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.
13. Secundum fidem mortui sunt isti omnes non acceptis promissionibus, sed quum procul eas vidissent et credidissent et salutassent et confessi essent quod hospites et peregrini erant super terram.
14. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country.
14. Sane qui haec dicunt ostendunt se patriam inquirere:
15. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned.
15. Et si quidem illius meminissent a qua exierant, habebant tempus revertendi:
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.
16. Nunc vero meliorem appetunt, id est, coelestem; quare non erubescit Deus vocari Deus ipsorum, paravit enim illus civitatem.
13. These all died in faith, etc. 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, etc. 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. (Genesis 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?
15. And truly if they had been mindful, etc. 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, they might have done so: but they had willingly banished themselves from it, nay, they had disowned it, as though it did not belong to them. By another country, then, they meant, that which is beyond this world.
16. Wherefore God is not ashamed, etc. He refers to that passage, |I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.| (Exodus 3:6.) It is a singular honor when God makes men illustrious, by attaching his name to them; and designs thus to have himself distinguished from idols. This privilege, as the Apostle teaches us, depends also on faith; for when the holy fathers aspired to a celestial country, God on the other hand counted them as citizens. We are hence to conclude, that there is no place for us among God's children, except we renounce the world, and that there will be for us no inheritance in heaven, except we become pilgrims on earth; Moreover, the Apostle justly concludes from these words, -- |I am the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob,| that they were heirs of heaven, since he who thus speaks is not the God of the dead, but of the living.