”

4. How they did this; “by faith.”

5. What was the power of that faith enabling them unto this duty; “they were not afraid of the king’s commandment.”

1. The persons intended were the parents of Moses. “fathers,” is sometimes used in the common gender for γονεῖς , “parents,” as it is here. In the story there is mention only of his mother, Exodus 2:2. And that was because the execution of the counsel or advice was committed unto her; wherein she used also the help of her daughter, as verse 4. But it is plain in this place, that his father was no less engaged in this work and duty than his mother. He was in the advice and counsel, as also in the hazard of what was done, no less than she. And this had an influence into the success. For,

Obs. 1. Where there is an agreement between husband and wife, in faith and the fear of the Lord, it makes way unto a blessed success in all their duties: when it is otherwise, nothing succeeds unto their comfort. And,

Obs. 2. When difficult duties befall persons in that relation, it is their wisdom each to apply themselves unto that part and share of it which they are best suited for. So was it in this case; Amram no doubt was the principal in the advice and contrivance, as his wife was in its actual execution.

2. They hid him three months: He was “hid by them three months.” Herein they acted and exercised their faith. And this they seem to have done two ways:

(1.) They concealed his birth as much as they were able, and did not let it be known that a male child was born in the family.

(2.) They kept him not in the usual place where children were disposed of, but hid him in some secret part of the house. Here he abode three months; about the end of which time probably the report began to grow that there was a male child born there; which would have occasioned an immediate strict search and scrutiny, from which they could not have preserved him. And,

Obs. 3. This is the height of persecution, when private houses are searched by bloody officers, to execute tyrannical laws; when the last and utmost retreat of innocency, for that protection which is due unto it by the law of God and nature, with the common rules of human society, cannot be a shelter against wicked rage and fury.

No doubt but during this season their diligence was accompanied with fervent cries unto God, and the exercise of trust in him. The occasion was great on all hands, and they were not wanting unto any part of their duty. The outward act of hiding the child wan but an indication of the internal working of their faith.

3. That which was their motive and encouragement to the exercise of their faith in this way of hiding the child, is, “Because they saw he was a proper child.” Διότι , some render “quia” or “quoniam,” some “quum;” “ because they saw,” or “ when,” or “ whereas they saw.” It doth not include the whole cause of what they did, as though this were the only reason or ground whereon they did it; but it respects that impression on their minds which the sight of the child gave unto them, exciting them unto that duty which they had other grounds and reasons for, as we shall see immediately. It is granted, therefore, that the sight of the child (whose countenance was twice instrumental in the saving of its life, first by the smiles of its beauty, and then by its weeping, Exodus 2:2; Exodus 2:6) did greatly excite their natural affections, by which their minds were made the more ready to engage in the hazard which faith called them unto for his preservation.

They “saw that he was a proper child.” Heb., כִּיאּטוֹב הוּא . “Tob,” in the Hebrew, is applied to every thing that is on any account approvable and excellent in its kind. The word it is whereby God approved of all his works of creation, and declared their perfection, Genesis 1:31. And it is applied in particular unto beauty of countenance: Genesis 24:16, Rebekah was טֹבַת מַרְאֶה “good of countenance .” It is in this place rendered by the LXX. ἀστεῖος , that is, “elegans, venustus, festivus, scitus, bellus, pulcher.” We render it here “proper,” “a proper child;” whether properly or no, the use of our language and custom in speaking must determine. The word signifies “comely, beautiful, goodly;” ἀγαθός , καλός . Holy Stephen expresseth the force of the Hebrew word by ἀστεῖος τῷ Θεῷ , “fair to God,” or in the sight of God, Acts 7:20; which we render “exceeding fair.” No doubt but an unusual natural elegancy, sweetness, and beauty of countenance are intended. And not only so, but I am persuaded, from that expression of Stephen, that there was θεῖόν τι , an appearance of somewhat divine and supernatural, which drew the thoughts and minds of the parents unto a deep consideration of the child. They quickly thought it was not for nothing that God had given such a peculiarly gracious, promising countenance unto the infant. This not only drew their affections, and engaged them, but moved their minds and judgments to endeavor all lawful ways for its preservation. And,

Obs. 4. It is well when any thing of eminency in our children doth so engage our affections unto them, as to make them useful and subservient unto diligence in disposing of them unto the glory of God. Otherwise a fondness in parents, arising from the natural endowments of children, is usually hurtful, and oftentimes ruinous unto the one and other.

4. The principle of their actings for his preservation, in hiding of him, as also in the means afterwards used, was their “faith.” But how and on what grounds they acted faith herein, must be inquired into. And,

(1.) I take it for granted that they had no especial, particular revelation concerning the life and work of this child. None such is mentioned, no such was needed for the acting of faith in this matter; and the manner of their deportment in the whole manifests that no such they had.

(2.) They had a firm faith of the deliverance of the people out of bondage in the appointed season. This they had an express promise for, and were newly engaged in the belief of it by the witness given unto it by Joseph, and his charge on them to carry his bones with them. And with respect hereunto it is that they are said in the close of the verse not to fear the king’s command, which is the effect of their faith; which may now be spoken unto.

It was a διάταγμα , “an ordinance, a statute, an edict,” which had the force of a standing law; and that established by the king, with the counsel of the kingdom, as is declared, Exodus 1:9-11. And this law lay directly against the accomplishment of the promise; for it aimed at the extirpation of the whole race, so as that there should have remained none to be delivered. As the historian says of that company of men who founded Rome, “Res unius aetatis respublica virorum,” “A commonwealth of men only, without women, would have been but the matter of one age,” it must have expired for want of posterity; so if all the male children of the Hebrews had perished, according to this law, in one age more the nation would have been extinct. This the parents of Moses feared not: they knew the promise of God for their preservation, multiplication, and deliverance, should take place notwithstanding all the laws of men, and the highest rage in their execution. And so they shall be at this day, let men make what laws they please, and execute them with all the subtilty and rage they think meet. This counsel of Pharaoh and his people is reported for a wise and subtile contrivance, with respect unto the end aimed at, Exodus 1:9-10; Acts 7:17-19. However, they put one word into their law that made it “ipso facto” null and ineffectual. This was, that they should not multiply in Egypt. For God having promised unto Abraham that he would multiply his seed, and expressly unto Jacob, that he would do it in Egypt, Genesis 46:3, it utterly made void this law from its first enacting, whereby it became successless. And so it is with all laws, and so shall it finally be with them, that are made against any of the promises of God unto the church.

Yea, it is probable that about this time, or not long after, when God had fulfilled his design in this law, which was in part the disposal of Moses unto such an education as might prepare him, and make him, as unto natural qualifications, meet for the work he would call him unto, that there was some remission of bloody cruelty in the execution of it. For it was eighty years after the birth of Moses before the deliverance of the people, in which time they multiplied exceedingly, so as that this law could not have been executed. The force of it probably was broken in this preservation of Moses, God having in his miraculous deliverance given a pledge of what he would do in the whole people.

(3.) They had also a persuasion that God would provide a person who should be the means of their deliverance, and who should conduct them from their bondage. This Moses himself apprehended when he slew the Egyptian, and began to judge that he himself might be the person, Acts 7:24-25. And although afterwards he judged himself unmeet for to be employed in that work, yet still he retained his persuasion that God had designed some certain person unto that employment, and that he would send him in his appointed time. Hence was that prayer of his, when God began to call him unto his work, “O my Lord, send, I pray thee, by the hand of him whom thou wilt send,” Exodus 4:13. One he was sure he would send, but prayed that he might not be the man. Now, the parents of Moses having this persuasion deeply fixed in them, and being raised by their distresses unto desires and expectations of his coming, beholding the unusual, divine beauty of their child, might well be raised unto some just hopes that God had designed him unto that great work. They had no especial revelation of it, but they had such an intimation of some great end God had designed him unto, as that they could not but say, ‘Who knows but that God may have prepared this child for that end?’And sometimes, as unto the event of things, faith riseth no higher but unto such an interrogation; as Joel 2:13-14.

5. Their faith was eminent in this, that in the discharge of their duty they feared not the king’s edict. There is no mention of any thing in the order, but that every male child should be cast into the river, Exodus 1:22. But it is generally and rationally apprehended that they were forbid to conceal their children, on the pain of death. This they were not so afraid of as to neglect their duty. And the fear which they had was not from their own danger, which faith carried them above, but only as to the life of the child. This made them change their method, and, when they could no longer conceal him in the house, to commit him unto the providence of God in an ark, and to wait what would be the event thereof. And the issue did quickly manifest that they were led therein by a secret instinct and conduct of divine Providence.

There is no ground, therefore, to charge the parents of Moses herein with either undue fear or failing in faith. For as unto what concerned themselves or their own lives in the king’s edict, they feared it not, as the apostle affirms. And such a fear as a solicitous care about the child’s life must needs produce, is inseparable from our nature in such cases, and not blamable. Neither was their change of method from want of faith: but rather an effect and fruit of it. For when one lawful way of preservation from persecution, oppression, and cruelty, will not secure us any longer, it is our duty to betake ourselves unto some other which is more likely so to do. For faith worketh by trust in God, whilst we are in the use of lawful means. And we have here an evident testimony that,

Obs. 5. The rage of men and the faith of the church shall work out the accomplishment of God’s counsels and promises, unto his glory, from under all perplexities and difficulties that may arise in opposition unto it. So they did in this instance in an eminent manner.

Verses 24-26

Πίστει Μωϋσῆς μέγας γενόμενος ἠρνήσατο λέγεσθαι υἰὸς θυγατρὸς Φαραώ· μᾶλλον ἑλόμενος συγκακουχεῖσθαι τῷ λαῷ τοῦ Θεοῦ , ἥ πρὀσκαιρον ἔχειν ἁμαρτίας ἀπόλαυσιν· μείζονα πλοῦτον ἡγησάμενος τῶν ἐν Αἰγύπτῳ θησαυρῶν τὸν ὀνειδισμὸν τοῦ Χριστοῦ· ἀπέβλετε γὰρ εἰς τὴν μισθαποδοσίαν .

Μέγας γενόμενος . Syr., כּד הֲוָא גַבְיָא , “when he was now a man.” Other considerable variations in translations there are none.

The latter clause of Hebrews 11:25, ἥ πρόσκαιρον ἔχειν ἁμαρτίας ἀπόλαυσιν , is rendered by the Vulgar, “quam temporalis peccati habere jucunditatem:” which our Rhemists translate, “than to have the pleasure of temporal sin,” by a double mistake; for instead of πρόσκαιρον they read προσκαίρου , joining it with ἁμαρτίας , contrary unto all ancient copies, and the exposition of the Greek scholiasts. And ἀπόλαυσις , which is “fruition” or “enjoyment,” they render by “jucunditas,” or “pleasure.” Nor is the sense of the words, so translated, proper unto this place, as we shall see. Syr., “than for a short time to delight in sin.”

῾Ελόμενος . Syr., וַגְבָּא לֵהּ “and he chose to” or “for himself;” he determined in himself and for himself.

῾Ηγησάμενος . Syr., וֶאתְיַעִי ; “and he thought;” Vulg Lat., “aestimans;” as we, “esteeming;” “arbitratus,” “reputans.” Τὸν ὀνειδισμόν , “probrum,” “opprobrium.” Vulg. Lat., “improbrium;” which the Rhemists render [14] “reproach.”

ft14 VARIOUS READING. For ἐν Αἰγύπτῳ of the textus receptus, Αἰγύπτου is now generally substituted as the proper reading. Ed.

Hebrews 11:24-26 . By faith Moses, when he was come to years, [being grown up,] refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season, [the transitory pleasure of sin]; esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of reward. This example is great and signal. The apostle, as we showed before, takes his instances from the three states of the church under the old testament. The first was that which was constituted in the giving of the first promise, continuing unto the call of Abraham. Herein his first instance is that of Abel, in whose sacrifice the faith of that state of the church was first publicly professed, and by whose martyrdom it was confirmed. The next state had its beginning and confirmation in the call of Abraham, with the covenant made with him, and the token thereof. He therefore is the second great instance upon the roll of testimonies. The constitution and consecration of the third state of the church was in the giving of the law; and herein an instance is given in the lawgiver himself. All to manifest, that whatever outward variations the church was liable unto, and passed under, yet faith and the promises were the same, of the same efficacy and power under them all.

The person then here instanced in, as one that lived by faith, is Moses. And an eminent instance it is unto his purpose, especially in his dealing with the Hebrews, and that on sundry accounts:

1. Of his person. None was ever in the old world more signalized by Providence, in his birth, education, and actions, than he was. Hence his renown, both then and in all ages after, was very great in the world. The report and estimation of his acts and wisdom were famous among all the nations of the earth. Yet this person lived and acted and did all his works by faith.

2. Of his great work, which was the typical redemption of the church. A work it was great in itself, so God expresseth it to be, and such as was never wrought in the earth before, Deuteronomy 4:32-34, yet greater in the typical respect which it had unto the eternal redemption of the church by Jesus Christ.

3. On the account of his office. He was the lawgiver: whence it is manifest that the law is not opposite to faith, seeing the lawgiver himself lived thereby.

Obs. 1. Whatever be the privileges of any, whatever be their work or office, it is by faith alone that they must live unto God, and obtain acceptance with him. The lawgiver himself was justified by faith. There are three things in general in the words, setting forth the faith of Moses:

1 What he did in matter of fact, whereby his faith was evidenced, Hebrews 11:24.

2. The interpretation of what he so did, by the nature and consequents of it, Hebrews 11:25.

3. The ground and reason whereon he so acted and exercised his faith, Hebrews 11:26.

In the FIRST of these, the first thing expressed is the time or season, or the condition wherein he thus acted his faith. Say we, “when he was come to years;” not accurately. Μέγας γενόμενος , “cum esset grandis,” “chin grandis rectus esset;” “when he became great.” Syr., “when he was a man.”

But the word may respect either state and condition, or time of life and stature. To “become great,” is, in the Scripture and common speech, to become so in wealth, riches, or power, Genesis 24:35; Genesis 26:13. And so was it now with Moses. He was come unto wealth, power, and honor, in the court of Pharaoh; and a respect hereunto seems to set forth the greatness of his self-denial, which is the eminent fruit of his faith that is here commended. He did this when he was great in the court of the king.

But although this be true materially, and hath an especial influence into the commendation of the faith of Moses, yet is it not intended in this expression. For, having declared the faith of his parents, and the providence of God towards him in his infancy, in the foregoing verse, the apostle here shows what was his own way of acting after he grew up unto years of understanding. So μέγας is used for one that is grown up to be “sui juris,” or to be a man: Νῦν δ᾿ ὅτε δὴ μέγας εἰμί , Hom. Obadiah 1:2:314; “I was an infant,” saith Telemachus, “but now I am grown up,” orgrown great. It is “grandis” absolutely in Latin, though “grandis natu” be one stricken in years: “At ego nunc grandis, hunc grandem natu ad carnificinam dabo,” Plaut. Capt.; being grown up, being grown a man. “Cum adoleverit,” “when he was grown up;” that is, come to years of understanding, to act the duty whereunto he was called.

Most expositors suppose this expresseth the time when he was forty years of age; for they refer the refusal to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter unto that act of his in slaying the Egyptian, which was “when he was full forty years old,” Acts 7:23. And there is countenance given hereunto from what is affirmed, Exodus 2:11, “And it came to pass in those days, after Moses was grown up, that he went out unto his brethren;” where the Hebrew, משֶׁה וַיִּגְדַּל , is rendered by the LXX. μέγας γενόμενος , the words here used by the apostle.

But although that time and fact be also included herein, yet the whole duty cannot be confined thereunto. For, as it was an act of faith, Moses had in his mind long before refused to be called “the son of Pharaoh’s daughter;” that is, to renounce his own people, and to join himself unto the Egyptians. Wherefore the largest and most comprehensive interpretation of the words suits best with the sense of the place, or mind of the Holy Spirit therein” According as he grew up in stature and understanding, he acted faith in the duties whereunto he was called.” For the story mentioned by Josephus, of what he did in his infancy, by trampling on the crown of the king, when he would have placed it on his head, is undoubtedly fabulous. And,

Obs. 2. It is good to fill up every age and season with the duties which are proper thereunto. And it is the duty of all that are young, that, according as by time and instruction they come to the knowledge of what is required of them, they apply themselves vigorously and diligently thereunto. Not as is the manner of the most, whose inclinations to serve their lusts grow with their years and stature.

Secondly, What he did at that season is declared as the first effect, fruit, and indication of his faith. He “refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter.”

Three things are here to be inquired into:

1. How and on what account he was esteemed and commonly called “the son of Pharaoh’s daughter.”

2. How and by what means he came to know that he was of another stock and race.

3. How did he refuse to be called “the son of Pharaoh’s daughter?”

1. For the first, it is manifest from the story, Exodus 2:0; upon her first finding him in the river, and saving of his life, she gave order to his mother, who appeared for a nurse, that she should nurse him for hers, and she would pay her wages, verse 9. Herein she owned it to be hers, or took the care of it on herself. But this she might do, and yet esteem and keep it only as a servant. So “servus” is called “a servando.” She saved him, and he was hers. But when he was weaned, his mother carried him home unto her, she having probably often seen him in the meantime. And it must be acknowledged, that there was no less danger herein, no less a trial of the faith of his parents, than when they put him into an ark of bulrushes and set him floating on the river. For to carry a tender infant, probably about three years of age, to be bred in an idolatrous, persecuting court, was no less dangerous unto his soul and eternal condition than the exposing of him in the river was unto his natural life. But there is no doubt his parents, who were true believers, were now satisfied that in all these wonderful passages concerning him, there was some extraordinary design of Providence working effectually for some especial divine end. They resolved, therefore, to comply with the conduct thereof, and leave him to the sovereign care and disposal of God. And this, by the way, gives not the least countenance unto those parents who, for gain or advantage, or to please their humor, will dispose their children unto persons, ways, places, employments, wherein they cannot avoid dangerous and inextricable temptations.

But when Moses was thus brought to the court, unto Pharaoh’s daughter, it is said, “He became her son.” It is probable she had no other child, whether she was married or not. Wherefore being inclined both in her affection unto the child, which was beautiful, and by the marvellous manner of her finding and saving of him, by the consent of her father, she solemnly adopted him to be her son, and consequently the heir of all her honor and riches, which ensued on adoption. Hereon she gave him his name, as was usual in cases of adoption, taking it from the first occasion of her owning of him. She called his name Moses; and she said, “Because I drew him out of the water.” Whether he had any other name given him in the house of his parents is uncertain. This is that which God would have him use, as a perpetual remembrance of his deliverance, when he was in a helpless condition.

Being thus publicly adopted and owned, he was by all esteemed, honored, and called “the son of Pharaoh’s daughter,” without any respect unto his extraction from the Hebrews, though no doubt that also was commonly known among the Egyptians; though the stories that Josephus, Philo, Clemens, from Ezekiel Tragicus, tell about him, and their fear of him, are justly to be suspected.

Some think that the then present king of Egypt had no child but that only daughter, whom they call Thermutis; and that this adopted son of hers was to succeed unto the crown. But this also is uncertain and improbable. But the secular interest, power, glory, honor, and wealth, which belonged unto him by virtue of this adoption, were such as the apostle calls “the treasures in Egypt,” then one of the most rich and populous nations in the world. But,

2. It may be inquired, how it was, and by what means, (supposing Moses to be carried unto Pharaoh’s daughter presently after he was weaned, and thenceforth brought up in the court,) could he come to know his stock, race, and kindred, so as, upon all disadvantages, to cleave unto them, unto the relinquishment of his new, regal relation. I answer, there were many means thereof, which God made effectual unto this end.

(1.) His circumcision. He found himself circumcised, and so to belong unto the circumcised people. Hereon God instructed him to inquire into the reason and nature of that distinguishing character. And so he learned that it was the token of God’s covenant with the people, the posterity of Abraham, of whom he was. It was a blessed inlet into the knowledge and fear of the true God. And whatever is pretended by some unto the contrary, it is a most eminent divine privilege, to have the seal of the covenant in baptism communicated unto the children of believers in their infancy; and a means it hath been to preserve many from fatal apostasies.

(2.) His nurse, who was his mother, as the custom is in such cases, was frequently with him; and probably his father also on the same account. Whether they were ever known to the Egyptians to be his parents, I very much question. But there is no doubt but that they, being persons truly fearing God, and solicitous about his eternal condition, did take care to communicate unto him the principles of true religion, with a detestation of the Egyptian idolatries and superstition.

(3.) The notoriety of the matter of fact was continually before him. It was known unto all Egypt that he was of Hebrew extraction, and now incorporated into the royal family of the Egyptians. Hereon he considered what these two people were, what was the difference between them; and quickly found which of them was the people of God, and how they came so to be.

By these means his mind was inlaid with the principles of faith and the true religion, before he was given up to learn “the wisdom of the Egyptians,” and before the temptations from wealth, power, and glory, had any influence on his affections. And,

Obs. 3. It is a blessed thing to have the principles of true religion fixed in the minds of children, and their affections engaged unto them, before they are exposed unto temptations from learning, wisdom, wealth, or preferment. And the negligence of most parents herein, who have none of those difficulties in the discharge of their duty which the parents of Moses had to conflict withal, is a treachery which they must be accountable for.

Obs. 4. The token of God’s covenant received in infancy, being duly considered, is the most effectual means to preserve persons in the profession of true religion against apostasy by outward temptations. 3. Our third inquiry is, How or when did Moses “refuse to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter?”

Some observe, that ἀρνέομαι signifies sometimes not only “to refuse” barely, but “to reject with indignation.” But there is no need to affix any such signification unto it in this place. The sense of it is determined in the opposite act of “choosing,” mentioned in the next place. Choosing and refusing are opposite acts of the mind, both of the same kind.

Some restrain this refusal unto that act of his in slaying the Egyptian, wherein he declared that he owned not his alliance unto the court of Egypt. But whereas it is the internal frame and act of his mind that are here intended, it is not to be confined unto any particular outward action, much less unto that which fell not out until he was full forty years old, Acts 7:23, and before which it is said that he owned the Israelites for his brethren: “He went out unto his brethren, and looked on their burdens,” Exodus 2:11; which he could not do without a resolution to relinquish his relation’unto Pharaoh’s daughter.

Wherefore this refusal consisted in general in three things:

(1.) In the sedate resolution of his mind, not finally to abide and continue in that state whereinto he was brought by his adoption. And this was not attained unto without great consideration, with great exercise of faith in prayer and trust in God. For this refusal was an act and fruit of faith, of whose power it is here given as an instance. The least sedate consideration of his circumstances, of what he was, what he was to leave, what he was to undergo, (whereof in the next verses,) will evidence unto any what conflicts of mind, what reasonings and fears he was exercised withal; what self-denial and renunciation of all earthly advantages he herein engaged into. Herein principally consisted the refusal which is here celebrated as a fruit and evidence of faith.

(2.) No doubt but, as he had occasion, he did converse and confer with his brethren, not only owning himself to be of their stock and race, but also of their faith and religion, and to belong unto the same covenant.

(3.) When there was no longer a consistency between his faith and profession to be continued with his station in the court, he openly and fully fell off from all respect unto his adoption, and joined himself unto the other people, as we shall see in the following verse. And we may observe from hence, that,

Obs. 5. The work of faith in all ages of the church, as unto its nature, efficacy, and method of its actings, is uniform and the same.

They had not of old a faith of one kind, and we of another. This in general is the design of the apostle to prove in this whole chapter. It hath been varied in its degrees of light by outward revelations, but in itself from first to last it is still the same. And hereof the instance here insisted on is a most evident demonstration. The first act of faith purely evangelical is self- denial, Matthew 16:24; Luke 9:23. And what greater instance of it, unless it were in Jesus Christ himself, can be given since the foundation of the world, than in what is here recorded of Moses?

He was in the quiet possession of all the secular advantages which a man not born of the royal family could enjoy, and perhaps in a just expectation of them also. He was every way able honourably to fill up his place and trust in the discharge of all public offices committed unto him; for “he was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and in deeds,” even before he fell off from the court, Acts 7:22. Wherefore, his personal eminency above other men, joined with his high place and dignity, procured him all the popular veneration which he could desire. And he was of that age (for he continued in this state from his infancy full forty years) wherein these things give the greatest gust and relish of themselves unto the minds of men. For him now, voluntarily and of his own accord, to relinquish them all, and to betake himself to dangers, poverty, banishment, without any prospect of relief, and that merely, as we shall see immediately, upon the account of the promise of Christ, must be acknowledged to be comprehensive of all the acts, parts, and duties of evangelical self-denial.

For, as that which gives life, form, and power, unto self-denial, doth not consist in the respect which it hath unto the outward things which any one may be called therein to forego; but in the mortification of the desires and affections of the mind which would put a valuation on these things, when they stand in competition with things heavenly and spiritual: so this was in Moses in a most eminent degree. He left not his outward enjoyments until he had crucified his heart unto them, esteeming them but loss and dung in comparison of Christ, and what was in him to be enjoyed.

But in the days wherein we live, we have more Esaus than Moseses, more who for morsels of bread, for outward, secular advantages, will sell their birthright, or part with religion and profession of the truth conveyed unto them by their parents; than who will abandon self, with all that belongs thereunto, with a resignation of themselves unto the will of God for their whole satisfaction and reward, rather than part with one tittle of truth.

SECONDLY, But the next verse is an exposition of this refusal of Moses, declaring the nature of it, and what was contained therein.

Hebrews 11:25 . “Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season.”

There are two things to be considered in these words:

1. That there were at this time two things proposed unto Moses; first, The “people of God” in their afflicted state; secondly, The enjoyment of “the pleasures of sin for a season.”

2. The determination he made as unto his own interest and concernment; he “chose rather,” etc.

1. In the First sundry things may be considered:

(1.) Who were this “people of God;” that is, in contradistinction and opposition unto all other people and nations whatever? These were the Hebrews, the posterity of Jacob, then in Egypt; that is, the brethren of Moses, Exodus 2:10-11.

(2.) How did these Hebrews come to be thus the people of God in a peculiar manner, in opposition unto all other people whatever? Now this was by virtue of that especial covenant which God made with Abraham and his seed throughout all generations; the token whereof they bare in their flesh. Therein God became their God, and they became his people: which relation cannot be any otherwise raised between God and any of the children of men, but by virtue of a covenant. And,

Obs. 1. Let hence no man be offended at the low, mean, persecuted condition of the church at any time. All God’s people, and the only people he had then in the world, were only a company of brick-makers, under hard and cruel task-masters. And whoever would belong to the people of God was to cast in his lot among them; as it was with Moses. Wherefore,

Obs. 2. The sovereign wisdom of God, in disposing the outward state and condition of his people in this world, is to be submitted unto. He only knows what is good for them, and for the concernments of his glory in them.

Obs. 3. It is certain there is somewhat contained in this title and privilege that is infinitely above all outward things that may be enjoyed in this world, and which doth inexpressibly outbalance all the evils that are in it. For otherwise men might be losers by the nearest relation unto God; and he should not be himself an all- satisfactory reward.

Obs. 4. The church, in all its distresses, is ten thousand times more honorable than any other society of men in the world; they are “the people of God.” And we may observe, “That their being so, and withal professing and avowing themselves so to be, is that which provokes the world against them, and which is the cause of all their persecutions. The world cannot endure to hear a company of poor, despised persons, perhaps little better, at least in their sight, than these Egyptian brick-makers, should take to themselves and own this glorious title of “the people of God.” Other things they pretend against them, as the Egyptians did against the Israelites; namely, that whereas they are a people who have a peculiar interest of their own, there is danger of sedition from them against the state, Exodus 1:9-10. This is the usual pretense. The true cause of their rage is, their profession that they are the people of God, and have a right unto all the privileges accompanying that title.

(3.) This people of God is proposed to Moses as under “affliction,” so as that if he will join himself to them, it must be with a participation of the outward evils that they were subject unto. Συγκακουχεῖσθαι . The word is used only in this place. It signifies “to be vexed and pressed with things evil and grievous.” And our expression, of being “afflicted,” or “suffering affliction,” according to the common understanding of that expression, scarce reacheth unto the emphasis of the original word, “to be pressed, vexed, distressed with things evil, burdensome, destructive to nature.”

What were the afflictions and sufferings of the people of God at that time, is known. It is not only related in the Scripture, with their sighs, sorrows, and cries under them, but they are frequently mentioned afterwards as the highest distresses that human nature could be exposed unto.

But it may be inquired, how a participation in these sufferings was proposed unto Moses, seeing it was not required of him, nor was he called unto it, to work in the same kilns and furnaces with his brethren. I say, it is not at all here intimated that he was so; but only, considering their woful condition, he cast in his lot among them, to take that portion which fell to his share. He made no bargain or contract for himself, but choosing their condition, referred himself for his part and share unto the guidance of divine Providence. And this fell out in the danger of his life, his flight out of Egypt, his long poor condition in Midian, with all the evils that befell him afterwards.

Secondly, That which was proposed unto him in opposition here-unto was, as we render the words, “to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season,” to have the temporary enjoyment of sin. ᾿Απόλαυσις is “fruition” or “enjoyment,” and is usually applied to signify such a fruition as hath gust and relish in it, yielding delight and pleasure unto them that have it; as all enjoyment in some measure doth, nor is any man said to enjoy that which he doth not take some satisfaction 3: Hence we have rendered it “pleasures,” in the plural number. For the best that sin, or any thing that is enjoyed with sin, can pretend unto, is but present, transitory pleasure.

To clear the meaning of the words, we must observe,

(1.) That no man makes sin, as sin, under its formal notion, to be the object of his desires, nor can be said to have or possess the fruition of it.

(2.) That the things here intended are those which accompanied his being the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, called “the treasures of Egypt” in the next verse.

(3.) That those things might absolutely and in themselves be enjoyed and used without sin; and so they were by him, until the appointed time came wherein he was called from them.

(4.) They would therefore have become sin unto him, not in themselves, but in their enjoyment; and that for two reasons:

[1.] Because they would have hindered him from the performance of a duty necessary unto the glory of God and his own salvation, as we shall see immediately.

[2.] Because he could not so enjoy them without a conjunction with the Egyptians, it may be, in their idolatries, but, to be sure, in the persecution and oppression of the people of God.

Wherefore, to have or hold the fruition of sin, in this place, is to continue in the enjoyment of all outward advantages by the means of the greatest sin imaginable, namely, the neglect of the only great duty incumbent on us in this world, or the profession of faith in God and the true religion on the one hand, and persecuting the church of God on the other.

This enjoyment of sin is, said to be πρόσκαιρος , “temporary,” “for a season;” subject unto a thousand interruptions in this life, and unavoidably ending with it.

Thus were things truly represented and proposed to the thoughts of Moses. They were so by himself. He hid not his eyes from the worst on the one hand; nor did he suffer himself to be imposed on by the flattering appearances on the other. He omitted no circumstances that might influence a right judgment in his choice. He considered the worst of the people of God, which is their affliction; and the best of the world, which is but the evanid pleasure of sin; and preferred the worst of the one above the best of the other.

2. The work of his faith is expressed in the act of his mind with respect unto these different objects. He chose the one rather than the other. They were proposed unto the elective power or faculty of his soul; that whereby, upon the due consideration and pondering of things and their reasons, it is able to embrace that which is truly good unto it or best for it, and refuse whatever stands in competition with it. His choice hereby, on mature deliberation, may t)e expressed in the conclusions which he made in his own mind on this occasion; as,

(1.) That those two opposite states were divinely proposed unto his consideration, as those wherein his concernment did lie, and unto one of which he must associate himself, lie found that he could not be happy alone, nor perform his duty, nor enjoy things that were good and desirable. And these two sorts are always in the world, and are made conspicuous in a time of persecution. Some think they may pass their time here without a relation unto, or a conjunction with either of these societies. They will neither join themselves, as they suppose, to the persecuted church nor to the persecuting world. But they deceive themselves; for if they choose not the one, they do belong unto the other.

(2.) That those states, and an interest in them, were irreconcilable, so as that he could not enjoy the good things of them both, but adhering unto the one, he must renounce the other. If he cleave to “the treasures of Egypt,” he must renounce “the people of God;” and if he join himself unto the people of God, he must renounce all his interest in Egypt. This he saw necessary, from that profession which God required of him, and from the nature of the promise which that profession did respect.

(3.) He passed a right judgment concerning the true nature and end of those things, which were to be enjoyed in his continuing as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. Notwithstanding all their glittering appearance, they were in themselves temporary, fading, perishing; and unto him would be sinful, pernicious, and destructive.

(4.) Hereon he was determined in his mind, and actually made his choice of the state and condition which he would embrace. He “chose rather to suffer affliction,” etc. The reason of which judgment and choice is more fully expressed in the next verse, And we may observe,

Obs. 5. That in a time of great temptations, especially from furious persecutors, a sedate consideration of the true nature of all things wherein we are concerned, and their circumstances on every hand, is necessary to enable us unto a right choice of our lot, and a due performance of our duty. The things we are to lose, in houses, lands, possessions, liberty, and life itself, make an appearance of a desirableness not to be overcome. And the distresses, on the other hand, of a persecuted estate, appear very terrible. If the mind leave itself unto the conduct of its affections in this matter, it will never make a right choice and determination. Faith enables the soul to divest the things on either side of their flattering or frightening appearances, and to make a right judgment of them in their proper nature and ends.

Obs. 6. No profession will endure the trial in a time of persecution, but such as proceeds from a determinate choice of adhering unto Christ and the gospel, with a refusal and rejection of whatever stands in competition with them, on a due consideration of the respective natures and ends of the things proposed unto us on the one hand and the other; that is, the loss of all temporal good things, and the undergoing of all that is temporally evil. Those who engage unto a profession on such light convictions of truth, or other inferior grounds, as it were at peradventures, will scarce endure when it comes unto a trial, like that which Moses underwent.

Obs. 7. He chose to be afflicted with the people of God; and so must every one do who will be of them unto his advantage. Our Lord Jesus Christ warns us, that some will entertain the gospel, but when persecution ariseth for the word, immediately they fall away. They would have him, but not with his cross; and his gospel, but not with its burden. And of the same Samaritan sect there are multitudes in every age. They would be accounted of the people of God, but they will have nothing to do with their afflictions. They have ways of compliance to keep their own peace and wealth, it may be their places and profits, without being concerned in the afflictions of the people of God. But those who will not have their afflictions shall never have their privileges; and so it is all one whether they profess themselves to belong unto them or no.

Obs. 8. Men fearfully delude themselves, in the choice they make about profession in times of persecution. The choice which they have to make is really and singly between the pleasures of sin, and those to be enjoyed but for a little while; and present sufferings attended with an eternal reward, as the next verse declares. But, for the most part men have other notions of things, and suppose they may come off with some distinctions or limitations, like that of Naaman, and save themselves

THIRDLY, The grounds whereon Moses proceeded are expressed in the next verse.

Hebrews 11:26 . “Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward.”

The words contain the ground and reason of the choice of Moses, mentioned in the foregoing verse. And this is, the judgment which he made concerning the things which he chose and those which he refused, being compared one with the other. “Esteeming,” or having esteemed, determined and judged. And,

1. There are the things themselves expressed concerning which he passed a judgment, namely, “the reproach of Christ” on the one hand, and “the treasures of Egypt” on the other.

2. The common notion under which he considered them both, and by an especial interest wherein the one was preferred before the other; and this was “riches,” he judged one to be “greater riches” than the other. 3. The especial reason whereby the things which he chose approved themselves in his mind to be greater riches than the other, namely, from “the recompence of the reward” which belonged unto them, and was inseparable from them.

1. The thing which he chose he calls “the reproach of Christ.” This must be the same with what he calls being “afflicted with the people of God,” in the verse foregoing, only with an addition of a consideration under which it was peculiarly eligible. What is this “reproach of Christ,” we must inquire.

Much endeavor hath been used by some to remove the consideration of Christ, as then proposed unto the church in the promise, out of the words. Grotius and his follower would have “the reproach of Christ” to be only such kinds of reproach, sufferings, and afflictions, as Christ himself afterwards, and Christians for Christ, did undergo. Of the same mind is Crellius, who feigns at least a catachresis in the words, arising out of sundry tropes and metaphors. But he thinks that chiefly the afflictions of the people of Israel were called the reproach of Christ, because they were a type of Christ, that is, of Christians in some sense. So unwilling are some to admit any faith of Christ, or knowledge of him, into the religion of the ancient patriarchs. But,

(1.) ῾Ο Χριστός as here, is never used for any type of Christ, for any but Christ himself.

(2.) If Moses underwent reproaches as the type of Christ, and knew that he did so, then he believed in Christ; which is the thing they would deny.

(3.) The immediate reason of the persecution of the Israelites was, because they would not coalesce into one people with the Egyptians, but would still retain and abide by their distinct interests and hopes. Now, their perseverance herein was grounded on their faith in the promise made unto Abraham, which was concerning Christ. So these things have nothing of solidity in them.

But the mind of the apostle is evident in this expression. For,

(1.) From the first promise concerning the exhibition of the Son of God in the flesh, Christ was the life, soul, and the all of the church, in all ages. From him all was derived, and in him all centered: “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, to day, and for ever;” a “Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” To deny this, is to destroy the whole mystery of the wisdom of God under the old testament, and in particular, to overthrow the whole apostolical exposition of it in this epistle.

(2.) Being so, he was the original cause or occasion of the sufferings of the church in all ages. All the persecutions of the church arose from the enmity between the two seeds, which entered upon the promise of Christ. And the adherence of believers unto that promise is the only cause of that separation from the world, which is the immediate cause of all their persecution. Wherefore, “the reproach of Christ,” in the first place, signifies the reproach which upon the account of Christ, or their faith in him, they did undergo. For all outward observances in the church, in all ages, are but the profession of that faith.

(3.) Christ and the church were considered from the beginning as one mystical body; so as that what the one underwent, the other is esteemed to undergo the same. Hence it is said, that “in all their affliction he was afflicted,” Isaiah 63:9. And the apostle Paul calls his own sufferings, “that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ,” Colossians 1:24, namely, which belonged unto the full allotment of sufferings unto that mystical body whereof Christ is the head. And in this sense also the afflictions of the church are the afflictions of Christ.

(4.) Somewhat of that which is here called “the reproach of Christ” is called by the same apostle “the marks of the Lord Jesus in his body,” Galatians 6:17; or the stripes which he endured, with the marks of them that remained, for the sake of Jesus Christ. And so are all the sufferings of the church the reproach of Christ, because it is for his sake alone that they undergo them, and it is he alone whom they lay in the balance against them all.

2. All the sufferings of the people of God for the sake of Christ are called his “reproach.” For all sorts of afflictions, persecutions, and oppressions from men, on the account of the profession of the truth, are intended. And they are so called on a double account:

(1.) Because the foundation of them all is always laid in reproach. The world can neither justify nor countenance itself in its persecutions of the church, unless they first cover it all over with reproaches . So dealt they with our Lord Jesus Christ himself. They attempted not to take away his life, before the rage of the people was by all manner of reproaches stirred up against him. So it is in all the persecutions and sufferings of the church. They are always represented as heretics, schismatics, or seditious persons, opposite to all good order in church and state, before they are exposed to violence. And this also is usually accompanied with contempt, scorn, mocking, and false accusations. Wherefore, all the sufferings of believers may be denominated from this rise and entrance of them.

(2.) There is nothing in sufferings that is more sharp and terrible unto ingenuous souls than this reproach is; nothing that hath more of a severe trial in it. Hence the psalmist, in the person of Christ, complains that” reproach had broken his heart,” Psalms 69:19-20. And the apostle mentions “cruel mockings,” verse 36 of this chapter, where we shall speak of them.

(3.) They are so called, because all the persecutions of the church do arise from the enmity, hatred, scorn, and contempt, which the world hath of and towards Christ himself, or the mystery of the wisdom of God for the salvation of sinners in and by him. And we may observe in our passage, that,

Obs. 1. Reproach hath in all ages, from the beginning of the world, attended Christ and all the sincere professors of faith in him; which in God’s esteem is upon his account. One of his last acts in this world was his conflicting with ignominy and shame; which he overcame with contempt, Hebrews 12:2-3. And his apostles began their ministry with “suffering shame for his name’s sake,” Acts 5:41. But when the mystery of iniquity began to work, one great design in it was, for the rulers of the church and their adherents to quit themselves of this reproach and scorn from the world; which indeed they did not deserve. Wherefore, they contrived all ways whereby they might attain wealth, honor, grandeur, and veneration in the world; wherein they succeeded, unto the ruin of Christian religion.

3. That which Moses compared herewithal was “the treasures of Egypt;” the treasures that were in Egypt. “Treasures” properly are riches in gold, silver, precious stones, and other things highly valuable, that are stored, hid, and laid up. But when there is mention of the treasures of a nation, they include all those profits and advantages of it also whence those treasures are gathered. In both respects, Egypt, whilst it flourished, was behind no kingdom in the world. What was, and what might be, the interest of Moses in these treasures, we before declared. But in this matter he doth not so much, or at least not only, consider them as unto his own share and interest, but also absolutely what they were in themselves, tie considered what they were, what they would amount unto, what might be done with them or attained by them, and prefers the reproach of Christ above them all. For,

Obs. 2. Let the things of this world be increased and multiplied into the greatest measures and degrees imaginable, it alters not their kind. They are temporary, fading, and perishing still; such as will stand men in no stead on their greatest occasions, nor with respect unto eternity.

Now, these things were not considered by Moses in the notion of them, but he saw them daily exemplified before his face. He saw “the treasures of Egypt,” with the state, glory, gallantry, and power of the court, by whom they were enjoyed, and what supply they had for all their lusts and desires. And he saw the poor, oppressed, scorned people of God, in their bearing “the reproach of Christ.” Yet in this present view of them, when it most highly affected him, he did in his mind, judgment, and resolution, prefer the latter before the former, so as to choose it and embrace it. This is that which faith will effect. Let us go and do likewise.

4. These things Moses considered under the notion of “riches.” He “esteemed the reproach of Christ to be greater riches.” Riches, opulency, wealth, contain all that men love and value in this world; all that is of use unto them for all the ends of life; all that they desire, and place their happiness in, at least so far, that they judge they cannot be happy without them. Hence two things are denoted in the word:

(1.) That which is the principal means of all the ends of life.

(2.) An abundance of it. On these accounts the word is frequently used by the Holy Ghost to denote the spiritual things which God prepares for and gives unto believers, with the greatness, the abundance, the excellency of them. They are called “riches,” “durable substance,” “treasures;” and are said to be “richly” or “abundantly communicated,” for there is in them an all-sufficiency, in all things, for all the ends of man’s life and blessedness. So doth the apostle here call them “riches,” with an especial respect also to “the treasures of Egypt,” which were their riches,

Obs. 3. There is therefore an all-satisfactory fullness in spiritual things, even when the enjoyment of them is under reproach and persecution, unto all the true ends of the blessedness of men.

5. Lastly, There is in the words the ground whereon Moses made his judgment concerning these things, and what it was which influenced his mind into that determination. For although he might on some accounts prefer “the reproach of Christ” unto “the treasures of Egypt,” yet it doth not easily occur on what ground he should judge that it was “greater riches” than they, or more sufficient unto all the ends of men’s lives and blessedness. Wherefore the ground of this judgment being taken from a due consideration of what did accompany this reproach of Christ, and was inseparably annexed unto it, is expressed in these words, “For he had respect unto the recompence of the reward.”

“He had respect,” ἀπέβλεπε , “intuitus est;” he looked on, he saw by the eyes of faith, as represented in the promise; he took into consideration.

“The recompence of the reward;” “praemii retributionem,” “largitionem;” “mercedis redditionem;” the gratuitous reward that God hath annexed unto faith and obedience, not merited or deserved by them, but infallibly annexed unto them, in a way of sovereign bounty.

The causal conjunction, “for,” is introductive of the reason whereon Moses made the judgment before declared.

Schlichtingius is mute as unto this reward, not knowing, as it should seem, how to avoid the force of this plain testimony concerning the faith which believers under the old testament had of eternal rewards, by virtue of God’s promise. Grotius is bold, in his usual manner, and refers it to the possession, of the land of Canaan. Hammond forsakes his guide, and extends it unto things eternal. Nor can there be any thing more improbable than the conjecture of Grotius; for neither did Moses ever enter into the land of Canaan, nor was the interest of his posterity therein to be any way compared with the treasures of Egypt

But the apostle gives us here a pregnant instance of that description of faith which he gave us in the first verse of the chapter, namely, that it was “the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen;” for both these were seen in this faith of Moses. It gave him an evidence of the invisible things of the eternal reward; and caused them so to subsist in their power and foretaste in his mind, as that he chose and preferred them above all things present and visible. And,

Obs. 4. Such signal exemplifications of the nature and efficacy of faith in others, especially when victorious against mighty oppositions, as they were in Moses, are high encouragements unto us unto the like exercise of it in the like circumstances.

Now whereas, as was said, and as is plain in the text, this is the ground whereon Moses made the judgment declared, it is evident that the whole thereof, and of his faith therein, is resolved into this certain and immovable truth, that God in his purpose, promise, and constitution of his word, hath immutably annexed a blessed reward unto the reproach of Christ, or the undergoing of it by believers.

We must therefore inquire,

(1.) What this “recompence of reward” is; and,

(2.) How Moses had “respect unto it.”

(1.) That this “recompence of reward” includes in it, yea, principally respects, the eternal reward of persecuted believers in heaven, is out of question. But whereas God is in his covenant a present reward unto them, Genesis 15:1; and that in the present keeping of his commandments there is a great reward, Psalms 19:11; as also, that the spiritual wisdom, grace, mercy, and consolation, that believers receive in this world, are “riches,” “treasures,” and “durable substance;” I doubt not but the blessed peace, rest, and satisfaction which they have, in a comfortable persuasion of their covenant-interest in God, are also included here. But even these also have their power and efficacy from their inseparable relation unto the eternal reward.

(2.) This reward he had “respect” unto; which compriseth three things:

[1.] He believed it upon divine revelation and promise; and that so steadfastly and with such assurance, as if he held it, or had seen it with his eyes.

[2.] He valued it according to its worth and desert, as that which was to be preferred incomparably above all present things.

[3.] He brought it into reckoning and account, in the judgment which he was to make concerning the reproach of Christ and the treasures of Egypt. And this was the victory whereby he overcame the world, even his faith.

And sundry observations, for our own use and instruction, we may take from this example of the faith of Moses and its success.

But we must first of all observe in general, that the consideration of this example is principally required of us in those seasons wherein we are brought into the like circumstances with him, that is, a time of great distress, oppression, and persecution of the church; and unto such a season is this example here applied by the apostle. So we may learn,

Obs. 5. It is our duty, in the whole course of our faith and obedience, to have respect unto the future recompence of reward, but it is so especially in times of great persecution and oppression of the church, wherein we are and resolve to be sharers; a respect, not as unto that which we shall deserve by what we do or suffer; nor as that which principally influenceth us unto our obedience or suffering, which is the love of God in Christ; nor as that between which and what we do there is any proportion, like that between work and wages; but only as unto that which divine bounty hath proposed unto us for our encouragement, or as that which becomes the divine goodness and righteousness freely to grant unto them that believe and obey. See our exposition on Hebrews 6:10. But this I add, that we are to have this respect unto the future reward principal]y, or to have faith in exercise about it, in the times of danger, persecution, and oppression. Nor is this respect unto the reward anywhere mentioned in the Scripture, but it is still with regard unto sufferings and tribulations. See Matthew 5:11-12; Matthew 10:39; Luke 6:35; Hebrews 10:35; Revelation 22:12. For as in such a season we do stand in need of that view and consideration of the future reward which we may lay in the balance against all our present sufferings; so it becomes the greatness, goodness, and righteousness of God, that those who suffer from the world for him, and according to his will, should have that proposed and assured unto them, for their encouragement, which is incomparably greater in goodness and blessedness than what they can suffer from the world is in evil, loss, and trouble. And therefore frequently where believers are encouraged with an expectation of this reward, they are so also with being minded of that recompence of reward, in vengeance and punishment, which shall befall their wicked persecutors; both of them being on many accounts alike suited unto their encouragement. See Philippians 1:28; 2 Thessalonians 1:4-10.

Obs. 6. It is faith only that can carry us through the difficulties, trials, and persecutions, which we may be called unto for the sake and name of Christ. Moses himself, with all his wisdom, learning, courage, and resolution, had never been able to have gone through with his trials and difficulties, had not faith had the rule and government of his mind and heart, had he not kept it in exercise on all occasions. And in vain shall any of us, in such a season, expect deliverance or success by any other way or means. A thousand other things may present themselves unto our minds, for our relief or preservation in such a season; but they will all prove fruitless, dishonorable shifts, or snares and temptations, unto the ruin of our souls. We are “kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.”

Obs. 7. Faith in exercise, will carry us safely and securely through all the trials which we have to undergo for Christ and the gospel. As there is no other way for our safety, success, and victory, so this will never fail us. Consider all circumstances, and it is almost impossible that our temptations and trials should be greater than those of Moses: howbeit faith carried him safely through them all, as we shall see further in the next verses. How it doth it, whence it derives its power and efficacy for this end; what are the ways of its working, and how it engageth all our graces unto its assistance; by what means it resists, refels, and conquers oppositions; how it strengthens, relieves, and comforts the souls of them that believe; is not my present work to declare: I only, with the apostle, propose an example of what it hath done, as a document and evidence of what it will do in like cases.

Obs. 8. Faith is highly rational, in all its acts of obedience towards God. It reckoneth, computeth, judgeth, chooseth, determineth, in the most exalted acts of reason. All these things are here ascribed unto Moses in the exercise of his faith. I would willingly insist hereon, to vindicate the honor of faith from the imputations that are cast on all its actings in the world, as weak and foolish; or that it is nothing but an engine or pretense set up unto the ruin of reason, and the use of it in the lives of men. And if we cannot prove that the wisdom of faith, and the reason wherewith and whereon it always acts, are the most eminent that our nature is capable of in this world, and that whatever is contrary to them or inconsistent with them is arrant folly, and contrary to the primigenial light of our nature, and all the principles of reason truly so called, we shall freely give up the cause of faith unto the vainest pretences of reason that foolish men can make. But a resolution not to engage in such discourses, on this occasion, will not allow me to enter on a further demonstration of this truth.

Verse 27

Πίστει κατέλιπεν Αἴγυπτον , μὴ φοβηθεὶς τὸν θύμον τοῦ βασιλέως· τὸν γὰρ ἀόρατον ὡς ὁρῶν ἐκαρτέρησε .

Τὸν θύμον . Vulg. Lat., “animositatem;” which the Rhemists translate, “fierceness.” Syr., מֵן חֵמָּתֵהּ , “from the fury of the king.” “Iram,” “iracundiam;” or as we, very properly, “the wrath.”

᾿Εκαρτέρησε . Vulg. Lat., “invisibilem tanquam videns sustinult.’Rhem., “for him that is invisible he sustained, as if he had seen him;” very improperly, and without any due sense. They make ἐκαρτέρησε to be a verb transitive, and to affect “him that is invisible;” whereas it is plainly used in a neutral sense, or it hath none at all. Nor is the phrase of “sustinere Deum” anywhere used. Syr., וְסַבַּד , “and he hoped,” or “trusted, as one who saw him who is invisible.” “Fortiter obduravit;” “forti animo fuit.” We properly, “endured.”

Hebrews 11:27 . By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible.

Having declared the faith of Moses with respect unto the sufferings of the people of God, the apostle proceedeth in like manner to instance in the power and acting of it with respect unto their deliverance; which here he mentions in general, and afterwards insists on in some particulars.

1. What he did,” He left Egypt.”

2. The manner how he did it: “Not fearing the wrath of the king.”

3. The reason or ground of his so doing it: “For he endured,” etc.

1. That which he did is, that “he left Egypt;” and he did it “by faith.”

Moses did twice leave Egypt; first when he had slain the Egyptian, and fled upon its discovery, Exodus 2:14-15; and a second time when he carried away the people with him out of Egypt, which he entered into, Exodus 10:29.

Some think that the apostle intends his first departure, and that on this reason, because it is mentioned before the celebration of the passover, whereas it is evident in the story that his last departure was after it. And they suppose they can reconcile what is affirmed in Exodus, namely, that “he feared,” to wit, “the wrath of the king,” who sought to slay him, Exodus 2:14-15; and what is here declared by the apostle, that “he feared not the wrath of the king.” For they say, that although he had a natural fear which moved him to use the proper means for the preservation of his life, yet he had no such fear as should overthrow his faith, or hinder him from committing himself to the providence of God for his preservation, when he fled from so mighty a monarch, who had long hands to reach him wherever he was.

But it is not likely, nay, it is not true, that the apostle intends that first departure out of Egypt. For,

(1.) It is said there expressly, that he “fled from the face of Pharaoh;” that is, in haste and with fear: here, that he “left Egypt;” which expresseth a sedate act of his mind, and that with respect unto the whole country and all the concerns of it.

(2.) It is not likely that the apostle would take his instance of the victorious faith of Moses from that fact and place wherein there is no mention made of his faith, but of that which was contrary unto it, namely, his fear. “By faith he left Egypt,” is not a proper interpretation of” He feared, and fled from the face of Pharaoh.”

(3.) That which the apostle intends was accompanied with, or immediately followed by, his keeping of the passover, which was forty years and somewhat more after his first flight out of Egypt.

Wherefore, although this leaving of Egypt may be a general expression of his whole conduct of the people thence into the wilderness, yet the apostle hath a peculiar respect unto what is recorded, Exodus 10:28-29:

“And Pharaoh said unto him, Get thee from me, take heed to thyself, see my face no more; for in that day thou seest my face thou shalt die. And Moses said, Thou hast spoken well; I will see thy face again no more.”

Never was there a higher expression of faith, and spiritual courage thereon: whence it is said, Exodus 11:8, that he threatened Pharaoh, that all his servants should come and bow down before him; and so “went out from him in a great anger,” or the height of indignation against his obstinate rebellion against God. He had before him a bloody tyrant, armed with all the power of Egypt, threatening him with present death if he persisted in the work and duty which God had committed unto him; but he was so far from being terrified, or declining his duty in the least, that he professeth his resolution to proceed, and denounceth destruction to the tyrant himself.

2. This was the manner of his leaving Egypt: “He feared not the wrath of the king.” And assigning it unto this act and carriage of his, wherein he may justly and properly be said to leave Egypt, when he renounced a continuance therein and addressed himself unto a departure, it is properly placed immediately before his keeping of the passover; which sufficiently resolves the difficulty proposed on the behalf of the first opinion.

And we may observe the different frames of mind that were in Moses on these several occasions. In the first of them, when it was reported that Pharaoh sought to slay him, it is said, “He feared and fled; but here, when probably another Pharaoh, no less powerful, cruel, and bloody than the former, threatened him with present death, he is so far from being moved at it, that he declares his resolution to persist in his duty, and threatens the tyrant himself. And the reason of this difference was, that on the first occasion Moses had made an attempt into what he apprehended his duty, without a sufficient call and warranty from God; wherein he could not stir up faith unto an exercise, which will not move without a divine word for its warranty; and: natural courage would not carry him out in his undertaking: now, being assured of his call as well as of his work, he is bold as a lion, through the power of faith acting regularly on a word of promise and command.

Obs. 1. In all duties, especially such as are attended with great difficulties and dangers, it is the wisdom of believers to take care not only that the works of them be good in themselves, but that they have a just and due call unto their performance. When they have so, and are satisfied therein, there is nothing that faith will not conflict withal and conquer; but if they are weak in this foundation of duty, they will find that faith will not be engaged unto their assistance.

Obs. 2. Even the wrath of the greatest kings is to be disregarded, if it lie against our duty towards God. See the great and glorious instance, Daniel 3:13-18.

3. Lastly, The ground and reason of what he did, with the inward frame of his spirit in doing of it, is expressed: “He endured, as seeing him who is invisible.”

The word ἐκαρτέρησε , which we render “endured,” is not used in the New Testament but in this place only. It is derived from κράτος (by the transposition of a letter), which is “strength, power, and fortitude.” The use of it in other authors, is “to bear evils, or to undergo dangers with patience, courage, and resolution, so as not to wax weary or faint under them, but to hold out unto the end.” Καρτερέω : “forti animo sum, non cedo malis;” a word singularly suited to express the frame of mind that was in Moses with respect unto this work of faith in leaving Egypt. For he met with a long course of various difficulties, and was often threatened by the king; besides what he had to conflict with from the unbelief of the people. But he strengthened and confirmed his heart with spiritual courage, and resolution to abide in his duty unto the end.

So is καρτερία , joined with ἀνδρία , “fortitude,” as of the same nature; and opposed to μαλακία , an “easy softness of nature,” that betrays men into a relinquishment of their duty. And as the verb, καρτερέω , is used sometimes with a dative, sometimes with an accusative case, sometimes with prepositions, πρός ἐπί , sometimes without; so it is also neutrally, without affecting any other persons or things: Καρτερεῖν δὲ χρὴ ἄλλων παίδων ἐλπίδι , Thucyd., lib. 2:cap. 44. So that there was no need for the Vulgar to join it unto τὸν ἀόρατον , “invisibilem sustinuit.”

Wherefore this enduring by faith, is not a mere bare continuance in duty; but it is an abiding in it with courage and resolution, without fear and despondency.

Obs. 3. There is a heroic frame of mind and spiritual fortitude required unto the due discharge of our callings in times of danger, and which faith in exercise will produce: 1 Corinthians 16:13, Γρηγορεῖτε , στήκετε ἐν τῇ πίστει , ἀνδρίζεσθε , κραταιοῦσθε .

That which preserved Moses in this frame was, that “he saw him who is invisible.” God is said to be invisible (as he is absolutely) in respect of his essence, and is often so called in the Scripture, Romans 1:20, Colossians 1:15, 1 Timothy 1:17; but there is a peculiar reason of this description of him here. Moses was in that state and condition, and had those things to do, wherein he stood in need continually of divine power and assistance. Whence this should proceed, he could not discern by his senses. His bodily eyes could behold no present assistant; for God is invisible. And it requires an especial act of the mind in expecting help from him who cannot be seen. Wherefore this is here ascribed to him. “He saw him who is” in himself “invisible;” that is, he saw him by faith whom he could not see with his eyes. “As seeing,” is not, ‘as if he saw him,’but seeing of him really and indeed; only in such a way and by such means as left him still in himself invisible, but represented him a present help no less than if he had been seen.

A double act of the faith of Moses is intended herein:

(1.) A clear, distinct view and apprehension of God in his omnipresence, power, and faithfulness.

(2.) A fixed trust in him on their account, at all times and on all occasions. This he rested on, this he trusted to, that God was everywhere present with him, able to protect him, and faithful in the discharge of his promise; which is the sum of the revelation he made of himself unto Abraham, Genesis 15:1; Genesis 17:1. Hereof he had as certain a persuasion as if he had seen God working with him and for him by his bodily eyes. This sight of God he continually retreated unto in all his hazards and difficulties; and thereon endured courageously unto the end. And,

Obs. 4. There is nothing insuperable unto faith, whilst it can keep a clear view of the power Of God and his faithfulness in his promises. And unless we are constant in this exercise of faith, we shall faint and fail in great trials and difficult duties. From hence we may fetch revivings, renewals of strength, and consolations on all occasions, as the Scripture everywhere testifieth, Psalms 73:25-26; Isaiah 40:28-31.

Verse 28

Πίστει πεποίηκε τὸ πάσχα καὶ τὴν πρόσχυσιν τοῦ αἵματος , ἵνα μὴ ὁ ὀλοθρεύων τὰ πρωτότοκα θίγῃ αὐτῶν .

Πεποίηκε τὸ πάσκα , “he wrought,” “he made the passover.” So the Syriac, ‘ פֶצְחָא עֲבַד . Vulg., ‘*celebravit pascha:” Rhem., “he celebrated the passover.” “Fecit,” “peregit;” “be performed,” “kept.” ᾿Επασχοποίησε , ἑώρτασε , “he kept the feast.” Καὶ τὴν πρόσχυσιν τοῦ αἵματος . Syr., ורְסֵס דְּמָא , and he sprinkled blood.” Vulg., “et affusionem sanguinis.” Rhem., “and the shedding of the blood;” adhering to a corrupt translation, which took πρόσχυσις for the same with ἔκχυσις , not only against the original, but the plain, express meaning of the Holy Ghost. For it is not the shedding of blood, which was done in the killing of the lamb, but the sprinkling of it on the doors and posts, that is intended. “And that affusion,” “pouring on,” or “sprinkling of blood.”

῾Ο ὀλοθρεύων τὰ πρωτότοκα . Vulg., “qui vastabat primitiva,” “he that wasted the firstlings;” which is the best sense that word will bear. The Rhemists render it, “the first-born,” “Qui perimebat,” “who slew.” “Qui destruxit,” “who destroyed.” הַמַּשְׁחִית “the destroyer;” ὀλοθρευτής , Corinthians 10:10.

Θίγῃ αὐτῶν . Syr., נֶתְקָיַב לְהוּן , “should come nigh them.”

Hebrews 11:28 . By faith he kept the passover, and the sprinkling of blood, lest he that destroyed the first-born should touch them; [or, that sprinkling of blood, that the destroyer of the first-born should not touch them. ]

The story which the apostle hath respect unto is recorded at large, Exodus 12:0; which it doth not appertain unto us here to insist upon. There are two things in the words:

1. The commendation of the faith of Moses, from the due observation of a double divine ordinance of worship. The one whereof was to be standing, and of perpetual use in the church, namely, the passover: the other was temporary, suited unto that season only, namely, the sprinkling of blood; or it may be esteemed a temporary addition unto the other.

2. The effect or consequent of his faith, in the observance of these ordinances, whereof they were a sign; “that he who destroyed,” etc.

1. The first thing ascribed unto him as the fruit of his faith, is, that “he kept the passover.” The word used ( πεποίηκε ) is of a large signification. We render it, “he kept.” But that doth not comprise its whole sense: for it refers no less to the sprinkling of blood than to the passover; and it is not proper to say, he kept the sprinkling of blood. He “wrought,” he “performed” the whole sacred duty; that is, of killing the passover and sprinkling the blood.

The “passover.” The Greeks call it πάσχα , “pascha;” which some would derive from πάσχειν , “to suffer,” because the lamb suffered when it was slain; very foolishly; for the word is of a Hebrew original, only used by the Greeks after the Chaldee dialect, wherein it is usual to add א unto the end of words. So of the Hebrew פֶּסַח came the Chaldee פּסְחָא , and thence the Greek πάσχα . The Hebrew word “pesach” is from פָּסַח , “pasach,” to “pass over.” Not that “pasach” doth properly or commonly signify “transire,” to “pass over” or away, which is עָבַר ; but a peculiar passing over, by a kind of leaping or skipping, taking one thing and leaving another. Hence it is like the going of a lame man, rising up and falling down. And such a one is called פִסֵּחַ , “piseach,” Leviticus 21:18, Malachi 1:13; “claudus,” “one that limpeth.” The word was chosen to intimate the manner of the distinction that God made by the destroying angel between the houses of the Egyptians and the Israelites, when he passed over one untouched, and entered into another, it may be next unto it, with death.

Sundry things did the faith of Moses respect in his keeping or observance of the passover:

(1.) Its institution.

(2.) The command for its observation.

(3.) Its sacramental nature, wherein a divine promise was included.

(4.) Its mystical or typical signification.

(1.) He had respect unto the original institution of this ordinance, which he had by divine revelation. God revealed unto him the ordinance itself, with all its rites and ceremonies; which was its institution. And this faith respects in the first place; nor will it move or act towards any thing in the worship of God but what it hath the warranty of divine institution for. This is recorded Exodus 12:1-4, etc.

(2.) Unto the command for its perpetual observance, which he was then to initiate the people into, Exodus 12:14: “Ye shall keep it a feast unto the LORD throughout your generations; ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance, for ever.” For although divine institution be a sufficient warranty for the observance of any thing in the worship of God, yet, to secure and encourage our faith, God did always confirm it by a command of obedience. So our Lord Jesus Christ did not only institute the ordinance of the holy supper, but commanded all his disciples to observe it in the remembrance of him. And with respect hereunto did the faith of Moses work in the way of obedience. And an active obedience unto the authority of Christ in his commands is expressly required in all that we do in divine worship.

(3.) He had respect by faith unto the sacramental nature of it, wherein the promise was included. For this is in the nature of sacraments, that in and by a visible pledge they contain a promise, and exhibit the thing promised unto them that believe. This is expressed Exodus 12:11, where, speaking of the lamb to be slain and eaten, with all its rites and ceremonies, God adds, “It is the LORD’s passover;” where the application of the name of the thing signified unto the sacramental sign of it is consecrated unto the use of the church. So was it taken for granted by our Savior in the institution of the sacrament of his supper, when he says of the bread and wine that they are his body and blood; applying the names of the things signified unto those which were appointed signs of them by divine institution. And herein was the promise in-wrapped and contained of the deliverance of the people; which was exemplified and represented unto their faith in all the rites and circumstances of it. And the accomplishment of this promise was that which they were obliged to instruct their children and posterity in, as the reason of keeping this divine service, Exodus 12:24-27.

(4.) He had respect unto the mystical or typical signification of it. For what Moses did of this kind, it was “for a testimony of those things which were afterwards to be declared,” Hebrews 3:5. See the exposition. And those testimonies of Moses concerning Christ, which are so frequently appealed unto in the New Testament, consist more in what he did than in what he said. For all his institutions were representations of him, and so testimonies unto him. And this of the paschal lamb was one of the most illustrious types of his office. Hence the apostle expressly calls Christ “our passover:” “Christ our passover is sacrificed for us,” 1 Corinthians 5:7. He in his sacrifice was that really and substantially, whereof the paschal lamb was a type, sign, and shadow. And it may not be a useless diversion to name some of those things wherein the typical relation between Christ in his sacrifice, and the paschal lamb or passover, did consist; as,

[1.] It was a lamb that was the matter of this ordinance, Exodus 12:3; and in allusion hereunto, as also unto other sacrifices that were instituted afterwards, Christ is called “the Lamb of God,” John 1:29.

[2.] This lamb was to be taken out from the flock of the sheep, verse 5: so was the Lord Christ to be taken out of the flock of the church of mankind, in his participation of our nature, that he might be a meet sacrifice for us, Hebrews 2:14-17.

[3.] This lamb, being taken from the flock, was to be shut up separate from it, Exodus 12:6: so although the Lord Christ was taken from amongst men, yet he was “separate from sinners,” Hebrews 7:26; that is, absolutely free from all that contagion of sin which others are infected withal.

[4.] This lamb was to be without blemish, Exodus 12:5; which is applied unto the Lord Christ, 1 Peter 1:19, “A Lamb without blemish, and without spot.”

[5.] This lamb was to be slain, and was slain accordingly, Exodus 12:6: so was Christ slain for us; “the Lamb,” in the efficacy of his death, “slain from the foundation of the world,” Revelation 13:8.

[6.] This lamb was so slain as that it was a sacrifice, Exodus 12:27, “It is the sacrifice of the LORD’S passover;” and “Christ our passover was sacrificed for us,” 1 Corinthians 5:7.

[7.] The lamb being slain, was to be roasted, Exodus 12:8-9; which signified the fiery wrath that Christ was to undergo for our deliverance.

[8.] That not a bone of him should be broken, Exodus 12:46, was expressly to declare the manner of the death of Christ, John 19:33-36.

[9.] The eating of him, which was also enjoined, and that wholly and entirely, Exodus 12:8-9, was to instruct the church in the spiritual food of the flesh and blood of Christ, in the communication of the fruits of his mediation unto us by faith. And sundry other things of the same nature might be observed.

With respect unto all these things did Moses by faith keep the passover. And,

Obs. 1. There is always an especial exercise of faith required unto the due observation of a sacramental ordinance.

2. The second thing ascribed unto the faith of Moses is, “the sprinkling of blood.” This, whether it was a peculiar, temporary ordinance, or an observation annexed unto the first celebration of the passover, is all to the same purpose. That it was not afterwards repeated is evident, not only from hence, that it is nowhere mentioned as observed, but principally because the ground and reason of it did utterly cease. And God will not have any empty signs or ceremonies in his worship, that should be of no signification. However, that first signification that it had was of constant use in the church, as unto the faith of believers. The institution is recorded, Exodus 12:7. The blood of the lamb when it was slain was preserved in a bason; from whence they were to take it by dipping a bunch of hyssop into it, Exodus 12:22, and strike it on the two side-posts and the upper door- post of their houses. And this was to be a token unto them that God would pass over the houses that were so sprinkled and marked with blood, that none should be destroyed in them, Exodus 12:13. And this was to abide for ever in its mystical signification, as the present use of it is declared in the next words by the apostle. But unto this day we are hence taught,

Obs. 2. That whatever is not sprinkled with the blood of Christ, the Lamb of God who was slain and sacrificed for us, is exposed unto destruction from the anger and displeasure of God. As also,

Obs. 3. That this alone is that which gives us security from him that had the power of death. See the exposition on Hebrews 2:14-15.

Lastly, The end of this institution was, “that he who destroyed the first- born might not touch them.”

(1.) The agent employed in this work was ὁ ὀλοθρεύων or ὀλοθρευτής , 1 Corinthians 10:10; “the destroyer;” that is, an angel whom God employed in that work, as the executioner of his judgments; as he did one afterwards in the destruction of Sennacherib’s army, as before in that of Sodom. There is therefore no reason to think, with some of the Jews, that it was an evil angel whom they call אשמודי , “Ashmodaeus,” in the Book of Tobit; and usually מַלְאָךְ הַמָוֶת “the angel of death;” or “him that had the power of death, that is, the devil.” For there is no work more holy, nor more becoming the holy ministering spirits, than to execute the judgments of God on impenitent sinners. I do grant, that in the infliction of the plagues on the Egyptians in general, especially in the work of hardening their hearts, and seducing them, unto their deserved destruction, God did make use of the activity of evil angels unto such ends; for so the psalmist affirms, “He sent evil angels among them,” Psalms 78:49: but this work of slaying their first-born is so peculiarly and frequently ascribed unto God himself, that I rather judge he employed a good angel the Romans And,

Obs. 4. God hath always instruments in readiness to execute the severest of his judgments on sinners, in their greatest security. They were all in their midnight sleep in Egypt, when this messenger of death came amongst them. And,

(2.) “He destroyed the first-born;” τὰ πρωτότοκα , in the neuter gender, that is, γεννήματα . For the destruction was extended unto the first- born of beasts as well as of men, Exodus 12:29. And this was done at the same time throughout all the land of Egypt; that is, about midnight, Exodus 11:4; Exodus 12:29-30.

Obs. 5. Such is the great power and activity of these fiery ministering spirits, that in the shortest space of time imaginable they can execute the judgments of God on whole nations, as well and as easily as on private persons, 2 Kings 19:35.

The close of the words gives us the use of the sprinkling of blood on the posts of the door, namely, that it might be a sign and token unto the Israelites that they should be preserved from that woful destruction which they knew would that night befall the Egyptians: Exodus 12:13, “The blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are.” And what is added, that when he did see the blood he would pass over them, and the plague should not come nigh them, was only to oblige them with all diligence and reverence to observe his sacred institution; for their deliverance was suspended on the condition thereof, and had they failed therein, any of them, they had perished with the Egyptians.

“Should not touch them;” that is, the Israelites and their cattle. For although they are not mentioned before, yet are they necessarily understood. And it is thus expressed, “Not touch them,” to declare the absolute security which they were to enjoy whilst the Egyptians were smitten. The destroyer made no approach unto their houses; they had no fear of him. So, not to touch is used for the same with doing no harm, or being remote from it: Psalms 105:15, “Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm.” 1 John 5:18, “The wicked one toucheth him not.”

Obs. 6. That which God would for ever instruct the church in by this ordinance is, that unless we are sprinkled with the blood of Christ, our paschal Lamb, no other privilege can secure us from eternal destruction. Though a man had been really an Israelite, and had with others made himself ready that night for a departure, which was a high profession of faith, yet if the lintel and posts of his door had not been sprinkled with blood, he would have been destroyed. And on the other hand, where there is this sprinkling of blood, be the danger never so great or so near, there shall be certain deliverance. “The blood of sprinkling speaks better things than the blood of Abel.”

Verse 29

Having fixed the foundation and beginning of the deliverance of the church on the exercise of faith in the observance of the holy institutions of divine worship, prescribed to be the signs and tokens thereof, the apostle proceeds to give an instance in one of the most remarkable passages of divine providence that befell them in the way of their deliverance.

Hebrews 11:29 . Πίστει διεβησαν τὴν ᾿Ερυθρὰν θάλασσαν , ὡς διὰ ξηρᾶς· ἧς πεῖραν λαβόντες οἱ Αἰγύπτιοι , κατεπόθησαν .

Τὴν ᾿Ερυθρὰν θάλασσαν . The Syrian retains the Hebrew name, יָמָּא דְסוּ Šy Sea,” the sea of reeds or canes, as this sea is called constantly in the Scripture.

Πεῖραν λαβόντες . Vulg., “experti,” a making a trial.” “Periculo facto,” “venturing to do;” “when they durst,” as we, assaying. Syr., כַּד אַמְרַחוּ עֲלוְחִי or emboldened themselves “to enter it.”

Κατεπόθησαν , “devorati sunt.” Vulg. Lat., “absorpti aunt.” Syr., properly, “were swallowed up,” overwhelmed, drowned, suffocated.

Hebrews 11:29 . By faith they passed through the Red Sea as by dry [land:] which the Egyptians assaying, [making a trial of,] were drowned, [or swallowed up.]

A greater instance with respect unto the work of divine Providence, of the power of faith on the one hand, and of unbelief with obdurate presumption on the other, there is not on record in the whole Book of God.

Here we have the end and issue of the long controversy that was between those two people, the Egyptians and the Israelites; a certain type and evidence of what will be the last end of the contest between the world and the church. Their long conflict shall end in the utter destruction of the one, and the complete salvation of the other.

1. The persons whose faith is here commended are included in that word, they passed; that is, the whole congregation of the Israelites, under the conduct of Moses, Exodus 14:0. And the whole is denominated from the better part; for many of them were not believers in state, unto the sanctification of their persons. For “with many of them,” as the apostle speaks, “God was not well pleased,” though they were “all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea,” 1Co 10:2 ; 1 Corinthians 10:5. But in a professing society, God is pleased to impute the faith and obedience of some unto the whole; as, on the other hand, judgments do oftentimes befall the whole for the provocations of some, as it frequently happened unto that people in the wilderness. It is therefore the duty of every man in church society to endeavor, on the one hand, the good of the whole in his own personal faith and obedience; as also, on the other, to keep them in what lies in him from sin, that he fall not with them under the displeasure of God.

2. Their faith wrought in their passing through the sea: not in dividing of the waters, that was an act of immediate almighty power; but by faith they passed through when they were divided. It is true that God commanded Moses to divide the sea, Exodus 14:16; but this was only ministerially, in giving a sign thereof by stretching forth his rod, verse 21. And concerning their passage by faith some things may be observed.

(1.) It was the Red Sea that they passed through; that part of the Ethiopic Ocean which lieth between Egypt and Arabia. In the Hebrew it is constantly called יָםאּסוּ Š“Sea of Sedges,” reeds or canes, from the multitude of them growing on its shore; as it is unto this day. The Greeks call it ᾿Ερυθραῖος or ᾿Ερυθρά , the word here used by the apostle. And it was so called, not from the red color of the waters, appearing so from the sand or the sun, as some have fancied, but from a king whom they called Erythrseus; that is, Esau, or Edom, who fixed his habitation and rule towards this sea. For whereas that name signifies “red,” they gave him a name of the same signification in their language. Thence came the sea among them to be called the “Red Sea,” which the Hebrews called “Yam Suph.”

(2.) This sea they passed through from the Egyptian unto the Arabic shore. For what some have imagined, that they entered into the sea, and, making a semicircle, came out again on the same side, leaving Pharaoh and his host drowned behind them, is inconsistent with the narrative of Moses, that they passed through the sea. Nor is there any countenance given hereunto from what is affirmed, Numbers 33:6-8, namely, that before they entered the sea they pitched in Etham, and that after they had passed through the midst of it, they went three days’journey in the wilderness of Etham. For all that tract of land wherein the Red Sea issues and ends, from which end of it they were not far remote, belonged unto the wilderness of Etham both on the one side of the sea and the other, as is evident in the story.

(3.) It is said that they passed through as on dry land, Exodus 14:21-22; Exodus 14:29. Some think that the bottom of the sea being sand, was fit and meet to go upon, on the mere separation of the waters; others, that this was the effect of the mighty wind which God also used in the dividing of the waters, though he put forth in it an act of his almighty power. See Isaiah 63:11-13. For no wind of itself could produce that effect, much less keep the parted waters standing like walls; yet it is said directly that the east wind made the sea dry land, Exodus 14:21-22. However it was, the ground was made fit and meet for them to travel on, and pass through the waters without difficulty or impediment.

(4.) The division of the waters was very great, leaving a space for so great a multitude to pass orderly between the divided parts, perhaps unto the distance of some miles. And their passage is judged to have been six leagues from the one shore unto the other; by some much more.

(5.) The Israelites had light to discern this state of things; and no doubt the appearance of it was very dreadful. The waters must of necessity be raised unto a very great height on each side of them; and although they were, and proved, by the power of God, a wall unto them on the right hand and on the left, yet was it in them a high act of faith to put themselves between such walls, as were ready in their own nature to fall on them unto their destruction every moment, abiding only under an almighty restraint. But they had the command and promise of God for their warranty and security, which will enable faith to overcome all fears and dangers.

(6.) I doubt not but that Moses first entered himself at the head of them. Hence it is said that God led them through the sea by the right hand of Isaiah 63:11-13; he entering before them into the channel of the deep to guide and encourage them. Some of the Jews say that this was done by Amminadib, captain of the host of Judah, who, when all the rest of the people were afraid, first entered, with his tribe; whence mention is made of “the chariots of Amminadib,” Song of Solomon 6:12. But, alas! they had neither chariot nor horse with them, but went all on foot.

From all these difficulties and dangers we may observe,

Obs. 1. Where God engageth his word and promise, there is nothing so difficult, nothing so remote from the rational apprehensions of men, but he may righteously require our faith and trust in him therein. Whatever almighty power can extend unto, is a proper object for faith; in reliance whereon it shall never fail.

Obs. 2. Faith will find a way through a sea of difficulties, under the call of God.

Obs. 3. There is no trial, no difficulty, that the church can he called unto, but there are examples on record of the power of faith in working out its deliverance. There can be no greater strait than the Israelites were in, between the host of the Egyptians and the Red Sea.

3. It remains that we consider the other people, with what they did on this occasion, and what end they came unto.

The people were “the Egyptians.” So they are called here in general. But in the account given us by Moses, it appears that Pharaoh himself, the king, was there present in person, with all the nobility and power of his kingdom. It was he in an especial manner whom God had undertaken to deal withal; yea, he raised him up for this very purpose, that he might show his power in him, and that his name thereby might be declared throughout the earth, Exodus 9:16, Romans 9:17. Accordingly, he carried it for a long time with intolerable pride and obstinacy. Hence the contest betwixt God and him, with the issue of it, was so famous in the world that the glory of God was exceedingly exalted thereby; and the terror of it made way for the people in their entrance into Canaan, the hearts of the inhabitants failing because of them. Here the contest came to an issue, in the utter ruin of the proud tyrant. For there is none so great, so proud, so obstinate, but if God undertake to deal with them, he will be victorious in the end. See Exodus 15:3-10.

This Pharaoh with his Egyptians (that is, his whole army, horses, and chariots) “assayed to do” what they saw the children of Israel. do before them; namely, to pass through the sea whilst the waters of it were divided. And this was the greatest height that ever obdurate infidels could rise unto in this world. They had seen all the mighty works which God had wrought in the behalf of his people among them, they and their country were almost consumed with the plagues and judgments that were inflicted on them on their account; and yet now, beholding this wonderful work of God in opening the sea to receive them from their pursuit, they would make a venture, as the word signifies, to follow them into it.

Now, although this presumptuous attempt of the Egyptians be to be resolved into that judiciary hardness which was upon them from God, that they might be destroyed, yet no doubt but some things did occur to their minds that might lead them unto the hardening of themselves; as,

(1.) That they might not know for a while that they were entered into the channel of the sea, the waters being removed far from them; but they might go on perhaps in the night, without once thinking that the people whom they pursued were gone into the midst of the sea.

(2.) When they discovered any thing extraordinary therein, they might suppose it was only by some extraordinary natural cause or occasion; of which sort many things fall out in the ebbing and flowing of the sea. But,

(3.) That which principally animated them was, that they were continually near or close upon the Israelites, ready to seize on them; as is evident in the story. And they did perfectly believe that they should fare as well as they. And for this reason it was that God began to disturb them in their passage, that they should not overtake the people, but abide in the sea unto their ruin.

But however these and the like considerations might serve to blind their minds in some measure, that they should forget all former instances of divine severity against them in the same cause, and not discern the imminent destruction that was prepared for them, the principal cause from whence they precipitated themselves into the punishment which they had deserved was the efficacy of that blindness and hardness of heart wherewith they were plagued of God. And herein, as was said, we have the most signal example and instance of the power of unbelief, confirmed by judiciary hardness of heart, that is upon record in the whole book of God; nor doth any monument of an equal folly and blindness remain among other memorials of things done in this world. And we may observe, that,

Obs. 4. God knows how to secure impenitent sinners unto their appointed destruction, by giving them up unto hardness of heart, and an obstinate continuance in their sins, against all warnings and means of repentance. The devils are reserved for judgment under the chains of their own darkness. See Romans 1:24; Romans 1:28-29.

Obs. 5. God doth not give up any in a judiciary way unto sin, but it is a punishment for preceding sins, and as a means to bring on them total ruin and destruction.

Obs. 6. Let us not wonder that we see men in the world obstinate in foolish counsels and undertakings, tending unto their own inevitable ruin, seeing probably they are under judiciary hardness from God, Isaiah 6:9-10; Isaiah 19:11-14.

Obs. 7. There is no such blinding, hardening lust in the minds or hearts of men, as hatred of the people of God and desire of their ruin. Where this prevails, as it did in these persecuting Egyptians, it deprives men of all wisdom and understanding, that they shall do things against all rules of reason and policy, (which commonly they pretend unto,) brutishly and obstinately, though apparently tending unto their own ruin and destruction. So it was with these Egyptians; for although they designed the utter extirpation of the people, that they should be no more in the world, which they attempted in the law for the destruction of all the male children, which in one age would have totally exterminated them out of Egypt, yet now they will run themselves on imminent, universal destruction, to bring them back again into Egypt.

Obs. 8. When the oppressors of the church are nearest unto their ruin they commonly rage most, and are most obstinate in their bloody persecutions. So is it at this day among the anti-christian enemies of the church; for notwithstanding all their pride and fury, they seem to be entering into the Red Sea.

Lastly; The event of this essay or undertaking of the Egyptians, was, that they “were drowned,” they were swallowed up. The account hereof is given us so gloriously in the triumphant song of Moses, Exodus 15:0, that nothing needs to be added in its further illustration. And this destruction of the Egyptians, with the deliverance of Israel thereby, was a type and pledge of the victory and triumph which the church shall have over its antichristian adversaries, Revelation 15:2-4.

Verse 30

In this verse the apostle adds another instance of the faith of the whole congregation, in the sense before declared; for although respect no doubt be had unto the faith of Joshua in an especial manner, yet that of the whole people is expressed.

Hebrews 11:30 . Πίστει τὰ τείχη ῾Ιεριχὼ ἔπεσε , κυκλωθέντα ἐπὶ ἑπτὰ ἡμέρας .

Hebrews 11:30 . By faith the walls of Jericho fell down, after they were compassed about seven days.

The apostle in these words gives us a compendium of the history of the taking and destruction of Jericho, which is at large recorded in the sixth chapter of the Book of Joshua, with what was spoken before concerning the spies, in the second chapter. I shall not need to report the story, it is so well known. Only I shall observe some few things, wherein the faith of the people did concur unto this great work of divine Providence, when I have a little opened the words.

The thing ascribed unto their faith, is the fall of “the walls of Jericho.” The city itself was not great, as is evident, because the whole army of the Israelites did compass it seven times in one day. But most probably it was fortified and encompassed with walls of great height and strength; with which the spies sent by Moses out of the wilderness were terrified, Numbers 13:28. And in all probability the Israelites were destitute of any engines of war for the casting of them down, or making a breach in them. And because the king of the place neither endeavored to hinder the passage of the Israelites over Jordan, which was but a few miles from the city, when he knew that they designed his destruction; nor did once attempt to oppose them in the field before they sat down about the town, as did the men of Ai; it is probable that he placed his confidence in the strength of the walls and their fortifications. And it is uncertain how long it was besieged by the Israelites before God showed unto them the way of demolishing these walls; for the town was beleaguered by Joshua it may be for some good while before he had the command to compass it, Joshua 6:1. These walls, saith the apostle,” fell down.” They did so unto the very ground. This is signified in that expression, חחוֹמָה תַּחְתֶּיהָ וַתִּפֹּל , Joshua 6:20; “And the wall fell down under it.” Which, although it doth not prove that the wall sunk into the ground, as some of the Hebrews judge, (yea, that notion is inconsistent with the words whereby its fall is expressed,) yet it intimates the utter casting it down fiat on the earth, whereby the people went over it with ease into the city. And therefore this fall was not by a breach in any part of the wall, but by the dejection of the whole. For the people being round about the city when it fell, did not go from one place unto another to seek for an entrance, but “went up into the city, every one straight before him,” in the place where he was; which utterly deprived the inhabitants of all advantages of defense. Yet need not this be so far extended as that no part nor parcel of the wall was left standing, where the fall of it was not of any advantage unto the Israelites. So that part of it whereon the house of Rahab was built was left standing; for in the fall of it she and all that were with her must have been destroyed. But the fall was such as took away all defense from the inhabitants, and facilitated the entrance of the Israelites in all places at once.

This, saith the apostle, was done “after they were compassed about seven days.” “Compassed about;” that is, by the army of the Israelites marching round the town in the order described, Joshua 6:2-3, etc. And this was done “seven days.” The first command of God was to have it done six times in the space of six days, verse 3; but an especial command and direction was given for that of the seventh day, because it was then to be done seven times, verse 4. This seventh day probably was the Sabbath. And somewhat of mystery is no doubt intimated in the number of seven in this place. For there were to be seven priests going before the people, having seven trumpets of rams’horns to sound with; and the order was to be observed seven days, and on the seventh day the city was to be compassed seven times, which thing was of divine designation. The reader may, if he please, consult our discourse of the original and institution of the Sabbath, wherein these things are spoken unto. The apostle takes no notice of the compassing it seven times on the seventh day, but only of its being compassed seven days. And some things there are wherein the Israelites did manifest their faith herein.

1. It was on the command of God, and his promise of success therein, that they now entered the land of Canaan, and began their work and war with the siege of this strong town, not having by any previous fight weakened the inhabitants. Here they made the first experiment of the presence of God with them in the accomplishment of the promise made to Abraham.

2. They did so in their readiness to comply with the way prescribed unto them, of compassing the town so many days with the noise of trumpets, without the least attempt to possess themselves of it. For, without a respect by faith unto the command and promise of God, this act was so far from furthering them in their design, that it was suited to expose them to the scorn and contempt of their adversaries. For what could they think of them, but as of a company of men who desired indeed to possess themselves of their city, but knew not how to do it, or durst not undertake it? But this way was prescribed unto them of God, to give them a distinct apprehension that the work of the conquest of Canaan was his, and not theirs. For although he required of them therein to use the utmost of their courage, prudence, and diligence, yet he had taken upon himself the effecting the work itself, as if they had contributed nothing thereunto. And the compassing of the city once every day for the space of six days, and the entrance into it on the seventh, had respect unto the work of the creation. For God was now entering into his rest with respect unto his worship, in a new way of settlement and solemnity, such as he had not erected or made use of from the beginning of the world. Hence he frequently calls it his rest, as hath been declared in the exposition on the fourth chapter, Psalms 95:11; Psalms 132:8; Psalms 132:14; Hebrews 3:11; Hebrews 4:3; Hebrews 4:11. And it was a type of the new creation, with the rest of Christ thereon, and of believers in him. Therefore would God give here a resemblance of that first work in the labor of the six days, and the reward they received on the seventh. Besides, hereby he took possession as it were of the city for himself, not intending to allow the people any share in the spoil of it; for it was wholly devoted.

3. In the triumphant shout they gave, before the walls stirred or moved. They used the sign of their downfall before the thing signified was accomplished; and triumphed by faith in the ruin of the walls, whilst they stood in their full strength.

Wherefore the apostle might justly commend their faith, which was acted against so many difficulties, in the use of unlikely means, with a constancy and persistency unto the time and event designed. For,

Obs. 1. Faith will embrace and make use of means divinely prescribed, though it be not able to discern the effective influence of them unto the end aimed at. On this consideration was Naaman induced to wash himself in the waters of Jordan for the cure of his leprosy, 2 Kings 5:13-14.

Obs. 2. Faith will cast down walls and strong towers, that lie in the way of the work of God. It is true, we have no stone walls to demolish, nor cities to destroy: but the same faith in exercise is required of us in all our concerns as was in Joshua when he entered on the conquest of Canaan; as the apostle declares, Hebrews 13:5. And there are strongholds of sin in our minds, which nothing but faith can cast to the ground.

Verse 31

Hitherto we have had the examples of men, with one woman only, in conjunction with her husband. In this verse the apostle puts a close unto his particular instances in that of one single woman, accompanied with many eminent circumstances, as we shall see.

Hebrews 11:31 . Πίστει ῾Ραὰβ ἡ πόρνη οὐ συναπώλετο τοῖς ἀπειθήσασι δεξαμένη τοὺς , κατασκόπους μετ᾿ εἰρήνης .

Hebrews 11:31 . By faith Rahab the harlot perished not with them that believed not, [or were disobedient, ] when she had received the spies with peace.

The story concerning this Rahab, her faith and works, is at large recorded in the second and sixth chapters of Joshua. What concerns the exposition of these words, and the great instance of the grace of God and efficacy of faith in them, may be comprised in some observations; as,

1. This Rahab was by nature a Gentile, an alien from the stock and covenant of Abraham. Wherefore, as her conversion unto God was an act of free grace and mercy in a peculiar manner, so it was a type and pledge of calling a church from among the Gentiles; as they all were who were converted unto God after the outward confinement of the promise unto the family of Abraham by the covenant and the token thereof.

2. She was not only a Gentile, but an Amorite; of that race and seed which in general was devoted unto utter destruction. She was therefore an instance of God’s sovereignty in dispensing with his positive laws as it seems good unto him; for of his own mere plea. sure he exempted her from the doom denounced against all those of her original and traduction.

3. She was a harlot; that is, one who for advantage exposed her person in fornication. For what the Jews say, that זוֹנָה signifies also a “victualler,” or one that kept a house for public entertainment, they can prove by no instance in the Scripture, the word being constantly used for a harlot; and she being twice in the New Testament, where she is highly commended, called expressly πόρνη , which is capable of no such signification, it must be granted that she was a harlot, though, it may be, not one that did commonly and promiscuously expose herself: הַאָֹּנה “nobile scortum.” But that also she kept a public house of entertainment is evident from the spies going thither; which they did as into such a house, and not as into a mere stew. And herein have we a blessed instance both of the sovereignty of God’s grace and of its power; of its freedom and sovereignty, in the calling and conversion of a person given up by her own choice to the vilest of sins; and of its power, in the conversion of one engaged in the serving of that lust, and the habitual course of that kind of sin, which of all others is the most effectual in detaining persons under its power. But nothing, no person, no sin, is to be despaired of, in whose cure sovereign, almighty grace is engaged, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11.

4. She was converted unto God before the coming of the spies unto her, by what she had heard of him, his mighty works and his peculiar owning of the people of Israel. For God had ordained and designed that the report of these things should be an effectual ordinance, as to terrify obstinate unbelievers, so to call others to repentance and to conversion from their idols; unto which end, no doubt, it was effectual on others as well as on Rahab, as it was on the Gibeonites in general. For he declares that he did, and would do, such things to make his power known and his name exalted, that others might know that he alone was God, and that by grace he had taken Israel to be his people. Hence those who perished are said to be unbelievers: “She perished not with them that believed not,” or “who were disobedient.” For they had a sufficient revelation of God and his will to render their faith and obedience necessary, as we shall see in the account that Rahab gives of herself; the things whereof were known to them as well as unto her, and that by the same means. And had they believed and repented, they might have been saved. For although this, as unto the event, could not be with respect unto entire nations (although their lives also might have been spared, had they, according to their duty, sought peace with Israel on God’s terms), yet multitudes of individuals might have been saved who perished in their unbelief. Wherefore, although their destruction was just, upon the account of their former sins and provocations, yet the next cause why they were not spared was their unbelief. And therefore are they so described here by the apostle, “Those who believed not.” And their destruction is ascribed unto the hardening of their hearts, so as that they should not make peace with Israel, Joshua 11:19-20. Wherefore,

Obs. 1. Although unbelief be not the only destroying sin (for the wages of every sin is death, and many are accompanied with peculiar provocations), yet it is the only sin which makes eternal destruction inevitable and remediless. And,

Obs. 2. Where there are means granted of the revelation of God and his will, it is unbelief that is the greatest and most provoking sin, and from whence God is glorified in his severest judgments. Therefore the apostle, mentioning the destruction of the Canaanites, passeth by their other sins, and represents them as obstinate unbelievers. And,

Obs. 3. Where this revelation of the mind and will of God is most open, full, and evident, and the means of it are most express, and suited unto the communication of the knowledge of it, there is the highest aggravation of unbelief. If the inhabitants of Jericho perished in their unbelief, because they believed not on the report that was brought unto them of the mighty works of God, what will be the end of them who live and die in their unbelief under the daily, constant preaching of the gospel, the most glorious revelation of the mind and will of God for the salvation of men! Hebrews 2:3.

Obs. 4. Every thing which God designs as an ordinance to bring men unto repentance, ought to be diligently attended unto and complied withal, seeing its neglect, or of the call of God therein, shall be severely avenged. Such were his mighty works in those days; and such are his judgments in all ages.

5. Rahab, upon the first opportunity, made an excellent confession of her faith, and of the means of her conversion to God. This confession is recorded at large, Joshua 2:9-11. She avows the Lord Jehovah to be the only “God in heaven above, and in earth beneath;” wherein she renounced all the idols which before she had worshipped, verse 11. And she avows her faith in him as their God, or the God of Israel, who had taken them to be his people by promise and covenant; which in this confession she lays hold on by faith: “The LORD your God, he is God.” And she declares the means of her conversion; which was her hearing of the mighty works of God, and what he did for his people, verse 10. And she adds moreover the way and means whereby her faith was confirmed, namely, her observation of the effect which the report of these things had upon the minds and hearts of her wicked countrymen: ‘Their hearts hereon did melt, and they had no more courage left in them,’verse 11. As she had an experience of the divine power of grace in producing a contrary effect in her, namely, that of faith and obedience; so she plainly saw that there was a hand of God in that dread, terror, and fear, which fell upon her countrymen. Their hearts did melt, faint, fall down: and it is an infallible rule in all affairs, especially in war, “Qui animis cadunt, excidunt omnibus rebus bonis;” “They that fall in their hearts and spirits, fall from every thing that is good, useful, or helpful.” By the observation hereof was her faith confirmed. So, on the first occasion after her conversion, she witnessed a good confession. Hereby the rule is confirmed which we have, Romans 10:10.

Obs. 5. It is in the nature of true, real, saving faith, immediately, or at its first opportunity, to declare and protest itself in confession before men; or confession is absolutely inseparable from faith. Where men, on some light and convictions, do suppose themselves to have faith, yet through fear or shame do not come up to the ways of expressing it in confession prescribed in the Scripture, their religion is in vain. And therefore our Lord Jesus Christ, in the Gospel, doth constantly lay the same weight on confession as on believing itself, Matthew 10:33; Luke 9:26. And “the fearful,” that is, those who flee from public profession in times of danger and persecution, shall be no less assuredly excluded from the heavenly Jerusalem than unbelievers themselves, Revelation 21:8.

6. She separated herself from the cause and interest other own people among whom she lived, and joined herself unto the cause and interest of the people of God. This also is a necessary fruit of faith, and an inseparable concomitant of profession. This God called her unto, this she complied withal, and this was that which rendered all that she did, in receiving, concealing, and preserving the spies, though they came in order unto the destruction of her country and people, just and warrantable. For although men may not leave the cause and interest of their own people to join with their enemies on light grounds or reasons, since the light of nature itself manifesteth how many obligations there are on us to seek the good of our own country, yet where the persons whereof it consists are obstinate idolaters, and the cause wherein they are engaged is wicked, and in direct opposition unto God, there a universal separation from them in interest, and a conjunction with their enemies, is a duty, honorable and just, as it was in her. Wherefore, although it may seem something hard, that she, being born and living in the town, a citizen of it, and subject of the king, should studiously and industriously receive, conceal, give intelligence unto, and convey away in safety, spies that came to find out a way for the total destruction of the place; yet she, on the call and command of God, having renounced an interest in and relation unto that wicked, idolatrous, unbelieving people, whom she knew to be devoted to utter destruction, it was just and righteous in her to be assisting unto their enemies.

Obs. 6. This separation from the cause and interest of the world is required in all believers, and will accompany true faith wherever it be. I speak not of the differences that may fall out between nations, and the conjunction in counsel and action with one people against another; for in such cases we cannot desert our own country without perfidious treachery, unless warranted by such extraordinary circumstances as Rahab was under: but I intend that wicked, carnal interest of the world, and its corrupt conversation, which all believers are obliged visibly to separate themselves from, as a necessary part of their profession.

7. She showed, testified, manifested her faith by her works. She “received the spies with peace.” In these few words doth the apostle comprise the whole story of her receiving of them, her studious concealing them, the intelligence she gave them, the prudence she used, the pains she took, and the danger she underwent in the safe conveyance of them to their army; all which are at large recorded, Joshua 2:0. This work of hers is celebrated there, and also James ii., as an eminent fruit and demonstration of that faith whereby she was justified. And so it was. That it was in itself lawful, just, and good, hath been declared. For what is not so cannot be rendered so to be on any other consideration. Again, it was a work of great use and importance to the church and cause of God. For had these spies been taken and slain, it would have put a great discouragement on the whole people, and made them question whether God would be with them in their undertaking or no. And it is evident that the tidings which they carried unto Joshua and the people, from the intelligence which they had by Rahab, was a mighty encouragement unto them. For they report their discovery in her words. They said unto Joshua, “Truly the LORD hath delivered into our hands all the land; for even all the inhabitants of the country do faint because of us,” Joshua 2:24. And it was a work accompanied with the utmost hazard and danger unto herself. Had the matter been discovered, there is no doubt but that she, and all that she had, had been utterly destroyed. And all these things set a great luster upon this work, whereby she evidenced her faith and her justification thereby.

And as this instance is exceedingly apposite unto the purpose of the apostle, in arm and encourage believers against the difficulties and dangers which they were to meet withal in their profession; so it is sufficient to condemn multitudes among ourselves, who, after a long profession of the truth, are ready to tremble at the first approach of danger, and think it their wisdom to keep at a distance from them that are exposed to danger and sufferings,

8. The fruit of this faith of Rahab was, that “she perished not,” she was not destroyed. The matter of fact is declared, Joshua 6:25, “And Joshua saved Rahab the harlot alive, and her father’s household, and all that she had; and she dwelleth in Israel unto this day.” It is good, and sometimes useful, to have relation unto them that believe; as it was with the kindred and household of this Rahab. But what is added of her dwelling in Israel, plainly intimates her solemn conjunction unto the people of God in faith and worship. Yea, I am persuaded that from henceforward she was as eminent in faith and holiness as she had been before in sin and folly; for it was not for her wealth that she was afterwards married unto Salmon the son of Naasson, the prince of the tribe of Judah, Matthew 1:5, coming thereby to have the honor of a place in the genealogy of our blessed Savior, and of a type of the interest of the Gentiles in his incarnation. The Holy Ghost also, taking occasion twice to mention her in a way of commendation, and proposing her as an example of faith and obedience, gives such an approbation of her as testifies her to have been eminent and exemplary in these things.

And herewith the apostle shuts up his particular instances, proceeding unto a more general summary confirmation of the truth concerning the power and efficacy of faith, which he had undertaken to demonstrate.

Verse 32

In this verse, and unto the end of Hebrews 11:38, he sums up the remaining testimonies which he might further have insisted on in particular; with intimation that there were yet more of the like kind upon record, which he would not so much as name. But he changeth the method which he had hitherto observed. For he doth not single out his witnesses, and ascribe unto each of them distinctly that wherein the exercise of their faith did appear; but he proposeth two things to confirm in general:

1. That faith will do and effect great things of all sorts, when we are called unto them.

2. That it will also enable us to suffer the greatest, the hardest, and most terrible things, which our nature can be exposed unto. And with the instances of this latter sort he closeth his discourse, because they were most peculiarly accommodated to strengthen his especial design: this was, to animate and encourage the Hebrews unto suffering for the gospel; giving them assurance by these examples that faith would carry them victoriously through them all.

Now, whereas he handles these things distinctly, in the proof of the first, or the great things faith will do, first he names the persons in whom it did so of old, and then adds the things which they did; not distributing them particularly to each one by whom they were done, but leaving that to be gathered out of the sacred story. It was sufficient unto his purpose that they were all to be found amongst them, some performed by some of them, and some by others. And as unto the second, or the great things which faith will enable believers to undergo and suffer, which he enters upon Hebrews 11:35, he names the things that were suffered, but not the persons that suffered them; because, as I suppose, their names were not recorded in the Scripture, though the things themselves were notoriously known in the church.

And as unto the first we may observe two things:

1. That in the naming of them, Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, and Samuel, he doth not observe the order of time wherein they lived; for Barak was before Gideon, and Jephthah before Samson, and Samuel before David. 2. He doth not reckon up the things they (lid in the same order wherein he had named the persons; so as that the first thing mentioned should be ascribed unto him that was first named, and so on in order. But he useth his liberty in setting down both the names of the persons and the things ascribed unto them, an exact order and distribution of them no way belonging unto his purpose. Yea, the proposing of the persons with their names at once, and then amassing together the great and mighty fruits of their faith, gives a persuasive efficacy unto the example. Again it must be remarked, that although in the first part he reckoneth up the names of many of them who wrought these works of faith, yet he intimates that there were more of them; and therefore the things which he mentioneth cannot all of them absolutely be accommodated and applied unto the persons named, but some of them were wrought by others whose names he doth not express.

Having given this account of the scope and argument of the apostle, I shall be very brief in the exposition of the particulars.

Hebrews 11:32 . Καὶ τί ἔτι λέγω ; ᾿Επιλείψει γάρ με διηγούμενον ὁ χρόνος περὶ Γεδεὼν , Βαράκ τε , καὶ Σαμψὼν , καὶ ᾿Ιεφθάε , Δαυί>δ τε καὶ Σαμουὴλ , καὶ τῶν προφητῶν .

᾿Επιλείψει γὰρ με . Syr., זְעוּר הוּ לִי זַבְנָא דֶּאשְׁתַּעֵא “I have but a little time,” or, “there is but a little time for me that I should report:” which is another sense of the words than that in the original, although to the same purpose, it being an excuse of his furore brevity, which is not the direct meaning of the phrase. “The time would fail me,” is a usual expression with respect unto that wherein we are ready and abound, but repress it for present reasons.

Καὶ τῶν προφητῶν . Syr., וְעַל שַרְכָא דַּנְבִיֵא ; “and of the rest of the prophets;” which is naturally to be supplied, seeing David and Samuel, the persons last named, were prophets also.

Hebrews 11:32 . And what shall I more say? [what do I say more?] for the time would fail me to tell [declaring, expounding] of Gideon, and [ of ] Barak, and [ of ] Samson, and [of] Jephthah; [of] David also, and Samuel, and [of the rest of] the prophets.

The manner of expression used by the apostle is suited unto his transition from insisting on particular instances, when he might have added many more had it been convenient, unto a general summary of what remained of the same kind.

1. He puts a stay unto his own procedure by an interrogation: “And what shall I more say?” or, “Why do I further so speak?” And two things are intimated in this expression:

(1.) That he had already sufficiently attested the truth by the examples before insisted on, so as that it needed no further confirmation. Yet,

(2.) That, if need were, he had in readiness many more examples of the same kind. And,

Obs. 1. It is requisite prudence, in the confirmation of important truths, as to give them a full proof and demonstration, so not to multiply arguments and testimonies beyond what is necessary, which serves only to divert the mind from attending unto the truth itself to be confirmed.

2. He gives a reason of the resolution intimated in the preceding interrogation, such as introduceth that new way of procedure which he now designed by a compendium of the faith of others also, whom he judged necessary to mention: “For the time would fail me; that is,’it would be a work of that length, as would not be contained within the bounds which I have assigned unto this epistle;’ a usual proverbial speech on the like occasions:

“Ante diem clauso componet vesper Olympo.”

3. By a refusal of treating distinctly and separately of the persons he names, “The time would fail me treating of them;’that is, ‘if I should so declare their faith and the fruits of it in particular as I have done those beforegoing,’ he doth so name them as to bring them in as witnesses in this cause.

As unto the persons whose example he produceth in general, we must inquire into two things:

1. How it doth appear that they did the things in and by faith which are ascribed unto them.

2. How their faith and its efficacy can be an encouragement unto us, who are not called unto any such works and actions as they were engaged in

1. In answer unto the first inquiry, the things ensuing are to be considered:

(1.) They all, or most of them, had especial calls from God for and unto the works which they wrought. So had Gideon by an angel, Judges 6:0. Barak by the prophecy of Deborah, Judges 4:0; Samson by the direction of an angel unto his parents, Judges 13:0. So was it also, as is known, with Samuel and David; they had their calls immediately from God. And as for Jephthah, he was at first called and chosen by the people unto his office and work, Judges 11:11; which God approved of, in giving him his Spirit in an extraordinary manner, verse 29. Herein lay the foundation of their acting what they did in faith: They were satisfied in their call from God, and so trusted in him for his aid and assistance.

(2.) The work which they had to do was the work of God, namely, the deliverance of the church from trouble and oppression. This in general was the work of them all; for here is respect had unto all the principal deliverances of the people recorded in the Book of Judges. This work, therefore, they might with confidence, and they did, commit to God by prayer. And herein their faith wrought effectually. Yea, as unto themselves, it is with especial regard hereunto that they are said to do any thing by faith, namely, because by the prayer of faith they prevailed in what they undertook.

(3.) There was a promise annexed unto their works, when undertaken according to the mind of God; yea, many promises unto this purpose were left on record for their encouragement, Deuteronomy 32:30, etc. This promise they rested on by faith in all their undertakings. And thereon what they did effect is rightly ascribed thereunto.

(4.) Some of them, as Gideon, Barak, and David, had particular promises of success in what they were called unto. And although at first they might be slow in the believing of them, as Gideon was, who insisted on multiplied miraculous signs for the confirmation of his faith; or might be shaken in their minds as unto their accomplishment, through the dangers and difficulties which they had to conflict withal, as David was, when he said that “all men were liars,” and that he should “one day fall by the hand of Saul;” yet in the issue their faith was victorious, and they “obtained the promises,” as it is in the next verse. On these grounds they wrought all their great works in faith, whereby they engaged the presence of God with them and his assistance of them; and are therefore a meet example to be proposed for our encouragement.

2. But whereas the things which they performed, for the most part, were heroic actions of valor, courage, and strength, in war and battle, such as Christians, as Christians, are not called unto, what can we gather, from what they were and did, as unto those things and duties which our faith is called unto, that are quite of another nature? But there are sundry things in their example that tend unto our encouragement; as,

(1.) Whatever their faith was exercised in, yet they were men subject to like passions and infirmities with ourselves. This consideration the apostle James makes use of to stir us up unto prayer, by the example of Elias, whose prayers had a miraculous effect, Hebrews 11:16-18. Having assured us that “effectual fervent prayer availeth much,” he confirms it with the example of the prayer of Elias, who by his prayer shut and opened heaven as to rain. And whereas it might be objected, that we are neither like Elias, nor are our prayers like his, he prevents it, by affirming that “he was a man subject unto like passions as we are.” It was not on the account of his person, or the merit of the works which he performed, that his prayer had such success, but of the grace of God in blessing his own institution. And if we apply ourselves unto the same duty, as unto the things that we are called unto, we shall have the same success by the same grace that he had. And so is it with respect unto the faith of these worthies. Its success depended on God’s ordinance and grace; for they were men subject to the like passions as we are.

(2.) The faith whereby they wrought these great things, was the same, of the same nature and kind, with that which is in every true believer. Wherefore, as it was effectual in them as unto those things and duties whereunto they were called, it will be so in us also, as unto all that we are or may be called unto.

(3.) Whereas their faith was exercised in conflicting with and conquering the enemies of the church, we also are engaged in a warfare wherein we have no less powerful adversaries to contend ‘withal than they had, though of another kind. To destroy the kingdom of Satan in us, to demolish all his strongholds, to overcome the world in all its attempts on our eternal safety, will appear one day not to be inferior unto the conquest of kingdoms, and the overthrow of armies. See Ephesians 6:10-12, etc.

(4.) Most of the persons mentioned did themselves fall into such sins and miscarriages, as to manifest that they stood in need of pardoning grace and mercy as well as we; and that therefore our faith may be effectual, on the account thereof, as well as theirs. Gideon’s making of the ephod out of the spoils of the Midianites cannot be excused, and is condemned by the Holy Ghost, Judges 8:27. Jephthah’s rash vow, and, as is supposed, more rash accomplishment of it, enrolls him among sinners, Judges 11:0. Samson’s taking a wife of the Philistines, then keeping company with a harlot, were sins of a high provocation; not to mention the killing of himself at the close of all, for which he seems to have had a divine warranty. And it is known what great sins David himself fell into. And we may learn hence,

Obs. 2. That it is not the dignity of the person that gives efficacy unto faith, but it is faith that makes the person accepted.

Obs. 3. That neither the guilt of sin nor the sense of it should hinder us from acting faith on God in Christ, when we are called thereunto.

Obs. 4. That true faith will save great sinners. For that they were all saved who are on this catalogue of believers, the apostle expressly affirms, verse 30.

That which we are taught in the whole is, that

Obs. 5. There is nothing so great or difficult, or seemingly insuperable, no discouragement so great from a sense of our own unworthiness by sin, nor opposition arising against us from both of them in conjunction, that should hinder us from believing, and the exercise of faith in all things, when we are called thereunto. The truth is, the first call of men to believe, is when they are under the greatest sense of sin; and some of them, it may be, of sins great and heinous, as it was with them who were accessory to the murder of Christ himself, Acts 2:0: and our call is, to believe things more great and excellent than the conquest of earthly kingdoms.

Verse 33

From the enumeration of the persons that believed, the apostle proceeds to declare the things which they wrought by faith; all unto the same end, to encourage us to make use of the same grace in all our occasions. And four instances he giveth in this verse.

Hebrews 11:33 . Οἵ διὰ πίστεως κατηγωνίσαντο Βασιλείας , εἰργάσαντο δικαιοσύνην , ἐπέτυχον ἐπαγγελιῶν , ἔφραξαν στόματα λεόντων .

Διὰ πίστεως , “through faith:” the same with πίστει all along in the chapter absolutely, an instrumental cause. The words are of common use, and there is no difference in the translation of them.

Hebrews 11:33 . Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions.

The persons unto whom these things are ascribed are included in the article οἵ and it refers not only unto those named, but unto others also whose faith in these things is recorded in the Scripture. For adding, in the close of his enumeration of names, “and the prophets,” he intimates that he intends them all.

1. The first thing ascribed unto them is, that they “subdued kingdoms.” ᾿Αγωνίζομαι , is to “fight,” to “contend,” to enter into trial of strength and courage in the theater or field; and thence αταγωνίζομαι , the word here used, is to “prevail in battle,” to conquer, to subdue.

“They subdued kingdoms.” This is generally and rightly assigned unto Joshua and David. Joshua subdued all the kingdoms in Canaan; and David all those about it, as Moab, Ammon, Edom, Syria, and the Philistines.

But it may be inquired, how this conquering of kingdoms should be esteemed a fruit and effect of faith; for the most of them who have subdued kingdoms in the world, have not only been unbelievers, but for the most part wicked and bloody tyrants. Such have they all been by whom the great monarchies of the world have been raised out of the ruins of other lesser kingdoms.

I say, therefore, that the kingdoms subdued by faith were of two sorts:

(1.) Those within the land of Canaan, which were destroyed by Joshua. And these had all, by their sins and wickedness, forfeited their land and lives unto divine justice, God having given the country unto the Israelites. Wherefore, in the conquest of them, they did only execute the judgments of God, and take possession of that which was their own.

(2.) Such as were about that land, which was the inheritance and possession of the church, and were enemies unto it upon the account of the worship of the true God. Such were those conquered by David. Now, it was the will of God that they should be so far subdued, as that the land might be a quiet habitation unto his people.

Wherefore “through faith” they subdued these kingdoms; in that they did it,

(1.) On God’s command. It was the will and command of God that they should so subdue them.

(2.) In the accomplishment of his promises; for he had given them all those kingdoms by promise before they were subdued. A due respect unto this command and promise made what they did a fruit of faith.

(3.) The persons destroyed by them were devoted to destruction for their own sins; the people did only execute the righteous judgment of God upon them, so as what they did was for the good of the church. So it was on just causes.

(4.) This subduing of kingdoms was an act of faith, in that it was typical of the victory of Christ over the kingdom of the devil and all the powers of darkness, in the redemption of the church. Hence both Joshua and David were especial types of him.

We may yet further observe, that although it was through faith that they subdued kingdoms, yet in the doing of it they made use of all heroical virtues, such as courage, valor, military skill, and the like. Never, doubtless, were there on the earth more valiant men than Joshua and David were, nor who underwent greater hardship and danger in war For these things are consistent, yea, mutually helpful unto one another. For as faith will excite all graces and virtues that are useful in and unto any work that men are called unto, as these were unto war and the subduing of kingdoms; so they are subservient unto faith in what it is called unto. Hence God took order in the law, that those who were fearful and faint-hearted should be discharged from engaging in this work of subduing kingdoms. Now, although we are not called unto this work, yet we may hence conclude, that if there be any kingdoms on the earth that stand in the way of faith and the accomplishment of divine promises, faith will yet have the same effect, and at one time or another, by one means or another, subdue them all.

2. The second thing ascribed unto these worthies is, that through faith they “wrought righteousness.” There is a threefold exposition of these words, with respect unto a threefold state of life and a threefold righteousness, namely, military, moral, and political.

(1.) In the first way, to work righteousness is as much as to execute judgment, namely, the judgment of God on the enemies of the church. But the phrase of speech will scarcely bear this interpretation, nor is it anywhere used unto this purpose. But if this be the meaning of the word, it is fully declared, Psalms 149:6-9: “Let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a two-edged sword in their hand; to execute vengeance upon the heathen, and punishments upon the people; to bind their kings with chains, and their nobles with fetters of iron; to execute upon them the judgment written: this honor have all his saints. Praise ye the LORD.”

(2.) In a moral sense it compriseth a respect unto all the duties of the second table. And so ἐργάζεσθαι δικαιοσύνην is the same with ποιεῖν δικαιοσύνην , 1 John 3:7, to “do righteousness;” that is, “denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, to live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world,” as Titus 2:12. And this also is a fruit of faith. Men may do actions that are good, righteous and just in themselves, as many did among the heathen; but universal righteousness, from right principles, and with right ends, is a fruit of faith alone. But whereas this is in its measure common unto all believers, it doth not seem to be that which in a peculiar manner is ascribed unto these worthies.

(3.) To work righteousness in a political sense, is to be righteous in rule and government, to administer justice and judgment unto all that are under their rule. Now the persons mentioned expressly being all of them rulers or judges, and this righteousness being o£ such eminent use unto the church and to the world, it is likely to be that which is here ascribed unto them. An account hereof David gives in himself, Psalms 101:0 throughout; who is therefore here intended. As is Samuel also, whose working of righteousness in this kind is recorded, 1 Samuel 7:15-17. And a fruit of faith it is for rulers and judges thus to work righteousness, considering the manifold temptations they have unto partiality, by bribes and acceptation of persons; as also the opposition which they shall be sure to meet withal in many instances of their duty. And it is the want of faith that is the cause of all the injustice and oppression that are in the world.

3. It is said of them, that they “obtained promises.” Sundry expositors have taken pains to reconcile this with what is said Hebrews 11:39, as though “they obtained promises,” and “they received not the promise,” were contradictory. But they make a difficulty themselves where there is none; which when they have done, they cannot easily solve. For ἐπέτυχον ἐπαγγελιῶν , “they obtained promises,” namely, the things which were peculiarly promised unto them in their occasions, may well consist with οὐκ ἐκομίσαντο τὴν ἐπαγγελίαν , “they received not that” great “promise” of the coming of Christ in the flesh, namely, in the actual accomplishment of it, Wherefore the promises here intended, which by faith they obtained, were such as were made particularly unto themselves; as unto Joshua, that he should conquer Canaan; unto Gideon, that he should defeat the Midianites; and unto David, that he should be king of all Israel.

And they are said to “obtain” these promises, because of the difficulty that was in their accomplishment, yea, and sometimes a seeming impossibility. How often was the faith of Joshua tried in the conquest of Canaan! yet at length he “obtained the promise.” Gideon was put on a great improbability, when he was commanded with three hundred men to attempt and set upon an innumerable host; and yet he “obtained the promise,” in their destruction. And it is known how long and by what various ways the faith of David was tried and exercised, before the promise made to him was fulfilled.

Obs. 1. There is nothing that can lie in the way of the accomplishment of any of God’s purposes, but it is conquerable by faith. Or, whatever difficulties any one may have to conflict withal in the discharge of his duty, if he abide in faith, he shall in the issue obtain the promises; that is, the things promised which he doth believe.

4. It is ascribed unto them, that they “stopped the mouths of lions.” Stopping the mouths of lions, may intend the preventing them from destroying and devouring, by any means whatever. It is with their mouths that they devour, and he that hinders them from devouring may well be said to stop their mouths. In this sense it may be ascribed unto Samson, who, when a young lion roared against him in an approach to devour him, stopped his mouth by rending him to pieces, Judges 14:5-6. In like manner David stopped the mouth of a lion, when he slew him, 1 Samuel 17:34-35. But if the word be to be taken in its proper signification, to put a bridle or stop to the mouth of a lion, so as he shall neither hurt nor devour though he be kept alive and at liberty, then it is applied unto Daniel only; for so it is said of him expressly, when he was cast into the den of lions, that God had sent his angel and shut the lions’mouths, that they did not hurt him. He “stopped the months of lions,” Daniel 6:22. And he did it by faith; for although the ministry of angels was used therein, yet it was done “because he believed in his God,” verse 23. And,

Obs. 2. That faith that hath thus stopped the mouths of lions, can restrain, disappoint, and stop the rage of the most savage oppressors and persecutors of the church.

Verses 34-35

῎Εσβεσαν δύναμιν πυρὸς , ἔφυγον στόματα μαχαίρας , ἐνεδυναμώθησαν ἀπὸ ἀσθενείας , ἐγενη . θησαν ἰσχυροὶ ἐν πολέμῳ , παρεμβολὰς ἔκλιναν ἀλλοτρίων· ἔλαβον γυναῖκες ἐξ ἀναστάσεως τοὺς νεκροὺς αὐτῶν .

Hebrews 11:34-35 . Quenched the violence [the power] of fire; escaped [fled from] the edge [edges] of the sword; out of weakness were made strong; waxed [were made] valiant [powerful, strong] in fight; turned to flight the armies of the aliens, [or, overthrew the tents or camps of the aliens.] Women received their dead [by a resurrection] raised to life again.

Six more instances of the power of faith are added unto those foregoing; and these taken from things of all sorts, to let us know that there is nothing of any kind whatever, wherein we may be concerned, but that faith will be useful and helpful in it.

1. The first instance is, that they “quenched the violence of fire.” He doth not say they quenched the fire, which may be done by natural means; but they took off, abated, restrained the power of fire, as if the fire itself had been utterly quenched. This, therefore, belongs unto the three companions of Daniel, who were cast into “the burning fiery furnace,” Daniel 3:23. The fire continued still, and had its burning power in it, for it slew the men that cast them into the furnace; but by faith they “quenched” or restrained the power and violence of it towards themselves, so as that “not an hair of their head was singed,” Hebrews 11:27.

And the faith of these men was considerable, in that it did not, consist in an assurance that they should be so miraculously delivered, but only in committing themselves unto the omnipotency and sovereignty of God in the discharge of their duty; as it is declared, Hebrews 11:16-18. A resolution to perform their duty, whatever was the event, committing the disposal of themselves unto the sovereignty of God, with a full persuasion of his power to do whatever he pleased, and that he would do whatever was for his own glory, was the faith whereby they “quenched the violence of fire.” And, As this faith is imitable in us (for though a miracle ensued on it, yet was it not the faith of miracles), so it will never fail of those blessed effects which tend unto the glory of God and good of the church.

2. They “escaped the edge of the sword; the edges of it, swords with two edges. In the Greek it is, “the mouths of the sword;” from the Hebrew, פִּי חֶרֶב : and a two-edged sword they call “a sword of mouths;” as in the Greek μάχαιρα δίστομος , Hebrews 4:12. “They escaped:” Vulg. Lat., “effugaverunt,” by an escape, for “effugerunt.” The way of their escape from death, when in danger of it by the sword, is intimated, namely, by flight from the danger; wherein God was present with them for their deliverance and preservation. So was it frequently with David when he fled from the sword of Saul, which was at his throat several times, and he escaped by flight; wherein God was with him. So did Elijah, when he was threatened to be slain by Jezebel, 1 Kings 19:3.

Now, this should seem rather to be the effect of fear than of faith; however, it had good success. But,

Obs. 1. It is the wisdom and duty of faith to apply itself unto all lawful ways and means of deliverance from danger. Not to use means, when God affords them unto us, is not to trust in him, but to tempt him. Fear will be in all cases of danger, and yet faith may have the principal conduct of the soul. And a victory is sometimes obtained by flight.

3. Some of them “out of weakness were made strong.” ᾿Ασθενεία is any kind of weakness or infirmity, moral or corporeal. In each of these senses it is used in the Scripture; to be without or to want strength in any kind. Frequently it is applied to bodily distempers, Luke 13:11-12; John 5:5; John 11:4; Acts 28:9. And so it is here used. For the conjecture of Chrysostom and others of the Greek scholiasts, that respect is had herein unto the Jews in the Babylonish captivity, who were weakened therein, and afterwards restored unto strength and power, hath no probability in it. They are the words in Isaiah that the apostle doth almost express: “The writing of Hezekiah king of Judah, when he had been sick, and was recovered of his sickness,” Isaiah 38:9. For this was through faith, as is evident in the story, and was in part miraculous.

Obs. 2. We ought to exercise faith about temporal mercies; as they are ofttimes received by it, and given in on the account of it. In the miraculous cure of many diseases by our Savior himself, there was a concurrence of the faith of them that were healed: “Thy faith hath made thee whole.”

4. Some of them through faith “waxed,” were made “valiant,” strong “in fight,” or battle. As this may be applied unto many of them, as Joshua, Barak, Gideon, Jephthah, so David affirms of himself, that “God taught his hands to war, so as that a bow of steel was broken by his arms;” and, that “he did gird him with strength unto battle,” Psalms 18:34; Psalms 18:39; the same thing which is here affirmed.

5. Of the same kind is that which followeth: they “turned to flight the armies of the aliens.” Erasmus renders these words, “incursiones averterunt exterorum,” they “turned away the incursions of the aliens;” mistaking both the words, as many have observed. Παρεμβολαὶ are the “camps,” the fortified tents of an army: but the word is used for an army itself; as Genesis 32:7; 1 Samuel 4:16; a host encamped, like that of the Midianites when Gideon went down unto it, Judges 7:10. And his overthrow of that host is here principally intended; for so it was signified in the dream, that the tents should be smitten and overturned, verse 13. But because the apostle useth the word in the plural number, it compriseth other enterprises of the like nature, as that of Barak, and of Jonathan against the Philistines, with the victories of Asa and Jehoshaphat; in all which there was an eminent exercise of faith, as the stories of them declare. And these “aliens” were those whom the Scripture calls זָריִם ; that is, not only “foreigners,” but “strangers” from and “enemies” unto the church of God. And where this defense against foreign invasions is neglected, there can be no assured ground of security or deliverance, whatever the success may be.

6. It is added, “Women received their dead raised to life again.” These women were the widow of Zarephath, whose son Elijah raised from death, 1 Kings 17:22-24; and the Shunammite, whose son was raised by Elisha, 2 Kings 4:36. And it is said of them, that they received their children from the dead; for in both places the prophets, having raised them from the dead, gave them into their mothers’arms; who received them with joy and thankfulness. Their faith is not expressed; but respect is rather had unto the faith of the prophets, who obtained this miraculous operation by faith. However, at least one of them, namely, the Shunammite, seems to have exercised much faith in the whole matter. And it is said, “they received their dead,” their children which had been dead, ἐξ ἀναστάσεως , “out of” or “by a resurrection.”

These ten instances did the apostle choose out to give of the great things that had been done through faith, to assure the Hebrews, and us with them, that there is’nothing too hard or difficult for faith to effect, when it is set on work and applied according to the mind of God.

Verses 35-37

He proceeds in the next place unto instances quite of another nature, and which were more immediately suited unto the condition of the Hebrews. For hearing of these great and glorious things, they might be apt to think that they were not so immediately concerned in them; for their condition was poor, persecuted, exposed to all evils, and death itself, for the profession of the gospel. Their interest, therefore, was to inquire, what help, what relief from faith, they might expect in that condition. What will faith do where men are to be oppressed, persecuted, and slain? Wherefore the apostle, applying himself directly unto their condition, with what they suffered and further feared on the account of their profession of the gospel, produceth a multitude of examples, as so many testimonies unto the power of faith in safeguarding and preserving the souls of believers, under the greatest sufferings that human nature can be exposed unto. And sundry things lie plain in this discourse of the apostle:

1. That he would not hide from these believers what they might meet withal and undergo in and for their profession, lie lets them know that many of them who went before them in the same cause, underwent all manner of miseries on the account thereof. Therefore ought not they to think it “a strange thing” if they also should be called unto the like trials and sufferings. Our Lord Jesus Christ dealt openly and plainly in this matter; he hid nothing of what was likely to befall them whom he called to be his disciples, but professed directly that he would admit of them on no other terms to be his disciples, but that they denied themselves and took up the cross, or engaged to undergo all sorts of sufferings for his sake and the gospel’s. He deceiveth none with fair promises of things in this world; nor ought we to be surprised, nor ought we to complain, of any thing that may befall us in our following him; no, not of a “fiery trial,” 1 Peter 4:12; 1 Peter 5:9. So the apostle here, having given instances of the great and glorious things that have been done even in this world by faith, that those Hebrews might not expect that they should also be called to enjoy the like successes and victories, because they had the same spirit of faith with them who did so, he minds them of those who were called to exercise their faith in the greatest miseries that could be undergone.

2. That all the evils here enumerated did befall the persons intended on the account of their faith, and the profession thereof. He doth not present them with a company of miserable, distressed creatures, that fell into that state through their own default, or merely on the account of a common providence disposing their lot in this world into such a state of misery, as it is with many; but all the things mentioned they underwent merely and solely on the account of their faith in God, and the profession of true religion: so as that their case differed in nothing from that which they might be called unto. And from both these we may learn,

Obs. 1. That it belongs unto the sovereign pleasure of God, to dispose of the outward state and condition of the church as unto its seasons of prosperity and persecution. As also,

Obs. 2. That those whose lot falleth in the times of greatest distress or sufferings are no less accepted with him than those who enjoy the highest terrene felicity and success.

3. There is as much glory, unto a spiritual eye, in the catalogue of the effects of faith that follows, as in that which went before. The church is no less beautiful and glorious when encompassed and seemingly overwhelmed with all the evils and dreadful miseries here recounted, than when it is in the greatest peace and prosperity. To look, indeed, only on the outside of them, gives a terrible, undesirable prospect. But to see faith and love to God working effectually under them all, to see comforts retained, yea consolations to abound, holiness promoted, God glorified, the world condemned, the souls of men profited, and at length triumphant over all; this is beautiful and glorious.

4. That to do the greatest things, and to suffer the hardest, is all one to faith. It is equally ready for both, as God shall call; and equally effectual in both. These things, unto the flesh, differ next to heaven and hell: they are both alike to faith, when duty calls.

5. That the evils here enumerated are of such various sorts and kinds, as to comprise every thing that may befall believers on the account of their profession: temptation, scorn, mockings, scourgings, bonds, imprisonments, troubles of poverty, fears, and dangers; and those of long continuance, with death itself by all sorts of tortures and extremities. It is impossible that any believer can be called to suffer any thing, in any kind whatever, for the profession of the gospel, but that he may find an instance of it in the sufferings of these martyrs. And it is an encouragement in the greatest distresses, to remember that others in the same cause have undergone them, and been carried victoriously through them. There is good use to be made of the records of the sufferings of the primitive Christians under their pagan oppressors, and of believers of late ages under the power of antichrist.

6. It may be observed, that as the apostle obliged not himself unto the order of time in naming the foregoing witnesses, so here he useth his own liberty in representing these sufferings of the church, without respect unto any method of coherence between the things themselves, or order of time as to the seasons wherein they fell out. Hence, in the midst of his account of the various sorts of death which they underwent, he interposeth that they were “tempted:” Hebrews 11:37, “They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword.” This hath given occasion to many to question whether the word “tempted” do indeed belong unto the text, or whether it is not a mistake in the copies, for a word of almost an alike sound, but quite of another signification, namely, they were “burned; but without cause; for it is evident that the apostle obligeth himself unto no such order as that things of the same nature should be placed together, without the interposition of any thing else. And we shall see there was occasion to interpose that expression, “They were tempted,” in the place where it is put by the apostle.

7. It may also be observed, that the apostle takes most of these instances, if not all of them, from the time of the persecution of the church under Antiochus, the king of Syria, in the days of the Maccabees. And we may consider, concerning this season,

(1.) That it was after the closing of the canon of the Scripture, or putting of the last hand unto writings by divine inspiration under the old testament. Wherefore, though the apostle represented these things from the notoriety of fact, then fresh in memory, and, it may be, from some books then written of those things, like the books of the Maccabees, yet remaining; yet as they are delivered out unto the church by him, they proceeded from divine inspiration.

(2.) That in those days wherein these things fell out there was no extraordinary prophet in the church. Prophecy, as the Jews confess, ceased under the second temple. And this makes it evident that the rule of the word, and the ordinary ministry of the church, are sufficient to maintain believers in their duty against all oppositions whatever.

(3.) That this last persecution of the church under the old testament, by Antiochus, was typical of the last persecution of the Christian church under Antichrist, as is evident unto all that compare the prophecy of Daniel, Daniel 8:9-14; Daniel 8:23-25; Daniel 11:36-39, with that of the Revelation in sundry places. And indeed the Martyrologies of those who have suffered under the Roman Antichrist are a better exposition of this context than any that can be given in words.

Hebrews 11:35 . ῎Αλλοι δὲ ἐτυγπανι . σθησαν , οὐ προσδεξάμενοι τὴν ἀπολύτρωσιν ἵνα κρείττονος ἀναστάσεως τύχωσιν .

᾿Ετυμπανίσθησαν . Syr., בְּשֶׁנְדֵא מִיתוּ , “they died with torments.” Vulg. Lat., “districti sunt;” Rhem., “were racked,” stretched out; respecting that kind of torture wherein they were stretched on a wheel, as a skin is on the head of a drum. So Beza and Erasmus. We use a more general word, “were tortured.”

Οὐ προσδεξάμενοι τὴν ἀπολύτρωσιν . Syr., וְלָא סַכִיו לְמֶתְפָצָיוּ . Trem., “neque intenti expectarunt ut liberentur.” Others render it by “non speraverunt.” “They looked not earnestly after deliverance,” “they hoped not for it;” that is, they regarded it not. Vulg.,” non suseipientes redemptionem.” “Not accepting redemption;” that is, deliverance: “liberationem.”

῞Ινα κρείττονος ἀναστάσεως τύχωσιν . Syr., דָּקְיָמְתָא מְיַתַיְתָא תֶּהְוֵא לְהוּן “that there might he to them a more excellent resurrection.” Vulg., “ut meliorem invenirent resurrectionem.” Rhem., “that they might find a better resurrection.” “Invenio” is ofttimes used for “to attain,” or “obtain.” Others, “ut consequerentur,” “naneiscerentur,” “that they might obtain.”

Hebrews 11:35 . Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection.

The apostle passeth unto the second sort of them in whom faith exerted its power and efficacy in their sufferings. These he saith were “others;” persons of another sort, that were called unto other duties than those before mentioned. And this distinction is further signified by the particle δέ , “but;” ‘others there were.’

Three things he mentions of them in this first instance:

1. What they suffered.

2. How they acted faith in their sufferings.

3. On what grounds they did it.

1. For the first, he affirms that they were “tortured.” The word here used, ἐτυμπανίσθησαν , hath been by critics and others so coursed through all sorts of authors, that there needs no further search after it. The substance of their discoveries is, that τύμπανον , “tympanum,” whence the word is framed, doth signify either an engine whereon those who were tortured were stretched out, as a skin is stretched on the head of a drum; or the instruments which were used in the striking and beating them who were fastened unto that engine, like those who have their bones broken on a wheel. So some render the word by “fustibus multati, contusi, caesi.” But whereas the word is frequently used to signify “taking away the lives of men by any kind of torture or tormenting pain,” the precise notation of it from its original is not here much to be regarded. We have therefore rendered it, and that properly in general, “were tortured; that is, unto death.

There is no doubt but the apostle hath respect herein unto the story that is recorded in the sixth and seventh chapters of the Second Book of the Maccabees. For the words are a summary of the things and sayings there ascribed unto Eleazar, who was beaten to death, when he had been persuaded and allured to accept deliverance by transgressing the law. And the like respect may be had unto the mother and her seven sons, whose story and torments are there also recorded.

And this is the height of what the old murderer could rise and attain unto. He began with a sudden death, by violence and blood. But when he had got advantages, he was not contented therewith. He would have the servants of the living God to die by all sorts of tortures. This was his hell, a hell of his making. But he could never put the displeasure of God into it, nor make it of any continuance. Divine wrath, and perpetuity under it, are his own portion. But that which is most marvelous herein is, that he should get amongst men such as should execute his infernal rage and malice. There was never any greater instance of the degeneracy of human nature unto the image and likeness of the devil than this, that so many of them have been found, and that in high places of power; emperors, kings, judges, and priests, who were not satisfied to take away the lives of the true worshippers of God by the sword, or by such other ways as they slew the worst of malefactors, but invented all kinds of hellish tortures whereby to destroy them. For although the crafts of Satan were open and evident herein, who designed by these ways to get time and advantage for his temptations to draw them off from the profession of the faith, which he could not have had in a speedy execution, yet is it astonishable that the nature of man should be capable of so much villany and inhumanity.

But this also hath God seen good to permit, in that patience whereby he endures with much long-suffering “the vessels of wrath, that are fitted for destruction.” And he doth it for many blessed ends of his own glory and the eternal salvation of his church, not here to be insisted on.

“They were tortured.” This is the utmost that the devil and the world can reach unto, all the hell he hath to threaten his enemies withal. But when he hath done his utmost it falls only on the body, it cannot reach the soul; it is but of a short continuance, and gives assurance of an entrance into a blessed eternity. It can shut out no divine consolation from the minds of them that suffer; a little “precious faith” will carry believers victoriously through the worst of all.

The work of faith with respect unto these tortures, which are the utmost trials of it, may be reduced unto these heads:

(1.) A steady view of that promised eternal glory which they are on an entrance into, 2 Corinthians 4:17-18.

(2.) A due comparing of present sufferings with the eternal miseries of the damned in hell, Matthew 10:28.

(3.) .4 firm persuasion that these things shall make no separation between God and them, Romans 8:35-39.

(4.) A derivation of present help, strength, and consolation from God, by mixing itself with his promises.

(5.) By a due consideration of the presence of Christ With us, and his concernment in our sufferings. And sundry other ways there are of the like nature whereby faith acts itself, and is victorious under tortures; that none of us may tremble at the thought of Smithfield flames.

2. The way whereby those who were tortured did evidence their faith, was, that they “accepted no deliverance;” that is, freedom from their tortures, which was offered them in case they would forego their profession. This is expressly affirmed of Eleazar and the seven brethren. Yea, they were not only offered to be freed from tortures and death, but to have great rewards and promotions: which they generously refused. And it was not thus only with them, but it hath been so always with all that have been tortured for religion. For the principal design of the devil in bringing them unto tortures, is not to slay their bodies thereby; though that he aims at in the next place, in case his first design fail, which is to destroy their souls. And therefore we find in all ages, especially in the primitive times of Christianity, that when the cruel persecutors brought any unto tortures, after they began with them they still gave them a space and respite, wherein they dealt with them by fair means and entreaties, as well as threatening further torments, to renounce their profession. And with some they prevailed; but those who were steadfast in the faith refused to accept of deliverance on such terms. The story of Blandina, a virgin and a servant, in the excellent Epistle of the Churches of Vienne and Lyons, about their persecution, is worth the perusal of all good Christians.

Now, that which those persons intended suffered these tortures for, and from which they would not accept of deliverance, was only because they would not eat swine’s flesh. And unto Eleazar it was offered, that he should “bring flesh of his own providing” unto the place where he was to eat, and only make an appearance that he had eaten swine’s flesh; which he refused, 2Ma 6:21 . It may be this would by some be esteemed a small matter, and such as by the refusal whereof wise men ought not to have undergone martyrdom by tortures. But the things which are commanded or forbidden of God are not to be esteemed by the matter of them, or what they are-in themselves, but by the authority of him that commands or forbids them. And this is the same in the least as well as in the greatest things in religion. The authority of God may be despised in small things as well as in great. And therefore God doth ordinarily choose out arbitrary institutions to be the trial and touchstone of the faith of the church. So the martyrs here in England died on the account of the sacrament of the Lord’s supper. And if we begin at any time to suppose, that, to save our lives, we may comply with some lesser things (such as bowing in the house of Rimmon) that God hath forbidden, both faith and profession are lost. We know not what command, what ordinance, what institution, what prohibition, God will single out to be the means and subject of our trial as unto sufferings. If we are not equally ready to suffer for every one, we shall suffer for none at all. See James 2:10.

3. The ground of their steadfastness in their profession and under their tortures, was, “That they might obtain a better resurrection.” So one of the brethren in the Maccabees, chapter 7:9, affirmed expressly that he endured those torments, and death itself, in that he believed that God would raise him up at the last day. This, as the Syriac hath it, they were “intent upon.”

And this the apostle calls “a better resurrection,” not only in opposition unto the deliverance which they refused, a resurrection that was better than that deliverance, but because he intends that better resurrection which is to life, seeing all shall rise again, but some to life, and some to everlasting torments.

Now, this faith of the resurrection of the dead is the topstone of the whole structure, system, and building in religion; that which states eternal rewards and punishments, and gives life unto our obedience and suffering. For without it, as the apostle testifies, “we are of all men the most miserable.” This, therefore, is that which their minds were fixed on under all their tortures, and wherewith they supported themselves, namely, that after all this they should have a blessed resurrection. See Philippians 3:10-11.

Schlichtingius on this place acknowledgeth, that believers under the old testament had hopes of a blessed resurrection, but not by virtue of any promise of God, only they gathered it up out of some considerations of his goodness, and of his being a rewarder of them that seek him; a vain, foolish opinion, striking at the very foundation of all religion, laying the ground of faith in the conjectures of men, and not on the veracity and faithfulness of God. But,

Obs . Sufferings will stir us up unto the exercise of faith on the most difficult objects of it, and bring in the comforts of them into our souls. Faith of the resurrection hath been always most eminent in prisons and under tortures, Hebrews 11:36. In the next place we have the example of them who suffered also, but not by tortures, nor unto death, yet in such ways as were a great trial of their faith.

Hebrews 11:36 . ῞Ετεροι δὲ ἐμπαιγμῶν καὶ μαστίγων πεῖραν ἔλαβον , ἕτι δὲ δεσμῶν καὶ φυλακῆς .

The Syriac makes here two distinct sorts, repeating אחֲרָנֵא , “alii,” “others,” after πεῖραν ἔλαβον : as in the next verse it repeats the same word four times, which is not once in the original. Πεῖραν ἔλαβον it renders by עלוּ , “they exposed themselves to mocking and stripes.”

Hebrews 11:36 . Others had trial of [had experience of, or were tried by,] [cruel] mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment.

1. Those spoken of are said to be ἕτεροι , not merely ἄλλοι ; not only “others,” but “of another sort,” namely, such as suffered through faith, but not by tortures, nor unto death. And the exceptive particle δέ intimates the introduction of another kind of sufferings.

2. It is of no use to fix the particulars mentioned unto certain determinate persons, as Jeremiah or others; for seeing the apostle hath left that undetermined, so may we do also. Certain it is, that there were in those days believers who, through faith, patiently and victoriously underwent these things.

There are four things mentioned distinctly under this head:

1. “Mockings.”

2. “Scourgings.”

3. “Bonds.”

4. The “prison,” or “imprisonment.”

And they contain all the outward ways of the sufferings of the church, when God restrains the rage of the world, so as that it shall not rise to blood and death.

So it often falls out. It is the utter destruction of the church that Satan and the world do always aim at; but ofttimes there are such bounds set unto their rage, by the division of their own counsels, by their supposed interests, by the more gentle inclinations of some Gamaliels among them, or for want of a pretense to execute the utmost of bloody cruelty, that they take up in mockings, stripes, imprisonments, spoiling of goods, and the like. Of these things it is said they “had trial.” “Experti sunt,” they had experience of them, they really underwent them; and so, by consequent, their faith was tried with them.

And the first thing mentioned is, as we render it, “cruel mockings.” ᾿Εμπαίβομαι is the word constantly used for the mockings that were cast on our Lord Jesus Christ himself, Matthew 20:19; Matthew 27:29; Matthew 27:31; Matthew 27:41; Mark 10:35, Luke 14:29; Luke 18:32; Luke 22:63; Luke 23:11; Luke 23:36. Neither is the verb in either voice, active or passive, used in the New Testament, but only as applied to Christ. And it is joined with μαστιγόω , to “scourge,” as it is here with “stripes.” ᾿᾿Εμπαιγμός , nowhere used but here, is “ludibrium,” a “mocking with reproach and contumely or scorn.” Hence we have rendered it “cruel mockings.” They reproached them with their God, with their religion, with folly, with feigned crimes. Such mockings are recorded in all the stories of the persecutions and sufferings of the church. The world is never more witty, nor doth more please itself, than when it can invent reproachful names, terms, and crimes, to cast upon suffering believers. And whereas the word is derived from παίζω , (as that is from παῖς ,) “to play and mock childishly,” it may respect the calumnious reproaches that ofttimes in the streets are cast on suffering professors, by the rude, foolish multitude, like the children that ran after Elisha, mocking and scoffing at him.

And this is reckoned among severe sufferings, there being nothing more harsh to ingenuous minds, nor any thing almost which they had not as willingly undergo. Nor is there any thing that their adversaries inflict on them with more self-pleasing and exultation of mind. Mockings are persecutors’triumphs. But these also faith will conflict withal and conquer: it hath done so in all ages. And it is a fruit of faith which we ought to aim at, namely to keep our spirits composed, unto a contempt of shame under the most severe and scornful mockings.

Unto these sometimes “stripes” are added; a servile punishment, used towards vagabonds and the vilest of men.

Of the last two ways of trial, namely, “bonds and imprisonment,” we have had so full an exposition in the days wherein we live, that they need no further explication. And,

Obs. There may be sufferings sufficient for the trial of the faith of the church, when the world is restrained from blood and death. But how long at present it will be so, God only knows.

Hebrews 11:37 . ᾿Ελιθάσθησαν , ἐπρίσθησαν , ἐπειράΣθησαν , ἐν φόνῳ μαχαίρας ἀπέθανον· περιῆλθον ἐν μηλωταῖς , ἐν αἰγείοις δέρμασιν· ὑστερούμενοι , θλιβόμενοι , κακουχούμενοι .

᾿Επρίσθησαν , “dissecti,” “secti sunt,” “they were cut asunder;” “serrati sunt,” “they were sawn asunder,” cut asunder with a saw; which is usually referred to Isaiah, but without any ground from the Scripture: a punishment and torment used in the east, 2 Samuel 12:31; Amos 1:3.

᾿Επειράσθησαν . This word is omitted by the Syriac; nor doth Chrysostom take any notice of it. The Vulg. Lat. retains it; and it is in all approved Greek copies. But because it contains a sense which seems not to be suited unto the place it holds in the text, critics have made bold to multiply conjectures about it. Some say it is the word beforegoing, first written a second time upon a mistake, and afterwards changed, by the addition of a letter or two, to give it a distinct signification; some say it should be ἐπυράθησαν , and others ἐπυρώθησαν , “ they were burned with the fire;” and every one doth well confute the conjectures of others. We shall retain the word in its proper place and signification.

᾿Εν φόνῳ . Syr., בְּפוּמָא , “in the mouth” or “edge of the sword.” Vulg. Lat., “in occisione gladii,” “caede gladii occubuerunt;” “they fell” or “died by slaughter of the sword.”

Περιῆλθον . Vulg., “circuiverunt,” “they went about.” Syr., “they wandered.” Beza, “oberraverunt.”

᾿Εν μηλωταῖς . The Syriac interposeth לְבִישִׁין , “induti,” “amicti,” “clothed;” which is necessary unto the sense. Vulg. Lat., “in melotis.” All suppose that translator understood not the sense of the Greek word, and so retained it. And Erasmus makes himself very merry in reflecting on Thomas, who gives some wild interpretations of it. Μῆλον is “a sheep.” “In sheep-skins.” ᾿Εν αἰγείοις δέρμασιν . The Syriac transposeth this word, and prefixeth it unto the other, “in the skins of sheep and goats;” without necessity, for μηλωτή is “a sheep-skin.”

῾Υστερούμενοι . Vulg., “egentes; Syr., וסְנִיקִין ; properly, “destitute,” “deprived of all.” “wanting,” “poor;” Θλιβόμενοι . Vulg. Lat., “angustati,” “straitened.” Syr., אֲלִיצִין , “oppressed.” “Pressi,” “afflicti;” “pressed,” “afflicted.”

Κακουχούμενοι . Vulg. Lat., “afflicti.” Syr., מְטַיְפִין , “conquassati,” “conturbati;” “shaken,” “troubled.” “Male habiti,” “male vexati.” “Tormented,” say we, as I suppose not properly. “Evilly-entreated,” vexed with evils.

Hebrews 11:37 . They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword, [died by slaughter of the sword:] they wandered about in sheepskins and goat-skins, being [15] destitute, afflicted, tormented, [evilly-entreated.]

[15] VARIOUS READING. ᾿Επειράσθησαν : unable to account for this word in an enumeration of physical sufferings, critics have proposed other readings. Wakefield suggests ἐπειράθησαν , “transfixed with stakes;” and Juntas, Beza, and others, suggest ἐπυράσθησαν or ἐπυρώθησαν , “were burned.” ED.

Two sorts of persons and two sorts of sufferings are here represented unto us:

1. Such as fell under the utmost rage of the world, suffering by death itself.

2. Such as, to escape death, did expose themselves to all sorts of miseries to be undergone in this life.

The same faith works equally, in them that die by violence, and them who, to escape death, expose themselves to other miseries, provided that the call unto the one or the other be of God.

1. Those of the first sort were killed three ways, or died three kinds of death; that is, some of them one way, and some of them another, as the Syriac translation distinguisheth them, by prefixing “some,” or “others,” to each sort: “Some were stoned, some were sawn asunder, some were slain with the sword.” Amongst these outward sufferings of the body, the apostle interposeth the inward sufferings of their minds, “They were tempted;” or whether this denoteth a peculiar kind of suffering, we shall afterwards consider.

(1.) The first way of their suffering death, was that they were “stoned.” This kind of death was peculiar unto the people of the Jews. And therefore it is not amiss applied unto Naboth, 1 Kings 21:13; and Zechariah, 2 Chronicles 24:20-21. This punishment was appointed by law for blasphemers, idolaters, false prophets, and the like profaners of the true religion only. But when the persecuting world grew unto the height of impiety, it was applied unto those that were the true professors of it. So was the blood of the first Christian martyr shed under pretense of that law, Acts 7:59. And indeed the devil is never more a devil, nor more outrageous, than when he gets a pretense of God’s weapons into his hands. Such hath been the name of “the church,” and the like profaners of the true religion only. But when the persecuting world grew unto the height of impiety, it was applied unto those that were the true professors of it. So was the blood of the first Christian martyr shed under pretence of that law, Acts 7:59. And indeed the devil is never more a devil, nor more

(2.) They were “sawn asunder.” Some were so, although their names and the particular fact are not recorded. A savage kind of torture, evidencing the malice of the devil, with the brutish rage and madness of persecutors.

(3.) It is added, they were “tempted.” This seems to be a trial of another kind than those wherewith it is joined; for it is mentioned among various sorts of violent deaths. But we are not to question the order or method of the apostle’s words. The expression may denote either a distinct kind of suffering, or what befell them under their other sufferings, with which it is joined. In the first way, it lets us know how great a trial there is in temptations in a suffering season, and what vigor of faith is required to conflict with them. They are the fiery darts with which Satan in such a season fights against the souls of believers; and whereby ofttimes he more prevails than by outward and bodily pains. And when a season of persecution approacheth, there is nothing we ought to be more prepared for and armed against. Or the word may denote the temptations wherewith they were tempted by their persecutors under their sufferings, and the threatenings of death unto them. For, as we declared before, in all such seasons the craft and malice of the devil and his instruments, ignorant of the hidden power of faith, endeavored to work upon human frailty, by persuading them to spare themselves, requiring but little of them for their deliverance, with promise of rewards if they would forego their profession. And that this proceeds from the subtilty of Satan, our Lord Jesus Christ declares, in that when his apostle Peter would have dissuaded him from suffering, he lets him know that it was not from himself, but from the suggestion of the devil, Matthew 16:22-23. This temptation, therefore, was the engine whereby he wrought in all those sufferings, that which gave them all their power and efficacy towards his principal end, which was the destruction of their souls. For he will willingly spare the lives of many, to ruin the soul of one. Well, therefore, might this be reckoned among their trials, and in the conquest whereof their faith was eminent. And therefore it is an especial promise of our Lord Christ, that when persecution cometh, he will keep his from the hour and power of temptation, Revelation 3:10. This word, therefore, may keep its station in this place against all objections.

(4.) The third instance of the ways whereby they suffered death, is, that they were “slain with the sword,” or “died by the slaughter of the sword.” The sword intended, is either that of injustice and oppression in form of law, or of violence and mere force. Sometimes they proceeded against those holy martyrs in form of law, and condemned them unto decollation, or the cutting off their heads by the sword; a way of punishment in use among the Grecians, and the Romans afterwards. And if this be intended, it refers probably unto the days of Antiochus, wherein many were so destroyed. Or it may intend the sword of violence, when persecutors in their rage have pursued, fallen upon, and destroyed multitudes by the sword, for their profession. So Jezebel slew the prophets of the Lord with the sword, 1 Kings 19:10. And in all times of the general prevalency of persecution, multitudes have been so destroyed. And the same course hath been continued under the new testament. Many have been “beheaded for the testimony of Jesus,” Revelation 20:4; as his forerunner John the Baptist was, Luke 9:9. And innumerable multitudes have been slain both under the pagan and antichristian tyranny with the sword.

So have all sorts of death been consecrated to the glory of God in the sufferings of the church. Christ himself, God’s great martyr, the amen and faithful witness, was crucified; John the Baptist, his forerunner, was beheaded; Stephen, his first witness by death, was stoned. Nero first invented torments in the case of religion, which afterwards the devil and the World placed their greatest hopes of prevalency in. But,

Obs. 1. No instruments of cruelty, no inventions of the devil or the world, no terrible preparations of death, that is, no endeavors of the gates of hell, shall ever prevail against the faith of God’s elect.

2. The latter part of the verse gives us an account of others, who, though they escaped the rage of their adversaries, as unto death in all the ways of it, yet gave their testimony unto the truth, and through faith bare that share in suffering which God called them unto. And two things the apostle declares concerning them:

(1.) What they did; and,

(2.) What was their inward and outward estate in their so doing.

(1.) As unto what they did, “they wandered about in sheep-skins and goat- skins.”

[1.] They “wandered about.” They went about from place to place, To “wander,” as we have rendered the word, is to go about from place to place without any fixed residence, or design of any certain, quiet habitation. So was it with them. They were driven from their own houses by law or violence. Cities, boroughs, corporations, were made unsafe for them, yea, and sometimes villages also, on one pretense or another. This cast them on this course of life, to wander up and down, sometimes fleeing from one city unto another, sometimes forced to forsake them all, and betake themselves unto the wilderness, as the apostle immediately declares. However, they had not any fixed, quiet habitation of their own. The best interpretation of this word and place is given us by the apostle in the instance of himself, 1 Corinthians 4:11: ᾿Αστατοῦμεν , ‘We “wander;” we have no abiding place, but move up and down, as men altogether uncertain where to fix.’And indeed the representation he makes of the state of the apostles in those days, 1 Corinthians 4:9-13, and 2 Corinthians 11:23-27, is a full and plain exposition of this place. And,

Obs. 2. It is no small degree of suffering, for men by law or violence to be driven from those places of their own habitation which the providence of God and all just right among men have allotted unto them. A state whereof many in our days have had experience, who, being conscious unto themselves of no evil towards any sort of men, yet merely for the profession of the gospel and exercise of their ministry, have been driven from their own houses, driven from all places that might accommodate them with any refreshment, to wander up and down that they might find a place to lodge a night in peace.

[2.] But it may be said, that although they did thus go up and down, yet they traveled in good equipage, and had all manner of accommodations; which is not the worst kind of sojourning here in this world. But all things were otherwise with them. They thus wandered “in sheep-skins and goat- skins.” There is no more intended in these expressions, but that in their wandering their outward condition was poor, mean, and contemptible. For as he declares it fully in the next words, so he gives an instance of it in the garments’they wore, which were of the meanest and vilest sort that can be made use of, the unwrought skins of sheep and goats. Some, indeed, did voluntarily use these kinds of garments, as a testimony of their mortified condition. So did Elijah, who was said to be “an hairy man, girt with a girdle of leather;” not from the hair of his face or body, but from the kind of his garments, 2 Kings 1:8. So John the Baptist “had his raiment of camel’s hair,” while “his meat was locusts and wild honey,” Matthew 3:4. And therefore the false prophets that were among the people did many of them wear garments of hair, which we render “rough garments,” Zechariah 13:4; to beget an opinion of that mortification which they pretended unto. Nothing here is intimated of choice, but necessity. They were poor men, that wandered up and down in poor clothing.

So have the saints of God in sundry seasons been reduced unto the utmost extremities of poverty and want which any man can be exposed unto. And there is a proclamation herein to all the world of these two things:

1 st . That there is a satisfaction in faith and obedience to God; there are such internal consolations in that state as do outbalance all the outward evils that may be undergone for the profession of them. Without them the world may know, if they please, that those who do expose themselves unto these straits and difficulties for the preservation of their consciences entire unto God, do know as well as themselves how to value the good things of this life, which are needful to the refreshment of their natures.

2 dly . That there is a future state, that there are eternal rewards and punishments, which will set all things aright, unto the glory of divine justice and the everlasting glory of them that have suffered.

(2.) The apostle more particularly declares their state in those expressions, “destitute, afflicted, tormented,” or evilly-entreated.

[1.] He useth many words to express the variety of their sufferings in their wandering condition. Nothing was absent that might render it troublesome and afflictive. Wherefore, although, it may be, we may miss it in the especial intention of each word or expression, yet we cannot do so as unto the general intention, which is to declare all the properties and concomitants of a calamitous condition. And they are here so set forth, that no believer at any time may faint or despond on the account of any thing which may fall under the power of the world to inflict upon him.

[2.] In particular, they are said,

1st. To be “destitute.” The Syriac and Vulgar render the word by “egentes,” or “indigentes,” “pauperes;” “poor,” “needy,” “wanting.” All good Latin interpreters render it by “destituti:” which word is by use more significant in our language than any to the same purpose; for which cause we have borrowed it of the Latin, as we have done other words innumerable, “destitute.” ῾Ψστερέω and ὑστερέομαι are used in the New Testament sometimes in their proper signification, which is “to come behind,” and so to fall short, or to be cast behind, Romans 3:23, 1 Corinthians 1:7, 2 Corinthians 11:5; but most commonly “to want” or “lack” in any kind, “to be deprived” of what we stand in need of, Luke 15:14; Philippians 4:12. Being referred, as it is here, to a course of life, it is “to want,” “to be deprived” of necessary accommodations, to be kept without friends, relations, habitation, and such other supplies of life as others do enjoy. So ὑστέρημα is “penuria,” “poverty,” a poor, wanting condition, Luke 21:4. That I judge which is most particularly intended in this word, is want of friends, and all means of relief from them or by them. And this, as some know, is a severe ingredient in suffering. But as our Lord Jesus Christ told his disciples, they should all forsake him and leave him alone, yet he was not alone, for the Father was with him, John 16:32; so is it with suffering believers: though they are outwardly destitute, left and forsaken of all means of comfort and relief, yet they are not utterly so; they are not alone, for Christ is with them.

2dly. In this condition they were “afflicted.” The former word declares what was absent, what they had not, namely, outward supplies and comforts; this declares what they had, what was present with them, they were straitened, or afflicted. The Vulgar renders the word by “angustiati,” “brought into straits: “ the Syriac by “pressi” or “oppressi;” “pressed,” “oppressed: “ we constantly render this word, in all its variations, by “affliction” and “afflicted.” But this is of a general signification, every thing that is grievous, evil, or troublesome. Here the word seems to have peculiar respect unto the great straits which they were brought into, by the great dangers that continually pressed on them. This state was very afflictive; that is, grievous, pressing, and troublesome unto their minds. For when we are called to suffer for the gospel, it is the will of God that we should be sensible of and affected with the evils we undergo, that the power of faith may be evident in the conquest of them.

3dly. It is added, that they were “tormented.” So we render the word; the Vulg. Lat. reads “afflicti;” which is the proper meaning of the foregoing word: the Syriac by “conquassati,” “conturbati;” “shaken,” greatly troubled: others properly “male habiti,” or “male vexati;” “evilly- entreated,” which is the signification of the word, and not “tormented,” as we have rendered it. In this wandering condition they met with very ill treatment in the world. All sorts of persons took occasion to vex and press them with all sorts of evils. And this is the constant entertainment that such wanderers meet withal in this world. Whatever is judged evil and vexatious unto them is on all occasions cast upon them. Reproaches, defamations, revilings, threatenings, contempt, are the things they continually meet withal. And,

Obs. 3. He will be deceived who at any time, under a sincere profession of the gospel, looks for any other, any better treatment or entertainment in the world.

Verse 38

The apostle hath not yet finished his account of the sufferings of these worthies; yet he thought meet to interpose a character of their persons. For men in this course of life might be looked on, and were so by some, as the “offscouring of all things,” and unmeet either for human converse or any of the good things of this world, but rather to be esteemed as the beasts of the field. These thoughts the apostle obviates in another kind of testimony concerning them, and so proceeds unto the end of his account concerning their sufferings:

Hebrews 11:38 . ῟Ων οὐκ η῏ν ἄξιος ὁ κόσμος· ἐν ἐρημίαις πλανώμενοι , καὶ ὄρεσι , καὶ σπηλαίοις , καὶ ταῖς ὀπαῖς τῆς γῆς .

Hebrews 11:38 . Of whom the world was not worthy: they wandered in deserts, and [in] mountains, and [in] dens and eaves of the earth. There are two things in these words:

1. The character which the apostle gives of these sufferers; “The world was not worthy of them.”

2. The remainder of their sufferings which he would represent; “They wandered in deserts,” etc.

1. Their character is, that “the world was not worthy of them.” By “the world,” not the fabric of heaven and earth is intended. For in that sense God hath appointed this world for the habitation of his people; it is therefore meet for them and worthy of them, whilst their mortal life is continued. And therefore our blessed Savior affirms, that he did not pray that God would take them out of this world, but only that he would keep them from the evil that is in it, John 17:15. Nor by “the world” is merely intended mankind living in the world. For under that consideration they are meet for society, and may have good done unto them by the people of God, Micah 5:7. But by “the world” is understood the inhabitants of it, in their interests, designs, ends, and actings, their successes in them, and advantages by them, as they are opposite unto the true interest of the church and people of God. In this sense, “the world” hath a high opinion of itself, as possessed of all that is desirable, despising and hating them who are not in conjunction with it in these things: the world in its power, pride, pomp, enjoyments, and the like.

Of this world it is said, that it was “not worthy” of those sufferers. It was not so in the ages and seasons wherein they lived; nor is so of them who suffer in any other age whatever. The world thinks them not worthy of it, or to live in it, to enjoy any name or place among the men of it. Here is a testimony given to the contrary, that the world is not worthy of them. Nor can any thing be spoken to the greater provocation of it. To tell the great, the mighty, the wealthy, the rulers of the world, that they are not worthy of the society of such as in their days are poor, destitute, despised, wanderers, whom they hurt and persecute, as the “offscouring of all things,” is that which fills them with indignation. There is not an informer or apparitor but would think himself disparaged by it,. But they may esteem of it as they please; we know that this testimony is true, and the world one day shall confess it so to be. And we must see in what sense it is here affirmed.

Chrysostom and the Greek expositors after him, suppose that a comparison is here made between the worth of the world and that of suffering believers; and that the apostle affirms that these sufferers, yea, any one of them, is more worth than the whole world. This may be true in some sense; but that truth is not the sense of this place. For the design of the apostle is to obviate an objection, that these persons were justly cast out, as not worthy the society of mankind; which he doth by a contrary assertion, that the world was not worthy of them. And it was not so in two respects:

(1.) It was not worthy of their society, or to have converse with them; no more than slaves are worthy of or meet for the society of princes. For he speaks of the world as it is engaged in persecution; and so it is unworthy of the converse of persecuted saints.

(2.) It is not worthy of those mercies and blessings which do accompany the presence of this sort of persons, where they have a quiet habitation. And,

Obs. 1. Let the world think as well, as highly, as proudly of itself as it pleaseth, it is, when it persecutes, base and unworthy of the society of true believers, and of the mercies wherewith it is accompanied. And,

Obs. 2. God’s esteem of his people is never the less for their outward sufferings and calamities, whatever the world judgeth of them. They cannot think otherwise of them in their sufferings than they thought of Christ in his. They did “esteem him stricken, smitten of God and afflicted,” Isaiah 53:4; as one rejected of God and man. Such is their judgment of all his suffering followers; nor will they entertain any other thought of them. But God is of another mind.

2. Having given this character of these poor sufferers, he proceeds to issue his account of their sufferings, and that in a further description of that wandering course of life which he had before ascribed unto them. And first he asserts again, that they “wandered,” and then gives an account of the places wherein they wandered, and. where they disposed of themselves in their wanderings.

That which he had before expressed by περιῆλθον , they “went up and down,” he ere doth by πλανώμενοι ; that is, directly, they had an “erratical motion,” wandered without any certain rule or end, as unto any place of rest. I showed before how they were driven from cities, boroughs, towns corporate, and villages also, partly by law, partly by force. What now remains for them to betake themselves unto but deserts, solitary and uninhabited places. But whereas the continuance of human life is not capable of perpetual actual wandering up and down, but must have some place of rest and composure, the apostle distributes the places of their wandering state under two heads, suited unto these two acts of motion and rest. Of the first sort were “deserts and mountains,” uninhabited wastes; and of the latter, were the “dens and caves” that were in them. By deserts and uninhabited mountains, all know what is intended; and they did abound in those parts of the earth wherein these things were acted. There is no need of any exact distinction of dens and caves, neither will the signification of the words afford it; though possibly one may signify greater, the other lesser subterraneous receptacles: but the common use of the first word seems to denote such hollow places under the ground as wild beasts have sheltered themselves in from the pursuit of men.

This was the state of these servants of the living God: when they were driven from all inhabited places, they found no rest in deserts and mountains but wandered up and down, taking up dens and caves for their shelter. And instances of the same kind have been multiplied in the pagan and antichristian persecutions of the churches of the new testament.

That no color is hence given unto a hermitical life by voluntary choice, much less unto the horrible abuse of its first invention in the Papacy, is openly evident. And we may learn, that,

Obs. 3. Ofttimes it is better, and more safe for the saints of God, to be in the wilderness among the beasts of the field, than in a savage world, inflamed by the devil into rage and persecution.

Obs. 4. Though the world may prevail to drive the church into the wilderness, to the ruin of all public profession in their own apprehension, yet it shall be there preserved unto the appointed season of its deliverance; the world shall never have the victory over it.

Obs. 5. It becomes us to be filled with thoughts of and affections unto spiritual things, to labor for an anticipation of glory, that we faint not in the consideration of the evils that may befall us on the account of the gospel.

Verses 39-40

Καὶ οὗτοι πάντες ¸ μαρτυρηθέντες διὰ τῆς πίστεως , οὐκ ἐκομίσαντο τὴν ἐπαγγελίαν· τοῦ Θεοῦ περὶ ἡμῶν κρεῖττόν τι προβλεψαμένου , ἵνα μὴ χωρὶς ἡμῶν τελειωθῶσι .

Hebrews 11:39-40 . And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise; God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.

There are, in this close of the apostle’s discourse, which is an observation concerning all the instances of the faith of believers under the old testament, and his judgment concerning their state, four things considerable:

1. Who they are of whom he speaks; and that is, “All these.”

2. What he allows and ascribes unto them: “They obtained a good report through faith.”

3. What he yet denies unto them; which is the receiving of the promise: “They received not the promise.”

4. The reason of it; which is God’s sovereign disposal of the states, times, seasons, and privileges of the church: “God having provided,” etc.

There is not any passage in this whole epistle that gives a clearer and more determinate sense of itself than this doth, if the design and phraseology of the apostle be attended unto with any diligence. But because some have made it their business to bring difficulties unto it, that it might seem to comply with other false notions of their own, they must in our passage be discarded and removed out of the way.

1. The persons spoken of are, “All these.” “That is,” saith Schlichtingius, “all these last spoken of, who underwent such hardships, and death itself. For they received not any such promises of deliverance as those did before mentioned, who had great success in their undertakings.” He is followed in his conjecture (as almost constantly) by Grotius: “Others,” saith he, “received promises, verse 33; but these did not, who could not abide peaceably in the promised land.” To which Hammond adds, “They did not in this life receive the promise made to Abraham, had no deliverance in this life from their persecution.” But, under favor, there cannot be a more fond interpretation of the words, nor more contrary unto the design of the apostle. For,

(1.) Those of whom he speaks in this close of his discourse, that “they obtained a good report through faith,” are the same of whom he affirms in the beginning of it, verse 2, that “by faith they obtained a good report;” that is, all those did so whom at the beginning he intended to enumerate; and all those did so whom in the close he had spoken of: of any distinction to be made between them, there is not the least intimation.

(2.) It is said expressly of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, that “they received not the promises,” verse 13, as well as of those now mentioned.

(3.) It is one thing to “obtain promises,” ἐπαγγελίας , indefinitely, promises of any sort, as some are said to do, verse 33, and another to receive τὴν ἐπαγγελίαν , that signal promise which was made unto the fathers.

(4.) Nothing can be more alien from the design of the apostle, than to apply the promise intended unto temporal deliverance and freedom from suffering. For if it be so, God did not “provide some better thing for us,” that is, the Christian church, than for them; for the sufferings of Christians, without deliverance from their persecutions, have been a thousand times more than those of the Jewish church under Antiochus, which the apostle hath respect unto.

Wherefore the “all these” intended, are all those who have been reckoned up and instanced in from the beginning of the world, or the giving out of the first promise concerning the Savior and Redeemer of the church, with the destruction of the works of the devil.

2. Of all these it is affirmed, that they “obtained a good report through faith.” They were “well testified unto.” They were God’s martyrs, and he was theirs, he gave witness unto their faith. See the exposition of verse 2. That they were all of them so testified unto upon the account of their faith, we need no other testimony but this of the apostle; yet is there no doubt but that, in the several ages of the church wherein they lived, they were renowned for their faith and the fruits of it in what they did or suffered. And,

Obs . It is our duty also, not only to believe, that we may be justified before God, but so to evidence our faith by the fruits of it, as that we may obtain a good report, or be justified before men.

3. That which he denies concerning them, is the receiving of the promise: “They received not the promise.” And what promise this was we must inquire.

(1.) It is affirmed of Abraham, that “he received the promise,” verse 17. And that promise which was given, which was made unto him, is declared by the apostle to be the great fundamental promise of the gospel, Hebrews 6:13-18; the same promise which is the object of the faith of the church in all ages. Whereas, therefore, it is said here that “they received not the promise,” the promise formally considered, as a promise, must in the first place be intended; and in the latter it is considered materially, as unto the thing itself promised. The promise, as a faithful engagement of future good, they received; but the good thing itself was not in their days exhibited.

(2.) Some say, the promise here intended is the promise of eternal life. Hereof, they say, believers under the old testament had no promise; none made unto them, none believed by them. So judgeth Schlichtingius; who is forsaken herein by Grotius and his follower. But this we have before rejected, and the folly of the imagination hath been sufficiently detected.

(3.) Others, as these two mentioned, fix on such an account of the promise as I would not say I cannot understand, but that I am sure enough they did not understand themselves, nor what they intended; though they did so as to what they disallowed. So one of them explains, or rather involves himself, on verse 40, after he had referred this promise which they received not unto deliverance from their persecutors: “God having determined this as the most congruous time, in his wisdom, to give the utmost completion to all those prophecies and promises, to send the Messiah into the world, and, as a consequent of his resurrection from the dead, to grant us those privileges and advantages that the fathers had not enjoyed, a rest after long persecution, a victory over all opposers of Christ’s church; that so what was promised unto Abraham’s seed, Genesis 22:17, that “they should possess the gates of their enemies,” being but imperfectly fulfilled to the fathers, might have the utmost completion in the victory and flourishing of the Christian faith over all the enemies thereof.” Besides what is insinuated about the effects of Christ’s mediation, or consequent of his resurrection, which whose shop it comes from we well know, the promise here intended is expounded not to be the promise made to Abraham, which it was, but that made to his seed, of victory over all their enemies in this world; which, as it seems, they received not, because it was not completely fulfilled towards them, but is to be so unto the Christian church in the conquest of all their adversaries. And this in the verse foregoing is called a deliverance from their persecutors. But whatever this promise be, the apostle is positive that they did not receive it, but that the Christians or believers in Christ in those days had received it. But we know, that not only then, but nearly three hundred years after, Christians were more exposed to persecutions than ever the church of the Jews was; and so did less receive that promise, if any such there were, than they. Something is indeed interposed about the coming of Christ, further to cloud the business; but this is referred only unto the time and season of the accomplishment of this promise, not unto the promise itself. Wherefore such paraphrases are suited only to lead the mind of the readers from a due consideration of the design of the Holy Ghost.

(4.) It is therefore not only untrue and unsafe, but contrary unto the fundamental principles of our religion, the faith of Christians in all ages, and the design of the apostle in this whole epistle, to interpret this promise of any thing but that of the coming of Christ in the flesh, of his accomplishment of the work of our redemption, with the unspeakable privileges and advantages that the church received thereby. That this promise was made unto the elders from the beginning of the world; that it was not actually accomplished unto them, being necessarily confined unto one season, called “the fullness of time,” only they had by faith the benefit of it communicated unto them; and that herein lies the great difference of the two states of the church, that under the old testament, and that under the new, with the prerogative of the latter above the former; are such sacred truths, that without an acknowledgment of them, nothing of the Old Testament or the New can be rightly understood.

This, then, was the state of believers under the old testament, as it is here represented unto us by the apostle: They had the promise of the exhibition of Christ, the Son of God, in the flesh, for the redemption of the church. This promise they received, saw afar off as to its actual accomplishment, were persuaded of the truth of it, and embraced it, verse 13. The actual accomplishment of it they desired, longed for, looked after and expected, Luke 10:24; inquiring diligently into the grace of God contained therein, 1 Peter 1:10-11. Hereby they enjoyed the benefits of it, even as we, Acts 15:11. Howbeit they received it not as unto its actual accomplishment in the coming of Christ. And the reason hereof the apostle gives in the next verse.

Hebrews 11:40 . “God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.”

Having declared the victorious faith of believers under the old testament, with what it enabled them to do and suffer, and given an account of their state as unto the actual accomplishment of that promise which they lived on and trusted unto, in this last verse of this chapter he compares that state of theirs with that of believers under the gospel, giving the preeminence unto the latter, with the reason whence so it was. And there is in the words,

1. The reason of the difference that was between the two states of the church; and this was God’s disposal of things in this order: “God having provided.”

2. The difference itself, namely, “some better thing” that was so provided for us.

3. A declaration of that better thing, in a negation of it unto them: “That they without us should not be made perfect.”

In the exposition of these words, Schlichtingius proceeds on sundry principles, some whereof are embraced by his followers, as others of them are rejected by them:

1. That the promise intended, verse 39, is the promise of eternal life.

2. That under the old testament believers had no such promise, whatever hopes or conjectures they might have of it.

3. That both they and we at death do cease to be, in soul and body, until the resurrection, none entering before into eternal life.

4. He inquires hereon how God did provide some better thing for us than for them; which he pursues with such intricate curiosities as savor more of the wit of Crellius than his own.

But the whole of it is senseless and foolish. For if when any one dies he is nothing, or as nothing, so as that unto him it is but as one moment between death and the resurrection, as he contends, the state of all as unto eternal life and an entrance thereinto is absolutely the same, nor is the one in any thing better than the other, although they should die thousands of years one before another. But as all these things are openly false, and contrary to the chief principles of Christian religion, so they are utterly remote from the mind of the apostle, as we shall see in the exposition of the words.

Those of the church of Rome do hence fancy a limbus, a subterraneous receptacle of souls, wherein they say the spirits of believers under the old testament were detained until after the resurrection of Christ, so as that they without us were not made perfect. But that the saints departed from the beginning of the world were excluded from rest and refreshment in the presence of God, is false and contrary unto the Scripture. However, the apostle treats not here at all about the difference between one sort of men and another after death, but of that which was between them who lived under the old testament church-state whilst they lived, and those that live under and enjoy the privileges of the new; as is evident in the very reading of the epistle, especially of the seventh chapter, and is expressly declared by himself in the next chapter to this, verses 18-24, as, God willing, we shall see on the place.

These open corruptions of the sense of the words being rejected, we may be the more brief in the exposition of them.

1. The first thing in them is the reason of the difference asserted. And that is, God’s providing things in this order. The word properly signifies “foreseeing.” But God’s prevision is his provision, as being always accompanied with his preordination: his foresight with his decree. For “known unto him are all his works from the foundation of the world,”

Acts 15:18. Now this provision of God is the οἰκονομία τοῦ πληρώματος τῶν καιρῶν , Ephesians 1:10, the dispensation or ordering of the state, times, and seasons of the church, and the revelation of himself unto it; which we have opened at large on the first verse of the epistle, whereunto the reader is referred. And,

Obs. 1. The disposal of the states and times of the church, as unto the communication of light, grace, and privileges, depends merely on the sovereign pleasure and will of God, and not on any merit or preparation in man. The coming of Christ at that time when he came was as little deserved by the men of the age wherein he came as of any age from the foundation of the world.

Obs. 2. Though God gives more light and grace unto the church in one season than in another, yet in every season he gives that which is sufficient to guide believers in their faith and obedience unto eternal life.

Obs. 3. It is the duty of believers, in every state of the church, to make use of and improve the spiritual provision that God hath made for them; always remembering, that unto whom much is given, of them much is required.

2. That which God hath thus provided for us, that is, those who in all ages do believe in Christ as exhibited in the flesh, according to the revelation made of him in the gospel, is called “something better; that is, more excellent, a state above theirs, or all that was granted unto them. And we may inquire,

(1.) What these “better things,” or this “better thing” is;

(2.) How with respect thereunto “they were not made perfect without us.”

(1.) For the first, I suppose it ought to be out of question with all Christians, that it is the actual exhibition of the Son of God in the flesh, the coming of the promised Seed, with his accomplishment of the work of the redemption of the church, and all the privileges of the church, in light, grace, liberty, spiritual worship, with boldness in an access unto God, that ensued thereon, which are intended. For were not these the things which they received not under the old testament? were not these the things which were promised from the beginning; which were expected, longed for, and desired by all believers of old, who yet saw them only afar off, though through faith they were saved by virtue of them? and are not these the things whereby the church-state of the gospel was perfected and consummated, the things alone wherein our state is better than theirs? For as unto outward appearances of things, they had more glory, and costly, ceremonious splendor in their worship, than is appointed in the Christian church; and their worldly prosperity was for a long season very great, much exceeding any thing that the Christian church doth enjoy. To deny, therefore, these to be the “better things” that God provided for us, is to overthrow the faith of the old testament and the new.

(2.) We may inquire how, with respect hereunto, it is said that “they without us were not made perfect.” And I say,

[1.] “Without us,” is as much as without the things which are actually exhibited unto us, the things provided for us, and our participation of them.

[2.] They and we, though distributed by divine provision into distinct states, yet with respect unto the first promise and the renovation of it unto Abraham, are but one church, built on the stone foundation, and enlivened by the same Spirit of grace. Wherefore, until we came in unto this church- state, they could not be made perfect, seeing the church-state itself was not so.

[3.] All the advantages of grace and mercy which they received and enjoyed, it was by virtue of those better things which were actually exhibited unto us, applied by faith, and not by virtue of any thing committed unto them and enjoyed by them. Wherefore,

[4.] That which the apostle affirms is, that they were never brought unto, they never attained, that perfect, consummated spiritual state which God had designed and prepared for his church in the fullness of times, and which they foresaw should be granted unto others, and not unto themselves, 1 Peter 1:11-12.

[5.] What this perfect, consummated state of the church is, I have so fully declared in the exposition of the seventh chapter, where the apostle doth designedly treat of it, that it must not be here repeated; and thereunto I refer the reader.

I cannot but marvel that so many have stumbled, as most have done, in the exposition of these words, and involved themselves in difficulties of their own devising. For they are a plain epitome of the whole doctrinal part of the epistle; so as that no intelligent, judicious persons can avoid the sense which they tender, unless they divert their minds from the whole scope and design of the apostle, fortified with all circumstances and ends; which is not a way or means to assist any one in the right interpretation of the Scripture. And to close this chapter, we may observe,

Obs. 4. God measures out unto all his people their portion in service, sufferings, privileges, and rewards, according to his own good pleasure. And therefore the apostle shuts up this discourse of the faith, obedience, sufferings, and successes of the saints under the old testament, with a declaration that God had yet provided more excellent things for his church than any they were made partakers of. All he doth in this way is of mere grace and bounty; and therefore he may distribute all these things as he pleaseth.

Obs. 5. It was Christ alone who was to give, and who alone could give, perfection or consummation unto the church. He was in all things to have the pre-eminence.

Obs. 6. All the outward glorious worship of the old testament had no perfection in it; and so no glory comparatively unto that which is brought in by the gospel, 2 Corinthians 3:10.

Obs. 7. All perfection, all consummation, is in Christ alone. For “in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and we are complete in him, who is the head of all principality and power.”

Bibliographical Information
Owen, John. "Commentary on Hebrews 11". "Owen's Exposition of Hebrews". 1862.