These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them…
I. WHAT IS IT TO FEEL AND CONDUCT OURSELVES AS STRANGERS AND PILGRIMS ON THE EARTH. It is to feel and conduct ourselves as not being at home in the flesh, but as travelling on a journey to the world above. A wise pilgrim will not encumber himself with a load of toys which will only impede his progress towards home; which, instead of adding to his enjoyments, will only perplex him on his journey; and which at last he cannot carry into his Father's house to possess, but must lay down and leave at the threshold. A stranger on earth, if he is wise, will not expend his all in procuring the riches of the country which he cannot carry with him when he returns, as he shortly must to his native land. His principal object will be (besides those temporary supplies which will support him by the way) to lay in copiously those riches which he can carry with him when he returns to his abiding habitation.
II. SOME REASONS WHY WE OUGHT TO FEEL AND CONDUCT OURSELVES AS STRANGERS AND PILGRIMS ON THE EARTH.
1. A- pilgrim's way is the only way to heaven. We are by nature as far from home as we are from God. In order then to find an entrance into the peaceful doors of our Parent's house, we must say with the prodigal, "I will arise and go to my Father."
2. Heaven is the only good worth setting our hearts upon — the only place where unsullied enjoyment is to be had — the only spot where untainted excellence is found. It alone contains pleasures which will never fade away.
3. There is a sweetness in feeling ourselves strangers and pilgrims on the earth. It is sweet to feel ourselves not at home in the flesh, just on the wing to be gone, and arising to a better habitation. It is sweet to feel the world beneath our feet, to stand above it and converse with God. The man that does this is not indebted to the unsteady shifting objects of time and sense for his principal satisfaction, but possesses a happiness which the world can neither give nor take away. He can remain unruffled amidst the changes of life.
4. A stranger and pilgrim on earth has everything that he needs; why then should he wish for any closer alliance with the world? "God's favour is life, and His loving-kindness is better than life." He who enjoys Him has all and needs no more.
5. To relax into friendship with the world, to feel earth our home, and to say, It is good to be here, is very dangerous; as it draws the soul from God, clouds out of sight the glory of spiritual objects, exposes us to temptation, and is the chief cause of all our miseries.
6. We are here in an enemy's country, while our dearest friends are in heaven.
7. This earth was never designed for the Christian's home. It is a field in which he is sent to labour.
8. The more of strangers we are on the earth, and the more intercourse we have with heaven while here, the more welcome and happy shall we be when we arrive at glory.
III. THE DUTY OF BELIEVING AND TRUSTING IN THE PROMISES OF GOD.
1. To believe and trust in the promises of God is an exercise of faith and an essential mark of a Christian.
2. We should not distrust the promises of God on account of their not being yet fulfilled, or because at particular times we cannot see the fulfilment of those which relate to the present life. It was never designed that the promises which relate to the life to come should be fulfilled at present. It is not fit we should receive our reward till our work is done.
3. The want of a realising belief in the Divine promises is the great reason of our impatience at the thought of being strangers and pilgrims on the earth.
4. There is a sweetness in believing and trusting in the promises of God. The Christian then feels as secure and immovable as unchanging truth and almighty power can make him.
5. The promises of God are absolutely unfailing. And dare any who have the Bible in their hands deny their truth? Let us then —
(1)Reprove ourselves for our worldly attachments, and for not feeling more like strangers and pilgrims on the earth.
(2) Let us reprove our impatience and despondency at a distant view or disbelief of the promises.
(E. Griffin, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.