By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out…
I. THE CITY IS DESCRIBED FROM THE STABILITY AND THE BUILDER THEREOF. A city is sometimes taken for a multitude and vicinity of buildings: sometimes it is taken for a political community; sometimes it is taken for the condition and estate of these societies. In this place the word "city" must be taken spiritually, for such a kind of habitation, society, and estate as is not found in this world.
1. It hath foundations; for nothing can be firm which is not firmly fixed upon an immovable ground. This cloth difference it from tabernacles and tents, and also from all other buildings, habitations, societies, states, kingdoms, and their prosperity; for they are obnoxious to change, decay, and ruin. Experience doth sufficiently prove this by the ruin of so many castles, palaces, cities, societies, states, and kingdoms, which have flourished in great splendour, power, and strength, yet now lie in the dust and do not appear. This city is no such thing; but the place of abode, the persons, and their felicity, endure for ever.
2. The Builder and Maker is God. All other cities, societies, and their condition is from men; but in this man hath no hand at all; for God made it according to the model contrived by Himself. These words are added to inform us —
(1) That it was so far above the art and power of man, that only God could make it. He was not only the Principal, but the sole Efficient of it.
(2) That it was most excellent, and far above all other cities of the world for firmness, duration, beauty, and felicity; for the peace, pleasures, and felicity of it are full and everlasting.
II. ABRAHAM'S EXPECTATION OF THIS CITY BY FAITH. This looking for, or expectation, includes many things; as —
1. He had a title to it by virtue of God's promise and his qualification; and this was not a mere title, but something more; for there was a time limited in the grant of the full enjoyment, and he had received the first fruits of glory.
2. He desired and lounged after the enjoyment of this city far more than for anything in this world.
3. These desires were very effectual and working upon his soul, and stirred him to seek this city, and constantly to use all means appointed by God for to attain it; and the whole course of his life was a continued approach towards this eternal rest and glorious estate.
4. The actual possession of this blessed estate was deferred; yet he with patience did wait for it, and made no doubt but to attain that which he so much desired. And here it is to be observed —
(1) That no man can be a right sojourner on earth who doth not look for a city eternally stable in heaven; for that which most effectually draws the heart of man off from this world is the expectation of a far better estate in the world to come.
(2) That believers and expectants of heaven, who are candidates of eternity, are of a most noble and Divine spirit. Amongst men of this world, the ambitious, who aspire to crowns and kingdoms, and aim at perpetual fame by their heroic virtues and rare exploits, are judged persons of far greater gallantry than covetous muck-worms or brutish epicures; yet in their thoughts and highest designs they are very base in comparison of these pilgrims, in whose breast the sparks of heavenly fire do ever burn and move, and carry them upward, far above the world.
(3) That neither Abraham, nor any other, without faith could look for this glorious city; for by it they did not only understand how glorious it was, but also were verily persuaded of God's promise and fidelity; and without this faith they could not possibly hope or look for it. And as by faith they did sojourn, so by the same faith they did look for this city.
Parallel VersesKJV: By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.