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INTRODUCTION TO THE EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS.
substance, but one reason to urge the former exhortation to perseverance in faith, and the reason is drawn from the excellency of it; for this chapter, in divers ways, sets down what an excellent gift of God faith is; his whole scope, therefore, is manifest to be nothing else but to urge them to persevere and continue in that faith, proved at large to be so excellent a thing.
“ As a farther encouragement to patience and perseverance he adds the example of Christ, chap. xii. 1–3; and as to the afflictions they met with on the gospel's account, he tells them they ought not to be discouraged and driven away from Christ on their account, seeing they were signs of the divine favour, and permitted to come upon them merely for their good, ver. 4-11. He then exhorts them to encourage one another to persevere in well-lloing. ver. 12–14. To watch over one another lest any of them fall from the grace of God, ver. 15–18. And, seeing they were then in possession of privileges, gospel privileges, such as the law of Moses could not give, he exhorts them to hold fast the grace they had, that thereby they might serve God in such a manner as the great obligation they were under required, which alone would be acceptable to him; and this they ought to do, the rather because, if they did not, they would find God to be as much more severe to them as his gospel is superior to the law ; ver. 19 to the end of the chapter.
Chap. xiii. He exhorts them, instead of apostatizing, to continue their brotherly affection one for another, ver. 1-3. To continue their purity of behaviour, their dependance on God, and their regard for their teachers, ver. 4-8. He exhorts them not to suffer themselves to be carried about (from Christ and his gospel) by divers and strange doctrines, but rather to strive to be established in grace, which they would find to be of more service to them than running about after Jewish ceremonies, ver. 9. Again he exhorts them to cleare to and to follow Jesus without the camp, and continually to give praise to God through him, ver. 9–16. And instead of turning away after seducers, that they might avoid persecution and the scandal of the cross, he exhorts them to submit to and obey their own Christian teachers, and to pray for their success and welfare, ver. 17-19, concluding the whole with some salutations and a solemn benediction from ver. 20 to
“Now, if we closely attend to these general contents of the epistle, we shall find that every argument and mode of reasoning, which would be proper in a treatise written professedly on the sin and danger of apostasy, is made use of in this epistle.
" For, 1. As great temptations to prefer the law of Moses to the gospel of Christ was one circumstance which exposed them to the danger of apostasy, nothing could be more to the purpose than to show them that the gospel is superior to the law. Now we have seen how largely this 'argument is prosecuted in chap. i., ii., iii., v., vii., viii., ix., x. reduce it to form, it runs as follows: No one ought to prefer that which is less excellent to that which is more so: but the law is less excellent than the gospel; therefore none ought to prefer the law to the gospel, by apostatizing from the latter to the former.
“ 2. Another argument, equally proper on such an occasion, is that taken from the consideration of the punishment which all apostates are exposed to.
This argument is urged chap. ii. 2, 3; iii
. 7 to the end; iv. 1-14; vi. 4, 8; x. 26–31 ; xii. 25, 28, 29. In most of these places the apostle compares the punishment which will be inflicted on apostates from Christ and his gospel to that which was inflicted on the apostate Israelites of old, and, he frequently shows that the former will be far greater than the latter. This argument is as follows: You ought not to do that which will expose you to as great and greater punishment than that which God inflicted on the rebellious İsraelites of old: but total and final apostasy from Christ will expose you to this; therefore you ought not to apostatize from Christ.
"3. Another argument proper on such an occasion is that taken from the consideration of the great reward which God has promised to perseverance. This the apostle urges, chap. iii. 6–14; iv. 1–9; v. 9; vi. 9, 11; ix. 28; x. 35–39. This argument runs thus: You ought to be careful to do that which God has promised greatly to reward: but he has promised you this on condition of your perseverance in the gospel of his Son; therefore you ought to be careful to persevere therein.
" 4. A fourth argument, which must operate powerfully on such an occasion, is taken from the consideration of losing their present privileges by apostatizing. This argument is insisted on,
INTRODUCTION TO THE EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS.
chap. ii. 11 to the end; iii. 1; iv. 3—14—16; vi. 18—20; vii. 19; viii. 10, 12; ix. 14, 15; x. 14, 22 ; xii. 22, 24, 28; xiii. 20, 14. This argument runs thus: You ought not to do that for which you will lose the gospel privileges you now enjoy: but if you apostatize from Christ and his gospel you will lose them; therefore you ought not to apostatize from Christ and his gospel.
“5. A fifth argument, very proper in such a work, is taken from the consideration of their former zeal and diligence in cleaving to Christ, and in professing his religion. This argument is handled chap. vi. 10; x. 32–34. The argument here is : Those who have formerly been zealous in well-doing ought not to grow weary, but rather to be stedfast therein unto the end; but you have formerly been zealous in your adherence to Christ, and in professing his religion; therefore you ought not to grow weary of adhering to Christ, or of professing his religion.
“6. Another argument, proper on such an occasion, is taken from the example of such persons as are held in very high esteem. Now this argument is urged, chap. vi. 12–15; ix. throughout; xii. 1-3. Here the argument is : Whatever you esteem as an excellency in the example of holy men of old you ought to imitate: but you esteem it as an excellency in their example that they were stedfast, and did not apostatize from God and his ways; therefore you ought to imitate their example in being stedfast, and in not apostatizing from Christ and his gospel.
“From all that has been said in these several surveys of this epistle, it undeniably appears, 1. That the apostle apprehended these Hebrews to be in danger of total and final apostasy; 2. That he wrote this epistle to them on purpose to prevent it if possible ; and 3. That it was total and final apostasy from Christ and his gospel, of which the believing Hebrews were in danger, and which the apostle endeavours to prevent.”
For other matters relative to this subject see the preface, and the notes on all the passages referred to.
OF PAUL THE APOSTLE
H E B R E W S.
THE Epistle to the Hebrews, on which the reader is about to enter, is by far the most
important and useful of all the apostolic writings; all the doctrines of the gospel are in it embodied, illustrated, and enforced in a manner the most lucid, by references and examples the most striking and illustrious, and by arguments the most cogent and convincing. It is an epitome of the dispensations of God to man, from the foundation of the world to the advent of Christ. It is not only the sum of the Gospel, but the sum and completion of the Law, on which it is also a most beautiful and luminous comment. Without this, the Law of Moses had never been fully understood, nor God's design in giving it. With this, all is clear and plain, and the ways of God with man rendered consistent and harmonious. The apostle appears to have taken a portion of one of his own epistles for his text-Christ is the End of the Law for RIGHTEOUSNESS to them that BELIEVE, and has most amply and impressively demonstrated his proposition. All the rites, ceremonies, and sacrifices of the Mosaic institution are shown to have had Christ for their object and end, and to have had neither intention nor meaning but in reference to him; yea, as a system to be without substance, as a law to be without reason, and its enactments to be both impossible and absurd, if taken out of this reference and connexion. Never were premises more clearly stated ; never
was an argument handled in a more masterly manner; and never was a conclusion more legitimately and satisfactorily brought forth. The matter is every where the most interesting; the manner is throughout the most engaging; and the language is most beautifully adapted to the whole, every where appropriate, always nervous and energetic, dignified as is the subject, pure and elegant as that of the most accomplished Grecian orators, and harmonious and diversified as the music of the spheres.
So many are the beauties, so great the excellency, so instructive the matter, so pleasing the manner, and so exceedingly interesting the whole, that the work may be read a hundred times over without perceiving any thing of sameness, and with new and increased information at each reading. This latter is an excellency which belongs to the whole revelation of God; but to no part of it in such a peculiar and supereminent manner as to the Epistle to the Hebrews.
PREFACE TO THE EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS.
To explain and illustrate this epistle multitudes have toiled hard ; and exhibited much industry, much learning, and much piety. I also will show my opinion ; and ten thousand may succeed me, and still bring out something that is new. That it was written to Jews, naturally such, the whole structure of the epistle proves. Had it been written to the Gentiles, not one in ten thousand of them could have comprehended the argument, because unacquainted with the Jewish system; the knowledge of which the writer of this epistle every where supposes. He who is well acquainted with the Mosaic law sits down to the study of this epistle with double advantages; and he who knows the Traditions of the Elders, and the Mishnaic illustrations of the written and pretended oral law of the Jews, is still more likely to enter into and comprehend the apostle's meaning. No man has adopted a more likely way of explaining its phraseology than Schoettgen, who has traced its peculiar diction to Jewish sources; and, according to him, the proposition of the whole epistle is this:
JESUS OF NAZARETH IS THE TRUE GOD. And in order to convince the Jews of the truth of this proposition, the apostle uses but three arguments: 1. Christ is superior to the angels. 2. He is superior to Moses. 3. He is superior to Aaron.
These arguments would appear more distinctly were it not for the improper division of the chapters; as he who divided them in the middle ages (a division to which we are still unreasonably attached) had but a superficial knowledge of the word of God. In consequence of this it is that one peculiar excellency of the apostle is not noticed, viz. his application of every argument, and the strong exhortation founded on it. Schoettgen has very properly remarked, that commentators in general have greatly misunderstood the apostle's meaning through their unacquaintance with the Jewish writings and their peculiar phraseology, to which the apostle is continually referring, and of which he makes incessant
He also supposes, allowing for the immediate and direct inspiration of the apostle, that he had in view this remarkable saying of the Rabbins, on Isai. lii. 13: “Behold, my servant will deal prudently." Rab. Tanchum, quoting Yalcut Simeoni, part II., fol. 53, says: TOWDA 750 ni, “This is the king Messiah, who shall be greatly extolled, and elevated : He shall be elevated beyond Abraham; shall be more eminent than Moses ; and more exalted than noen 9985999, the ministering angels.” Or, as it is expressed in Yalcut Kadosh, fol. 144: 0707850971 neo ya noxnjo Song nowo Mashiach gadol min ha-aboth; umin Mosheh; umin Malakey hashshareth. “ The Messiah is greater than the patriarchs; than Moses ; and than the ministering angels." These sayings he shows to have been fulfilled in our Messiah; and as he dwells on the superiority of our Lord to all these illustrious persons, because they were at the very top of all comparisons among the Jews; he, according to their opinion, who was greater than all these, must be greater than all created beings.
This is the point which the apostle undertakes to prove, in order that he may show the Godhead of Christ ; therefore, if we find him proving that Jesus was greater than the patriarchs, greater than Aaron, greater than Moses, and greater than the angels, he must be understood to mean, according to the Jewish phraseology, that Jesus is an uncreated Being, infinitely greater than all others, whether earthly or heavenly. For, as they allowed the greatest eminence (next to God) to angelic beings, the apostle concludes “ That he who is greater than the angels is truly God: but Christ is greater than the angels; therefore Christ is truly God.” Nothing can be clearer than that this is the apostle's grand argument; and the proofs and illustrations of it meet the reader in almost every verse.
That the apostle had a plan on which he drew up this epistle is very clear, from the close connexion of every part. The grand divisions seem to be three :
PREFACE TO THE EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS.
I. The proposition, which is very short, and is contained in chap. i. 1-3. The majesty and pre-eminence of Christ. II. The proof or arguments which support the proposition, viz.
Christ is greater than the Angels. 1. Because he has a more excellent name than they, chap. i. 4, 5. 2. Because the angels of God adore him, ver. 6. 3. Because the angels were created by him, ver. 7.
4. Because, in his human nature, he was endowed with greater gifts than they, ver. 8, 9.
5. Because he is eternal, ver. 10, 11, 12.
In the application of this argument he exhorts the Hebrews not to neglect Christ, chap. ii. I, by arguments drawn,
1. From the minor to the major, ver. 2, 3.
3. Because, in the economy of the New Testament, angels are not the administrators ; but the Messiah himself, to whom all things are subject, ver. 5.
Here the apostle inserts a twofold objection, professedly drawn from divine revelation :
1. Christ is man, and is less than the angels. What is man—thou madest him a little lower than the angels, ver. 6, 7. Therefore he cannot be superior to them.
To this it is answered: 1. Christ, as a mortal man, by his death and resurrection overcame all enemies, and subdued all things to himself; therefore he must be greater than the angels, ver. 9.
2. Though Christ died, and was in this respect inferior to the angels, yet it was necessary that he should take on him this mortal state, that he might be of the same nature with those whom he was to redeem; and this he did without any prejudice to his divinity, ver. 10–1
Christ is greater than Moses. 1. Because Moses was only a serrant; Christ, the Lord, chap. iii. 2–6. The application of this argument he makes from Ps. xcv. 7–11, which he draws out at length, chap. iii. 7-iv. 13.
Christ is greater than Aaron, and all the other high-priests. 1. Because he has not gone through the vail of the tabernacle to make an atonement for sin, but has entered for this purpose into heaven itself, chap. iv. 14.
2. Because he is the Son of God, ver. 14.
3. Because it is from him we are to implore grace and mercy, chap. iv. 15, 16, and ver. 1, 2, 3.
4. Because he was consecrated High-priest by God himself, chap. v. 4—10.
5. Because he is not a priest according to the order of Aaron, but according to the order of Melchisedec, which was much more ancient, and much more noble, chap. vii. For the excellence and prerogatives of this order, see the notes.
6. Because he is not a typical priest, prefiguring good things to come, but the real Priest, of whom the others were but types and shadows, chap. viii. 1-ix. 11. For the various reasons by which this argument is supported, see also the notes.