ŇBy 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. For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.Ó Hebrews 11:9-10.
ŇBy 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 promiseÓ Hebrews 11:9.
Here is the second example of AbrahamŐs faith, and the fifth in order, and is concerning AbrahamŐs abiding, or dwelling in that land whereinto God had called him; and this he also did by faith. As he went out of his own country and came into Canaan, by the power and leading of his faith; so, by the same faith, he abode and dwelt in the same land.
The parts are two:
I. The action of AbrahamŐs faith, in the 9th verse.
II. The reason of that his so doing, in the 10th.
I. The action in the 9th verse is spoken of two ways:
1. It is laid down to be his abiding in the land of promise.
2. It is amplified by two circumstances:
(1). The manner how he dwelt there, in two points:
(i) As a stranger, or in a strange country.
(ii) As one that dwelt in tents, and not in houses.
(2). The persons with whom: with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise.
1. The first point in order, is his dwelling in the land of Canaan (called here the land of promise).
By faith he abode in the land of promise.
Canaan is now called the land of promise, because it was promised in the verse before, as we then heard; so that the meaning is that he abode in that land which was promised him, when he came out of his own country. Which country Abraham knew not by name, when he left his own, nor till he came thither; but then God told him, This is the land I will give thee, and thy seed (Gen. 12:7). In this land thus promised, Abraham dwelt and remained the rest of his life, which was an hundred years.
In this action of Abraham, there are three particular points:
(1). He dwelt in Canaan.
(2). That Canaan was the land of promise.
(3). He dwelt there by faith.
(1). For the first: Concerning AbrahamŐs dwelling in Canaan, divers questions may be moved:
(i) First, how is it true that he abode or dwelt there? Seeing it is apparent in the story he dwelt in Egypt (Gen. 12:10) and in Gerar (Gen. 20:1).
I answer, the meaning is not that he stayed there every day of his life; but that he lived and died there, and made it the place of his residence and ordinary habitation, whereunto he always resorted again, if any occasion drew him abroad.
And further, he went not into Egypt but upon such special cause as could not otherwise be helped, as upon a famine or such like (Gen. 12:10), Then there came a famine in the land; therefore Abraham went down into Egypt to sojourn there. Where it appears, first, that the cause was extraordinary; secondly, that he went not to make any dwelling but to sojourn there for a time, and then to repair home again.
Where we learn that as a man is not to depart out of that land where God hath appointed him to dwell, but upon good and sufficient causes; so when those causes cease, which drew him out, he is not to stay longer from home; but to repair again to the place of his ordinary dwelling. God would have a man dwell at home; and it is levity, and a token of an unconstant mind, and a running head, for a man to desire to be always abroad.
Birds fly abroad, but so as they may come to their nests at night; so men should endeavour, as much as may be, to take few occasions of being from their dwellings; and when they needs must, to let it be for as short a time as may be. For as it is a sign of a light woman (Prov. 7:11) Her feet cannot abide in her house; so is it of an unstayed man upon every occasion to be carried from home.
We must therefore follow holy Abraham, who is here commended for abiding or dwelling in the country which God had given him.
(ii) Again, this practice of AbrahamŐs faith condemns the wandering beggars to be an unfaithful and ungracious generation. Our land (by the abuse of our peace and plenty) is full of such. Ask them where they dwell, their answer is that they have small dwelling; but look into the matter and they have the largest dwelling of all, for they dwell everywhere, and all abroad; they count it bondage to be tied to one town, or dwell in one parish, and think it freedom and liberty to dwell everywhere. These are caterpillars of a commonwealth, and the greatest robbers of the poor that are. Common thieves steal from rich men, but these steal from the poor; they get that from men which the true poor should have. No good comes to church or commonwealth by these men, but much hurt to both. For, a finger cut off from his place is of no use; so a man living out of his calling is of no use in the body politick.
Happy will it be with our church and state when we have such laws, and such execution of them, as that this disorder may be reformed, and every man confined to his own dwelling, and none suffered to live in our kingdom who is not of some parish; for let us be assured, so many wandering beggars, so many blemishes in our government.
(iii) Thirdly, Abraham dwelling in this land (being a fruit of his faith) teacheth us that it is no good token, but an ill sign for a man to be uncertain in his dwelling. It is the fashion of many men, if they travel, they never lodge at one place twice; and for their dwelling, it is not certain; but now in the north, now in the south; now in this parish, now in that; now in this jurisdiction, now in another; sometime in the city, sometime in the country. Who be these, but either such as be in debt, and purpose to deal ill with their creditors; or that are malefactors, and hereby labour to avoid the censure of authority; or else they be papists, which by this means labour to lurk unseen, and to escape the law; as many of them do, either by skipping out of one parish, diocese, country or province into another, and so avoiding the authority of all; or else, by lurking in great cities, and so lying as sojourners and not as parishioners, unseen and unmarked in so great multitudes. Let our authority take the more careful notice of such men, the more craftily they labour to creep from under it; and let such men know, they discover themselves the more by this practice, to be unfaithful either to God, or men, or both; seeing that God here commends Abraham for dwelling or staying in that place which God had appointed him. And so much for this question.
(iv) Again, it may here be demanded, how Abraham might lawfully dwell in Canaan, seeing it was then idolatrous. It may seem that therefore it is not unlawful for men to dwell in popish or idolatrous countries.
I answer, Abraham did not so upon any private motion, nor for any worldly cause, but upon special warrant and calling from God; otherwise his so doing had not been justifiable; therefore that practice of his cannot be a warrant for any to do the like, without the like cause and calling.
But how could Abraham be preserved from the contagion of idolaters living amongst them?
I answer, first, God that called him thither, did there preserve him. Again, Abraham lived in the country, but conversed not with the people at all, except in some necessary and civil affairs; and by this means escaped the danger of infection.
Where we may learn, that if any man would live in such places, without hurt to their conscience, let them first be sure that they have a calling and warrant from God to live in those countries. Secondly, let them converse with idolaters warily and sparingly, and so shall they preserve themselves from the occasions of evil, as Abraham did, who abode in an idolatrous country; and so, though not without danger, yet without hurt to his religion. Thus we see Abraham dwelt in the land of Canaan.
(2). Now, secondly, this land is called the land of promise; that is, the land formerly promised him by God, when He called him out of his own country. And it is likely that the apostle doth not here first of all call it so, but that it was known generally among the patriarchs by that name; and that Abraham himself did first of all so call it; who when he looked upon it, and considered the fruitfulness and excellence of it, did evermore remember and call to mind, this land is promised to me, this is mine by promise. And herein he rested and satisfied himself, though he had not the possession of it.
Here we may see the excellence of true faith, which depends upon the promises of God, though they be unperformed. A land of promise contents Abraham, he leaves the possession to his posterity. It is hard to find such faith in the world; it is land in possession which we look for; a land of promise cannot content us; but let us labour to practice faith, and to take comfort in the promises of God, and leave the performance to GodŐs appointed time.
(3). Thirdly, he dwelt in this land by faith. And no marvel, for had it not been by faith, he would never had dwelt there, where he had not so much as a room for his tent to stand in, but he must borrow it; nor to bury his dead, but he must buy it. This was against reason, yet by faith he dwelt there, as before by faith he left his own, which was also against reason. Where still the power of faith is magnified to be such, as it will carry a man over all impediments of obedience, and will give him victory not against one, but against all objections; and power to perform not one, but many things contrary to carnal wisdom.
We must here learn to examine whether we have a true and sound faith or no. If we have, then we must not do some one or few actions in faith, or die in faith, but we must live by faith the whole course of our lives. We must walk by faith and not by sight, saith the apostle (2 Cor. 5:7). So saith he of himself (Gal. 2:20), I live by faith in the Son of God; he saith not that he hopes to die in that faith, but that he lives by it. And in the former place, he saith not that we must set a step or two, but that we must walk by faith, which argueth a continued action; and therefore it is that St Peter saith, GodŐs children are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation (1 Pet. 1:5). In which words, two things are spoken of faith: the first is affirmed, namely, that faith preserveth a man to salvation through all hindrances, either of inward temptations or outward crosses, which the devil or the world can lay in his way. This preservation is one of the greatest works in the world, and therefore it is worthily ascribed to God; the power of God preserveth us, but through faith. The second is implied; that therefore we must labour to keep that faith evermore with us, which must keep us, and to cherish and preserve that that must preserve us to salvation. David was an excellent practitioner hereof; no man was more tried and tossed than he, yet he ever drew near unto God (Psa. 73:28). Indeed sometime he said, all men are liars (Psa. 116:11), but that was in his fear; and again, I am cast out of thy sight (Psa. 31:22), but that was in his haste; that is, when the force of some passion, or the violence of some temptations did carry him headlong; but otherwise he ever lived the life of faith.
So must we not think to live in sensuality and die in faith; but to live by faith in all our actions, from one day to another, meditating daily on GodŐs promises, and believing them, and relying on them, and applying the generals to our own selves, and practicing faith by making conscience of sin, and inuring ourselves to patience and longsuffering. Thus doing, we shall be children of faithful Abraham, who first by faith left his own country, and then by faith also dwelt still in the land of Canaan. And thus much for the action of his faith, he abode in the land of promise.
2. Now followeth the circumstances of the action, which are two:
(1). The manner how.
(2). The persons with whom.
(1). The manner is laid down in two points:
(i) As a stranger.
(ii) As one that dwelt in tents.
(i) The first point, for the manner, is laid down in these words:
As in a strange country.
The meaning is, he esteemed it a strange country to him, and accounted himself a stranger in it. Against which it may be objected that he was familiarly acquainted with Mamre, Aner and Eshcol, three great and mighty men of that country; that he and they were confederates together (Gen. 14:13); therefore it seems he lived not like a stranger in the country.
Some answer that these three were not Canaanites, but near akin to Abraham and had other names; but the text is plain in that place, that Mamre was an Amorite, and the other two were his brethren. Therefore the answer is that in all likelihood they three were proselytes, and that by AbrahamŐs godly persuasion they had renounced idolatry, and were come to the knowledge of the true God; and that they joined with Abraham in the worship of the true God, and so were his converts; whereupon Abraham (as he might lawfully) conversed with them as his familiar friends. And hereof there are two inducements:
(a) First, it is said (Gen. 14:13) that they were confederates with Abraham, and it appeared so by their deeds; for they joined their powers, and assisted him in the war against the kings (Gen. 14:24).
(b) Secondly, it is said (Gen. 14:13) that Abraham dwelt in the land of Mamre; he was his tenant or farmer. Now, it is more than likely that Abraham would not have been so far beholden to them, but that they were true Christians, and of his own religion.
Therefore this hinders not, but he might be a stranger notwithstanding, unto the body of the people; and that it is true that Abraham saith of himself to some of them (Gen 23:4), I am a stranger and a sojourner amongst you.
But it may then be demanded, Why did Abraham live amongst them as a stranger, and in that land as a sojourner?
I answer, the reasons were divers:
(a) First, he had title given to that land, but no possession; he therefore contented himself with that that God gave him, and challenged not any possession all the days of his life, but bought or borrowed of Mamre the place where he lived and dwelt (Gen. 14:13), and of the Hittites a place of burial (Gen. 23:3ff.).
This may teach all men not to be too hasty in seeking for that, that it may be is their right; let not men prescribe their own times, nor be their own carvers, but leave their affairs to GodŐs disposing, and enter no further than they see God going before them; Abraham must be a stranger in his own land; and thou sometimes must be content for a time to be a stranger to that which is thine own.
(b) Secondly, they were all of them for the most part heathen idolaters, amongst whom Abraham would not converse, but as sparingly as might be. Now if Abraham would be a stranger in his own country, rather than live familiarly with idolaters; if sheweth how little faith, and less conscience they have, who can be content to live in the midst of idolaters, where they have nothing to do, and can converse with them in all familiarity, without any scruple of conscience. Abraham made himself a stranger at home to avoid idolatry; but they will make themselves at home in a strange country, to entangle themselves in idolatry; these men will hardly prove the children of Abraham.
These reasons Abraham himself had in this his so doing.
(c) There is a third, a more spiritual, or mystical reason; and that reason God had in making Abraham live in Canaan as a stranger; namely to teach all Christian men their duty to the worldŐs end.
Abraham is the father of the faithful (Rom. 4:11). And this is our honour, to be the children of Abraham, we must therefore follow our father in his faith, and in the practice of it; we must live in this world as pilgrims and strangers, even in the midst of all our peace and prosperity, of all our liberties, riches, lands and possessions; yea, of all our worldly friends and acquaintances. If it seem strange how this can be, I answer, the practice of it consists in six actions:
(a) First we must not bathe ourselves in the pleasures of this world. Pilgrims take but little delight in their journeys, because they think themselves not at home. This is St PeterŐs argument: Dearly beloved, as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which fight against the soul (1 Pet. 2:11). For too much delight in fleshly pleasures smothers the grace of God in us, and lets loose all sins, and gives life unto all corruptions.
(b) Secondly, we must use this world as though we used it not; that is, even the necessary comforts and delights thereof; they be the very words of the apostle (1 Cor. 7:31). For so the pilgrim, when he passeth through a strange country, hath not his mind troubled with looking or thinking on the goods and commodities of that country where he is; but using as much thereof as is necessary for him, all his thoughts are on his own country. So should we, when we are in our best estates, in our greatest jollity, in the midst of our wealth and abundance of pleasures, cast our minds from them, and have our thoughts even then conversing in heaven, where is the place of our abode. This is likewise the apostleŐs exhortation (Phil. 3:20). Worldly men make their belly their god (Phil 3:19), that is, drown themselves in carnal pleasures, so far, as they forget any other God, any other heaven. But we must not do so; out conversation must be in heaven, from whence we look for our Saviour Jesus Christ.
(c) Thirdly, we must have a serious care and endeavour to please God; for all the earth is His, and we are but sojourners in His sight; therefore as the pilgrim is careful to please the lord of the country, by whose leave he travels through it; so must we be to please the Lord; seeing as God saith (Lev. 25:23), The land is mine, and ye are but strangers and sojourners with me.
(d) And hereunto add a fourth, which is near akin unto it: We must cast all our care on God, seeing that He is the Lord of the earth, and we are but pilgrims and sojourners. David saith (Psa. 24:1), The earth is the LordŐs and all that therein is. The same David confesseth (Psa. 39:12), he is a stranger before God and a sojourner, as all his fatherŐs were; and thereupon desireth God to hear his prayer, hearken to his cry, and not to keep silence at his tears; as though he had said, inasmuch as I sojourn with thee, thou art to hear my complaint. For as a sojourner cares nor looks for nothing, but depends on them for all things with whom he sojourns, so must we cast all our care on God; for he careth for us (1 Pet. 5:7). He is our landlord, we are His farmers and tenants, we hold the earth from Him, by no lease of years, but at His will, and it is lent us; let us therefore but have care to please this our landlord, and care for nothing.
(e) Fifthly, we must give continual thanks and praise to God for His good blessings we receive in this world; for all are His, and we are but strangers. Thus did all GodŐs saints in old time; Jacob was not worthy of the least of GodŐs mercies (Gen. 32:10). But especially there is one memorable example of David, and the church in his days (1 Chr. 29:12-16). When he had prepared abundantly for the building of the temple, he prostrated himself before God, and in his own name and the peopleŐs, said thus: Riches and honour come of thee, therefore our God we thank thee, and praise thy glorious name. But who am I and what is my people, that we should offer unto thee? For all is thine, and of thine own have we given thee; for we are strangers before thee, and sojourners, as all our fathers were. Thankfulness becomes all men, especially strangers. Therefore as pilgrims do thankfully accept the favours shewed them in a strange country; so must we, all the blessings God gives us in this world, where we are but strangers.
(f) Sixthly, and lastly, we must hasten to the kingdom, as a pilgrim doth to his journeyŐs end, or to his own country; and till he can, is always thinking of it, and sighing after it; so must we (who are not dwellers but sojourners in these houses of clay) long after heaven, and as St Paul saith, he did covet to remove from hence, and to dwell with the Lord (Phil. 1:23). Strangers are not to take such pleasure in foreign countries, as to forget their own. So Christians must nor be so in love with this world, as to forget or neglect the world to come. If they do, they are unworthy of it, and shew themselves no strangers, as Abraham here was; but men of this world, who have their portion in this life (Psa. 17:14).
In performing these six actions, men shew themselves strangers in this world. And thus must we do, even in the midst of all worldly prosperity, if we look ever to enjoy the glory of a better. And thus doing, we shall be children of faithful Abraham, who dwelt in the land of Canaan, as in a strange country.
(ii) As one that dwelt in tents.
The second point for the manner, how Abraham dwelt in Canaan, is that he built himself no houses, nor made orchards or gardens, but dwelt in tents or tabernacles; which were such houses as now are used in war, and are yet called by the same name, tents, or pavilions; whose matter is not wood, nor stone, but cloth, stuff or skins; and are easily reared and soon taken down; and when a man departeth, he may carry his house with him. That Abraham did thus, appears in the stories written of him. He came to Bethel, and there pitched his tent (Gen. 12:8), and (Gen. 13:8), he removed his tent; and (Gen. 18:1), God appeared to him, as he sat at his tent door, and (v.9), being asked where Sarah was, he answered, she is within the tent; and these tents are called his place (Gen. 18:33), and his house (Gen. 24:2). Out of all which places it is plain that he dwelt in tents, and that not only at his first coming, when he had not time to build him an house, but even all the days of his life, after his coming in to the land of Canaan.
But why did Abraham dwell in tents and not in houses? Was it because then there were no houses? Not so, for there were cities built even before the flood (Gen. 4:17). Cain built a city; no marvel therefore there were many after, as Sodom and all her sisters. And though it appears not that they digged into the earth for natural stone, yet they had bricks, which they made themselves (Gen. 11:3), and surely the world, which built the huge tower of Babel, would not stick to build themselves houses. Nor can it be said that those cities, Sodom, Gomorrah and the rest, were nothing but a multitude of tents together; for we read (Gen. 19:3,4), that Lot dwelling in Sodom, received two angels into his house and that the Sodomites came and environed his house round about to take them, thinking they had been men; and when Lot refused to deliver them, that they pressed sore upon the house to have broken up the door; but all this might have been spared if it had been nothing but a tent, which a child may cut in pieces with a knife. It is manifest then, that there were houses in those days. Why then did Abraham build none? Was it because he was poor and could not? No so, for contrariwise (Gen. 12:5), He carried with him from his own country, all the substance he possessed. And what that was is particularised (Gen. 13:2), He was rich in cattle, silver and gold. His riches were both great and of the best. So then, he could, but would not. But why would he not? Was it upon a proud humour, or in a conceited singularity, because he would not be like other men, but have a singular way of his own? No; Abraham was none of those, who allow nothing but that is done of themselves; and who think nothing good, if it be ordinary; for he was an holy man, and famous for his faith. So then none of these were the reasons of this his so doing.
The reasons then why Abraham, and other holy patriarchs, used to dwell in tents, and not to build them houses, were of two sorts, civil and holy.
(a) The civil, or politick respect that they had was this: They holding themselves GodŐs servants, did depend on His Word; and therefore did submit themselves to go up and down the world, whithersoever God did call them. Being then to remove every day (they knew not when nor whither) it was therefore both the fittest, and cheapest, to dwell in tents, which were soon pitched up, and soon taken down. Neither need it seem strange that they could live for cold in those poor thin tents all the year long; for the country and climate there was always temperate enough for cold; and rather inclining to too much heat.
(b) The holy or religious respect was this: They held themselves but strangers upon earth, and therefore would not build themselves cities or houses; as looking or caring to live upon earth; but dwelled in tents, as seeming desirous to remove from the earth to heaven; the sooner the better. And this did the fathers of the Old Testament; not that they thought it unlawful to build cities or dwell in houses; but that they might testify to their religion, and expectation of another world, in the midst of that profane age wherein they lived; wherein there were almost none that either regarded, or remembered, or acknowledged a world to come.
And this was not the particular or singular deed of Abraham alone. All holy men in those days lived in tents (Gen. 9:21). It is clear that Noah dwelt in tents, though then he was king of all the world. And so did Lot also, as long as he lived with Abraham (Gen. 13:5), Lot had sheep and cattle and tents. And thus they did, because (as the apostle saith) they had here no enduring city, but they sought for one to come (Heb. 13:14). And they thought they ever heard that voice sounding in their ears (Micah 2:10), Arise and depart, for this is not your rest.
Contrariwise, the wicked of the world, because they set their rests in this world, and cared for no other; they began presently to build them houses, nay cities (as Cain did even in the beginning) (Gen. 4:17). And the Sodomites had a city even walled (as is likely), for Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom, when the two angels came to him (Gen. 19:1,2). And the Canaanites had cities walled exceeding high (Num. 13:28). But we find not that ever GodŐs children built them cities, until they came to have a settled church of their own. But contrariwise, it is worth observing that God promiseth His people that they shall come and dwell in cities which they built not (Josh. 24:13), namely, which were built by worldly men by their hand. And thus we see the reasons why Abraham dwelt in tents. Now let us see the use of it.
(a) First, here we learn frugality, out of the civil use of their tents; that is to use the blessings and comforts of this life as soberly, and sparingly as may be; as to bestow as little cost as may be of ourselves in such things as perish in the using; namely, meat, drink, apparel and houses. For what is spent hereon, is spent only on ourselves; and being spent is gone; therefore the less, the better; always provided there be a discreet care had of our health, and of the credit of the places we hold; and of the enabling to the duties of our calling. Which being sufficiently provided for, it is a Christian frugality to spare what further may be spared; and he hath the less to answer for, who spendeth the least in superfluities.
(b) Again, here we are taught contentment in the state which God hath appointed us, and not to strive too fast to climb to wealth. These holy men can be content to dwell in tents and tabernacles, though they might have compassed much more; for they were great and mighty men. Abraham had 318 men able to bear a sword in his house daily; and with them and a little more help, he overthrew divers kings and rescued Lot (Gen. 14:14). He that durst encounter, and did overcome such an host; how many inhabitants of the country could he have beat out of their houses? And how many tenants could he have put out of their livings? And how much of that country could he have enclosed to himself? Surely, even as much and as many as he had pleased. Yet doth he no such thing; but contrariwise, considering himself to be but a tenant under God, he is content to let every man sit quietly by him, and himself to dwell in tents, rather than to encroach one foot further than God bade him, though he had been able.
This checketh the pride, or covetousness, or ambition, or all, of such as join house to house, land to land, lordship unto lordship, town to town; and care not how many menŐs houses they pull down to build one of their own; nor how many men want land and living, so they can have their parks, and pastures, gardens, and orchards, and all other delights they can devise. These are so far from AbrahamŐs mind, who desired only so much land as his tent might stand on, and might feed his cattle; as they can enclose and make several to themselves, that which in common should be the living of many souls. But what can befall such men? But that Isaiah prophesieth unto them (Isa. 5:8), Woe be unto them that join house to house, and land to land, till there be no place left for the poor to dwell in.
(c) Thirdly, in that Abraham lived thus, as ready ever to depart into another country, when God would call him; he sheweth that true faith doth never limit GodŐs hand, either in the greatness or length of trials, but submitteth itself wholly to His will, being resolved and content to suffer all trials, how great soever they are, and how many soever God pleaseth to lay upon a man. Reason would have said, I have left one country at GodŐs word; if I must leave another, then I shall never know an end, nor have anything certain to trust to. But faith saith, As I have left one country at GodŐs calling, so upon His word I will leave twenty more. For God hath as good reason to bid me the second time, as the first; and His love cannot fail me; He may still try me, but can never leave me. Thus spake AbrahamŐs faith. And not he alone, for Job, though he cry out of the violence of his temptation, The arrows of the Almighty are in me, and the venom thereof doth drink up my spirit, and the terrors of God do fight against me (Job 6:4); yet when faith comes to play its part, he then protesteth that though God kill him, yet he will trust in him, and He shall be his salvation (Job 13:15). See AbrahamŐs faith will lead him from country to country; and JobŐs will carry him through life and death. And noble David is not behind for his part; for he will lose his kingdom, if God will have it so (2 Sam. 15:26), If (saith David) God shall have no delight in thee; lo, here I am, let Him do to me (not what I in my reason could wish, but) what seemeth good in His eyes. Behold now in these holy men, the practice and obedience of true faith. It prescribes not God the measure how long, or how far He shall afflict us; but makes a man resign up himself wholly, his causes, his livings, his country, his kingdom, his life and all, to be at GodŐs disposing. He that can do thus may have joy in himself, as being assuredly one of the children of faithful Abraham.
(d) Fourthly, in that Abraham in a strange country will not build him an house, but dwell in tents, which daily are removable; here may such men learn as are travellers, or merchants, or sojourners in foreign countries, not to thrust themselves too hastily into society and familiarity with the people of those countries where they sojourn. Abraham will not build him an house in a strange country, but will dwell in tents, that so he may the easier remove; even so, let no man fix and fasten himself too hastily in a strange country, but live so, as he may easily remove, when he seeth good cause.
(e) Fifthly, Abraham who in his own country (it is likely) had his house, in a strange country will have none, but will dwell in tents. His practice must teach us, even so, not to build us houses in this world, where we are strangers, but to set our tent here, and to look for our house in heaven. Literally we are not bound to do as Abraham did, but mystically we must do it; the state of our bodies here, is but a tent or tabernacle; the state of our souls in heaven, is a strong house. We must therefore say with the apostle (2 Cor. 5:1,2), We are willing that this earthly tabernacle were destroyed, and desire to be clothed with our house, which is from heaven. Carnal and worldly men build their house in this world; that is, have all their care for their body; but if we follow our father Abraham, and esteem our life, and bodies, but as tabernacles presently to be removed, and build our houses in heaven, then walk we here in the steps of his faith, and after this life shall attain his reward.
For the ending and knitting up of this point, it may be asked, How can this be any such commendation to him, seeing that wicked men have used to dwell in tents?
I answer, never any of them, but in two cases; first, in time of war, where armies lying abroad in the fields, or in the siege of cities, must needs lie in tents; and so do all men, Christian or heathen to this day; or secondly, such as kept sheep did for their cattlesŐ sake lie abroad in tents; as it is recorded of Jabal, one of CainŐs posterity (Gen. 4:20), that he was the father of all them that dwell in tents, and such as have cattle. In which words, observe how, their dwelling in tents and having cattle are put together; and so the Arabians, great keepers of cattle, do in Arabia (being a hot country) to this day. So that it is clear, the wicked dwelt in tents, either for necessities sake in the war, or else for profitŐs sake with their cattle; but that for no such cause, but for their own sakes; and because they esteemed themselves strangers in the world, it was never found that any ungodly man dwelt in tents all his life; but that it was always a practice of holy and faithful men, until they came to have a settled church and state of their own.
And thus much for the manner how Abraham dwelt in Canaan: 1. As a stranger 2. Dwelling in tents.
(2). Now follow the persons with whom.
With Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise.
The second circumstance is the persons with whom; they were Isaac and Jacob; his son and his grandchild. But it may first of all be asked, to what clause is this referred, whether to AbrahamŐs dwelling in Canaan, or to his being there a stranger, or to his dwelling there in tents? The answer is, to them all three; He dwelt there with them, he was a stranger with them, he dwelt in tents with them, and they with him. Now the meaning is not, that they dwelt together with Abraham in the same tents, at the same time (for Isaac was not born till Abraham was an hundred years old, and Jacob was but young when Abraham died); but that the same promise made to Abraham, God renewed after to them, first to Isaac, and then to Jacob; which they also believed as Abraham did, and by the power of that faith were content to dwell in tents, as strangers, as he had done before them.
But why doth he name none but Isaac and Jacob? Did no other dwell in tents, and think themselves strangers, but they? Yes, many others; but these two are named above any other, both for that they were next to Abraham in time, and in blood, and in faith also; for their faith was so excellent, as God is called the God of these three men, more specially than any other in the world; but in and under these two, are all others understood, who, embracing the same promise, did therefore as strangers dwell in tents.
From hence we learn divers excellent instructions:
(i) First, see here a notable work of faith; I mean of true faith in the promises of eternal life; namely, that it conformeth the believers one to another, both in the inward disposition of heart, and outward conversation of life. God hath made this promise, that He so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have life everlasting (John 3:16). Now as this promise is one, so is the faith that apprehends it; and this faith being one, conformeth all that have it, and makes them like one to another in the obedience of GodŐs commandments. This is that that the Holy Ghost saith (Acts 4:32), The believers were all of one heart, and one soul; and that not one of them, but the whole multitude of them that believed. And Isaiah prophesieth that in the kingdom of Christ shall be such uniformity and peace, as that though men in their natures be as contrary one to another as sheep and wolves, lions and kids, young children and serpents; yet by grace and faith in Christ, they are changed, and all conformed one to another so as they shall live and consent together in the unity of one obedience (Isa. 11:6,7).
The Book of Psalms was penned by David, Asaph, Moses and others, and in several ages and states of the church, and were appointed to be sung then, for the present state of the church in those days. It may therefore be demanded: Why then do we sing them now in our churches? The answer is: the church in all ages consists of a number of believers, and the faith is always one, and makes all that apprehend GodŐs promises to be alike to one another in grace, in meditations, in dispositions, in affections, in desires, in spiritual wants, in the feeling and use of afflictions, in course and conversation of life, and in performance of duties to God and man; and therefore the same psalms, prayers and meditations, are now as fit for the church in these days, and are said and sung with the same use and profit, as in the church in those days when they were first made.
This doctrine hath profitable use:
(a) First, if this be so, here is confuted the opinion and practice of many; who when they are taught that they ought to do this or this, after the examples of holy men in times past, they answer: They were great and glorious men, they may not think to be like them; and their examples are too high; they may admire them, but not follow them. For example, when they are exhorted to walk with God, as Enoch did (Gen. 5:24), to refuse the world for Christ, as Moses did (Exod. 2:10); to spare our enemies being in our power, as David did (1 Sam. 24:5-7); in magistracy to be able to say, Whose ox or ass have I taken, or whom have I done wrong to? as Samuel said (1 Sam. 12:3); in the ministry to follow the zeal, the patience, the diligence of the holy ministers of God in old time; then they answer, that they dare not look at them, and that they may not think to be like them. But let these men know that if they have the same faith, they have the same conscience; and that as Isaac and Jacob, though they had not the same measure of faith that Abraham had, yet having the same faith, were therefore willing to dwell in tents, as he had done. So, if we have the same faith that our fathers in times past had; then howsoever we cannot match them in holiness, and in virtues, yet we must seriously labour to be like unto them, and must also practice the same virtues, which they did; for if we be heirs with them of the same promise, then must we be practisers with them in the same obedience.
(b) Secondly, this checketh a great and common profaneness, which now reigneth amongst us. We all profess religion; yet come to the practice of religion, the hearing of the Word, receiving the holy sacrament, or prayer, or abstaining from foul and common sins; let a man be in any of these more forward than others, then some are so profane as they stick not to deride and reproach them. But is this to be heirs of one and the same promise? Let such men therefore know that we in this age of the church, are bound to conform ourselves to the holy lives of the fathers of the old church, or else we have not the same faith that they had. Therefore our duty is to strive, and by all means we can, to endeavour who should come nearest to their faith, to their zeal, and to their obedience. And if any do it more than we do, we should rather honour than reproach him.
(ii) In the next place, observe here the power of a great manŐs example, how forcible it is; especially to them of the same kindred. Abraham a grand patriarch, a man of honour, he is contented to dwell in tents, like a stranger in that land which was promised him to be his own. Isaac his son followeth him, and doth so also. Jacob his grandchild comes after, and he walketh in both their steps. Let this teach all superiors (be they parents, magistrates, or ministers) to look to their ways; for the higher they be, the more are they followed either in good or in evil. We see in courts what princes do, they are imitated; and any fashion they take up or put in practice (be it never so strange) is followed of all men. And here we see, if Abraham will dwell in no house but in tents, Isaac and Jacob will do so after him.
(iii) Thirdly, observe how these three holy men are called heirs of the promise; and they are so called in regard of God. Who as He made the promise to Abraham, so He renewed it to them both severally; and withal gave them grace to apprehend it, and to shew the obedience of their faith, as Abraham did.
But it is very notable that they are not called heirs of the land, but of the promise; for they enjoyed not the land, but the promise; and their seed did afterwards enjoy the land itself. Wherein appears the excellency of their faith; for they who thus blessedly believed, and thus patiently and constantly obeyed God in all duties of holy obedience, having but bare promises, how excellent and eminent would their faith and obedience have been had they been partakers of the blessings themselves. And here also must we learn our duties. For in greater matters than the land of Canaan, we enjoy the things, whereas they but had the promises; as namely, the incarnation of the Messiah, and the calling of the Gentiles; these two great and grand mercies were looked for by them, but enjoyed by us; they had the promises, but we the performance. Therefore if our obedience, and patience, and other virtues be behind theirs, our condemnation must needs be so much the deeper.
Much more is to be said of Isaac and JacobŐs faith; but they have several examples for themselves.
II. ŇFor he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.Ó Hebrews 11:10.
Thus we see the fact of AbrahamŐs faith; now followeth the reason that moved him to live in the land of Canaan, as a stranger, and in tents. And the reason is because he looked for a city, whose builder and maker is God, that is, for everlasting life in heaven. This is the substance of the reason; and then that life everlasting is further described in divers particulars; so that these two things are contained in this verse:
1. Generally the state of the reason, shewing the height and eminency of AbrahamŐs faith; he looked for everlasting life.
2. A particular description of that life eternal.
1. In the general state of the reason, many worthy points are to be considered:
(1). First, in the very context and framing of the reason, observe how Abraham therefore liveth as a stranger, patiently in that country which was his own, because he looked for heaven after this life. Hence we learn, that hope to win heaven, worketh patience and contentment in all estates and conditions of life. Thus reasoneth the Holy Ghost here; Abraham was content to live in no city, but in tents, as a stranger; for he looked for a better city in heaven. So the disciples, grieved at ChristŐs departure from them, He strengtheneth them with this consolation: In my FatherŐs house are glorious mansions, I go to prepare a place for you (John 14:2).
(i) The use of this doctrine is necessary for these our days; wherein are many that will say confidently they look to be saved, and hope for heaven; but let any man injure them, or cross them in the least measure, they break out into anger and impatience, yea, often into swearing and blaspheming of GodŐs name. Or if God lay His heavy hand on them or theirs, then instantly they run to wizards, and wise men, that is, even to the bottom of hell for help. These and all such, do foully deceive themselves; for if they truly hoped for that city which is in heaven, no small cross in this world could much trouble them; nor any so great, to drive them into that disquietness as by their oaths they should rend heaven and earth; and as it were confound God and all His creatures. Or if they truly persuaded themselves that God would give them heaven at their end; they would be afraid and ashamed to run to the devil to remove GodŐs hand from them; for assuredly that man cares not what God layeth on him in this life, who is persuaded that after this life God will give him heaven.
(ii) Secondly, this doctrine gives us a worthy direction for comfort under the cross. For if Abraham bore all this patiently, because he looked for heaven; then it must teach us that when God layeth any cross on us, if we would have the bitterness thereof allayed, we must not look on it with both our eyes, but with one eye on the cross, and with the other on the city prepared for us in heaven; where is no cross, no woe, no sorrow, nor misery; but where God Himself will wipe away all tears from our eyes (Rev. 21:4). There can be no affliction so bitter but this meditation will mitigate it, and yield comfort and contentment in the sharpest pangs thereof.
(2). In the second place, Abraham waiting for heaven, when he sojourned on the earth, giveth us an excellent pattern of Christian life. Whilst we are on earth, we must wait for heaven, and look and long after it; there must our joy and our affections be. So teacheth the apostle (Col 3:1), If ye be risen with Christ, seek ye the things that are above. And (Phil. 3:20), we must have our conversation in heaven, though we live on earth. How this may be, cannot be better expressed than by a comparison:
A merchant that is a freeman in London, and there hath wife, children and living; travelleth as a merchant into Turkey, or Barbary, or Spain; there he lives, there is his body, but all his thoughts and desires of his heart are at home; and all the hazard of his life and goods are to preserve and help his estate there. So we in this world are but strangers; but we are freemen in heaven; therefore our thoughts must be there, and all out cares here should be nothing, but how to procure us sure and good estates in heaven. This if we do seriously intend, and carefully endeavour, then we are good children of Abraham our father; and thus doing, we have our conversation in heaven, though we live on earth. And this we should do the rather, because generally the world is full of such men who (as the same place saith) mind nothing but earthly things. Now it is a hard thing for a man to be unlike the world, and to resist multitudes, and general examples; but we must still remember that we are AbrahamŐs children, and children must labour to be like their father, and not the common multitudes; and it must more move a good child what his father alone doth, than what is done by many other.
(3). Thirdly, let us observe, how God promising Abraham only the land of Canaan, that is, a temporal inheritance; he looks further, for a city in heaven. This he did out of his faith; for he knowing that Canaan was but a type of heaven, therefore in consideration of the earthly Canaan, he arose to a consideration of the heavenly; and in the promise of the earthly, apprehended the heavenly. This is the true and Christian use of all GodŐs blessings given in this life; in them to behold better things laid up in heaven, and shadowed in the other. Men use for their use, spectacles in reading; but they take no pleasure in looking upon them, but at other things, by and through them; so should Christians, through all temporal blessings, look at spiritual and eternal, which are promised and shadowed under the temporal. Thus doth Christ Himself teach us in the very order of the LordŐs Prayer; directing us to pray for temporal blessings first in the fourth petition, and then for eternal in the fifth and sixth; as though that the one were introductions and passages to the other. And this made the prophets so ordinarily cover spiritual blessings under temporal; and put temporal deliverances for spiritual, and confusedly oftentimes one for another; because that the holy men of the old church did never rest in view of any temporal promise or blessing; but ascended to contemplation of the higher things in them. How pitiful then is the practice of worldly men; who use GodŐs blessings so, as they daily abuse and pervert them; using meat to gluttony, raiment to pride, learning to vain glory, speech to flattery, wit to deceit, authority to revenge, callings to oppression; whereas they are all given to be helps in GodŐs service, and furtherances in religion, and means to help us towards heaven. These men look at GodŐs gifts, with the eye of reason, and no further; but if they looked at them, with the eye of faith, as Abraham did; it would teach them to make a heavenly and spiritual use of them, as he did.
(4). Lastly, in the general state of the reason, and of AbrahamŐs practice, observe how he having promise of Canaan, waited for heaven. Now no man waiteth for anything, but that which he hath hope of; nor hopeth truly and properly for anything, but that which he hath assurance of; for hope maketh not ashamed (Rom. 5:5). Not worldly hope, for that hath deceived no more than ever trusted it; but hope in God never deceived man; nor went any away disappointed, that hoped in God. Therefore here it is apparent that hope of heaven goeth with assurance; and this assurance must be particular to the believer, as the belief and faith is.
But the papists say, This is true indeed of Abraham; he had not only hope, but full assurance; but that came by extraordinary revelation; so that this is a rare example, and his particular revelation is no general warrant to us.
We answer from St Paul (Rom. 4:11) that Abraham is the father of the faithful; and that his faith is a pattern for all Christians to follow; for else, why doth the apostle so far extol and set forth that faith of his, above 1,300 years after his death; shall it be only for his commendation, and not for our imitation also? Therefore every man that will walk in the steps of holy Abraham, may come with him to that measure of faith, that he may wait for heaven, with assurance to enjoy it.
2. Now let us come to the particular description of that heaven, which Abraham thus waited for.
A city having a foundation, whose maker and builder is God.
The description hath three parts;
(1). It is said to be a city.
(2). That hath a foundation.
(3). That God made and built it.
(1). For the first:
Abraham by his faith waited for heaven; but for which? For there are three heavens, or differences of heaven in the Scriptures:
The first, that wherein we live and breathe, birds fly and clouds move.
The second, that wherein the stars are.
The third, is that that is above them both and is invisible; the seat of GodŐs glory, where God revealeth His majesty in special manner to men and angels. This heaven Abraham waited for. For as for the first, he lived in it. And for the second, he knew it as well as most men; for it is credibly thought he was a notable astronomer. So that it was the third heaven he waited for; which he knew this world could not give him; and therefore expected it in another.
Now the heaven which was AbrahamŐs hope, is called a city. A city properly is a place for the habitation of men, compassed with walls, and distinguished by streets and houses. Now properly heaven (or the estate of holy men in heaven) is not a city; but as elsewhere in the Scripture it is called a house, a tabernacle, a temple, an inheritance, a kingdom; so is it here called a city; namely, for the resemblance it hath thereunto, which consisteth specially in four points:
(i) A city hath many houses, greater, less, and for all sorts. So in heaven also there are many mansions (John 14:2), places of glory for all men; none need to fear that he shall not have fulness of joy, and perfect happiness.
(ii) A city is built, and at first was ordained to this end: that many citizens might live together in concord and amity. So the kingdom of heaven is an heavenly city, where the saints of God shall live in perfect peace and love, with fulness of joy every one in himself, and each one in another.
(iii) The goodness or excellency of a city consists in this: to have good laws, good magistrates to execute them, and good people performing subjection and obedience. Therefore the kingdom of heaven is a most perfect city, wherein GodŐs laws are the only laws, and they shall be written in menŐs hearts; where each one is a sufficient governor of himself, and yet all subject to God; and their God unto them all in all.
(iv) A city is a place where generally are all necessaries and comforts for manŐs life; one part of the country hath this commodity, another that; but in the city are all, either brought into it, or of itself. So in heaven are all parts of perfection, and all complements of happiness, to make the state of GodŐs children there infinitely blessed.
Such a glorious place is the city that was AbrahamŐs hope.
Now for the use hereof.
(i) First, is heaven such a city? Here is a notable comfort to the poor and plain countryman, who lives in the simplicity of the country life, tilling the ground, or keeping cattle; and it may be never saw, or (at the least) never tasted of the pleasures and delights of cities: If he serve God, and keep a good conscience, here is his happiness, he shall be citizen in the high and heavenly Jerusalem; that city which was the hope of the holy men of God in all ages.
(ii) Secondly, this may teach citizens in the great pompous and populous cities of this world, to labour also to be citizens in heaven; for that is a city also, and the best on earth are but shadows of it. And it may shame them that are drowned in the pleasures and delicacies of earthly cities, and care not nor look after the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem; as it is called (Heb. 12:22). But alas, it seems they care not for this shame; for where is security, wantonness, profaneness, oppressions so common, as in these great cities? And as in the apostlesŐ time, the country town Berea was more zealous and religious than the rich and stately city of Thessalonica (Acts 17:11). So is it generally to this day, especially at such places in the country where teaching and knowledge is. But let such cities know that as they have better means and more comforts, and their very nature should put them in mind, and make them in love with heaven; so they shall receive greater damnation.
(iii) Lastly, cities are places of freedom, and all such great places have some notable privileges; therefore men desire to be free in such places; as it is to be seen in London, Rome, Venice, &c. even the greatest persons will be content to be free of them, and many seek it, and pay dear for it; or at least work a long time for it. But heaven is the city of cities, the perfection of beauty and true happiness; therefore let everyone that desires either honour or happiness, labour and strive to be a freeman of heaven, and never rest till he know he be. And let those that live in cities, when they are admitted freemen (as daily some are), remember what a blessedness it will be if they can be admitted freemen of the glorious city which is above; and how little that shall avail them, if they want this, which was the hope and joy of Abraham and all holy men.
To go further, this city which AbrahamŐs faith waited for, is described by two points:
(2). That it hath a foundation.
(3). That the maker and builder was God.
(2). For the first, heavenly Jerusalem hath a foundation, such a one as no city in this world hath; and by this phrase, the Holy Ghost insinuates unto us what be the properties of heaven; which be two:
(i) The state of heaven is unchangeable.
(ii) It is everlasting and eternal.
(i) First, the state of the elect in heaven, and their glory there, is not subject to corruption or the least alteration; as appeareth in that notable and lofty description of the heavenly Jerusalem (Rev. 21:10ff.), It hath a great wall and high, twelve gates, twelve angels for porters; and the wall had twelve foundations, of twelve sorts of most excellent precious stones; and the wall itself was jasper, and the city pure gold, like crystal. The state of it is shadowed by precious stones and gold; to signify as well the durableness, as the excellency thereof. And it is called the mountain of GodŐs holiness (Psa. 15:1); hills are hardly removed, and therefore David saith, that Mount Zion cannot be removed, but remaineth for ever (Psa. 125:1). Now, if that be true of Mount Zion in this world; which must needs be taken either literally, for the state of the visible church, which cannot be utterly overthrown; or mystically, for the state of GodŐs grace, which in this world cannot totally and finally be lost. I say, if this Mount Zion standeth fast, and cannot be removed; how much more true is it of the state of glory in heaven, and of the triumphant church, and of Heavenly Zion; that it is so unchangeable, so durable, so unremovable, that it cannot be shaken, but standeth fast for ever. And in this respect, well may the apostle say here, It hath a foundation, which the Holy Ghost in the Revelation saith, to have twelve foundations.
(ii) Secondly, the state of the elect in heaven is not only sure, but everlasting; that is, without end (Psa. 37:18), The inheritance of holy men is perpetual; and therefore St Peter saith that the inheritance reserved in heaven for us is immortal and not fading away (1 Pet. 1:4). There is the unchangableness; it is immortal; there is the eternity of it. And this is meant by having a foundation; for in this world, so much the longer doth anything endure, as the foundation is stronger. Therefore seeing the heavenly city hath such a foundation, no marvel though it endure for ever.
Now put these two together, and they shew the perfect excellency of that city which is both unchangeable and eternal. Where we learn the great difference betwixt the state of that world and this present world wherein we live in the body. For what is there in this world so excellent, so precious, so costly, so artificial; but is subject to both alteration, and in the end to dissolution? The longest day hath its night; and the longest life endeth in death, after many miseries and tossings; the longest empires and mightiest monarchies had their period, after many mutations; the statliest and strongest cities ended in ruin, after many civil broils, massacres and other miseries. So that no glory, no strength, no happiness, nothing at all is there in this world that is either constant or perpetual, but subject to utter dissolution in the end; and in the meantime, to pitiful alterations. So weak a foundation hath this world, and the best things in it. But contrariwise, the glory of heaven hath such a foundation as it is both unchangeable and eternal.
The consideration of this difference hath manifold and profitable use:
(a) First, we may see how reasonable the counsel of the apostle is (1 Tim. 6:17), Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not high minded, and put not their trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God. For what a misery and vanity is it, to trust in that that is uncertain, and therefore will deceive them? The apostle tells them what to do, namely, Do good, and be rich in good works, and be ready to distribute; laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the times to come, that they may obtain eternal life (1 Tim. 6:18,19); that is that they so spend their riches in holiness and charity, that they may in the end attain heaven, which is the city that hath a foundation; and who would not spend riches which are so uncertain, for heaven, which is so certain a glory?
(b) Secondly, this must teach us to follow the counsel of Christ Jesus (Matt. 6:19,20), Lay not up for yourselves treasure on earth, where moth and canker corrupt, and thieves steal; but in heaven, where is neither canker, moth, thief, nor any other corruption. Every man naturally must have his treasure, and that is it whereon he sets his heart. Now that is unworthy of a manŐs heart, which will be lost we know not how soon. But let us make heaven our treasure, the glory whereof is both eternal and unchangeable.
(c) Again, seeing nothing here is certain, we must learn to seek sound comfort where it may be had. Seek it in this world, and it will fail us; but seek it in the sincere worship of God, and that will minister such comfort in this life, and such glory in heaven, as hath a foundation, and will never fail us.
(d) Further, this must put us in mind of the holy kingŐs advice, which is to remember our creator in the days of our youth (Eccl. 12:1). Seeing this world is so uncertain, and our life hath so weak a foundation, as we are not sure to live to come to old age; every man therefore is to hear the conclusion of all, which is to fear God and keep His commandments (Eccl. 12:13); and this the sooner, the better. For else, for a little foolish and vain pleasure, transitory, and which hath no foundation; we shall venture the losing of that glorious city, which hath a sure foundation.
It followeth in the description;
3. Whose maker and builder is God.
The second point in the description of this city is that God was the maker, builder, or author of it. These two words are both one, and therefore it is a needless labour of some that would distinguish between them; for the meaning is, God made, that is, prepared the glory of heaven, and He built it; as though he should say, Heavenly Jerusalem is a glorious city; and no marvel though it be so, for God made it. And if you will needs that being a city, it must be built, be it so; for God is the builder of it.
This doctrine is evident in the Scriptures (Psa. 136:5), God by His wisdom made the heavens. And here is another main difference between this world and the glory of heaven; The cities of this world were built by man, but heaven by God Himself. The art and skill of men build the cities of the earth, and sometimes by the covetousness, or other corruption of man, as is manifest in the beginning; for Cain, a covetous, cruel, and ambitious man, built the first city in the world; but holy and good men, have not the honour to be builders of this city; no, they are citizens of it, but God only is the author and builder of it.
No man may doubt hereof because this third heaven is invisible; for the angels also are invisible, and yet GodŐs creatures. Besides, our Creed teacheth that God is the creator of all things visible and invisible.
If we doubt why God made it, seeing He made all things for man, and man in this world hath no sight nor use of it; the answer is that God made it for two ends:
First, to be His own glorious palace (not wherein He would confine His being, or His presence, but), wherein He would make His glory most apparent; and wherein His glory should in a sort dwell. In which regards, it is called His throne (Isa. 66:1). And in our LordŐs Prayer, we say by ChristŐs own teaching, that God our Father is in heaven. Therefore as princes build themselves palaces, to show their power and puissance, and to magnify themselves, and to be fit habitations for their greatness; so God made the third heaven to be the throne of His glory.
Secondly, He had also a respect herein to His creatures; for He made that heaven, therein to reveal His majesty and glory to His reasonable creatures: angels and men; and (by shewing them His glory) to glorify them. For in GodŐs presence is the fulness of joy (Psa. 16:11). And in this sense is it true that God made all things for man (as man for Himself); namely, all things either for his soul, or body, or both; either for his use in this life, or in the other. And so the third heaven was made for manŐs use; not in this life, but in the life to come; for his soul until the last judgment, and after that for both soul and body.
Hence we learn divers instructions:
(i) First, in that the third heaven, which never was seen with the eye of man, is here positively affirmed to be made by God; we learn that therefore it is one of GodŐs creatures; and not eternal, as some hold, and go about to prove thus: God is eternal; but He must be in some place; and heaven is the seat and place of God; therefore it is coeternal with God. But I answer from GodŐs word; that though heaven be the seat and throne of GodŐs glory, and where He manifesteth and magnifieth His glory; yet it is not the place of His substance and being; for that is infinite and incomprehensible; and it is against the Christian faith to imagine the Godhead to be comprehended or contained in any place (1 Kin. 8:27), The heavens, yea the heavens of heavens cannot comprehend thee O Lord; how much more unable is this house that I have built?
Nor is it material, that we know not on what day it was created; or that it is not named amongst the works of the creation. For the same is true of the angels also; and it pleased GodŐs wisdom, for special causes, to name no creatures particularly in the creation, but visible ones; wheras we know both from our Creed, and GodŐs Word itself, that He is the creator of all things, both visible and invisible. Therefore, though we know not what day the third heaven was made, yet is it sufficient that here is said, it was made and built by God Himself. Whereupon it necessarily followeth that it is a creature, and not co-eternal with the Godhead.
(ii) Secondly, here appears the weakness of one of the commonest arguments used for the defence of the ubiquity and consubstantiation. Christ (say they) is present bodily in the Eucharist; and they prove it thus: Christ is in heaven, and He is God; but heaven is everywhere, for God is everywhere; and where God is, there heaven is; (as where the king is, there the court is): Therefore, Christ may be in the Sacrament, and yet be in heaven notwithstanding.
I answer, the ground is false. Heaven is not everywhere, for then it is in hell; which to affirm is absurdity, confusion and impiety. Indeed GodŐs presence is everywhere; and where His presence is, there is His power; as where the kingŐs presence is, there is also his power and authority; and there may be any seat or court of justice; and so where he is, the court is. But if you take the court for some one of his chief houses, then the saying is not true. But contrariwise, as the kingŐs power is, wheresoever his presence is; and yet he may have one house more sumptuous and magnificent than all the rest, which may be called his court; by an excellency above other; and that court is not always where the king is, but in some set and certain place, and not removable. So GodŐs power and glory is everywhere; and yet His most glorious court, the third heaven, is not everywhere, but in His limited and appointed place, where GodŐs glory shineth more than in any other place.
Again, if heaven, properly taken, be everywhere, then it is God Himself; for that that is everywhere must needs be deified; and indeed some, to maintain this opinion, have said little less. But if the Holy Ghost may moderate this disputation, He plainly tells us here that God is the maker and builder of it. Therefore, assuredly, it is not God, but one of GodŐs creatures.
(iii) Thirdly, and lastly, let us observe the description of heaven included in these two words, maker and builder. God made it, that is, it is one of His creatures; He made it as well as the rest; and He builded it, that is (as the word signifieth), made it with art, or He bestowed skill and wisdom upon it. For though we may not imagine any substantial difference between these two words for matter; yet in signification, they differ; and so far are we to observe it.
Here then we learn that the third heaven is like a piece of work, wherein an excellent workman hath spent his art and shewed his skill; that is, that the highest heaven is a most glorious place, and surpasseth all other creatures of God in glory and excellence, so far as therein shineth the glory, skill and wisdom of the Creator, more than in any other creature. In which regards, it is no marvel that the Holy Ghost says in another place, that the eye hath not seen, nor the ear heard, nor manŐs heart conceived, what God hath there prepared for them that love Him (1 Cor. 2:9). And St Paul himself, though he had the honour of being taken up into the third heaven, and to see and hear the glory which is there; yet afterwards he could not express the glory he had seen. And this was figured in the Temple of Jerusalem, which was the mirror, and beauty of the world; for the building whereof, God both chose the skilfullest men, and indued them also with extraordinary gifts; namely, Bezaleel and Aholiab. Now, as thereby that Temple was the most excellent piece of work that ever was in this world, made by man; so the highest heaven (which was mystically prefigured in SolomonŐs Temple), is the most excellent of all the works of God.
The use of this doctrine is not to be omitted:
(i) Firstly, if that be so excellent and glorious a place, we must all labour to come thither; for above all things, it seems worthy to be sought for. People come out of all places of the country to dwell in great towns, and rich cities; and men labour to be freemen there, and to have their children free in them; and even the greatest men will have their houses either in, or near them; that so, though they will not always dwell in them, yet they may sojourn in them at their pleasures now and then. And why all this? But because, first, they are places beautiful, and many ways pleasant to the eye. Secondly, full, and frequented with the best company. Thirdly, replenished with abundance of all things needful for manŐs life, for necessity, comfort and delight. Fourthly, they enjoy many privileges and freedoms. And lastly, all this is most true of such cities where the king keeps his court.
If this be so, then how is heaven to be sought for? Behold here a goodly city, a city of God (whereof London, Paris, Rome, Venice, nay, Jerusalem are scarce shadows), the true Jerusalem, the joy of the whole earth; nay, the joy of the world, and the glory of all GodŐs creatures, made immediately with the hand, and built with the skill and cunning of God Himself. The princes of the world, and even of Rome itself, wondered at the beauty, and were amazed at the magnificence of Jerusalem and the Temple, and yet it was but a type and figure hereof. For that had indeed the glory of the world upon her; but the New Jerusalem hath the glory of God upon her (Rev. 21:2).
Shall we then seek to dwell in the cities of this world, and not labour to come to heaven? Are they any way excellent, wherein heaven is not much more to be desired? Are they beautiful, and is not it the beauty of the world? Read the 21st chapter of the Revelation, and suppose that the beauty of it were but outward and worldly and sensible to human capacity; yet is it far more excellent than any ever was in this world. And is not there the company of the deity, of ChristŐs humanity, of the holy angels, and all good men? And is not there abundance of whatsoever belongs to perfect happiness? And is not there freedom from the devil, sin and death? And is it not the court of God, the King of glory? Then why do we not sigh and groan, and long to be freemen of this glorious city? And though we cannot come to it, as long as we live in this world; yet why do we not strive to come as near it as may be? In this world, when a man cannot dwell in the heart of a city, yet he will rather dwell in the suburbs than he will not be near it; and being there, he knows he can soon step into the city. So let us in this life come as near heaven as we may; let us get into the suburbs and dwell there.
The suburbs of heaven is GodŐs true church on earth, where His Word is freely known and preached, and His holy sacraments administered, and therein God truly served. Let us associate ourselves to this church, and live according to the holy laws thereof. This is the suburbs of heaven; so shall we be ready to enter into the glorious city itself, when the Lord calls us.
(ii) And as this is for ourselves; so if we love our children, or care for their advancement, let us make them freemen of that city, whose maker and builder is God; so shall we be sure to have comfort and joy of them here, and with them in heaven. But if we will have them freemen in heaven, we must make them GodŐs apprentices on earth; they must serve out their time, else they get no freedom. This time is all their life. Men are deceived that let their children be the devilŐs slaves here, and think to have them free in heaven; let us then bind our children as apprentices to God, that is, make them His servants here; then assuredly, as in their repentance and regeneration here, they are born freemen of heaven; so after this life they shall enjoy the freedoms and privileges of that heavenly city, which was made and built by the wisdom of God.
(iii) Lastly, here we see how true it is that David teacheth (Psa. 15:4), No vile person can come into heaven. And no marvel; for if men thus and thus defamed cannot be freemen in the cities on earth built by men, is it likely that sinners and profane men, that care not for repentance and regeneration (for they be the vile men), shall be admitted into that city, whose maker and builder is God? It is the holy city, no unclean thing can enter into it (Rev. 21:8). It is GodŐs holy mountain, how shall ungodliness ascend thither (Psa. 15:1)? It is the New Jerusalem, how shall the old man, that is sinful corruption, get into it? We must therefore cast off the old man with his lusts, and be renewed in holiness; we must become penitent sinners for our lives past, and new men for hereafter; or else let us not look to have any part in heaven.
And good reason, for God is the maker and builder of it. But He is not the maker of sin, but the devil and ourselves brought it out; and think we the devilŐs work shall come into heaven? Or that God will build a house for the devilŐs slaves to dwell in? Let us not be deceived. But contrariwise, grace and holiness is GodŐs work; as our souls and bodies were the work of His hands, so our regeneration is much more the work of His own power and mercy. That man therefore who can say, God as once He made me a man, so He hath again made and built me a new man, and a new creature; that man is he, that shall be an inhabitant in that heavenly city, whose maker and builder is the same God.
In this holy way of faith and repentance did the holy fathers walk to the city; as David saith in the name of them all, Thus will I wait for thee in holiness.
And thus doubtless did the holy patriarch Abraham, who as he was the father of our faith, so was he also a pattern of repentance and holy life; and in that holiness he waited for this city that hath a foundation, whose maker and builder is God.
Hitherto we have heard the holy practice of AbrahamŐs faith in two examples.
There is much more spoken of the excellency of his faith; but by the way, the Holy Ghost interlaceth a worthy example, even of a womanŐs faith; namely, Sarah, his wife. The sixth example in the order of the whole, followeth in the words of the two next verses.