(Calvin, Paul to the Hebrews. Part 15)

no doubt religion would not have so prevailed among all nations, had not
men's minds been impressed with the convictions that God is the Creator
of the world. It thus then appears that this knowledge which the Apostle
ascribes to faith, exists without faith.
    To this I reply, - that though there has been an opinion of this kind
among heathens, that the world was made by God, it was yet very
evanescent, for as soon as they formed a notion of some God, they became
instantly vain in their imaginations, so that they groped in the dark,
having in their thoughts a mere shadow of some uncertain deity, and not
the knowledge of the true God. Besides, as it was only a transient
opinion that flit in their minds, it was far from being anything like
knowledge. We may further add, that they assigned to fortune or chance
the supremacy in the government of the world, and they made no mention of
God's providence which alone rules everything. Men's minds therefore are
wholly blind, so that they see not the light of nature which shines forth
in created things, until being irradiated by God's Spirit, they begin to
understand by faith what otherwise they cannot comprehend. Hence most
correctly does the Apostle ascribe such an understanding to faith; for
they who have faith do not entertain a slight opinion as to God being the
Creator of the world, but they have a deep conviction fixed in their
minds and behold the true God. And further, they understand the power of
his word, not only as manifested instantaneously in creating the world,
but also as put forth continually in its preservation; nor is it his
power only that they understand, but also his goodness, and wisdom, and
justice. And hence they are led to worship, love, and honour him.
    "Not made of things which do appear". As to this clause, all
interpreters seem to me to have been mistaken; and the mistake has arisen
from separating the preposition from the participle |fainomenoon|. They
give this rendering, "So that visible things were made from things which
do not appear." But from such words hardly any sense can be elicited, at
least a very jejune sense; and further, the text does not admit of such a
meaning, for then the words must have been, |ek me fainomenoon|: but the
order adopted by the Apostle is different. If, then, the words were
rendered literally, the meaning would be as follows, - "So that they
became the visible of things not visible," or, not apparent. Thus the
preposition would be joined to the participle to which it belongs.
Besides, the words would then contain a very important truth, - that we
have in this visible world, a conspicuous image of God; and thus the same
truth is taught here, as in Rom. 1: 20, where it is said, that the
invisible things of God are made known to us by the creation of the
world, they being seen in his works. God has given us, throughout the
whole framework of this world, clear evidences of his eternal wisdom,
goodness, and power; and though he is in himself invisible, he in a
manner becomes visible to us in his works.
    Correctly then is this world called the mirror of divinity; not that
there is sufficient clearness for man to gain a full knowledge of God, by
looking at the world, but that he has thus so far revealed himself, that
the ignorance of the ungodly is without excuse. Now the faithful, to whom
he has given eyes, see sparks of his glory, as it were, glittering in
every created thing. The world was no doubt made, that it might be the
theatre of the divine glory.
=====> 11:4. "By faith Abel offered", &c. The Apostle's object in this
chapter is to show, that however excellent were the works of the saints,
it was from faith they derived their value, their worthiness, and all
their excellences; and hence follows what he has already intimated, that
the fathers pleased God by faith alone.
    Now he commends faith here on two accounts, - it renders obedience to
God, for it attempts and undertakes nothing, but what is according to the
rule of God's word, - and it relies on God's promises, and thus it gains
the value and worth which belongs to works from his grace alone. Hence,
wherever the word faith is found in this chapter, we must bear in mind,
that the Apostle speaks of it, in order that the Jews might regard no
other rule than God's word, and might also depend alone on his promises.
    He says, first, that Abel's "sacrifice" was for no other reason
preferable to that of his brother, except that it was sanctified by
faith: for surely the fat of brute animals did not smell so sweetly, that
it could, by its odour, pacify God. The Scripture indeed shows plainly,
why God accepted his sacrifice, for Moses's words are these, "God had
respect to Abel, and to his gifts." It is hence obvious to conclude, that
his sacrifice was accepted, because he himself was graciously accepted.
But how did he obtain this favour, except that his heart was purified by
    "God testifying", &c. He confirms what I have already stated, that no
works, coming from us can please God, until we ourselves are received
into favour, or to speak more briefy, that no works are deemed just
before God, but those of a just man: for he reasons thus, - God bore a
testimony to Abel's gifts; then he had obtained the praise of being just
before God.
    This doctrine is useful, and ought especially to be noticed, as we
are not easily convinced of its truth; for when in any work, anything
splendid appears, we are immediately rapt in admiration, and we think
that it cannot possibly be disapproved of by God: but God, who regards
only the inward purity of the heart, heeds not the outward masks of
works. Let us then learn, that no right or good work can proceed from us,
until we are justified before God.
    "By it he being dead", &c. To faith he also ascribes this, -  that
God testified that Abel was no less the object of his care after his
death, than during his life: for when he says, that though dead, he still
speaketh, he means, as Moses tells us, that God was moved by his violent
death to take vengeance. When, therefore, Abel or his blood is said to
speak, the words are to be understood figuratively. It was yet a singular
evidence of God's love towards him, that he had a care for him when he
was dead; and it hence appears, that he was one of God's saints, whose
death is precious to him.

=====> 11:5 By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death;
and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his
translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.
11:6 But without faith [it is] impossible to please [him]: for he that
cometh to God must believe that he is, and [that] he is a rewarder of
them that diligently seek him.

=====> 11:5. "By faith Enoch", &c. He chose a few of the most ancient,
that he might make a transition to Abraham and his posterity. He teaches
us that through faith, it was that Enoch was translated.
    But we ought especially to consider the reason why God in so unusual
a manner removed him from the earth. The event was remarkable, and hence
all may know how dear he was to God. Impiety and all kinds of corruptions
then prevailed everywhere. Had he died as other men, it would have not
occurred to any, that he was thus preserved from the prevailing contagion
by God's providence; but, as he was taken away without dying, the hand of
God from heaven, removing him as it were from the fire, was openly
manifested. It was not to then an ordinary honour with which God had
favoured him. Moses indeed tells us, that he was a righteous man, and
that he walked with God; but as righteousness begins with faith, it is
justly ascribed to his faith, that he pleased God.
    As to the subtle questions which the curious usually moot, it is
better to pass them over, without taking much notice  of them. They ask,
what became of these two men, Enoch and Elijah? And then, that they may
not appear merely to ask questions, they imagine that they are reserved
for the last days of the Church, that they may then come forth into the
world; and for this purpose the Revelation of John is referred to. Let us
leave this airy philosophy to those light and vain minds, which cannot be
satisfied with what is solid. Let it suffice us to know, that their
translation was a sort of extraordinary death; nor let us doubt but that
they were divested of their mortal and corruptible flesh, in order that
they might, with the other members of Christ, be renewed into a blessed
=====> 11:6. "But without faith", &c. What is said here belongs to all
the examples which the Apostle records in this chapter; but as there is
in the passage some measure of obscurity, it is necessary to examine its
meaning more closely.
    But there is no better interpreter than the Apostle himself. The
proof, then, which he immediately subjoins, may serve as an explanation.
The reason he assigns why no one can please God without faith, is this, -
because no one will ever come to God, except he believes that God is, and
is also convinced that he is a remunerator to all who seek him. If access
then to God is not opened, but by faith, it follows, that all who are
without it, are the objects of God's displeasure. Hence the Apostle shows
how faith obtains favour for us, even because faith is our teacher as to
the true worship of God, and makes us certain as to his goodwill, so that
we may not think that we seek him in vain. These two clauses ought not to
be slightly passed over, -  that we must believe that God is, and that we
ought to feel assured that he is not sought in vain.
    It does not indeed seem a great matter, when the Apostle requires us
to believe that God is; but when you more closely consider it, you will
find that there is here a rich, profound, and sublime truth; for though
almost all admit without disputing that God is, yet it is evident, that
except the Lord retains us in the true and certain knowledge of himself,
various doubts will ever creep in, and obliterate every thought of a
Divine Being. To this vanity the disposition of man is no doubt prone, so
that to forget God becomes an easy thing. At the same time the Apostle
does not mean, that men ought to feel assured that there is some God, for
he speaks only of the true God; nay, it will not be sufficient for you to
form a notion of any God you please; but you must understand what sort of
Being the true God is; for what will it profit us to devise and term an
idol, and to ascribe to it the glory due to God?
    We now then perceive what the Apostle means in the first clause; he
denies that we can have an access to God, except we have the truth, that
God is deeply fixed in our hearts, so as not to be led here and there by
various opinions.
    It is hence evident, that men in vain weary themselves in serving
God, except they observe the right way, and that all religions are not
only vain, but also pernicious, with which the true and certain knowledge
of God is not connected; for all are prohibited from having any access to
God, who do not distinguish and separate him from all idols; in short,
there is no religion except where this truth reigns dominant. But if the
true knowledge of God has its seat in our hearts it will not fail to lead
us to honour and fear him; for Gods without his majesty is not really
known. Hence arises the desire to serve him, hence it comes that the
whole life is so formed, that he is regarded as the end in all things
    The second clause is that we ought to be fully persuaded that God is
not sought in vain; and this persuasion includes the hope of salvation
and eternal life, for no one will be in a suitable state of heart to seek
God except a sense of the divine goodness be deeply felt, so as to look
for salvation from him. We indeed flee from God, or wholly disregard him,
when there is no hope of salvation. But let us bear in mind, that this is
what must be really believed, and not held merely as a matter of
opinions; for even the ungodly may sometimes entertain such a notion, and
yet they do not come to God; and for this reason, because they have not a
firm and fixed faith. This then is the other part of faith by which we
obtain favour with God, even when we feel assured that salvation is laid
up for us in him.
    But many shamefully pervert this clause; for they hence elicit the
merits of works, and the conceit about deserving. And they reason thus:
"We please God by faith, because we believe him to be a rewarder; then
faith has respect to the merits of works." This error cannot be better
exposed, than by considering how God is to be sought; while any one is
wandering from the right way of seeking him, he cannot be said to be
engaged in the work. Now Scripture assigns this as the right way, - that
a man, prostrate in himself, and smitten with the conviction that he
deserves eternal death, and in self-despair, is to flee to Christ as the
only asylum for salvation. Nowhere certainly can we find that we are to
bring to God any merits of works to put us in a state of favour with him.
Then he who understands that this is the only right way of seeking God,
will be freed from every difficulty on the subject; for reward refers not
to the worthiness or value of works but to faith.
    Thus, these frigid glosses of the Sophists, such as, "by faith we
please God, for we deserve when we intend to please," fall wholly to the
ground. The Apostle's object was to carry us much higher, even that
conscience might feel assured that it is not a vain thing to seek God;
and this certainty or assurance far exceeds what we can of ourselves
attain, especially when any one considers his ownself. For it is not to
be laid down as an abstract principle, that God is a rewarder to those
who seek him; but every one of us ought individually to apply this
doctrine to himself, so that we may know that we are regarded by God,
that he has such a care for our salvation as never to be wanting to us,
that our prayers are heard by him, that he will be to us a perpetual
deliverer. But as none of these things come to us except through Christ,
our faith must ever regard him and cleave to him alone.
    From these two clauses, we may learn how, and why it is impossible
for man to please God without faith; God justly regards us all as objects
of his displeasure, as we are all by nature under his curse; and we have
no remedy in our own power. It is hence necessary that God should
anticipate us by his grace; and hence it comes, that we are brought to
know that God is, and in such a way that no corrupt superstition can
seduce us, and also that we become assured of a certain salvation from
    Were any one to desire a fuller view of this subject, he should make
his commencement here, - that we in vain attempt to try anything, except
we look to God; for the only true end of life is to promote his glory;
but this can never be done, unless there be first the true knowledge of
him. Yet this is still but the half of faith, and will profit us but
little, except confidence be added. Hence faith will only then be
complete and secure us God's favour, when we shall feel a confidence that
we shall not seek him in vain, and thus entertain the certainty of
obtaining salvation from him. But no one, except he be blinded by
presumption, and fascinated by self-love, can feel assured that God will
be a rewarder of his merits. Hence this confidence of which we speak
recumbs not on works, nor on man's own worthiness, but on the grace of
God alone; and as grace is nowhere found but in Christ, it is on him
alone that faith ought to be fixed.

=====> 11:7 By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet,
moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which
he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by

=====> 11:7. "By faith Noah", &c. It was a wonderful example of
magnanimity, that when the whole world were promising themselves
impunity, and securely and unrestrainedly indulging themselves in sinful
pleasures, Noah alone paid regard to Gods vengeance though deferred for a
considerable time, - that he greatly wearied himself for a hundred and
twenty years in building the ark, - that he stood unshaken amidst the
scoffs of so many ungodly men, - that he entertained no doubt but that he
would be safe in the midst of the ruin of the whole world, - yea, that he
felt sure of life as it were in the grave, even in the ark. It is briefly
that I shall touch on the subject; each one can better for himself weigh
all the circumstances.
    The Apostle ascribes to faith the praise of so remarkable a
fortitude. He has been hitherto speaking of the fathers who lived in the
first age of the world; but it was a kind of regeneration when Noah and
his family emerged from the deluge. It is hence evident that in all ages
men have neither been approved by God, nor performed anything worthy of
praise otherwise than by faith.
    Let us now then see what are the things he presents to our
consideration in the case of Noah. They are the following, - that having
been warned of things to come, but not yet made visible, he feared, -
that he built an ark, - that he condemned the world by building it, - and
that he became the heir of that righteousness which is faith.
    What I have just mentioned is that which especially sets forth the
power of faith; for the Apostle ever reminds us of this truth, that faith
is the evidence of things not seen; and doubtless it is its peculiar
office to behold in God's word the things which are hid, and far removed
from our senses. When it was declared to Noah that there would be a
deluge after one hundred and twenty years, first, the length of time
might have removed every fear; secondly, the thing in itself seemed
incredible; thirdly, he saw the ungodly heedlessly indulging in sinful
pleasures; and lastly, the terrible announcement of a deluge might have
appeared to him as intended only to terrify men. But Noah attended so
much to God's word, that turning away his eyes from the appearance of
things at that time, he feared the destruction which God had threatened,
as though it was present. Hence the faith which he had in God's word
prepared him to render obedience to God; and of this he afterwards gave a
proof by building the ark.
    But here a question is raised. Why does the Apostle make faith the
cause of fear, since it has respect to promises of grace rather than to
threatening? For Paul for this reason calls the Gospel, in which God's
righteousness is offered to us for salvation, the word of faith. It seems
then to have been improperly stated, that Noah was by faith led to fear.
To this, I reply, that faith indeed properly springs from promises; it is
founded on them, it rests on them. We hence say that Christ is the real
object of faith, for through him our heavenly Father is reconciled to us,
and by him all the promises of salvation are sealed and confirmed. Yet
there is no reason why faith should not look to God and reverently
receive whatever he may say; or if you prefer another way of stating the
subject, it rightly belongs to faith to hear God whenever he speaks, and
unhesitatingly to embrace whatsoever may proceed from his sacred mouth.
Thus far it has regard to commands and threatening, as well as to
gratuitous promises. But as no man is moved as he ought and as much as is
needful, to obey God's commands, nor is sufficiently stirred up to
deprecate his wrath, unless he has already laid hold on the promises of
grace, so as to acknowledge him as a kind Father, and the author of
salvation, - hence the Gospel is called the word of faith, the principal
part being stated for the whole; and thus is set forth the mutual
relation that there is between them both. Faith, then, though its most
direct regard is to God's promises, yet looks on his threatening so far
as it is necessary for it to be taught to fear and obey God.
    "Prepared an ark", &c. Here is pointed out that obedience which flows
from faith as water from a fountain. The work of building the ark was
long and labourious. It might have been haltered by the scoffs of the
ungodly, and thus suspended a thousand times; nor is there a doubt but
they mocked and derided the holy man on every side. That he then bore
their wanton insults with an unshaken spirit, is a proof that his
resolution to obey was not of an ordinary kind. But how was it that he so
perseveringly obeyed God except that he had previously rested on the
promise which gave him the hope of deliverance; and in this confidence he
persevered even to the last; for he could not have had the courage
willingly to undergo so many toils, nor could he have been able to
overcome so many obstacles, nor could he have stood so firm in his
purpose for so long a time, had he not beforehand possessed this
    It hence appears that faith alone is the teacher of obedience; and we
may on the contrary draw this conclusion, that it is unbelief that
prevents us to obey God. And at this day the unbelief of the world
exhibits itself dreadfully in this way, for there are a very few who obey
    "By the which he condemned the world", &c. It were strange to say
that Noah's deliverance condemned the world, and the context will hardly
allow faith to be meant; we must then understand this of the ark. And he
is said on two accounts to have by the ark condemned the world; for by
being so long occupied in building it, he took away every excuse from the
wicked; - and the event which followed proved how just was the
destruction of the world; for why was the ark made the means of
deliverance to one family, except that the Lord thus spared a righteous
man that he should not perish with the ungodly. Had he then not been
preserved, the condemnation of the world would not have been so apparent.
Noah then by obeying God's command condemned by his example the obstinate
disobedience of the world: his wonderful deliverance from the midst of
death, was an evidence that the world justly perished; for God would have
doubtless saved it, had it not been unworthy of salvation
    "Of the righteousness which is by faith". This is the last thing in
the character of Noah, which the Apostle reminds us to observe. Moses
records that he was a righteous man: history does not expressly say that
the cause and root of his righteousness was faith, but the Apostle
declares that as arising from the facts of the case. And this is not only
true, because no one ever devotes himself really and sincerely to God's
service, but he who relies on the promises of his paternal kindness, and
feels assured that his life is approved by him; but also on this account,
because the life of no one, however holy it may be, when tried by the
rule of God's law, can please him without pardon being granted. Then
righteousness must necessarily recumb on faith.

=====> 11:8 By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place
which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went
out, not knowing whither he went.
11:9 By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as [in] a strange
country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him
of the same promise:
11:10 For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and
maker [is] God.
11:11 Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed,
and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged
him faithful who had promised.
11:12 Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead, [so
many] as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by
the sea shore innumerable.

=====> 11:8. "By faith Abraham", &c. He comes now to Abraham, who is the
chief father of God's church on earth, and in whose name the Jews
gloried, as though by the distinction of being the holy race of Abraham
alone, they were removed from the common order of men. But he now reminds
them of what they ought to possess as the main thing, that they might be
counted among his children. He therefore calls their attention to faith,
for Abraham himself had no excellency which did not proceed from faith.
    He first teaches us that faith was the cause why he immediately
obeyed God when he was commanded to remove from his own country; and then
that through the same faith it was that he went on without wavering,
according to what he was called to do even to the end. By these two
things, - his promptness in obeying, and his perseverance, was Abraham's
faith most clearly proved.
    "When he was called", &c. The old Latin translator and Erasmus apply
this to his name, which is extremely tame and frigid. On the contrary, I
refer it to the oracle by which he was called from his own country. He
indeed did in this way undergo a voluntary exile, while yet he did
nothing but by God's command; and no doubt it is one of the chief things
which belong to faith, not to move a step except God's word shows us the
way, and as a lantern gives us light, according to what David says.
(Psalm 110: 105.) Let us then learn that it is a thing to be observed
through life, that we are to undertake nothing to which God does not call
    "To go out into a place", &c. To the command was added a promise,
that God would give him a land for an inheritance. This promise he
immediately embraced, and hastened as though he was sent to take
possession of this land. It is a no ordinary trial of faith to give up
what we have in hand, in order to seek what is afar off, and unknown to
us. For when God commanded him to leave his own country, he did not point
out the place where he intended him to live, but left him in suspense and
perplexity of mind: "go", he said, "into the place that I will show
thee." (Gen. 12: 1.) Why did he defer to point out the pla˘e, except that
his faith might be more and more exercised? Besides, the love of his
native land might not only have retarded the alacrity of Abraham, but
also held him so bound to it, so as not to quit his home. His faith then
was not of an ordinary kind, which thus broke through all hindrances and
carried him where the Lord called him to go.
=====> 11:9. "By faith he sojourned", &c. The second particular is, that
having entered into the land, he was hardly received as a stranger and a
sojourner. Where was the inheritance which he had expected? It might have
indeed occurred instantly to his mind, that he had been deceived by God.
Still greater was the disappointment, which the Apostle does not mention,
when shortly after a famine drove him from the country, when he was
compelled to flee to the land of Gerar; but the Apostle considered it
enough to say, as a commendation to his faith, that he became a sojourner
in the land of promise; for to be a sojourner seemed contrary to what had
been promised. That Abraham then courageously sustained this trial was an
instance of great fortitude; but it proceeded from faith alone.
    "With Isaac and Jacob", &c. He does not mean that they dwelt in the
same tent, or lived at the same time; but he makes Abraham's son and
grandson his companions, because they sojourned alike in the inheritance
promised to them, and yet failed not in their faith, however long it was
that God delayed the time; for the longer the delay the greater was the
trial; but by setting up the shield of faith they repelled all the
assaults of doubt and unbelief.
=====> 11:10. "For he looked for", &c. He gives a reason why he ascribes
their patience to faith, even because they looked forward to heaven. This
was indeed to see things invisible. It was no doubt a great thing to
cherish in their hearts the assurance given them by God respecting the
possession of the land until it was after some ages realized; yet as they
did not confine their thoughts, no, not to that land, but penetrated even
into heaven, it was still a clearer evidence of their faith.
    He calls heaven a "city that has foundations", because of its
perpetuity; for in the world there is nothing but what is transitory and
fading. It may indeed appear strange that he makes God the Maker of
heavens as though he did not also create the earth; to this I answer,
that as in earthly buildings, the hands of men make use of materials, the
workmanship of God is not unfitly set in opposition to them. Now,
whatever is formed by men is like its authors in instability; so also is
the perpetuity of the heavenly life, it corresponds with the nature of
God its founder. Moreover, the Apostle teaches us that all weariness is
relieved by expectation, so that we ought never to be weary in following
=====> 11:11. "Through faith also, Sarah herself", &c. That women may
know that this truth belongs to them as well as to men, he adduces the
example of Sarah; which he mentions in preference to that of others,
because she was the mother of all the faithful.
    But it may seem strange that her faith is commended, who was openly
charged with unbelief; for she laughed at the word of the angel as though
it were a fable; and it was not the laugh of wonder and admiration, for
otherwise she would not have been so severely reproved by the angel. It
must indeed be confessed, that her faith was blended with unbelief; but
as she cast aside her unbelief when reproved, her faith is acknowledged
by God and commended. What then she rejected at first as being
incredible, she afterwards as soon as she heard that it came from God,
obediently received.
    And hence we deduce a useful doctrine, - that when our faith in some
things wavers or halts, it ceases not to be approved of God, provided we
indulge not the spirit of unbelief. The meaning then is, that the miracle
which God performed when Isaac was born, was the fruit of the faith of
Abraham, and of his wife, by which they laid hold on the power of God.
    "Because she judged him faithful", &c. These reasons, by which the
power and character of faith are set forth, ought to be carefully
noticed. Were any one only to hear that Sarah brought forth a child
through faith, all that is meant would not be conveyed to him, but the
explanation which the Apostle adds removes every obscurity; for he
declares that Sarah's faith was this, - that she counted God to be true
to his word, that is, to what he had promised.
    There are two clauses to this declaration; for we hence learn first,
that there is no faith without God's word, for of his faithfulness we
cannot be convinced, until he has spoken. And this of itself is
abundantly sufficient to confute the fiction of the sophists respecting
implicit faith; for we must ever hold that there is a mutual relation
between God's word and our faith. But as faith is founded chiefly,
according to what has been already said, on the benevolence or kindness
of God, it is not every word, though coming from his mouth, that is
sufficient; but a promise is necessary as an evidence of his favour.
Hence Sarah is said to have counted God faithful who had promised. True
faith then is that which hears God speaking and rests on his promise.
=====> 11:12. "Therefore sprang there even of one", &c. He now also
reminds the Jews, that it was by faith that they were the descendants of
Abraham; for he was as it were half dead, and Sarah his wife, who had
been barren in the flower of her age, was now sterile, being far advanced
in years. Sooner then might oil be expected to flow from a stone, than a
nation to proceed from them: and yet there sprang from them an
innumerable multitude. If now the Jews are proud of their origin, let
them consider what it was. Whatever they are, everything is doubtless to
be ascribed to the faith of Abraham and Sarah. It hence follows, that
they cannot retain and defend the position they have acquired in any
other way than by faith.

=====> 11:13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises,
but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of [them], and embraced
[them], and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.
11:14 For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a
11:15 And truly, if they had been mindful of that [country] from whence
they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned.
11:16 But now they desire a better [country], that is, an heavenly:
wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared
for them a city.

=====> 11:13. "These all died in faith", &c. He enhances by a comparison
the faith of the patriarchs: for when they had only tasted of the
promises, as though fully satisfied with their sweetness, they despised
all that was in the world; and they never forgot the taste of them,
however small it was either in life or in death.
    At the same time the expression "in faith", is differently explained.
Some understand simply this that they died in faith, because in this life
they never enjoyed the promised blessings, as at this day also salvation
is hid from us, being hoped for. But I rather assent to those who think
that there is expressed here a difference between us and the fathers; and
I give this explanation, - "Though God gave to the fathers only a taste
of that grace which is largely poured on us, though he showed to them at
a distance only an obscure representation of Christ, who is now set forth
to us clearly before our eyes, yet they were satisfied and never fell
away from their faith: how much greater reason then have we at this day
to persevere? If we grow faint, we are doubly inexcusable". It is then an
enhancing circumstance, that the fathers had a distant view of the
spiritual kingdom of Christ, while we at this day have so near a view of
it, and that they hailed the promises afar off, while we have them as it
were quite near us; for if they nevertheless persevered even unto death,
what sloth will it be to become wearied in faith, when the Lord sustains
us by so many helps. Were any one to object and say, that they could not
have believed without receiving the promises on which faith is
necessarily founded: to this the answer is, that the expression is to be
understood comparatively; for they were far from that high position to
which God has raised us. Hence it is that though they had the same
salvation promised them, yet they had not the promises so clearly
revealed to them as they are to us under the kingdom of Christ; but they
were content to behold them afar off.
    "And confessed that they were strangers", &c. This confession was
made by Jacob, when he answered Pharaoh, that the time of his pilgrimage
was short compared with that of his fathers, and full of many sorrows.
(Gen. 47: 9.) Since Jacob confessed himself a pilgrim in the land, which
had been promised to him as a perpetual inheritance, it is quite evident
that his mind was by no means fixed on this world, but that he raised it
up above the heavens. Hence the Apostle concludes, that the fathers, by
speaking thus, openly showed that they had a better country in heaven;
for as they were pilgrims here, they had a country and an abiding
habitation elsewhere.
    But if they in spirit amid dark clouds, took a flight into the
celestial country, what ought we to do at this day? For Christ stretches
forth his hand to us, as it were openly, from heaven, to raise us up to
himself. If the land of Canaan did not engross their attention, how much
more weaned from things below ought we to be, who have no promised
habitation in this world?
=====> 11:15. "And truly if they had been mindful", &c. He anticipates an
objection that might have been made, - that they were strangers because
they had left their own country. The apostle meets this objection, and
says, that though they called themselves strangers, they yet did not
think of Mesopotamia; for if they had a desire to return, their might

(continued in part 16...)

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