Hebrews 11:8
By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, without knowing where he was going.
Illusiveness of LifeFrederick W. RobertsonHebrews 11:8
The Call of AbrahamCharles Haddon Spurgeon Hebrews 11:8
The Faith of Abraham Going Forth into the UnknownD. Young Hebrews 11:8
A Hold Upon EternityA. Maclaren, D. D.Hebrews 11:8-10
Abraham Forsaking the WorldE. Monro.Hebrews 11:8-10
Abraham's FaithC. Kingsley, M. A.Hebrews 11:8-10
Abraham's FaithJohn Owen, D. D.Hebrews 11:8-10
Abraham's Faith and PilgrimageR. Watson.Hebrews 11:8-10
Abraham's Prompt Obedience to the Call of GodC. H. Spurgeon.Hebrews 11:8-10
Adventuring for GodBp. F. D. Huntington.Hebrews 11:8-10
Faith Making Light of Present PrivationsC. New.Hebrews 11:8-10
Faith Stimulating EndeavourHebrews 11:8-10
Faith the Power for Severing Old TiesC. New.Hebrews 11:8-10
Mysteriousness of LifeE. P. Hood.Hebrews 11:8-10
On TravellingW. Jones, D. D.Hebrews 11:8-10
Reason May Hinder FaithWilliam Bridge.Hebrews 11:8-10
Self-Renunciation At the Call of GodJohn Owen, D. D.Hebrews 11:8-10
The Believer's Earnest Desire for HeavenJames Clason.Hebrews 11:8-10
The City Abraham Looked ForW. Jones, . D. D.Hebrews 11:8-10
The Expected CityG. Lawson.Hebrews 11:8-10
The Faith of AbrahamE. W. Shalders, . B. A.Hebrews 11:8-10
The Faith of AbrahamW. Jones Hebrews 11:8-10
The Heavenly CityJohn Owen, D. D.Hebrews 11:8-10
The Hope of AbrahamW. D. Heywood.Hebrews 11:8-10
The Hope of AbrahamJ. A. Alexander, D. D.Hebrews 11:8-10
The Illusiveness of LifeF. W. Robertson, M. A.Hebrews 11:8-10
The Obedience of FaithC. H. Spurgeon.Hebrews 11:8-10
The Spiritual Production and Practical Development of True ReligionHomilistHebrews 11:8-10
The Tent LifeA. Maclaren, D. D.Hebrews 11:8-10
The Way to the CityA. . Raleigh, D. D.Hebrews 11:8-10

By faith Abraham, when he was called, etc. Abraham was a good and a great man. "He was called the friend of God." Even amongst the heroes of religious faith he is conspicuous as a believer in God. St. Paul speaks of him as "the father of all" the faithful. Let us consider the exhibition of his faith which our text presents. We discover it -

I. IN HIS OBEDIENCE TO THE DIVINE CALL. "By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed," etc. The summons here mentioned is recorded in Genesis 12:1-5. This call was

(1) of Divine origination. It was not solicited from God by Abraham, but addressed by God to Abraham. The initiative was Divine, not human. Every summons to the true and good is from above. Every aspiration and effort after holiness and usefulness is the result of Divine influence. This call was

(2) a Divine communication. How it was addressed to Abraham, whether through his bodily senses or direct to his spiritual consciousness, we know not. But we know the fact that the summons came to him, and was felt by him to be a sacred and Divine command. A mysterious and mighty impulse came upon him, and he felt that it was from God. The call was to depart from his country and kindred to a land whither God would lead him. And it seems that either then or formerly he was called to a truer and higher life. Whether he was ever an idolater we cannot tell; but if such were the case, he was summoned from polytheism to monotheism. Most glorious and animating was the destiny which was set forth for him and his posterity (Genesis 12:2, 3). But at present we have to do with his call to leave his home in Ur of the Chaldees, and to follow whithersoever the unseen hand might lead him. In his prompt and pious obedience to that call we have an impressive illustration of his faith.

1. He obeyed, notwithstanding the fact that his obedience involved considerable sacrifices. Unto a man like Abraham it could not have been a light thing to depart "from his country, and from his kindred, and from his father's house." It must have been a trial to him to go forth from places which were hallowed by precious and sacred memories, to sever many close and tender social associations, and without any prospect of returning to these cherished friends and familiar scenes again. Yet he obeyed the heavenly call. His faith in God was mightier than his strongest human feelings.

2. He obeyed, notwithstanding his ignorance of his destination and of the way by which it was to be reached. Abraham must, we think, have had some idea as to the direction and destination of his journey. But he was called, not to any country which is named in the call, but "unto a land that I will show thee." "And he went out, not knowing whither he went." The distance he might have to travel, the difficulties and dangers he might have to encounter, the scene and circumstances in which his journey would end, he knew not. Yet he went out, obedient to the voice which faith alone could hear, and guided by the hand which faith alone could see. The Divine call is addressed at some time or other to every man. The summons from carnal existence to spiritual life, from selfish pursuits to generous sympathies and services, from the local and temporal to the universal and eternal, from sin to holiness, - the call to God by Christ Jesus sounds at some time in the soul of every man. It is addressed by various voices and at different times; to some it comes again and again; and it is variously treated by those who hear it. Be it ours like Abraham to attentively hear, heartily believe, and promptly obey the heavenly mandate. If we have believing]y received the summons, let us not hesitate to go forward, though the way be unknown to us. Complying with the Divine command, the Divine conduct will never fail us.

II. IN ITS CONTINUED EXERCISE, NOTWITHSTANDING THE LONG-DELAYED FULFILMENT OF THE PROMISE. "By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country," etc. When Abraham arrived in Canaan Jehovah appeared unto him, and promised to give that land to him and to his seed (Genesis 12:7; Genesis 13:15, 17; Genesis 15:18); yet he never possessed that land. Very forcibly is this fact stated by Stephen: "And he gave him none inheritance in it, no, not so much as to set his foot on: and he promised that he would give it to him for a possession, and to his seed after him, when as yet he had no child." Once in the life of Abraham the fact that he had no actual possession in that land was very forcibly and feelingly expressed. In his great and sacred sorrow by reason of the death of his beloved wife, he had to purchase a place in which to bury her mortal remains. "And Abraham stood up from before his dead, and spake unto the sons of Heth, saying, I am a stranger and a sojourner with you: give me a possession of a burying-place with you, that I may bury my dead out of my sight." And he paid four hundred shekels of silver for the field and the cave of Machpelah for a possession of a burying-place (Genesis 23.). The points which we wish to bring out as taught in ver. 9 are these:

1. Though the land was promised to him, yet he never possessed it. "He sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country;" or, "as in a land not his own."

2. Though he dwelt in the land, it was as a stranger. He became a sojourner there, not a settler or a citizen. He had no home there. He did not attempt to build a fixed dwelling-place, but took up his abode in tents, which could easily and speedily be removed from place to place.

3. Yet he believed God - lived "by faith in God and in his promise. Now, as Robertson says, the surprising point is that Abraham, deceived, as you might almost say, did not complain of it as a deception; he was even grateful for the non-fulfillment of the promise; he does not even seem to have expected its fulfillment; he did not look for Canaan, but 'for a city which had foundations;' his faith appears to have consisted in disbelieving the letter, almost as much as in believing the spirit of the promise." Abraham's life in Canaan as exhibited in the ninth verse may be viewed

(1) as a picture of our life upon earth. There is no abiding-place for man in this world; and the Christian's treasure is in heaven, not upon earth; his inheritance also is not here, but is "reserved in heaven for" him. This part of Abraham's life may be viewed

(2) as a pattern for our life upon earth. We should emulate the spirit of the illustrious patriarch. "Seek the things that are above," etc. (Colossians 3:1, 2).

III. IN THE SUBLIME HOPE WHICH IT INSPIRED. "For he looked for the city which hath the foundations, whose Builder and Maker is God." We must not attribute to Abraham views of the future state as full and clear as those which are unfolded in the New Testament. Yet it is evident that the writer of this Epistle intended to teach that he and the other patriarchs expected the fulfillment of the promise of Canaan in something higher than any earthly city. Abraham believed God's promise; but by faith he looked for even more than its literal fulfillment. His faith hoped for and anticipated a more glorious inheritance than the earthly Canaan, and a fairer, firmer, and diviner city than was ever designed by human skill or constructed by human strength. He looked forward to:

1. A state of social blessedness. "He looked for the city." A city is suggestive of society. In Canaan Abraham was a sojourner amongst strangers; he anticipated being a citizen of the heavenly Jerusalem, and at home in congenial society. Heaven is a scene of the most delightful fellowships.

2. A state of permanent blessedness. "The city which hath the foundations." The inhabitants of the heavenly world are immortal; and their "inheritance is incorruptible, undefiled, and fadeth not away." The crowns which the faithful wear in that high realm are "crowns of glory that fade not away." Its holy enjoyments are everlasting.

3. A state of Divine blessedness. "Whose Builder," or Architect, "and Maker is God." As an edifice illustrates the mind of the architect and the character of the builder; so in the new Jerusalem will be specially displayed the skill and the strength, the goodness and the glory, of the great God. "He hath prepared for" his people this city. Its securities and sanctities, its occupations and enjoyments, are all from him. "And he shall dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, their God." This state Abraham was eagerly expecting. The sublime hope of it sustained him in his earthly sojourn. To us a fuller, clearer, brighter revelation of the future is given. If we have obeyed the Divine call and are following the Divine guidance, let us hold fast and cherish the inspiring hope of perfect holiness and perpetual blessedness, in "the city which hath the foundations, whose Builder and Maker is God." - W.J.

I. THE FAITH EXHIBITED BY ABRAHAM IN HIS OBEDIENCE TO THE DIVINE CALL. It was neither poverty, nor restless discontent with the monotony of daily toil, that sent him out of Ur of the Chaldees. Nor does Scripture drop any hint of persecution. The simple urgent reason was a Divine command, "Get thee out," &c. Mighty consequences hung upon his obedience. It was the first link in a long chain of acts of faith by which the knowledge of the true God was to be preserved in the earth, and the redemption of mankind accomplished. The greatest and happiest consequences have flowed from single acts of righteousness and faith. Men simply did their present duty; they took counsel with none but their own conscience; one step before them on life's path stood clearly revealed, and they ventured, notwithstanding all being dark beyond. By faith they acted thus, believing that if a man can only see his way a yard before him in the path of duty, he may step it as boldly as though the whole road were clear right up to the gate of heaven. When Wicliff, the pioneer of the English mind in that unknown land of promise which lay hid in the Bible, first led the way by translating it into his mother-tongue, he went forth in faith, not knowing whither. When John Hampden resisted the unrighteous impost of ship-money, he-committed himself in faith to a struggle the issue of which no sagacity could predict. Little did he think that he was making himself a name as chief among the founders of his country's liberties; it was the duty of the hour, and that was enough for him. When the crew of the Mayflower left our shores to seek a home in the New World, they went out not knowing whither; in their grandest dreams they could never have imagined what a stronghold of civil and religious liberty would arise out of the foundation they were laying in obedience to conscience and by their faith in God.

II. ABRAHAM'S SOJOURN IN CANAAN, AS IN A LAND NOT HIS OWN, THOUGH IT WAS THE LAND OF PROMISE. Similar trials of faith have fallen to the lot of other men who, obeying God and conscience, have gone out not knowing whither, Not always have they found the promised land. Many have died without witnessing the accomplishment of their hopes, sometimes without catching a glimpse of the splendid results to which their faith and courage ultimately led. Exemption from such trials must not be expected. Brave lives are sacrificed in the forefront of battle that the soldiers in the rear may pass on to victory; so in every battle of principle the faith and courage of many a good soldier appear to be spent without result. Without result indeed they would be, if the conflict ended with their lives and their example perished. But since, in every contest for truth and right, the victory has first to be won inwardly, in the hearts of many earnest men, before it can be made palpable to .eye and ear, so those who help the spiritual preparation contribute as much to the victory as they who actually accomplish it.

(E. W. Shalders, . B. A.)

Obedience — what a blessing it would be if we were all trained to it by the Holy Spirit! How fully should we be restored if we were perfect in it! Oh, for obedience! It has been supposed by many ill-instructed people that the doctrine of justification by faith is opposed to the teaching of good works, or obedience. There is no truth in the supposition. We preach the obedience of faith. Faith is the fountain, the foundation, and the fosterer of obedience. Obedience, such as God can accept, never cometh out of a heart which thinks God a liar, but is wrought in us by the Spirit of the Lord, through our believing in the truth and love and grace of our God in Christ Jesus. There is a free-grace road to obedience, and that is receiving by faith the Lord Jesus, who is the gift of God, and is made of God unto us sanctification. We accept the Lord Jesus by faith, and He "Leaches us obedience, and creates it in us. The more of faith in Him you have, the more of obedience to Him will you manifest.


1. It is, manifestly, faith in God as having the right to command our obedience. He has a greater claim upon our ardent service than He has upon the services of angels; for while they were created as we have been, yet they have never been redeemed by precious blood.

2. Next, we must have faith in the rightness of all that God says or does. We hear people talk about "minor points," and so on; but we must not consider any word of our God as a minor thing if by that expression is implied that it is of small importance. We must accept every single word of precept or prohibition or instruction as being what it ought to be, and neither to be diminished nor increased. We should not reason about the command of God as though it might be set aside or amended. He bids: we obey.

3. Furthermore, we must have faith in the Lord's call upon us to obey. We, who are His chosen, redeemed from among men, called out from the rest of mankind, ought to feel that if no other ears hear the Divine call, our ears must hear it; and if no other heart obeys, our soul rejoices to do so.

4. Obedience arises out of a faith which is to us the paramount principle of action. The kind of faith which produces obedience is lord of the understanding, a royal faith. The true believer believes in God beyond all his belief in anything else and everything else.


1. Genuine faith in God creates a prompt obedience. "By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed." There was an immediate response to the command. Delayed obedience is disobedience.

2. Next, obedience should be exact. "Abraham, when he was called to go out... went out." That which the Lord commands we should do — just that, and not another thing of our own devising. Mind your jots and tittles with the Lord's precepts. Attention to little things is a fine feature in obedience: it lies much more as to its essence in the little things than in the great ones.

3. And next, mark well that Abraham rendered practical obedience. The religion of mere brain and jaw does not amount to much. We want the religion of hands and feet. I remember a place in Yorkshire, years ago, where a good man said to me, "We have a real good minister." I said, "I am glad to hear it." "Yes," he said; "he is a fellow that preaches with his feet." Well, now, that is a capital thing if a preacher preaches with his feet by walking with God, and with his hands by working for God. He does well who glorifies God by where he goes and by what he does; he will excel fifty others who only preach religion with their tongues.

4. Next, faith produces a far-seeing obedience. Note this. "Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance." How great a company would obey God if they were paid for it on the spot! Those who practise the obedience of faith look for the reward hereafter, and set the greatest store by it. To their faith alone the profit is exceeding great. To take up the cross will be to carry a burden, but it will also be to find rest.

5. Yet, remember that the obedience which comes of true faith is often bound to be altogether unreckoning and implicit; for it is written, "He went out, not knowing whither he went." Even bad men will obey God when they think fit; but good men will obey when they know not what to think of it. It is not ours to judge the Lord's command, but to follow it.

6. The obedience which faith produces must be continuous. Having commenced the separated life, Abraham continued to dwell in tents and sojourn in the land which was far from the place of his birth. His whole life may be thus summed up: "By faith Abraham obeyed." He believed, and therefore walked before the Lord in a perfect way. Do not cultivate doubt, or you will soon cultivate disobedience. Set this up as your standard, and henceforth be this the epitome of your life — "By faith he obeyed."


1. It will be, in the first place, life without that great risk which else holds us in peril. A man runs a great risk when he steers himself. Rocks or no rocks, the peril lies in the helmsman. The believer is no longer the helmsman of his own vessel; he has taken a pilot on board. To believe in God, and to do His bidding, is a great escape from the hazards of personal weakness and folly. Providence is God's business, obedience is ours. What harvest will come of our sowing we must leave with the Lord of the harvest; but we ourselves must look to the basket and the seed, and scatter our handfuls in the furrows without fail.

2. In the next place, we shall enjoy a life free from its heaviest cares. If we were in the midst of the wood, with Stanley, in the centre of Africa, our pressing care would be to find our way out; but when we have nothing to do but to obey, our road is mapped out for us. Jesus says, "Follow Me"; and this makes our way plain, and lifts from our shoulders a load of cares.

3. The way of obedience is a life of the highest honour. By faith we yield our intelligence to the highest intelligence: we are led, guided, directed; and we follow where our Lord has gone. Among His children, they are best who best know their Father's mind, and yield to it the gladdest obedience. Should we have any other ambition, within the walls of our:Father's house, than to be perfectly obedient children before Him and implicitly trustful towards Him?

4. But this is a kind of life which will bring communion with God. Obedient faith is the way to eternal life; nay, it is eternal life revealing itself.

5. The obedience of faith creates a form of life-which may be safely copied. As parents, we wish so to live that our children may copy us to their lasting profit. Children usually exaggerate their models; but there will be no fear of their going too far in faith or in obedience to the Lord.

6. Lastly, faith working obedience is a kind of life which needs great grace. Every careless professor will not live in this fashion. It will need watchfulness and prayer, and nearness to God, to maintain the faith which obeys in everything. "He giveth more grace." The Lord will enable us to add to our faith all the virtues.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

I. THE RESULT OF ABRAHAM'S FAITH, which we are now called upon to consider. There are three distinct points before us: —

1. The first part of what is mentioned as the work of Abraham's faith, showing the Christian what he should give up.

2. What he should bear.

3. What he should live for. What had Abraham to give up?" Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house." What a command! Consider what he had to forsake. And in the eyes of his family how absurd and fanciful must his scheme have been! But Abraham was supported by a certain hope. "He looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God."Thus, then —

1. Abraham gave up the world and endured hardships.

2. Lived on the hope of a future blessing, which he did receive.

3. And all this he did by faith.

II. AND NOW LET US APPLY ABRAHAM'S CASE AND CONDUCT TO OUR OWN. First, then, what is the world you have to give up? It is the world, the objects to which we are drawn, the objects around us, which draw forth our sinful inclinations, which we are now to consider.

1. It depends upon different dispositions what becomes our world. To one man nature is his world: he has a mind to enjoy extremely the beauties and the works of nature. The feelings produced by a rich sunset or a beautiful view are his very religion; he gazes at the beauty of a flower till he thinks he worships the God who made it; he forgets the Creator in the creature, and mistakes the one for the other. Poetry is his religion, or sentiment, or some such natural feeling. Now suppose such a man called by duty, i.e. by God, to live in a place where he is cut off from all such objects of admiration, to live quietly and without excitement amid what are to him the dull realities of life, obliged to give up all his taste and refinement, and put up with quiet, dull, sober, everyday work — at least what is so to him naturally; and suppose this man refuses to do it, or lingers in doing it: he thinks if he gives up nature and his admiration that all his religion will go too. All his religion depended on a place, and nature is that man's world. It is what Abraham's family and home were to him, and if he refuse to desert it at the call of duty, he is not living above the world.

2. Again: in another man applause and praise is his world; he lives for this, and has lived for it all his life; every act of his life is governed by what men think of it. Now suppose such a man withdrawn from the sphere in which he had been admired, courted and flattered; suppose him called by duty to work in a sphere where his brightest acts would be unknown, and there would be none to admire even his most creditable denials; and suppose he hesitated to do this — then that man's world would be human applause.

3. Or again; to some men mere worldly success is their world, what they call getting on in life; they live for this; their whole views of right and wrong are almost bounded by their chance of success in their profession, their trade, their farm, their place.

4. But to some, like Abraham himself, their family is their world. If your family interfere with any single duty to God, that family is your world.

5. To others — in the common use of the word — pleasure is their world; society, whose only object it; is to gratify the sense or entertain the imagination. Good-natured society; dissipated society; intellectual society; idle society, whose object it is to pass away the dull hours of life by the empty reading of novels, or by lounging in listless carelessness through the precious fleeting hours of time. Ambitious society, whose great object it is to surpass each other in display of wealth.

6. To some, activity is a kind of world.

7. To some a particular set of circumstances connected with religion is their world, a particular minister, whom they almost worship, particular religious friends, whose word, with them, would almost surmount the authority of Scripture. This, then, is what he must do and give up for Christ's sake and the gospel's. The believer must show forth his faith, like Abraham, by forsaking and coming out from the world.


IV. BUT ALL THIS IS THE RESULT OF FAITH. By faith Abraham gave up the world and rested on future promises. And by faith you must give up the world and rest on future promises. For example —

1. If your world is the admiration of nature, of trees and hills, and the objects of the earth around you; then, if called by duty to cease to spend days in contemplating these, to work in a line which to you is dull and uninteresting, faith helps you by opening your eyes to see a world where are objects like those you yield, which you shall enjoy freely hereafter; where are hills without their toil, suns without their burning, trees without their dying, flowers without their fading, nature unstained by sin, unvisited by death, in the very presence of death for ever.

2. If your world is the praise of man, you are called to give it up; faith offers you the praise of God instead, the approval of your Saviour.

3. If your world is success m your earthly calling, and you are called by conscience to resign hopes of high success here, faith points through the veil of humiliation to the everlasting hills, where you shall reign as kings and priests for ever.

4. If your world is your family, whose affections God calls you willingly and cheerfully to resign, faith points to a re-union in heaven.

5. If your world is society, with its vain, empty, delusive, dissipating pleasure, faith points you to a society whose whole object is God, whose whole religion is praise, and whose whole will is obedience; a society of angels and saints, gathered from the earliest ages, and purified by the influence of the Spirit.

6. If your world is activity, and passive suffering to the call of God, faith offers a field of active service before God for ever.

7. If your world is a particular sphere of religious circumstances, faith points you to God, and bids you trust in Him, not in man.

(E. Monro.)

I. It becomes the infinite greatness, and all-satisfactory goodness of God, at the very first revelation of Himself unto any of His creatures, TO REQUIRE OF THEM RENUNCIATION OF ALL OTHER THINGS, AND OF THEIR INTEREST IN THEM, IN COMPLIANCE WITH HIS COMMANDS.


III. IT IS THE CALL OF GOD ALONE THAT MAKES A DISTINCTION AMONGST MANKIND, AS UNTO FAITH AND OBEDIENCE, WITH ALL THE EFFECTS OF THEM. Abraham thus believed and obeyed God, because he was called. And he was called, not because he was better, or wiser than others, but because it pleased God to call him and not others (1 Corinthians 1:26-31).

IV. THE CHURCH OF BELIEVERS CONSISTS OF THOSE THAT ARE CALLED OUT OF THE WORLD. The call of Abraham is a pattern of the call of the Church (Psalm 45:10; 2 Corinthians 6:17, 18).

V. SELF-DENIAL IN FACT OR RESOLUTION, IS THE FOUNDATION OF ALL SINCERE PROFESSION. Abraham began his profession in the practice of this, and proceeded unto the height of it in the greatest instances imaginable. And the instruction that our Saviour gives herein (Matthew 10:37, 38; Matthew 16:24, 25), amounts but unto this — If you intend to have the faith of Abraham, with the fruits and blessings attending it, you must lay the foundation of it in the relinquishment of all things, if called thereunto, as he did.



VIII. POSSESSION BELONGS UNTO AN INHERITANCE ENJOYED. This God gave unto Abraham in his posterity, with a mighty hand, and stretched out arm; and He divided it unto them by lot.

IX. AN INHERITANCE MAY BE GIVEN ONLY FOR A LIMITED SEASON. The title unto it may be continued unto a prefixed period. So was it with this inheritance; for although it is called an everlasting inheritance, yet it was so only on two accounts.

1. That it was typical of that heavenly inheritance which is eternal.

2. Because, as unto right and title, it was to be continued unto the end of that limited perpetuity which God granted unto the church-state in that land; that is, unto the coming of the promised Seed, in whom all nations should be blessed; which the call and faith of Abraham did principally regard.

X. THAT IT IS FAITH ALONE THAT GIVES THE SOUL SATISFACTION IN FUTURE REWARDS, IN THE MIDST OF PRESENT DIFFICULTIES AND DISTRESSES. So it did to Abraham, who, in the whole course of his pilgrimage, attained nothing of this promised inheritance.


(John Owen, D. D.)


1. It involved painful separation from the past.

2. It involved the risk of being misunderstood in the present.

3. It involved great uncertainty for the future.


1. This faith was based on a Divine call.

2. Sustained by abundant promises.

3. Expressed by absolute surrender.

III. THE WONDERFUL BLESSING TO WHICH THIS SIMPLE FAITH LED. What came of this act of obedience? All the blessedness the world has ever had.

(C. New.)


1. He had a call.

2. He obeyed it.

3. He obeyed it because he believed God.


1. That he was willing to be separated from his kindred.

2. That he was ready for all the losses and risks that might be involved in obedience to the call of God.

3. That he waived the present for the future.

4. That he committed himself to God by faith.

5. What he did was done at once.

III. THE RESULT OF ABRAHAM'S ACTION. Did it pay? That is the inquiry of most people, and within proper bounds it is not a wrong question. Our reply is, it did so gloriously. True, it brought him into a world of trouble, and no wonder: such a noble course as his was not likely to be an easy one. What grand life ever was easy? Who wants to be a child and do easy things? Yet we read in Abraham's life, after a whole host of troubles, "And Abraham was old and well stricken in years, and the Lord had blessed Abraham in all things." That is a splendid conclusion — God had blessed Abraham in all things. Whatever happened, he had always been under the Divine smile, and all things had worked for his good. He was parted from his friends, but then he had the sweet society of his God, and was treated as the friend of the Most High, and allowed to intercede for others, and clothed with power on their behalf. What honour, also, the patriarch had among his contemporaries; he was a great man, and held in high esteem. How splendidly he bore himself; no king ever behaved more royally. His image passes across the page of history rather like that of a spirit from the supernal realms than that of a mere mad; he is so thorough, so childlike, and therefore so heroic. He lived in God, and on God, and with God. Such a sublime life recompensed a thousandfold all the sacrifice he was led to make. Was not his life a happy one? One might wisely say, "Let my life be like that of Abraham." As to temporal things the Lord enriched him, and in spirituals he was richer still. He was wealthier in heart than in substance, though great even in that respect. This very day, through his matchless seed, to whom be glory for ever and ever, even Jesus Christ of the seed of Abraham, all tribes of men are blessed. His life was, both for time and for eternity, a great success; both for temporals and for spirituals the path of faith was the best that he could have followed.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

We can hardly read those words without at once thinking how all this common life around us would be both simplified and made noble if men generally, in laying out their plans and carrying on their ordinary work, were moved and guided in the same Divine way! — i.e., if they inquired first, at every important decision, every new start and every new turn in the road, where their Lord called them to go; and then, leaving all other questions aside, were to go straight on, no matter what comfort, like the familiar country that the patriarch was leaving, they might be obliged to give up, and no matter how untried or bleak the regions before. I suppose one chief hindrance to its having this effect on most of us will be the difficulty of our realising that, with respect to each one of us, in our personal insignificance, God just as truly has a plan and a particular place, both of work and of communion, as He had for Abraham or Moses, for Enoch or Samuel, for St. John or St. Paul, for any hero or any saint. But He has. Ours may not be so high a place or so much honoured with usefulness as theirs. We have no concern with that; but the whole tenor of our Christian religion tells us our place is there; that when He created us God designed each one, in every station of society, of either sex, in all kinds of employment, for a particular service in His Church, in His family on earth, and in His heaven for ever. You may forfeit it by not believing in it, and by trying to live and die for yourself; God may hereafter fill up the vacancy and finish the full harmony of His heavenly multitude by the river of life without you. But in the millions of wayward lives entangled with each other He will never for one instant lose sight of the thread of yours. He formed you with a loving intention, and all His affection and mercy to the rest have not diminished a particle His affection and mercy for you. Next observe the large meaning of one small word — the word "out." This faithful man was "called to go out," and he "went out." We are to draw from that a new inference, viz., that in his journeying one place did not look to him just like another, equally attractive and desirable. On the contrary, between the past and the future there was a contrast. What he must leave behind is familiar; what he must turn toward is strange. What he must leave behind is known, tried and safe and agreeable; what he must encounter is hazardous. Going out implies a giving up of something like a home, with the warm, bright, sheltering, endearing attributes always associated with that beloved name. Within are security and comfort; without are exposure, peril, sacrifice. Here, then, is a new rule for the Christian life. Where that life is regenerate, what a Christian life ought to be, fulfilling the gospel idea, it does not merely run on from one scene to another on the same level, nor does it consist in merely moving about through the routine of aa easy experience without progress, without trying new difficulties, gaining greater heights, or by fresh sacrifices coming into a closer and more spiritual sympathy with Christ. Every step needs faith in God, faith in the better country to come, faith in the end to be reached, or else he would look back and perhaps sink down in the road. Take in, then, with this another strong element in the doctrine of the text — the superiority, in this going forward of the disciple after his Lord, of faith over knowledge. We knew the low country we left by eyesight, by the senses, or the intellect; but what lay before was always unknown, invisible, a land of promise, only believed in. In all our approaches to God, in making up our minds to come out on Christ's side in an open confession, in baptism in maturer years, in coming to be confirmed, in every victory over the evils of the world, we cannot depend merely on the understanding. "He went out, not knowing whither he went." That was the crown and the glory of his obedience. He did know who tailed him, and in whom he believed, and that was enough. It might seem, at first sight, in reading this passage, as if the principal stress were laid on the obedience. And then some of you who are more advanced in the higher privileges of the gospel, and accustomed to> discriminate in spiritual matters, might say: No; obedience is a low and elementary stage; obedience is of the law; we are not under the law, but under grace; we are not Jews; Christ has come, and it is the faith and love which go out to Him for what He is in the beauty of His holiness, and what He has done for us in the atonement of the Cross, that constitute the special advantage of our position in the Christian Church. Nothing can be more true than this. The whole object of this chapter is to celebrate, not the bare keeping of commandments, but faith in the invisible, and the glory of acting freely with reference to the absolute God rather than present profits, or any outward reward. Hence it runs all through the passage that there are two kinds of obedience, not distinguished from each other by the outward appearance of the obedient action — for this may be precisely the same in the two cases — but by the motive which prompts the obedience, or the feeling that impels us to act as we do. Two different kinds of character are produced by these two sorts of obedience. One is the obedience of calculation; the other is the obedience of faith.

(Bp. F. D. Huntington.)

What did God mean to teach Abraham, by calling him out of his country, and telling him, "I will make of thee a great nation"? I think He meant to show him, for one thing, that that Babel plan of society was utterly absurd and accursed, certain to come to nought, and so to lead him on to hope for a city which had foundations, and to see that its builder and maker must be, not the selfishness or the ambition of men, but the will, and the wisdom, and providence of God. Let us see how God led Abraham on to understand this — to look for a city which had foundations; in short, to understand what a state and a nation means and ought to be. First, God taught him that he was not to cling, coward-like, to the place where he was born, but to go out boldly to colonise and subdue the earth, for the great God of heaven would protect and guide him. Again: God taught him what a nation was: "I will make of thee a great nation." As much as to say, "Never fancy, as those fools at Babel did, that a nation only means a great crowd of people — never fancy that men can make themselves into a nation just by feeding altogether, and breeding altogether, and fighting altogether, as the herds of wild cattle and sheep do, while there is no real union between them." For what brought those Bable men together? Just what keeps a herd of cattle together — selfishness and fear. Each man thought he would be safer forsooth in company. Each man thought that if he was in company he could use his neighbour's wits as well as his own, and have the benefit of his neighbour's strength as well as his own. And that is all true enough; but that does not make a nation. Selfishness can join nothing; it may join a set of men for a time, each for his own ends, just as a joint-stock company is made up; but it will soon split them up again. Each man, in a merely selfish community, will begin, after a time, to play on his own account, as well as work on his own account — to oppress and over-reach for his own ends, as well as to be honest and benevolent for his own ends, for he will find ill-doing far easier and more natural, in one senses and a plan that brings in quicker profits, than well-doing; and so this godless, loveless, every-man-for-himself nation, or sham nation, rather, this joint-stock company, in which fools expect that universal selfishness will do the work of universal benevolence, will quarrel and break up, crumble to dust again, as Babel did. "But," says God to Abraham, "I will make of thee a great nation. I make nations, and not they themselves." So it is: this is the lesson which God taught Abraham, the lesson which we English must learn nowadays over again, or smart for it bitterly — that God makes nations. The Psalms set forth the Son of God as the King of all nations. In Him all the nations of the earth are truly blessed. He the Saviour of a few individual souls only? God forbid! To Him all power is given in heaven and earth; by Him were all things created, whether in heaven or earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones or dominions, or principalities or powers; all national life, all forms of government, whether hero-despotisms, republics, or monarchies, aristocracies of birth, or of wealth, or of talent — all were created by Him, and for Him, and He is before all things, and by Him all things consist and hold together. Believe me, it takes long years, too, and much training from God and from Christ, the King of kings, to make a nation. Everything which is most precious great is also most slow in growing, and so is a nation. But again: God said to Abraham, when He had led him into this far country, "Unto thy seed will I give this land." This was a great and a new lesson for Abraham, that the earth belonged to that same great invisible God who had promised to guide and protect him, and make him into a nation — that this same God gave the earth to whomsoever He would, and allotted to each people their proper portion of it. How this must have taught Abraham that the rights of property were sacred things — things appointed by God; that it was an awful and heinous sin to make wanton war on other people, to drive them out and take possession of their land; that it was not mere force or mere fancy which gave men a right to a country, but the providence of Almighty God! Now, Abraham needed this warning, for the men of Babel seem from the first to have gone on the plan of driving out and conquering the tribes around them. Now, in Genesis 14. there is an account of Abraham's being called on to put in practice what he had learnt, and, by doing so, learning a fresh lesson. We read of four kings making war against five kings, against Chedorlaomer, king of Elam or Persia, who had been following the nays of Nimrod and the men of Babel, and conquering these foreign kings and making them serve him. We read of Chedorlaomer and four other kings coming down and wantonly destroying other countries, besides the five kings who had rebelled against them, and at last carrying off captive the people of Sodom and Gomorrah, and Lot, Abraham's nephew. We read then how Abraham armed his trained servants, both in his own house, three hundred and eighteen men, and pursued after these tyrants and plunderers, and with his small force completely overthrew that great army. Now, that was a sign and a lesson to Abraham, as much as to say, "See the fruits of having the great God of heaven and earth for your protector and your guide; see the fruits of having men round you, not hirelings, keeping in your company just to see what they can get by it, but born in your own house, who love and trust you, whom you can love and trust; see how the favour of God, and reverence for those family ties and duties which He has appointed, make you and your little band of faithful men superior to those great mobs of selfish, godless, unjust robbers; see how hundreds of these slaves ran away before one man, who feels that he is a member of a family, and has a just cause for fighting, and that God and his brethren are with him." Now, as sure as God made Abraham a great nation, so if we English are a great nation, God has made us so; as sure as God gave Abraham the land of Canaan for his possession, so did He give us this land of England, when He brought our Saxon forefathers out of the wild barren north, and drove out before them nations greater and mightier than they, and gave them great and goodly cities which they builded not, and wells digged which they digged not, farms and gardens which they planted not, that we too might fear the Lord our God, and serve Him, and swear by His name; as sure as He commanded Abraham to respect the property of his neighbours, so has He commanded us; as sure as God taught Abraham that the nation which was to grow from him owed a duty to God, and could be only strong by faith in God, so it is with us: we English people owe a duty to God, and are to deal among ourselves, and with foreign countries, by faith in God, and in the fear of God, "seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness," sure that then all other things — victory, health, commerce, art, and science — will be added to us.

(C. Kingsley, M. A.)

: —


1. Divine sovereignty.

2. Special revelation.

3. Earnest faith.


1. Renunciation of old mode of life.

2. Adoption of new.

(1)Implicit trust in God.

(2)Conscious strangeness on earth.

(3)Glorious prospect.



1. One hard feature of these privations was that they had come in the way of obedience to God.

2. Moreover, they seemed to involve unfulfilled promise on God's part.


1. The present and visible does not limit our history.

2. The future will be as good as even God can make it."

3. In that future the delayed promises will be fulfilled, and the fruit of present obedience and discipline enjoyed.


1. Assuring us of this future, faith gives songs in present trouble. With the joy of hope we can sing as we suffer.

2. Lifting us unto this future, faith dwarfs present need. "The sufferings of the present time are not worthy," &c.

3. Showing us the possibilities of this future; faith endures present discipline. Discipline is to make the future greater. "These light afflictions work for us a far more," &c. "While we look," &c. Conclusion: Feed and exercise this faith that it may grow. By it often climb the mount and see the land that is very far off.

(C. New.)

I. THE OBJECT OF ABRAHAM'S DESIRE: "A city which hath foundations, whose Builder and Maker is God." This was the view under which the future state was presented to him; and it suggests —

1. The immortality of its inhabitants. The city " hath foundations," and shall evermore endure.

2. The changelessness of its enjoyments. This is also intimated by the term "foundations." Its happiness is permanent.

3. The glory of the state. "Whose Builder is God," that is, in a special sense. It displays, in a peculiar degree, His power, wisdom, and goodness.

4. Common participation. There is society. This multiplies happiness to angels and saints.

5. Perfect moral order. "Whose Maker is God."

II. PRACTICAL SUGGESTIONS WHICH THIS SINGULAR, BUT INSTRUCTIVE, CONDUCT OF ABRAHAM SUGGESTS. He chose the pilgrim's life, and dwelt in tents rather than inhabit a city on earth.

1. We are taught by this conduct of Abraham the true ground of the eminent piety of God's ancient saints.

2. We are taught to regulate our choice in life by our superior regard to the interests of the soul.

3. We are taught a noble indifference to the accommodation of our pilgrimage.

4. We are taught to be willing to make sacrifices for the religious good of others.

(R. Watson.)

I. Where faith enables men to live unto God, as unto their eternal concerns, IT WILL ENABLE THEM TO TRUST UNTO HIM IN ALL THE DIFFICULTIES, dangers, and hazards of this life. To pretend a trust in God as unto our souls and invisible things, and not resign our temporal concerns with patience and quietness unto His disposal, is a vain pretence.

II. If we design to have an interest in the blessing of Abraham, WE MUST WALK IN THE STEPS OF THE FAITH OF ABRAHAM. Firm affiance in the promises for grace, mercy, and eternal salvation, trust in His providence for preservation and protection in this world, with a cheerful resignation of all our temporal and eternal concerns unto His disposal, according to the tenor of the covenant, are required hereunto.



(John Owen, D. D.)

There is a time when a man may leave his own country and travel into strange countries, yet great circumspection is to be had in it.

1. A man must be called to it: we must do nothing without a calling. Not as if every one should expect such a calling as Abraham had by God's immediate voice. We have our callings, but mediate. If a man be employed in an ambassadage to a foreign prince, he hath a calling to leave his country for a time. If a man cannot live in his own country, and can more conveniently maintain himself and his charge in another, he may go to it, so as he make not shipwreck of religion. If a man abound in wealth, and be desirous of tongues, arts, and sciences in another country, he hath a calling to it.

2. We must take heed that our families in the mean season be not neglected. He that careth not for them of his house is worse than an infidel. A man under pretext of travelling may not run away from his wife and children.

3. We must have no sinister respect in it. We must not make travelling a cloak to cover theft, murder, adultery, and other gross and notorious vices. God can find us out in all places; for whither shall we fly from His presence?

4. We must not imagine our travelling to be meritorious, as pilgrimages were in former times.

5. Let us take heed in travelling that we travel not away faith and good conscience; wheresoever we become, let us keep ourselves undefiled of the superstitions and corruptions that be in other countries. Let us keep our religion safe and sound, that the least crack be not found in it. Travelling is a dangerous thing. Let us not take it on us unless we be some way or other called to it, as Abraham was.

(W. Jones, D. D.)

I. GOD'S PROMISES NEVER ARE FULFILLED IN THE SENSE IN WHICH THEY SEEM TO HIVE BEEN GIVEN. Life is a deception; its anticipations, which are God's promises to the imagination, are never realised; they who know life best, and have trusted God most to fill it with blessings, are ever the first to say that life is a series of disappointments. And in the spirit of this text we have to say that it is a wise and merciful arrangement which ordains it thus. Abraham had a few feet of earth, obtained by purchase — beyond that nothing; he died a stranger and a pilgrim in the land. Isaac had a little. So small was Jacob's hold upon his country that the last years of his life were spent in Egypt, and he died a foreigner in a strange land. His descendants came into the land of Canaan, expecting to find it a land flowing with milk and honey; they found hard work to do — war and unrest, instead of rest and peace. During one brief period in the history of Israel the promise may seem to have been fulfilled. It was during the later years of David and the earlier years of Solomon; but we have the warrant of Scripture itself for affirming that even then the promise was not fulfilled. In the Book of Psalms David speaks of a hope of entering into a future rest. They who believe that the Jews will be restored to their native land, expect it on the express ground that Canaan has never been actually and permanently theirs. A certain tract of country — three hundred miles in length, by two hundred in breadth — must be given, or else they think the promise has been broken. To quote the expression of one of the most eloquent of their writers, "If there be nothing yet future for Israel, then the magnificence of the promise has been lost in the poverty of its accomplishment." I do not quote this to prove the correctness of the interpretation of the prophecy, but as an acknowledgment which may be taken so far as a proof, that the promise made to Abraham has never been accomplished. And such is life's disappointment. Its promise is, you shall have a Canaan; it turns out to be a baseless, airy dream — toil and warfare — nothing that we can call our own; not the land of rest, by any means. But we will examine this in particulars.

1. Our senses deceive us; we begin life with delusion. Our senses deceive us with respect to distance, shape, and colour. That which afar off seems oval turns out to be circular, modified by the perspective of distance; that which appears a speck, upon nearer approach becomes a vast body. All experience is a correction of life's delusions — a modification, a reversal of the judgment of the senses: and all life is a lesson on the falsehood of appearances.

2. Our natural anticipations deceive us — I say natural in contradistinction to extravagant expectations. Every human life is a fresh one, bright with hopes that will never be realised. There may be differences of character in these hopes; finer spirits may look on life as the arena of successful deeds, the more selfish as a place of personal enjoyment. With man the turning-point of life may be a profession — with woman, marriage; the one gilding the future with the triumphs of intellect, the other with the dreams of affection; but in every case life is not what any of them expects, but something else. It would almost seem a satire on existence to compare the youth in the outset of his career, flushed and sanguine, with the aspect of the same being when it is nearly done — worn, sobered, covered with the dust of life, and confessing that its days have been few and evil. Where is the land flowing with milk and honey? With our affections it is still worse, because they promise more. Man's affections are but the tabernacles of Canaan — the tents of a night; not permanent habitations even for this life. Where are the charms of character, the perfection, and the purity, and the truthfulness, which seemed so resplendent in our friend? They were only the shape of our own conceptions — our creative shaping intellect projected its own fantasies on him: and hence we outgrow our early friendships; outgrow the intensity of all: we dwell in tents; we never find a home, even in the land of promise. Life is an unenjoyable Canaan, with nothing real or substantial in it.

3. Our expectations, resting on revelation, deceive us. The world's history has turned round two points of hope; one, the first, the other, the second coming of the Messiah. The magnificent imagery of Hebrew prophecy had described the advent of the Conqueror; He came — "a root out of a dry ground, with no form or comeliness; and when they saw Him there was no beauty in Him that they should desire Him." The victory, predicted in such glowing terms, turned out to be the victory of submission — the law of our humanity, which wins by gentleness and love. The promise in the letter was unfulfilled. For ages the world's hope has been the Second Advent. The early Church expected it in their own day. "We, which are alive, and remain until the coming of our Lord." The Saviour Himself had said, "This generation shall not pass till all things be fulfilled." Yet the Son of Man has never come; or rather, He has been ever coming. Unnumbered times the judgment eagles have gathered together over corruption ripe for condemnation. Times innumerable the separation has been made between good and bad. The promise has not been fulfilled, or it has been fulfilled, but in either case anticipation has been foiled and disappointed. There are two ways of considering this aspect of life. One is the way of sentiment; the other is the way of faith. The sentimental way is trite enough. Saint, sage, sophist, moralist, and preacher, have repeated in every possible image, till there is nothing new to say, that life is a bubble, a dream, a delusion, a phantasm. The other is the way of faith: the ancient saints felt as keenly as any moralist could feel the brokenness of its promises; they confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims here; they said that they had here no continuing city; but they did not mournfully moralise on this; they said it cheerfully, and rejoiced that it was so. They felt that all was right; they knew that the promise itself had a deeper meaning; they looked undauntedly for "a city which hath foundations."


1. It serves to allure us on. Could a man see his route before him — a fiat, straight road, unbroken by bush, or tree, or eminence, with the sun's heat burning down upon it, stretched out in dreary monotony — he could scarcely find energy to begin his task; but the uncertainty of what may be seen beyond the next turn keeps expectation alive. The view that may be seen from yonder summit — the glimpse that may be caught, perhaps, as the road winds round yonder knoll — hopes like these, not far distant, beguile the traveller on from mile to mile, and from league to league. In fact, life is an education. The object for which you educate your son is to give him strength of purpose, self-command, discipline of mental energies; but you do not reveal to your son this aim of his education; you tell him of his place in his class, of the prizes at the end of the year, of the honours to be given at college. These are not the true incentives to knowledge; such incentives are not the highest — they are even mean, and partially injurious; yet these mean incentives stimulate and lead on, from day to day and from year to year, by a process the principle of which the boy himself is not aware of. So does God lead on, through life's unsatisfying and false reward, ever educating: Canaan first; then the hope of a Redeemer; then the millennial glory.

2. This non-fulfilment of promise fulfils it in a deeper way. The account we have given already, were it to end there, would be insufficient to excuse the failure of life's promise; by saying that it allures us would be really to charge God with deception. Now, life is not deception, but illusion. We distinguish between illusion and delusion. We may paint wood so as to be taken for stone, iron, or marble; this is delusion: but you may paint a picture, in which rocks, trees, and sky are never mistaken for what they seem, yet produce all the emotion which real rocks, trees, and sky would produce. This is illusion, and this is the painter's art: never for one moment to deceive by attempted imitation, but to produce a mental state in which the feelings are suggested which the natural objects themselves would create. Let us take an instance drawn from life. To a child a rainbow is a real thing — substantial and palpable; its limb rests on the side of yonder hill; he believes that he can appropriate it to himself; and when, instead of gems and gold hid in its radiant bow, he finds nothing but damp mist — cold, dreary drops of disappointment — that disappointment tells that his belief has been delusion. To the educated man that bow is a blessed illusion, yet it never once deceives; he does not take it for what it is not, he does not expect to make it his own; he feels its beauty as much as the child could feel it, nay, infinitely more — more even from the fact that he knows that it will be transient; but besides and beyond this, to him it presents a deeper loveliness; he knows the laws of light, and the laws of the human soul which gave it being. He has linked it with the laws of the universe, and with the invisible mind of God; and it brings to him a thrill of awe, and the sense of a mysterious, nameless beauty, of which the child did not conceive. It is illusion still; but it has fulfilled the promise. In the realm of spirit, in the temple of the soul, it is the same. All is illusion; "but we look for a city which hath foundations"; and in this the promise is fulfilled. And such was Canaan to the Israelites. To some doubtless it was delusion. They expected to find their reward in a land of milk and honey. They were bitterly disappointed, and expressed their disappointment loudly enough in their murmurs against Moses, and their rebellion against his successors. But to others, as to Abraham, Canaan was the bright illusion which never deceived, but for ever shone before as the type of something more real. And even taking the promise literally, though they built in tents, and could not call a foot of land their own, was not its beauty theirs? Were not its trellised vines, and glorious pastures, and rich olive-fields, ministers to the enjoyment of those who had all in God, though its milk, and oil, and honey, could not be enjoyed with exclusiveness of appropriation? Yet over and above and beyond this, there was a more blessed fulfilment of the promise; there was "a city which had foundations" — built and made by God — toward which the anticipation of this Canaan was leading them. The kingdom of God was forming in their souls, for ever disappointing them by the unreal, and teaching them that what is spiritual and belongs to mind and character alone can be eternal.

(F. W. Robertson, M. A.)

It is not unusual for captains to receive their commands from their country to set sail, especially in times of war and danger, knowing not their destination. They cannot open their commission, perhaps, until they have reached a solitary, silent part of the great ocean. And we "sail under sealed orders"; we all go out "not knowing whither we go."

(E. P. Hood.)

I suppose you will all say that if a man were able to go a journey of two or three hundred miles a-foot, he were a very good footman; yet if you will tie him to carry a child of four or five years old with him, you will say it would be a great luggage to him; and the man would say, "Pray, let this child be left alone; for though he may run along in my hand half a mile, or go a mile with me, yet notwithstanding I must carry him the rest of the way; and when I come at any great water, or have to go over any hill, I must take him upon my back, and that will be a great burden to me." Thus it is between faith and reason. Reason at the best is but a child to faith. Faith can foot it over mountains and difficulties, and wade through afflictions, though they be very wide; but when reason comes to any affliction, to wade through that and to go over some great difficulties, then it cries out, and says, "Oh Faith, good Faith, go back again; good Faith, go back again." "No," says Faith, "but I will take thee upon my back, Reason." And so Faith is fain to do, indeed, to take Reason upon its back. But oh, what a luggage is Reason to Faith! Faith never works better than when it works most alone. The mere rational considering of the means, and the deadness thereof, is a great and special enemy to the work of believing.

(William Bridge.)

See the spider casting out her film to the gale; she feels persuaded that somewhere or other it will adhere and form the commencement of her web. She commits the slender filament to the breeze, believing that there is a place provided for it to fix itself. In this fashion should we believingly cast forth our endeavours in this life, confident that God will find a place for us. He who bids us pray and work will aid our efforts and guide us in His providence in a right way. Sit not still in despair, O son of toil, but again cast out the floating thread of hopeful endeavour, and the wind of love will bear it to its resting-place.

The tent life will always be the natural one for those who feel that their mother country is beyond the stars. We should be like the wandering Swiss, who hear in a strange land the rude old melody that used to echo among the Alpine pastures. The sweet sad tones kindle home sickness that will not let them rest: no matter where they are, or what they are doing, no matter what honour they have carved out for themselves with their swords, they throw off the livery of the alien king which they have worn, and turning their backs upon pomp and courts, seek the free air of the mountains, and find home better than a place by a foreign throne.

(A. Maclaren, D. D.)

A city which hath foundations.
There are some men who are like the patriarch Abraham in this — they have no fixed dwelling-place in the earth. They go from one city to another at the different seasons of the year, arranging to come to each just at the season of its highest bloom. This is thought to be a pleasant, but it is a very poor way of spending life. Men who are always seeking pleasure are never happy. They soon wear all freshness out of their hearts. Better far be at the hardest work all the year round than be such a man. In the intervals of work, however, it is a good thing to see, as one can, the famous cities of the world. It is a relief to leave the well-known streets and the scenes of accustomed occupation for a time; and some expansion of the mind is attained amid the new and varied scenes which come into view. Now, suppose a man on pilgrimage going through a number of such cities, and coming at last of purpose to the best. May we not suppose such a man pausing and saying, "Is this all? Have I seen the strongest that man can build, the fairest that he can paint? Is there no other city which I have not seen, no fairer lands than those which I have traversed? I have been refreshed, I am thankful; but alas for my immortality if this be all! 'Could you not suppose such a man, at such a time, rejoicing in the privilege of taking his place beside Abraham, and "looking for a city which hath foundations"?

I. THE CITY. How far we are to carry forward the ideas which we have about a city on earth, and fix them on that celestial place which God has prepared for the dwelling of His people through all eternity, it is difficult to say. It is with this as it is with the natural and spiritual body: there is a resemblance and yet a difference. To transfer our ideas just as they are, without purification or expansion, would be to vulgarise and degrade heaven. But to rise by their means to higher ideas like them, is just what the teaching of Scripture enables us to do. "A city." Let us thank God for that word — or these: "a country," "a better country, that is, an heavenly." How do these familiar terms fill up for us the dim and vast obscure I They make a home for our wandering thoughts. They give an answer to our wondering inquiries.

1. This city is very ancient. Not the plan of it merely in Divine thought, nor parts of it merely in course of construction, but the whole city was built and finished, and Abraham journeyed to it through the quietness of the patriarchal days, just as a man now might journey to Paris or Rome.

2. This city is very strong and stable. "It hath foundations." It is designedly put in contrast with those frail and movable structures in which Abraham dwelt during his pilgrimage. And what a contrast with the strongest cities and securest abodes of men! Nature and time wear down all man's works. As soon as a house is finished, it begins to vanish away. As soon as a tower is erected, it begins to decay. Man is still weaker than his house. His outward man is perishing far more rapidly than walls and towns, and rooms and pictures. It is to a being mortal in himself, and dwelling thus amid things, that this grand vision is revealed of "a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God."

3. This city is all built by God. He is Architect and Artificer. He designs and builds. How grand is this conception of heaven as the masterpiece of Divine skill! a meet dwellingplace for those who have been cleansed and perfected by the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.

II. THE WAY to the city. The way to the city is to "look for it," to "expect it." It is the way of faith. Without faith, showing itself by a life-long looking, we have no interest in the place. If we do not look, we reject the whole. This is the way in which heaven is lost to innumerable multitudes. The heart, the soul is in the look, and where a man looks his soul will go. A whole city for a look! Only it must be the look of the whole soul, continued through the whole life, until the city appears. There are those who would be willing enough to think themselves into a celestial city, to speculate concerning a future life, its probable scenes and characteristics, and then to have it as their fancy had feigned. That is not the way to the city. There are those who would be very willing to buy themselves into it. They would give a great many religious services, much money, and some suffering to get there. Neither is that the way to the city. "It cannot be gotten for gold, neither shall silver be weighed for the price thereof." They cannot discern it by knowledge. They may measure and weigh the heavenly bodies with the lines and balances of their thought; they may analyse those beams of light which are shot down on us, and describe the chemistry of the stars; but after they have said all, and told all they know, there is still no sign of the city. They cannot win it by strength. Men do not ascend the snowy summits of the mountains, and then go up to a nobler world. Alas! they all go downwards — down, down to the grave. They cannot win it by merit. Do men so live in this world that they would be justified in saying, "We do not need to look beyond this life. There must be another world prepared for us, and we can well afford to wait for the day of entrance"? Benjamin Franklin said, "As this world was all prepared for me before I came here, so the world to which I am going will be ready when I go there." But there is a fallacy in this reasoning; it is to place a man who has lived responsibly, who has, of his own will, chosen good or evil for threescore years, in the same category as an infant who has never lived at all. God has said that this is the way to the city, the way of the faith-look; and if we are to be wise, we must walk in this way, on and on, until the city comes in sight. This "looking" is the whole soul acting in faith, rising in desire, answering to the word and assurance of God in reference to the life to come. No test of a man's state could be deeper or truer than this, and therefore it is good and worthy Of God to make faith the condition of salvation, and to give a city of eternal glory for a life-long look.

(A. . Raleigh, D. D.)

It is an interesting fact, that though Abraham was selected by Providence to be the head of a great nation, and though he had in those days of his much cattle and a great company of dependents, yet he had no special or particular home in the land he traversed. His habitation was a tent, like that of the traveller of the desert; and this he pitched in the " land of promise," as a pilgrim "in a strange country." The reason given by the apostle for this conduct is expressed in the words, "He looked for a city which hath foundations, whose Builder and Maker is God." Here we have the object of the patriarch's faith; and in considering it briefly, let us notice a few of its peculiar features, as well as the nature of his faith itself.


1. Abraham may not have had any mysterious vision of this city as St. John had of the heavenly Jerusalem, described in the twenty-first chapter of the Book of Revelation. But it is possible that he might have thought of that which is distinguished by the peculiar advantages of a city; such as a central spot of splendour, of security, of unity, in which the tribes of earth could meet together in social harmony and friendship; and, lastly, as the seat of government. It is not impossible but what one of the most beautiful cities of the Canaanites might have suggested the idea to his mind. But be that as it may, he readily drew a distinction between an earthly and a heavenly city. The earthly he well knew would perish. But the heavenly city, having God for its Builder and Creator, its foundations and its glory would be eternal. Thus it would stem that Abraham had a belief in the soul's immortality, by his having an expectation of permanent rest and happiness after death. Hence Christians of the present age are linked to Abraham through centuries long past by this simple faith and hope in the glorious future.

2. As the city is Divine in its origin, so we may rightly conclude that its inhabitants would correspond in character with its Supreme Founder. Abraham no doubt included this view of the city in his expectations. He must have well known that if the character of the heavenly citizens did not differ from that of the earthly ones, he could neither expect within its walls rest, nor security, nor permanency. Consequently, while expecting it he must have disciplined himself in all goodness, and in all obedience to the commands of God, as a qualification for entering it and for associating with its inhabitants.


1. It induced a purpose worthy of a life like that of Abraham. This purpose was to realise the glory and greatness of the object which faith acknowledged. Can we imagine a purpose of life more inspiriting, more fraught with greatness, and more suited to give an elevation to thought and feeling? The purposes generally for which men live here, when properly considered, are beneath the capacity, the calling, and the destiny of man. They are very limited as to their duration, and very uncertain as to their possession. But the purposes of a Christian life are eternal; and the very certainty of the promise on which they rest leaves no regret or disappointment in the hour of death. What brighter vision can pass before the spirit, when leaving its earthly tabernacle, than the home-city of the faithful, whose Maker and Builder is God?

2. The faith of Abraham, furthermore, induced his co-operation with the Divine purposes and power. No doubt many of his neigh-hours derided him for what they might have thought an act of folly; and it is more than probable that in travelling over wide and lonely deserts he felt the difficulty of his undertaking. But Abraham did not turn back, neither did his faith fairer, nor did the peril of the day or of the night change his purpose. Thus we are taught a lesson of co-operation, by giving a ready obedience to the Divine will in the use of means adapted to meet the ends of Christian faith and worship. We are called upon to come out from the world, from its spirit, and to separate ourselves from its hurtful maxims, and from its dangerous companionship.

3. The faith of Abraham was childlike and humble. A faith which led him in its moral influence to tread only in one path, and that path was Christ. It is not a broad way, giving a wide scope to earthly passions, and favouring the selfish ease which knows not the force of the struggle between the downward tendency of the flesh and the upward strivings of the renewed spirit, but it is a narrow way. Yet withal, though the way is in some places steep and rugged, it is safe, and its end is peace and rest for evermore.

(W. D. Heywood.)

I. WHY HEAVEN IS LIKENED TO A CITY. The description implies —

1. Safety. Its walls are too high to be sealed by the wily foe, too firmly built to be beaten down; its gates are too strong to be forced, and He who possesses the keys too wise not to discover a friend from a foe, under whatever disguise, when seeking admittance. He that laid the foundations of the holy city is Himself its Guardian.

2. Society. It is a delightful thing to think of meeting with our Christian friends who have long since gone to their rest, to see the prophets who foretold the day of Christ..

3. The permanence of its enjoyments. Heaven is a city that stands; the stream of time, the ocean of eternity, as it washes its base, shall in vain attempt to undermine it, for it has foundations that cannot be moved.


1. A belief in its existence.

2. A desire to have a place in it.

3. An actual preparation for it.


1. It should moderate our attachment to worldly objects.

2. It should endue us with patience under all the afflictions and trials which it may be ours to suffer.

3. It should make us anxious to lead others to seek it.

(James Clason.)


II. HEAVEN IS A SETTLED QUIET HABITATION. A suitable dwelling for them that have had a life of trouble in this world.


IV. This is that which recommends to us the city of God, the heavenly state, THAT IT IS, AS THE WORK OF GOD ALONE, SO THE PRINCIPAL EFFECT OF HIS WISDOM AND POWER.

(John Owen, D. D.)

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.

(G. Lawson.)

Abraham, the friend of God and the father of the faithful, was homeless man in a strange country, dwelling in tents like an Arab or a Tartar. This fact, though not inexplicable, is so far singular as to deserve our particular attention.

1. Why, then, was Abraham a wanderer, a homeless man, a sojourner in the land of promise? I remark that it was not on account of poverty. Abraham was rich, by inheritance, by acquisition — rich by the blessing of God on the increase of his possessions, and rich through the favour of the kings and chiefs whose friendship he enjoyed.

2. Was it, then, because he had no real estate, no landed property, to which he could lay claim and on which he might reside? The whole land of Canaan was in one sense his own. It was his by express grant from Jehovah — made sure to him and to his heirs for ever.

3. We read that when Abraham first crossed the Jordan from the East, "the Canaanite was in the land." The Hivite, the Hittite, the Jebusite, the Amorite, and other sons of Canaan, had possession of the country. And so thickly were they settled, in the central part at least, that there was not room for Abraham and Lot to live together. May it not be, therefore, that these actual possessors of the country would not suffer him to dwell among them? Had they known his pretensions, or, to speak more properly, his rights, they might have hated him and driven him away. But as he made no efforts to enforce those rights, and as he came among them from the East with flocks and herds, and as an independent chieftain, they received him with respect, and this respect increased. It was not, therefore, on account of any enmity between him and the Canaanites that, instead of founding a great city, he preferred to live a wandering life. There must be other reasons for his course.

4. It may be suggested that his perseverance in a wandering course shows him to have been a mere barbarian, one who was unable to appreciate the comforts of a settled life, or rather, who had never had experience of them. Thus we find that in Arabia there are tribes of Bedouins who regard their wandering life as the most honourable possible, and laugh to scorn those pleasures and advantages of civilised society about which they know nothing by experience. But let it be observed that these tribes inhabit the Arabian desert, where cultivation exists only in detached spots, and where the herdsman is obliged to change his pasture-ground and home continually. Abraham, on the other hand, was in a fertile, cultivated, thickly settled country full of proud cities, walled towns of inferior size, and villages innumerable. It was not because he knew no better that he obese to dwell in tents instead of houses, and. to govern an encampment, not a city or a kingdom.

5. Was it, then, because he thought it wrong to lead a settled life in towns and cities, that he dwelt in tents? There is no trace of such a doctrine in the Word of God, and Abraham was too well grounded in the Divine will to hold it as a superstition. He was no ascetic.

6. To some the thought may here occur that we are searching for the explanation of a fact which needs none. Why should Abraham's wandering be considered stranger than the wandering of any other Eastern chief? And as those of the: highest rank lead such a life to this day, it need not be regarded as below the dignity even of the Father of the Faithful and the Friend of God. He came inter the country with his flocks and herds; and as the land was densely peopled, he was under the necessity of frequently changing his encampment and his pasture. This would be wholly satisfactory but for the apostle's mention of the patriarch's unsettled life as a remarkable evidence of faith.

7. Having thus determined negatively that it was neither poverty nor want of title to the land, nor opposition on the part of the inhabitants, nor ignorance, nor mere ascetic self-denial, nor a. regard to temporal convenience that induced him to reside in tents rather than in a palace and a city worthy of so great a prince, we are ready to receive the explanation of the text, which is this: "he looked," or was looking, "for a city." The sense is not that Abraham was wandering in search of a city upon earth, but that, he lived in quiet expectation of a city. "If we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it." It was this " patience of hope" that rendered Abraham indifferent to the walled cities of the Canaanites around him. whose antiquity was of ancient days, and whose defence was the munition of rocks. Nothing so effectually breeds indifference to present objects as the hope of better things to come. The traveller pressing homewards after a long absence can pass, with a contemptuous smile or absolute unconsciousness, those very objects which the homeless traveller dwells upon with rapture.

8. And what sort of s city did he look for, in contempt of those around him? How did the city of his expectations differ from the cities of the Canaanites and the Philistines, from old Damascus, and from Ur of the Chaldees? It had foundations. And had not they foundations? In one sense they had none. They were liable to change. In the same sense, Abraham's city, which he looked for, had foundations — has them now; for observe the present form of the expression. It was a city, therefore, not of this world; for in this world there are no foundations time-proof. And whence had the. city of his hopes these firm foundations? From the Architect.

9. Whose Builder and Maker is God. God does not build like man. The foundations of His structures are laid deep in His decrees, and the cement has been growing hard from all eternity. His power over the materials He uses is not merely the disposing power of a builder, but the absolute power of a maker. What He builds He creates. The city of which He is the Maker and Builder is eternal; it has foundations which decay can never weaken, and which laugh at the violence of storm and earthquake. And who are its inhabitants? (Revelation 21:24-26). And are none to be excluded? Ah, yes! (Revelation 21:27). This is the grand distinction of the city for which Abraham looked. It is a city free from sin. In this it differs from all earthly cities, And why is it called a city? Because with a city we associate ideas of substantial strength, immense wealth, regular government, social intercourse, refinement of manners, and external splendour. But what are all these, in the cities of the earth, to the surpassing glories of that city for which Abraham looked, and where the saints shall be enthroned as kings and priests unto God?

10. Here, then, we begin to see a marked resemblance between his case and our own. However remote from our experience what has hitherto been said of his condition, at last we are alike, we are all sojourners and strangers upon earth, we seek the same city as the patriarch. However well we may be pleased with it, however fully satisfied with what it can afford, we know that our abode in it is only for a time; it is not the place of our rest. And of this we are receiving constant admonitions.

11. Now this feeling of uneasiness, this sense of homelessness, is, as you well know, incompatible with happiness. In order to be happy you must have a home, either present or in prospect. Have you such a home? Remember that earthly homes, in reference to eternity, are nothing worth. Look at the households breaking up around you, and say whether these can be your solace and your stay for ever. What will you do then? Will you waste yourselves in misanthropic discontent! No! do as Abraham did: look forward to the city which hath foundations, whose Builder and Maker is God. The more unsatisfactory you find this world, look the more eagerly and steadfastly on that which is to come.

12. But here let us guard against a fatal error — the error of imagining that mere expectation is alone required. Believe me, multitudes have looked for that city who have never reached it. There is but one path to it through the wilderness of life, and that path is a narrow one. It was by that path that the Father of the Faithful gained the object of his faith and hope. If you would gain it likewise, you must walk in the footsteps of the Friend of God. Do you ask what path he travelled? I reply, the:path of humble, childlike faith.

13. And now let me turn to you who have your faces turned to Zion, and are already looking for that city to which Abraham aspired, and where he reigns in glory. It is said that when the caravan of pilgrims to the sepulchre of Christ cross the mountains of Judaea, worn with hunger and fatigue, they are sometimes ready to relax their efforts, and despair of safe arrival. They may even repent of their own folly in attempting so adventurous a journey, and wish themselves in safety at their own distant firesides. But these thoughts all vanish when the summit is attained, and from the mountain's brow they catch a glimpse of Olivet and Zion, and the forsaken city seated in her widow's weeds upon her throne of hills. That sight reanimates their courage and renews their strength. With simultaneous energy they rise and hasten onward, and the roughness of the journey is forgotten in the presence of Jerusalem. Oh! we are also strangers and pilgrims, and our way through the world may be precipitous and rugged, and so long as we look only at the things around us, our hearts may well grow faint and our knees feeble. But amidst these discouragements, look upward to the heavenly hills, and, through the dust and smoke of this world's troubles, keep the eternal city steadfastly in view. That sight will make your hearts beat with new vigour. It will nerve your arm for battle and your bosom for resistance. It will enable you to look down with contempt upon the pleasures and temptations of the world; it will preserve you from illusions, painful even to the Christian, and, ah! how often fatal to the unbeliever.

(J. A. Alexander, D. D.)

Here he had a tent, but there he looked for a city; τὴν, for that city which alone deserves the name of a city. It excels all earthly cities. Aholiab and Bezaleel made the tabernacle, Hiram the temple; .carpenters and masons set up these cities; but God Himself is the Maker and Builder of this city. These cities may be overthrown by waters; the sea may come in tumbling and sweep them away; these towns and cities may be consumed with fire, there be burnings almost every day; these may be sacked with the enemy, and made even with the ground, as Jerusalem and the temple are, which were the wonder of the world; we may be driven by famine and pestilence out of those towns and cities. Howsoever they stand awhile, and we in them; the time shall come when the earth, with all the goodly buildings that be on it, shall be burned with fire. Therefore let us use these cities as we used them not. Let our hearts and affections be in this city, whose Maker and Builder is God. We have not here an abiding city. London is no abiding city; York, Norwich, no town is an abiding town. Death will give us a remove out of all towns. But in this city we shall abide for ever, and reign with Christ for evermore; therefore let us all long for it. He cloth not say that he believed there was such a city; but he looked for it (Judges 5:28). We look out of our windows on sights in the streets, gardens, orchards, etc., but not out of the windows of our hearts for this city. He that looks shortly for a new ,coat, will not be much in love with his old; for a fair house, will not care for a cottage. We look after our wool and cloth, houses, and lands, &c. Let us look daily for Christ's coming; that will put us in possession of this city.

(W. Jones, . D. D.)

As in some sea-weed, far out in the depths of the ocean, the tiny frond that floats upon the billows goes down, and down, and down, by filaments that knit it to the basal rock; so the most insignificant act of our fleeting days has a hold upon eternity, and life in all its moments may be knit to the permanent.

(A. Maclaren, D. D.)

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