ŇFor they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now 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.Ó Hebrews 11:14-16.
ŇFor they that say such things, declare plainly that they seek a country.Ó (v.14).
In the former verse was set down the constancy of Abraham, Sarah, Isaac and Jacob in the faith. Now in the 14th, 15th and 16th verses, the Holy Ghost proceedeth to amplify and enlarge the commendation of their perseverance in the faith; for the scope of all these verses is to prove that all these particularly were constant in the faith unto the end. The proof is made by the substantial reason, the sum whereof is this: Abraham, Sarah, Isaac and Jacob sought for their country which was heaven, and therefore they were constant in the true faith.
But some may think that this reason is not substantial, for men may seek for heaven that never had true saving faith. As Balaam desired that his end might be like the end of the righteous (Num. 23:10), wherewith no doubt he desired the state of the righteous after this life.
I answer that this desire of Balaam was not grounded upon any constant persuasion, nor settled resolution, but upon some sudden motion. Secondly, though he desired to die the death of the righteous, yet he would not love the life of the righteous; he had no delight to walk in the way to come to that end which they walked in; without which no man ordinarily can come to it.
Yet further some will say, Many shall seek (as our Saviour Christ saith) to enter in at the strait gate of the kingdom of heaven, and shall not be able (Luke 13:24). Therefore to seek for heaven is no sufficient argument of true faith.
Answer: True indeed, many shall seek to come to heaven and shall not be able to enter; because they seek when the door of mercy is shut, and when the day of grace is past; for there is a time of grace wherein the Lord will be found. Now if men seek Him not in this time, though they seek Him never so long after, yet they shall not find Him. But the seeking of these patriarchs was a sound and constant seeking, and so a notable fruit of their true faith. For, 1. They sought an heavenly country; 2. They sought it in due time; not for a brunt, but through the whole course of their lives; 3. They went the right way; denying themselves and their estate in this life, as being strangers upon earth; and they were willing to forsake all things in this world to attain heaven, esteeming it as their true dwelling place, and their eternal rest.
Now more particularly, the Holy Ghost divideth this reason into two parts, and handleth the same severally:
I. He proveth that they sought a country in this verse; and
II. That this country which they sought was heaven itself (vv. 15,16).
I. For the first part, that they sought a country, is thus proved:
They which say they are pilgrims and strangers, shew plainly that they seek a country; but Abraham, Isaac and Jacob said of themselves that they were pilgrims and strangers; therefore they shew plainly that they seek a country.
The first part of this reason is evident in itself; for he that saith he is a pilgrim and a stranger in any place, sheweth plainly that he is gone forth of his own country, and therefore seeketh one. The second part of the reason is assumed from their confession in the end of the former verse: and confessed that they were pilgrims and strangers on the earth; from whence the conclusion is laid down in this 14th verse, that therefore these patriarchs sought for a country.
In this reason observe:
1. First, that the author of this epistle had diligently read the history of Abraham, Sarah, Isaac and Jacob, penned by Moses in the book of Genesis; and in reading had observed that which they particularly confessed of themselves in many places of that book; that they were pilgrims and strangers; yea, also he gathered from their confession this most heavenly meditation, that therefore they were not in their own country, but sought another. These three things, then, the author of this epistle used about the holy Scriptures: Reading, meditation and observation.
Whence we learn that all GodŐs ministers, and those which prepare themselves to the work of the ministry, are diligently to read and study the holy Scriptures, and to meditate therein. No doubt, the author of this epistle was an apostle, and had most notable gifts by virtue of his calling, and yet he bestowed pains in viewing the particular words of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, recorded by Moses in the book of Genesis. Daniel also was an extraordinary prophet, yet (as we may read (Dan. 9:2)) he studied with admirable diligence the prophecies of Jeremiah and Ezekiel. And Timothy, though he were a disciple (Acts 16:1) and well learned, yet Paul chargeth him to give attendance to reading, to exhortation and to doctrine (1 Tim. 4:13). And Ezekiel is commanded to eat the roll, and to fill his belly with it (Ezek. 3:3). And St John is likewise commanded to eat up the little book (Rev. 10:9,10), which thing he did; all which strongly enforce the former duty, shewing that GodŐs servant in the ministry must, as it were, eat up GodŐs book; that in judgment and understanding, he may digest as far as is possible the deep things of God, and the hardest places of the Scriptures; here he must lay his foundation, and hither have recourse from all other writings whatsoever in any matter of doubt.
This direction is most necessary for the schools of the prophets and for all GodŐs ministers; and yet notwithstanding, the contrary practice beareth sway in the world. For in the popish universities most of their divines apply themselves to study the books of certain schoolmen, and the expositors or commentators thereupon. These are applied day and night though they be both many and large, and full of needless quiddities; and oftentimes they be also publicly expounded, whereas in the meantime the Bible lieth neglected, or little regarded; wherein we may see the notable work of the devil and his malice toward the church of God; for the schools of the prophets are the fountains of learning. Now when as Satan by this means doth steal away from them the study of the Bible, and instead thereof foisteth in corrupt human writings; hereby he poisons the fountains, to the danger of infecting the whole church. And as this is common in the places of popery; so likewise some fault is this way committed among us that be Protestants; for many in their private studies take little pains in the book of God, but apply themselves wholly to the writings of men; as councils, fathers, schoolmen and other expositors; and in the handling of the Scripture, they glory more to prove a point of doctrine by multiplicity of human testimonies than by the written Word. But the truth is, thus to do is to prefer the handmaid before the mistress; and as for the opening and expounding of Scripture by other writers, it is no such point of deep learning; a man of ordinary capacity and diligence may easily deliver what others have done before him. But to open the Scripture soundly and purely, as it ought to be, is of another nature than these men take it; and hereto the sound study of the text itself will prove the best help, as they will confess who have tried most of all. And though the best menŐs works be but base stuff to the pure Word of God, yet the writings of holy men must not be contemned; but must be read and regarded in their place, for our furnishing and enabling to the study of the Scriptures, for the helping of our knowledge and judgment in the Word of God; they that hold or practice the contrary, know not what helps they be, and what light they yield to many dark places of Scripture. But still above and beyond, before and after all, the Word of God must be eaten up of us, and studied with all diligence.
2. Secondly, in that the author of this epistle noteth their particular sentence, and by consequence gathereth this meditation out of it, that they sought a country; hereby all men are taught to exercise themselves in hearing and reading all the places of the Bible, even the histories of men therein, and out of the words to gather godly meditations. So Paul saith to the Colossians (Col. 3:16), Let the word of God dwell plenteously in you. The prophet David also noteth it for the property of a good man to meditate in the law of God day and night (Psa. 1:2). And the practice of the blessed virgin Mary is registered as an example for us to follow; that she kept all the sayings of Christ in her heart (Luke 2;19). But pity it is to see how reading the word of God is laid aside; for it is so little practiced, that men nowadays will not be at charge to buy a Bible; for books of statutes, men will not only have them in their houses, but at their fingers ends; but Bible they have none; and if they have, it lieth on the desk or table, and they read it not; and if sometime they read, yet they never meditate thereon, as we are taught in this place.
3. Further, whereas the Holy Ghost reasoneth thus upon these examples; Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were strangers and pilgrims, therefore they sought a country. Herein He teacheth us this special point, to wit; that a doctrine, though it be not expressed in plain words in the Bible; yet being gathered thence by right and just consequence, is no less to be believed and received, than that which is plainly expressed; and therefore they are far to blame which mislike these terms in divinity: person, nature, sacrament, consubstantial, trinity, &c., because they are not expressed in the Word. But they may with good conscience and much profit be retained; because, though not literally, yet in sense and meaning they are contained in the Scripture, and may by just consequence be gathered thence. And we deny not transubstantiation because the word is not in the Scripture, but because the matter is not there; nor can by necessary consequence be derived from it, but rather the contrary.
Again, many refuse these doctrines: the proceeding of the Holy Ghost from the Son, and the baptism of children, because they are not expressed in the Scripture. But hence we answer, that though they be not expressly set down in so many words, yet by just consequence they may be soundly gathered out of the scripture, and therefore are true doctrines, no less to be believed than that which is plainly expressed.
And thus much for the first part of the reason.
ŇAnd truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now 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.Ó (vv.15,16).
II. Here the Holy Ghost proveth the second part of the former argument by two reasons: the first is contained in the 15th verse and the beginning of the 16th. It is taken from the distinction of countries, and may be framed thus: They either sought an earthly country or an heavenly country. But not an earthly, therefore they sought an heavenly country. The first part of this reason is clear of itself. The second part is in the fifteenth verse; from whence followeth the conclusion in the beginning of the 16th.
1. To come to the first part in these words:
And if they had been mindful of the country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned.
That is, if they had regarded or thought upon Mesopotamia or Chaldea, from whence they came, and where they were born; with any desire to have enjoyed the profits or pleasures thereof; they had leisure enough to have returned back thither, by reason of the length of their days which they lived, in the land whither God called them.
Here observe two points:
(1) First, that they are not mindful of, or (as the word imports) they remember not the country from whence they came; but when God gave them commandment to depart thence, and not to return to Mesopotamia again; after this commandment given, they came forth, and did forget their own country.
Whence we learn that howsoever usually forgetful be a vice; yet some kind of forgetfulness is a notable virtue; namely, to forget the things that displease God, and which He would not have us to think upon. The church (Psa. 45:10) is commanded to forget her own people, and her fatherŐs house; that is, her own wills and desires; she must never think thereof (nor of any other thing whereby God is displeased), unless it be with dislike.
This condemneth the practice of many aged persons in these days, who delight themselves among the younger sort, to tell of the bad practices of their youth; in wantonness, contentions, and breaking GodŐs commandments. But in so doing they sin grieviously; for a man must not remember his sins, but with dislike and detestation; being grieved with them, and angry with himself for them; or else to teach others how to avoid them.
And as this kind of forgetfulness is a good virtue, so there is also a virtuous and good remembrance; namely, to be mindful of that which may please God; as of GodŐs judgments, to be humbled thereby; and of His mercies, to be thankful unto almighty God for them; and of His commandments, to become obedient to His will. These things therefore we ought to imprint by diligence in our memories.
(2) Secondly, here observe, God calleth them out of their own country, and biddeth them live in the land of Canaan as strangers and pilgrims; and so they do, abiding there without any purpose to return; nay, they are not mindful of their former home.
Hence we are taught to be constant in that calling whereunto God hath called us. It is a fearful sin for a man to go back from that calling in which God hath placed him. When the Israelites abode not patiently and constantly with God in the wilderness, but desired to shake off the calling of God, and to return to Egypt, there to sit by the fleshpots again, they had GodŐs hand upon them grievously; as we may read at large in Psalm 78. LotŐs wife for looking back, when she was commanded to the contrary, was fearfully and strangely punished, being turned into a pillar of salt (Gen.19:26). And our Saviour Christ saith (Luke 9:62), No man that putteth his hand to the LordŐs plough, and looketh back again, is apt to the kingdom of God. As though He had said, He that starteth from the plough, is not fit for the field; no more is he that shifteth from his calling, fit for GodŐs service.
To apply this to ourselves; God hath called us to profess Christian religion, whence we are called Protestants. We therefore must profess the same constantly, and hold it fast, without wavering or doubting (even without being mindful of that spiritual Egypt of darkness and superstition whence we are delivered); much more, without turning to any other; this being the true religion, which is grounded on GodŐs Word.
Again, in this our calling of Christianity, we have vowed unto God for ourselves, to renounce the flesh, the world and the devil. Now, this being our calling; as we have promised, and undertaken it; so we must obey it in ourselves, fighting manfully every day against the world, the flesh and the devil. For if we profess religion in word, and do not obey it in deed; we make ourselves unfit for the kingdom of heaven. But alas, men are like to the swine that returneth to the puddle, though he be washed never so clean; and to the dog that returneth to his vomit; for most men do but serve the flesh, and the world, and the lusts thereof; therein is their joy, and their heartŐs case; take away these things from them, and thou dost take away their lives; so far are they from seeking the kingdom of heaven as these patriarchs did.
Thus much for the first part of the reason.
2. Now followeth the second part, which is this: But they sought not a place in earth; and therefore the conclusion followeth, That they desire a country, which is heaven; in these words:
But now they desire a better.
But some will say the patriarchs were dead many hundred years before this was written; how then can they be now said to desire a country? Answer: The author of this epistle here observeth, and followeth the manner of them that write histories; who speak of things past long ago as though they were now present.
Now it is said that they desire a better country; these patriarchs had laid before them two countries, the land of Canaan and the kingdom of heaven; and of these two, they might choose whither they would, to be their portion and inheritance, upon which they would bestow their hearts. Now, they esteemed heaven (though it was to come) better than Canaan, though present; and therefore made choice of heaven, and longed for it.
Where we learn that as we must be thankful to God for all His blessings; so among them all, we should choose the best. This David doth; for being put to choose whether he would rather live in safeguard and in solace with the wicked and ungodly, than in base estate and in great danger near to GodŐs sanctuary, he saith (Psa. 84:10), He had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of his God, than to dwell in the tabernacles of wickedness. And thus we see in general that their choice was of the better. Particularly the text addeth:
This is, an heavenly.
In which words is laid down the last and chief point in this reason, to wit, that the patriarchs desired a better country than the land of Canaan, and that was an heavenly country, even heaven itself; the proof whereof is principally intended in this place.
Now whereas the patriarchs, being out forefathers in faith, and patterns whom we must follow, did desire heaven; by their example, every one of us is taught the same duty, to aim at another and a better country than that in which we live, even at the kingdom of heaven; and not to think that this world is the country we are born for. This better country we must all seek for, whatsoever we be, high and low, young and old, learned and unlearned, if we will follow these godly patriarchs. And this we must do not at death only, seeking this world all our life long, for that is to despise heaven; but even in the time of our youth and strength of our days must we set our hearts on heaven; endeavouring so to use this world, and the things thereof, that when we die we may come to heaven, that blessed country, which we desired and sought for in our lives.
And to persuade us hereunto, let us consider the reasons following:
(1) First, worldly wisdom teacheth this: If a man dwell on his own land, and in his own house, he is careless; but if in another manŐs house, whereof he hath no lease, but contrariwise is certain to be put out he knoweth not when; this man in time will provide himself of another, that so he may remove into it and not be destitute; and if it be within his power, he will provide a better, that so he may not remove for the worse. Behold, while we live in this world, our bodies are tents and tabernacles wherein our souls do dwell for a time; and besides, this time is uncertain; for there is no man that can say certainly that he shall live to the next hour. Therefore, we must, every one of us, provide for himself a dwelling place in heaven, where we may abide for ever in all blessedness.
(2) Again, consider the state of all sorts of men in the world; for sin, atheism and profaneness abound everywhere, the blaspheming of GodŐs holy name and the breaking of His Sabbath; besides daily sin against the second table. Now all these cry continually for vengeance, and for GodŐs judgments to be inflicted upon us, and we know not how God will deal with us for our sins; whether he will take from us our goods and good name, our health, friends, or life itself; and therefore it standeth us in hand to provide for ourselves a resting place wherein we may abide for ever, after this frail life full of misery is ended.
(3) Thirdly, if we shall not do this, mark what followeth: this, and no other, is our estate: By nature we are the children of wrath and of the devil; and by our manifold sins we have made our case far worse. Now what is due unto us for this corruption, and for these transgressions? Surely not heaven, but another place; even the contrary, the place of eternal woe and destruction, the bottomless pit of hell. Now, if this be our due by nature, then let not sin nor Satan deceive us; persuading us that we may come to heaven and still continue in the state of our corrupt nature; but let us labour by all means to eschew this place, which is due unto us by nature; that through the gift of faith in Christ, we may come to the heavenly city, which these godly patriarchs so seriously sought for. But if we remain in our sins, and so die, we are sure to go to the place of destruction, and there to abide in woe and torments, with the devil and his angels for evermore; so that is stands us in hand to use all good means to come to heaven, or else our case will be most miserable of all creatures; for perdition and destruction will be our portion world without end.
This must awake and stir up our dead and drowsy hearts, that are so besotted with sin, that though we hear, yet we neither learn, nor practice. In worldly things, we can take care and pains; but if we will do anything for our own everlasting good, let us labour by all means to come to heaven; for if we miss of that city, it had been good for us if we had never been born; or that we would have been the vilest creatures in the world rather than men. For when the unreasonable creatures die, there is an end of all their misery; but if we die, and be not prepared for that place, our death will be unto us the beginning of all woe and misery.
3. Wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He hath prepared for them a city.
In these words is laid down a second reason whereby is proved that these patriarchs died in faith, seeking their country in heaven. The reason is drawn from the testimony of God Himself, recorded by Moses in the book of Exodus, where God saith, He is the God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Exod. 3:6).
That is, that this might appear and be evident that these patriarchs died in faith, and sought this country of heaven, God was content to vouchsafe and grant unto them this favour, to be called their God.
Was not ashamed.
To be, or not to be ashamed of one, properly belongs to men; and it cannot be affirmed properly of God, that He is ashamed or blusheth (as the word signifieth); but the meaning is that God vouchsafed unto them this favour, and shewed them this honour and dignity. Question: What was this honour and dignity which He shewed unto them? Answer: To be called their God. By which is meant thus much; that God accepteth them in His mercy, to be such, with whom He would make His covenant of salvation, and not with them alone, but with their seed after them. Secondly, that He chose them to make the covenant in their names for all the rest. Thirdly, He vouchsafed them a special and extraordinary favour, even that Himself would bear their names, and they should bear His; making His glorious name renowned to the worldŐs end by this title: The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Hereupon the reason is framed thus; God would not be called in special manner the God of unfaithful men, but rather would bestow such a special favour upon believers; but that favour did God vouchsafe to these three patriarchs; therefore doubtless they lived and died in that holy faith.
In that it is said that God was not ashamed to be called their God; here,
(1) First we learn that God doth not vouchsafe His mercy equally to all men, but some men have more prerogative in His favours and mercies than others. Kings make choice among all their subjects, of some men, whom they will prefer to be of their counsel or guard, and to whom they will give special countenance, and dispense their favours more liberally than to all; even so, God among all AbrahamŐs kindred maketh choice of these three persons, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to bestow on them such special honour as He vouchsafed not to any of their forefathers before them, nor posterity after them. No marvel therefore though He bestow not His special mercy upon all, seeing He dispenseth not His inferior favours unto all alike. And yet for all this, He is no accepter of persons; for he only is properly said to be an accepter of persons, that preferreth one before another, in regard of some quality in the person; but God vouchsafed this honour unto these three only of mere mercy and goodwill, and not for anything He respected in them.
This confuteth the conceit and error of many men, broached abroad in this age, that God doth equally love all men as they are men, and hath chosen all men to salvation, as they are men, and hath rejected none; for (say they) it standeth with equity and good reason that the Creator should love all His creatures equally; and this opinion they would build upon the general promise made to Abraham; because that in him, God said all the nations of the earth should be blessed (Gen. 22:18). But we must understand that ŇallÓ is not always taken generally, but sometimes indefinitely for many; and so Paul speaking of this covenant of grace in Christ, saith, The Lord made Abraham a father of many nations (Rom. 4:17), where repeating the covenant recorded by Moses, he putteth ŇmanyÓ for ŇallÓ. Again, grant that Abraham were the father of all nations, and that in him all the kindreds of the earth were blessed; yet it followeth not that therefore God should love all men equally and alike; for He may love the faithful of all nations, and yet not love all men in all nations; for, in His bountiful mercy in Christ, He preferreth some before others. And this answer seems the better, because we may have some reason to think that God will save some of every nation, but no ground to imagine He will save all of any nation; much less all of every nation.
(2) Here we may see that God honoureth those His servants that honoureth Him, as he saith to Eli the priest (1 Sam. 2:30). Which is a point to be marked diligently; for this God is the glorious king of heaven and earth; yet he abaseth Himself, and is content to be named by His creature, advancing them by abasing Himself to be called their God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Where we may apparently see, rather than God will not have them honoured that honour Him, He will abase Himself, that they thereby may be honoured.
Hence we may learn many things:
(i) First, that all that profess religion truly, must inure themselves to go through good report and ill report, and in all estates to be content, for GodŐs honourŐs sake, as Paul saith, I have learned in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content; I can be abased, and I can abound; everywhere in all things I am instructed, both to be full, and to be hungry; to abound and to have want (Phil. 4:11,12). Thus spake that holy man of God; and so must we all endeavour to say, and accordingly to practice. And the reason is good, because if a man honour God, however he be contemned or not regarded in this world, yet God will honour him, and esteem highly of him; that will prove the way to all true honour, as it hath done, even in this world to all that tried it.
(ii) Secondly, hence we learn which is the true way to get found honour amongst men; namely, to honour God. Good estimation in the world is not to be contemned, for the Lord commandeth all inferiors to honour their superiors, whereby He also bindeth every man to preserve his own dignity. Now God honoureth them that honour Him; therefore the surest way to get true honour amongst men is this: let a man first lay his foundation well, and begin with God, and set all the affections of his heart and thoughts on this: to honour God.
Question: How may a man honour God? Answer: By forsaking the rebellious ways of sin and ungodliness, and walking in the way of righteousness through the course of his life. This doth God take to be an honour unto His high majesty. And when a man doth this unfeignedly, then God will honour him, even among men, so far forth as shall be for his good; for God hath all menŐs hearts in His hand, and will make them to honour those that honour Him. So St Paul saith, If any man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour (2 Tim. 2:21); not only in eternal glory after death, but also in grace and favour with GodŐs church. This confuteth the opinion, and condemneth the practice of many, who would fain have good report in the world, and be spoken well of by all men; but what course (I pray you) take they to come by this good name? They do not begin with God, and lay their foundation by honouring Him; but they strive to please men, whether it be by doing well or ill they care not, their only care is to please all; for that is their rule and resolution, all must be pleased; and because most men are ill, they rather chose oftentimes to do ill than they will not please the greater sort. But he that beginneth to get honour by pleasing men, beginneth at a wrong end; for by the testimony of the Holy Ghost in this place, the way to get sound approbation before men, is first to begin with God, and to honour Him.
(iii) Thirdly, if God will honour them that honour Him, then by the contrary, consider what a miserable case many a man is in; for those that dishonour God, God will dishonour them again, as we may see at large and very plainly in the example of Eli and his two sons; for them that honour me (saith the Lord unto him), I will honour; and they that despise me shall be despised (1 Sam. 2:30). And in Zechariah we may read that the man that by blasphemy, theft or perjury, dishonoureth God, the flying curse of the Lord will enter his house, and remain in the midst thereof, and consume it with the timber thereof, and the stones thereof (Zech. 5:4). And because Eli did more honour his children that God, therefore the Lord threateneth the destruction of him and his family; and according as the Lord had threatened, so it came to pass; for when the Israelites fought with the Philistines (1 Sam. 4:11), his two sons were slain, and he at the hearing of the news fell down and brake his neck.
Now, if this be so, what shall we say of our own nation and people, amongst whom it is as common to dishonour God as ever it was amongst the papists or pagans; partly by light using of His holy titles, and taking His name in vain; and partly by swearing, and open blasphemy; and sometimes even by abominable perjury. Nay, it is many menŐs rule, that they may swear, dissemble, lie and forswear for advantage. These sins are some of them rife in all sorts of people, and hardly shall you talk with a man that doth not by vain oaths dishonour God; yea, it is so common, that children, so soon as they can crawl or lisp out a word, the first thing they can speak is to curse or swear, and take GodŐs name in vain, whereby God is dishonoured every way; so as it is a wonder that the earth doth not open, and swallow up many men quick, for their swearing and blasphemy. And whereas GodŐs judgments are often grievously inflicted upon us in many places of the land; ,we may persuade ourselves that among other sins it is for our blasphemy and taking GodŐs name in vain. And if it be not speedily redressed, it is to be feared lest God will rain down His judgments upon us, and in His wrath sweep us all away; and take away the father with the child, the good with the bad, because there is no reformation of so vile, and yet so needless a sin.
To be called their God.
Observe here further that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob could all of them say, God is my God. Now that which these worthy patriarchs could say of themselves, we must every one of us in our own persons labour for; for their example is and must be a rule for us to follow. We therefore must labour for this assurance, by GodŐs grace to say as the holy patriarchs did say, The true Jehovah is my God; and of this I am resolved, and undoubtedly assured in mine own confidence.
Question: How shall we be able to say unfeignedly that God is my God? Answer: By becoming His servants and people in deed and truth; for to him who is one of GodŐs people, God is always his God. But how shall we become GodŐs true servants? Answer: By setting our hearts upon the true God, and giving them wholly unto Him and to His service; and restraining ourselves from all occasions of sin, because sin displeaseth Him.
Question: But how shall a man set his heart wholly on God? Answer: This he doth when he loveth Him above all, and feareth Him above all, and above all things is zealous for GodŐs glory; when he hath full confidence in GodŐs Word and promises, and is more grieved for displeasing God than for all things in the world besides. Or more plainly thus: when a man doth set his heart on God, when his heart is so affected, that when God commands, he is always ready to obey. So the Lord saith (Hos. 2:23), I will say to them that were not my people, Thou art my people; and they shall say, Thou art my God. And in the psalms the Lord saith (Psa. 27:8), Seek ye my face; then the holy manŐs heart as an echo giveth answer, I seek thy face, O God. And such an one is the heart of him that is indeed the servant and child of God, and one of GodŐs people.
For He hath prepared for them a city.
These words are a reason of the former, proving that God was not ashamed to be called their God, because He prepared a city for them. And indeed, this shews evidently that God was greatly delighted with them, rather than ashamed of them; for had he been ashamed of them, He would have shut them out of His presence. Herein therefore He declared His love and favour, that by preparing this city, He procured that they should live in His sight for evermore.
Hence we learn that he which hath God for his God, hath all things with Him, according to the common proverb, Have God, and have all. And on the contrary, lack God, and lack all. An therefore David saith (Psa. 144:15), Blessed are the people whose God is the Lord. Other things which here might be added have been handled before.