And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from where they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned.…
The first outline of that future city of God was suggested to Abraham's mind by the words of promise: "I will bless thee,... and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed." The hope held out to him was a hope, in which not he only, nor his descendants only, but all the families of the earth, were interested. The prospect was vague, but large. Its largeness was its glory. Its power to elevate grew out of this. The city of God, you will readily see, is another name for the kingdom of God; or, more exactly, both are names for the same eternal reality. Only the two names present the same thing to us under two somewhat different aspects. The phrase, "The Kingdom of God," suggests at once the thought of the king and his royal rule, its righteousness, its wholesome severity, its abounding all-embracing love. The phrase, "The city of God," suggests not so much this, as the thought of organisation, that which is described in the twelfth chapter of the Epistle, as the "General assembly and Church of the first-born enrolled in heaven"; each citizen, and each group of citizens, having an appointed place in the vast organism, a work to do, a function to discharge. It is not difficult to see with what ennobling power this thought must have come to the soul of Abraham: I, then — even I — insignificant atom of humanity that I am; I, and my descendants have a place in this great city, whose Constructor is the great God Himself. We are links in the vast chain, which reaches from the hoar past to the boundless future. It is for us to receive and transmit the Divine blessing. But if I have estimated Abraham's vision of the city of God with any correctness whatever, we can hardly fail to confess how lamentably imperfect our own vision of that eternal city too often is: especially in that we think of our own relation to that city, as possible citizens of it, in the future after death; but do not think of it, as that to which we belong now, as truly as we shall belong to it hereafter; and as that, in which all men have the liveliest interest along with ourselves. Thus we are ever in danger of losing out of our field of view the very elements of life and power, which wrought so mightily for good upon the soul of Abraham. And, in so far as this is the case, we miss the regenerating influences which came to him through his faith in that city. It will be a blessed thing for our religion, when we learn to substitute for our own vague natural notions about heaven and about going to heaven when we die, the true Scriptural conceptions of the city and the kingdom of God. It is no easy matter to do this. The magnitude and grandeur of the Scriptural ideas overpower and awe us. We shrink from them into something slighter, nearer, more trivial and commonplace. But the Bible will never have justice done to it — will never exercise its full native power upon us to elevate and heal; until, instead of reading our own notions into it, as we are so apt to do, we learn to receive by steady, docile contemplation the thoughts which it was designed to impress upon us. Meanwhile, we can at least be sensible of our ignorance, and open our hearts humbly to further light. There is no reason why, from this moment forwards, we should not recognise and bow before the vastness and the mystery of that kingdom and city and heavenly country, to which by our spirits we even now belong, and in which we may, even now and here, become loyal and obedient citizens. Then will that city of God begin to exercise its natural attraction upon us. It will draw us upwards out of our selfish, sinful nature; just as it drew Abraham, and Jacob, and Joseph, and the long line of saints, and heroes, commemorated in this muster-roll of the great and good. It will be true of us, as of them: "God is not ashamed to be called their God."
(D. J. Vaughan, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned.