Bible Commentaries
Hebrews 6

Haldane's Exposition on the Epistle to the Romans and HebrewsHaldane on Romans and Hebrews

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Verse 1

Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God.

The Apostle had said that he had many things to say concerning Melchisedec, which were hard to be uttered, in consequence of the Hebrews being dull of hearing. As it is difficult to speak to a deaf Prayer of Manasseh, so it was difficult to explain to them the mystery contained in his history. This was not owing to the subject being new to them, for, considering the time they had been in the school of Christ, they ought to be teachers, and yet they required to be taught again the elements or first principles of the oracles of God, and needed to be fed with milk, and not with strong meat; as milk is suitable for babes, and strong meat for grown up persons. Now the Hebrews, from the advantages which they had enjoyed, ought to have their senses exercised to discern true and false doctrine.

But, considering the advantages which they had already enjoyed, and the progress they ought to have made, he would leave the elements or principles of the doctrine of Christ (literally the word of the beginning of Christ, which seems to be the same as what is termed the first principles of the oracles of God, chap, literally the elements of the beginning of the oracles of God), he would go on to perfection: that is the explanation of what had been darkly shadowed forth in the Old Testament. He would not again lay the foundation of repentance from dead works [Dead works, mean works deserving death.] and of faith in God, which were so frequently inculcated by Moses and the prophets.

Verse 2

Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.

It may seem strange that the doctrine of baptism and laying on of hands should be introduced along with repentance and faith. But repentance and faith were enforced in the Jewish economy, in which there were divers baptisms, Hebrews 9:10, signifying the necessity of repentance. In like manner, the laying on of hands on the sacrifice about to be offered, represents faith. The worshipper, by laying his hands on the victim, confessing his sins, expressed his faith of remission through the shedding of blood. Hebrews 9:22. [The baptisms here spoken of cannot refer to the ordinance of Christ, for there is but one Christian baptism. Ephesians 4:5. The resurrection of the dead, which is a most prominent part of the doctrine of Christ, was plainly taught by Moses and the prophets, and generally believed by the Jews. Acts 24:15; John 11:24; Acts 23:6; Mark 12:23; Mark 12:27; while the Sadducees denied it. Acts 23:8. The faith of the resurrection implied the future judgment. Indeed the future judgment was implied by mankind after the fall being divided into two classes, while all were to return to the dust. The separation must be made after death, so that the resurrection and the judgment were clearly taught from the beginning. All go to one place whatever be their character, the grave receives them all; in dividing mankind into two classes after the fall, God clearly intimated the general judgment It is called eternal judgment, because its decisions will never be reversed.]

Verse 3

And this will we do, if God permit.

This, therefore, was the course, which, by Divine permission, he intended to follow.

Verse 4

For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost,....

It appears from this and other parts of the Epistle that there had been a great apostasy among the Hebrews who had professed the faith of Christ, but had returned to Judaism, and their case was so hopeless that the Apostle would not occupy time by addressing himself to them. They are described as having been once enlightened. When the Lord divides the hearers of the Gospel into four classes, one class is represented as receiving the word with joy, but having no root, and therefore only enduring for a time. The same persons are described—"For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them." . See also Hebrews 10:26-27. Whence it appears that a great external reformation may be produced by the Gospel, and the feelings of the hearers may be greatly excited while they are destitute of saving faith. This is the gift of God, and the gifts and calling of God are without repentance. Romans 11:29.

There may, however, be a temporary impression made by the Gospel, whence some are described as believing for a time, Luke 8:13; which is explained in next clause, and have been made partakers of the Holy Ghost. This refers to the miraculous gifts conferred by the laying on of the Apostle's hands. Men thus receiving the Holy Ghost did not imply that they were truly converted. Hence our Lord says: " Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?" Matthew 7:22. And the Apostle supposes the case of men possessing a faith by which they might remove mountains, 1 Corinthians 13:2, while destitute of love, and therefore ignorant of God. 1 John 4:8.

Verse 5

And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come.

Tasted the good word of God, felt somewhat of its sweetness: "How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!" Psalm 119:103. "More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey, and the honeycomb." Psalm 19:10. "Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart: for I am called by thy name, O Lord God of Hosts." Jeremiah 15:16. The persons referred to have tasted somewhat of this excellence and the power of the world to come. What is rendered the Everlasting Father is in the LXX. the Father of the age to come, and we read of the world to come, that is the Gospel dispensation. Heb. ii5. Now the power of the world to come means the diversity of miraculous gifts under the new dispensation, referred to by the Apostle. 1 Corinthians 12:4; 1 Corinthians 12:10. We are unable accurately to distinguish these, because we do not possess miraculous gifts; but there are the powers conferred under the Gospel dispensation. What is rendered in our version working of miracles, 1 Corinthians 12:29, is working of powers. Again in Matthew 7:22-23, wonderful works, is in the original, powers.

Verse 6

If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.

There is no if in the original; it is " and having fallen away;" for it is coupled with the preceding participles, enlightened, tasted, made partakers of, after all had fallen away. [This does not imply that the people of God shall ever fall away. We have already seen that the gifts and calling of God are without repentance; indeed this must be the case, because believers were chosen in and given to Christ. Ephesians 1:4; John 17:6; and shall never perish. John 10:28-29. Where God begins a good work he will carry it on till the day of Christ; but believers as well as others require cautions and warnings, and it is not improbable that there may be here an intentional obscurity in regard to the feelings excited by the truth as it is in Jesus, which is intended to serve as a beacon against any tendency to backslide from God. Our comfort ought not to be derived from our past feelings or fancied acquirements, but from the habitual contemplation of Christ as our Savior. We can only enjoy the assurance of hope by the contemplation of the glory of the sacrifice of Christ, and the absolute freeness of the great salvation. Let the apparent genuineness of our Christian experience be what it may, we can only have proof of our being living members of Christ by abiding in him and holding fast the truth.] While this is a solemn warning to him who thinketh he standeth, to take heed lest he fall, 1 Corinthians 10:12, it throws no doubt upon the perseverance of the saints, although we can only know that such is our character by holding fast the truth. It is evident from this and many other passages that men's natural feelings may be much excited, and such a change in their habits and sentiments produced as may strikingly resemble the fruits of the Spirit, while they are imposing on themselves and others.

But it may be asked, why is it impossible to renew such persons again to repentance? It is not impossible for God thus to renew them, for with Him all things are possible. The impossibility appears to be the same as for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. " It is easier," says the Lord, "for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom," and adds, "with man it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible." However, their case was Song of Solomon, very hopeless that the Apostle would not attempt to recover those who had apostatized, since by that act they had justified the conduct of the Jews in reviling and crucifying the Son of God as a blasphemer and an impostor, and thus, as it were, putting him to an open shame, or making him a public example. Matthew 1:19. They, as it were, set their seal to all the insults and injuries which were heaped on Jesus, and that after the fullest evidence had been given of his divine character and mission, not only by his resurrection but by the outpouring of the Spirit, of whose miraculous gifts they had been made partakers. Acts 2:33. We find a parallel passage in chap10:26, 29, where apostates are represented as treading under foot the Son of God, and counting the blood of the covenant wherewith he was sanctified ["Sanctified" may either apply to Christ, who says, "For their sakes I sanctify myself, that they may be sanctified through the truth." He was set apart, like the paschal lamb, that his people might be set apart through the truth; or it may refer to the apostate, for the Scripture often speaks of them as they appear, for instance Simon Magus is said to have believed.] an unholy thing; and, having done despite to the Spirit of Grace, by rejecting the testimony he bore to Jesus. These passages confirm the observation already made that many of the Hebrews who had professed the truth had returned to Judaism; and the Apostle wrote this Epistle with a view of putting a stop to the apostasy by teaching the Hebrews the nature of the Mosaic law, by the misunderstanding of which they had been misled, and showing them that it was a temporary dispensation, a shadow of good things to come.

Verse 7

For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God.

The Scriptures both of the Old and New Testament frequently illustrate spiritual by temporal things, and not uncommonly by a reference to the operations of husbandry. See . Here we are taught that the fertility of the earth proceeds from the blessing of God, Genesis 1:11; Genesis 27:27; Psalm 65:9; Psalm 65:11. This does not, however, preclude the labours of the husbandman, which is essential to the production of the fruits of the earth, Genesis 3:19; but all man's labour is vain without the blessing of God, Psalm 127:1, to which alone we are taught to look for success. When he crowns the year with his goodness, causing the grass to grow for the cattle and herb for the service of Prayer of Manasseh, bringing forth fruit out of the earth, Psalm civ, 14, we see the effect of his blessing.

Verse 8

But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned.

But that which beareth thorns and briers is given up by the husbandman, who finds it vain to waste his strength without obtaining any return, and therefore lets it alone, only removing the surface as fuel. We have a beautiful representation of God's dealings with sinners, of mankind, in that striking parable in which Israel is compared to a vineyard on which the greatest care had been lavished, , but it produced wild grapes, on which account the Lord declared his intention of laying it waste, so that it should only produce thorns and briers. We have another illustration of this passage in the prophecies of Ezekiel. He describes the waters which flowed from the threshold of the house, which gradually augmented. The water was at first to the ankles, then to the knees, afterwards to the loins, and then a river which could not be passed over. In these waters there were exceeding many fishes, and fishermen spreading their nets: "And it shall come to pass, that every thing that liveth, which moveth, whithersoever the rivers shall come, shall live: and there shall be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters shall come thither: for they shall be healed; and every thing shall live whither the river cometh. And it shall come to pass, that the fishers shall stand upon it from En-gedi even unto En-eglaim; they shall be a place to spread forth nets; their fish shall be according to their kinds, as the fish of the great sea, exceeding many. But the miry places thereof and the marishes thereof shall not be healed; they shall be given to salt." Ezekiel 47:9-11. Ezekiel"s vision of the temple is very obscure, but it is evident that the waters issuing from the house of God denote the Gospel, and the fishers the Apostles and those who succeeded them as preachers of the Gospel.

Every thing lived whither the waters came, but the miry places and the marshes thereof were not healed: "They shall be given to salt," ver11.

The Gospel is not only the savour of life unto life, but of death unto death, and of such it will prove to apostates of whom the Apostle treats. To such we may apply the words of the prophet respecting Jerusalem: "In thy filthiness is lewdness; because I have purged thee, and thou wast not purged, thou shalt not be purged from thy filthiness any more, till I have caused my fury to rest upon thee." Ezekiel 24:13; and again, "But my people would not hearken to my voice; and Israel would none of me. So I gave them up unto their own hearts' lust: and they walked in their own counsels." Psalm 81:11-12.

Verse 9

But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak.

Having delivered this solemn warning the Apostle proceeds to encourage his brethren who had stood fast in the faith. He was persuaded better things of them, although he thus spoke. It was necessary for him to set before them the awful state of those who had apostatized, but he had confidence in those whom he addressed. He was persuaded better things of them, even things that accompany salvation, although he had found it necessary to use the language he had done. It may be asked, What are the better things to which he refers? and he answers the question, Things which accompany salvation, which are the evidence of our union with Christ, and which are therefore far superior to these gifts to which he had referred, and to which apostates may attain. We have here an instance of the wisdom and tenderness with which the Apostle addressed his brethren. He had set before them the awful doom of apostates, and he now returns to the strongest expressions of confidence and brotherly love. Of this we have another instance, 2 Thessalonians 2:13. There also he speaks of apostates, whom in righteous judgment God gave up to strong delusion, that they should believe a lie, but adds: " But we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth." 2 Thessalonians 2:13. So also Ephesians 4:20. He had described the wickedness of the Gentiles, who had abandoned themselves to all uncleanness with greediness, but adds: " Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect Prayer of Manasseh, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ." Ephesians 4:13.

Verse 10

For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister.

Here, as elsewhere, brotherly love is described as far superior to all spiritual gifts, which the Apostle had shown might be possessed by hypocrites and apostates. "Beloved," says another Apostle, "let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us." . Christ condescends to acknowledge what is done to his brethren as having been done to himself, Matthew 25:45, and here the Apostle says God is not unrighteous. He acknowledges himself as having been laid under an obligation by their work of faith and labour of love, which he will not forget, in having in time past ministered, and still continuing to minister, to his saints. We can have no claim upon God, we have nothing but what we receive from his bounty; but he has engaged to reward the services of his people, and he is faithful who hath promised and will also do it. 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24. The same line of argument is pursued by the Apostle: "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing." 1 Corinthians 13:1-3. Hence we learn that gifts, however great, are inferior to love; and we may observe that the Apostle supposes a man to give his goods to feed the poor and his body to be burned, for attachment to the profession which he has made, and yet to be nothing because destitute of love; he then proceeds to describe the love which he so highly commends. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. It is the very Spirit of Christ; God is love. There is no inconsistency in this declaration with our God being a consuming fire. The God of love is described as being jealous, and revenging, and being furious; his fury is poured out like fire. Nehem1:3-6. Sin has brought misery and confusion into his universe; and, as he sware that he would have war with Amalek from generation to generation, he hath sworn irreconcilable war with sin. But this, so far from being inconsistent with God's being love, is essential to the perfection of his character as the God of love. It is in his righteous indignation against sin that his character is fully brought out. He is indeed angry with the wicked every day, he will in no wise clear the guilty; but the full manifestation of the love of God consists in his sending his only begotten Son into the world that we might live through him. 1 John 4:9.

The Hebrews had shown great liberality in ministering to the saints in the beginning of the Gospel, Acts 2:45; Acts 4:34, and they had compassion of himself in his bonds, Hebrews 10:34, ministering to him when he was prisoner at Caesarea, and, not only Song of Solomon, but they still persevered in the same course.

Verse 11

And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end.

Yet they required to be admonished not to be weary in well doing, and the Apostle speaks to them as it were individually, every one of you.

This was much calculated to impress their minds and to teach them the importance of the exhortation. Attention to this precept was intimately connected with their possessing the full assurance of hope unto the end. Faith and hope may be distinguished, but are inseparable. If we believe the Gospel, in proportion to our faith will be our hope of the enjoyment of eternal life. The Gospel exhibits a sure foundation of hope to the most unworthy. It is a proclamation of pardon through faith in the Lord Jesus. By it we are begotten to a lively hope of the enjoyment of the eternal inheritance. The moment we perceive the truth concerning the perfection of the atonement connected with the freeness of the Gospel invitation, we must be filled with joy and peace. Thus it was with the eunuch, Acts 8 :, and with the jailor, Acts 16 : The Lord manifested himself to them in a way he doth not to the world, and they felt themselves safe in the everlasting arms. But it is essential to the continuance of this comfort that we be fruitful branches of the true vine. The truth works effectually in all that believe, and if our faith is genuine such will be the case with us. Hence it is evident that although the full assurance of hope is not based on our bringing forth the fruits of righteousness, these are essential to its continuance. It is a part of the testimony of God that Christ saves his people from their sins, and consequently that sin shall not have dominion over those who are under grace. If we experience the sanctifying influence of the truth it is a proof that it is the true grace of God in which we stand; and while, as we have observed, the full assurance of hope may be enjoyed totally independent of the consideration of our conduct, in order to its continuance it is absolutely necessary that our conduct should correspond with the precepts of Christ.

Faith worketh by love, it purifieth the heart and overcometh the world; and, if our faith is genuine, such will be its effect on us. Hence the Apostle, while commending the Hebrews for their liberality to their brethren, exhorts them to show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end. Some would render it in the full assurance of hope, &c.; and, perhaps, the preposition will bear this signification, but the rendering in our version is borne out by parallel passages, 2Peter i10, 11; here the brethren are exhorted to give diligence to make their calling and election sure, by abounding in courage, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love, that they might not be unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, at the same time representing those who lack these things as blind and short-sighted, and as having forgotten that they were purged from their old sins. This does not seem to refer to unbelievers, but to those who had backslidden.

We say of a person who is very shortsighted, that he is blind,—not absolutely, but comparatively.

Another Apostle, after exhorting the believers not to love in word and in tongue, but in deed and in truth, adds: "And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him," 1 John 3:19. This exactly corresponds with the passage under consideration, that we should use diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end. Our hearts are deceitful above all things, and we are prone to take comfort from considering ourselves as believers; this is very common, and many substitute faith for the great object of faith. We see people utterly destitute of the knowledge of Christ shocked with the sentiments of infidels; they believe that the Scriptures are true, as king Agrippa believed the prophets; but as he did not believe what the prophets testified, neither do they believe the Gospel of Christ, but a figment of their own brain. I may ask a man the road to a particular place, with the full assurance that he knows it well; but, if I mistake his directions, this will not lead me to the place. So we may believe that the Gospel is true, while we substitute a fable for the truth as it is in Jesus; and what will such faith profit us? Now we are guarded against error, not only by the great plainness of speech used by the Lord and His Apostles, but by being informed what effects the faith of the Gospel must necessarily produce, and the more these effects are produced in us the greater evidence we have that it is the true grace of God wherein we stand. Nothing is more insisted on in Scripture than brotherly love. It is Christ's new commandment, and the possession or the want of it is represented as the decisive test of our belonging to him, or being of the world that lieth in the wicked one. Matthew 25:34; Matthew 25:40.

While the Word of God pours contempt on our own righteousness, declaring that by the deeds of the law no flesh living shall be justified, it enforces the duty of obedience, declaring that without holiness no man shall see the Lord; and so inseparably connected are faith and obedience, that all shall receive of the deeds done in the body, whether they be good or bad, The grace of God teaches the believer that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, he should live soberly, righteously, and godly; and, while we are justified by grace through faith, we are taught the inseparable connexion of faith and works, by the declaration that Abraham, the father of believers, James 2 :, was in one sense justified by works.

Hence we are commanded to examine ourselves, to prove ourselves, comparing our conduct with the fruit of the Spirit, as described in the Scripture. While the Apostle gloried only in the cross, having no confidence in the flesh, he tells us our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience that, in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly Wisdom of Solomon, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world. Hence he urged the Hebrews to continue diligently in their work and labour of love, that they might continue to enjoy the full assurance of hope unto the end. Two things are essential to the full assurance of hope; a clear view of the fulness and freeness of the salvation of Christ, and walking humbly with God, yielding obedience to His holy will. The former cannot be enjoyed without the latter. If we grieve the Holy Spirit by a careless walk, we must lose in proportion our perception of the glory of the truth. The Spirit will no longer bear witness with our spirit that we are born of God; and, instead of knowing the things that are freely given to us of God, we shall be brought under the spirit of bondage.

Verse 12

That ye he not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

Sin naturally engenders slothfulness, so that we move slowly in the race set before us. The constraining influence of the love of Christ is wanting. We lose the joy of the Lord, which is our strength. The word "slothful" here is the same that is rendered "dull," chap. In opposition to slothfulness, he urges them to be followers of them who through faith and patience are now inheriting the promises. The Old Testament saints had finished their course, and were now inheriting the promises. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had fallen asleep, and, according to the sentence pronounced on fallen Prayer of Manasseh, had returned to the dust; but the spirit had returned to God who gave it. God is not the God of the dead, but of the living. They were absent from the body, but present with the Lord. He assured the dying thief that he should be with Him in paradise that night; and although those who now inherit the promises have not entered on the full enjoyment of what God has prepared for His people, still they are with the Lord, and are enjoying the fulfilment of those promises which from the beginning were all yea and amen in Christ, all wrapped up in the first parable—that declaration, "The seed of the woman shall bruise the head of the serpent."

Verse 13

For when God made promise to Abraham, because he could sware by no greater, he sware by himself.

The Apostle here refers to what took place when, in obedience to the Divine commandment, Abraham offered Isaac upon the altar. Never did faith triumph so remarkably as on this occasion. Abraham, sustained by the promise of a numerous posterity, and of all the families of the earth being blessed in him, had left his father's house, having become an alien from his brethren.

For many subsequent years he had no child. At length, Ishmael was born of Hagar, the bond-woman; and, some years afterwards, Isaac, the child of promise, was born of Sarah. In consequence of Ishmael's mocking Isaac, he was put out of the family, so that all Abraham's hopes centred in Isaac. Yet, as a trial of his faith, God commanded him to offer his son for a burnt-offering, thus reducing him to ashes. Abraham well knew that upon the life of Isaac depended the fulfilment of the promises which had been his stay and support during all the days of his pilgrimage. Yet he did not hesitate; he set out for the place which God had said He would show him; and, leaving his servants, accompanied by his Song of Solomon, he proceeded to the mountain which God pointed out, which seems to have been Moriah, or which the temple was afterwards built, and the sacrifices offered. There he bound Isaac upon the altar, lifted up the knife to slay him, but was stopped by the angel of the Lord, who expressed his approbation of Abraham's conduct, at the same time renewing the promise, and confirming it with an oath. Thus, after many years of patient endurance, he obtained the irrevocable confirmation of the promise, by the oath of Him who cannot lie. He could swear by no greater, and therefore He swore by Himself.

Verse 14

Saying, Surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee.

Assuring Abraham of His blessing and a numerous posterity.

Verse 15

And Song of Solomon, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise.

Abraham is here exhibited as our pattern of faith and patience. He is the father of believers, who, like him, have need of patience. They walk by faith, not by sight, and are taught by the example of Abraham, though the vision tarry, to wait for it, because it will surely come, it will not tarry. Habakkuk 2:3.

Verse 16

For men verily swear by the greater: and an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife.

Men swear by the greater, by some one superior to themselves; and, when other evidence cannot be obtained, an oath settles the matter. Israel were commanded to swear by the name of the Lord, Deuteronomy 6:13, so that the strife is brought to an end. The example of God, with the Apostle's observation, decides the question of the lawfulness of oaths, which has been denied. Can we for a moment suppose that God, in His transactions with men, should by His own example sanction what is unlawful, and direct the Apostle to speak of an oath as putting an end to strife? Strife arises now as formerly, and an oath for confirmation is as necessary now as it was before. There are two passages in the New Testament which are alleged as a proof of the unlawfulness of oaths. In the sermon on the mount, the Lord says, "Swear not at all;" but it is more evident, from the connexion, that the Lord there condemns the confirmation of a vow by an oath. "Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perforin unto the Lord thy vows. [There is no reference here to transactions between men.] But I say unto you, Swear not at all." We have an example of a vow without an oath in the history of Jacob at Bethel, Genesis 28:20-22. The Apostle James likewise forbids swearing, chap5:12; but it is evident, from the connexion, that he is also treating of vows. Not only were oaths regulated by the Jewish law, but the Lord Himself, when questioned by the high priest, gave no answer till, put upon His oath, He heard "the voice of swearing." And not only Song of Solomon, but the Apostle Paul frequently appeals to God for the truth of what he asserts; so that none of the followers of Jesus ought to hesitate, on proper occasions, to confirm their testimony by an oath.

Verse 17

Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath.

Wherefore God, willing to give the heirs of promise ( ; Galatians 3:27) the fullest assurance of the unchangeableness of His counsel, confirmed His promise with an oath. Numbers 14:22; chap3:17; Isaiah 45:23.

Verse 18

That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us.

That by two immutable things, the promise and the oath of God, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge [The word refuge is not in the original. It Isaiah, literally, Who have fled away to lay hold. Probably the appointment of the cities of refuge—to which, indeed, there appears to be a reference, , —has led our translators to the insertion of the word.] to the hope set before us might have strong consolation.

The promise of God, which He confirmed by an oath to Abraham, Isaiah, that He would bless and multiply him. This was, no doubt, most satisfactory to the patriarch; but, although the promise may be considered to include the heirs of promise, they are not specifically mentioned, which may be accounted for by the Apostle directing the attention of the Hebrews to the promise, by quoting a part of it, and leaving them to supply the rest from the book of Genesis, in which the heirs of promise are particularly mentioned. "And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice." Genesis 22:18. So that the promise was confirmed to them as well as to their father Abraham.

Verse 19

Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which entereth into that within the veil.

The hope set before us is the blessing of Abraham, which has come upon the Gentiles (as well as Jews) through Jesus Christ, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith, Galatians 3:14, and thus be sealed to the day of redemption. This hope is compared to an anchor, and the figure is most appropriate and beautiful. The anchor, which holds the ship, and prevents her from drifting with the wind and tide, is out of sight, fixed in the ground by its form and weight. Thus it is with the believer; the Lord Jesus Christ, who has entered within the vail, is his hope, 1 Timothy 1:1, and this keeps him steadfast and immovable, preventing his being led away by the lying vanities of this present evil world. When about to remove from her anchorage, the ship is drawn forward to the anchor, which is then weighed, and comes into sight. In this world we hope for what we see not, and with patience wait for it; but, when we receive the adoption, to wit, the redemption of the body, our hope will be swallowed up in enjoyment; then we shall see what, while on earth, we only hoped for.

Besides preserving a ship from drifting, the anchor is used to remove her from one part of a river or harbour to another; and thus, while the hope of the believer keeps him steadfast, it at the same time serves to draw him nearer to the object of his hope, till he shall no longer see through a glass darkly, but face to face; and shall no longer hope for eternal glory, but enter on the full possession of it.

Verse 20

Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec,

Christ, the great object of our hope, has, in the character of our forerunner, entered within the vail, thus taking possession, as it were, on our behalf, of the heavenly inheritance, and giving us the assurance of being with Him.

He is gone to prepare a place for His people, and He says, "And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I Amos, there ye may be also." John 14:3. Having offered an all-sufficient sacrifice, and being brought again from the dead through the blood of the everlasting covenant, He has entered into the most holy place with His own blood, as the glorious head and representative of His body the Church. He is made forever a high priest after the order of Melchisidec.

Bibliographical Information
Haldane, Robert. "Commentary on Hebrews 6". "Haldane's Exposition on the Epistle to the Romans and Hebrews". 1835.