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IN the close of the epistle, contained in this chapter, the apostle gives us new instances of that divine wisdom wherewith he was actuated in writing of the whole; which the apostle Peter refers unto, 2 Peter 3:15. And as it will communicate an inexpressible sense of itself unto every intelligent reader, who meditates upon it with that faith and reverence which are required in the perusal of these holy writings; so we may give, at our entrance into the exposition of the chapter, some few instances in general wherein it doth eminently appear.
1. Having solidly laid the foundations of faith and obedience, in the declaration of the mystery of the person and offices of Christ, he descends unto his exhortation with respect unto evangelical and moral duties, which he proposes unto the church in one distinct view throughout this chapter. And herein,
(1.) He prescribes by his own example, as he also doth in most of his other epistles, the true order and method of preaching the gospel; that is, first to declare the mysteries of it, with the grace of God therein, and then to improve it unto practical duties of obedience. And they will be mistaken, who in this work propose unto themselves any other method; and those most of all, who think one part of it enough, without the other. For as the declaration of spiritual truths, without instruction how they are the vital, quickening form of obedience, and the application of them thereunto, tends only unto that “knowledge which puffeth up, but doth not edify;” so the pressing of moral duties, without a due declaration of the grace of God in Christ Jesus, which alone enables us unto them, and renders them acceptable unto God, with their necessary dependence thereon, is but to deceive the souls of men, and lead them out of the way, and off from the gospel.
(2.) Issuing all his discourses in this exhortation unto spiritual or evangelical obedience, he declares that the science or knowledge of divine mysteries is partly practical, as unto its next and immediate end in the minds and souls of men. It is so far from truth, that by the liberty of the gospel we are freed from an obligation unto spiritual and moral duties, that the use of all the truths revealed in it, is, as to direct us unto their right performance, so to lay more and new obligations on us to attend with all diligence unto them.
(3.) In this place, insisting at large on the doctrine of the gospel, he doth but name the heads of the duties which he exhorts unto: for they were for the most part known and confessed amongst the Hebrews, whereas the other was greatly exposed and contradicted. And herein also he hath set an example unto the preachers of the gospel, as unto the times and circumstances of their work. For therein ought they to labor with most diligence, where they find the greatest opposition made unto the truth, or the greatest difficulty in the admission of it.
(4.) He manifests, in this method of his procedure, that it is to no purpose to deal with men about duties of obedience, before they are well fixed in the fundamental principles of faith. Herein he labors for the instruction and confirmation of these Hebrews, before he engages on his prescription of duties.
2. In the enumeration of duties which he designs, because it was not possible that he should make mention of all those which are necessary in our Christian course, he fixes on them in particular which he knew were most necessary for the Hebrews to attend unto with diligence in their present circumstances; as we shall see in our consideration of them. And herein also ought he to be our example in the work of our ministry. Circumstances ofttimes make it necessary that some duties be more diligently pressed on our people than others, in themselves of no less importance than they.
3. His divine wisdom doth manifest itself in the intermixture of evangelical mysteries with his exhortation unto duties; whereby he both effectually presses the duties themselves, and manifests that the most mystical parts of divine truths and institutions are instructive unto duties, if rightly understood. The consideration hereof also we shall attend unto in our progress.
4. It doth so in that solemn prayer for a blessing on and due improvement of his whole doctrine; wherein he briefly comprises the sum and substance of the most mysterious truths, concerning the person, office, and sacrifice of Christ, which he had before insisted on; wherein, according to our ability, we ought to follow his example. For the parts of this chapter, (the whole being hortatory,) they are these:
1. An injunction of, and exhortation unto, several duties of obedience; with especial enforcements given unto some of them, Hebrews 13:1-6.
2. Unto faith, and stability therein, from the instrumental cause and especial object of it; with a warning to avoid what is contrary thereunto, Hebrews 13:7-12.
3. An exhortation, occasioned by what was spoken in confirmation of the preceding exhortation, unto self-denial and patient bearing of the cross, Hebrews 13:13-14.
4. A renewed charge of sundry duties, with respect unto God, their church- relation, one another, and himself, Hebrews 13:15-19.
5. A solemn prayer for the complement of the blessed work of the grace of God in Christ towards them all, Hebrews 13:20-21.
6. The conclusion of the whole, in sundry particulars, Hebrews 13:22-25. In the first part, the duties exhorted unto are,
(1.) Brotherly love, Hebrews 13:1.
(2.) Hospitality, Hebrews 13:2.
(3.) Compassion towards those that suffer for the gospel, Hebrews 13:3.
(4.) Chastity, with the nature and due use of marriage, Hebrews 13:4.
(5.) Contentment, with the grounds and reasons of it, Hebrews 13:5-6.
῾Η φιλαδελφία μενέτα .
Vulg. Lat., “charitas fraternitatis,” “the love of the brotherhood;” not so properly. Syr., “love of the brethren.” And unto μενέτω , both add, “in vobis,” “in you.” “Amor fraternus,” “charitas fraterna.” Μενέτω , “maneat;” that is, “constans maneat.” Why it is thus enjoined, we shall inquire.
Hebrews 13:1 . Let brotherly love continue, [abide constant.]
The duty commanded is “brotherly love;” and the manner of the injunction of it is, that it “remain,” or “continue.”
First, Love is the fountain and foundation of all mutual duties, moral and ecclesiastical; wherefore it is here placed in the head of both sorts, which are afterwards prescribed. And thereon the apostle immediately subjoins the two principal branches of it in duties moral, namely, hospitality and compassion; wherein he comprises all acts of mutual usefulness and helpfulness, instancing in such as principally stood in need of them; namely, strangers and sufferers.
All love hath its foundation in relation. Where there is relation there is love, or there ought so to be; and where there is no relation there can be no love, properly so called. Hence it is here mentioned with respect unto a brotherhood.
There is a threefold brotherhood, or fraternity:
1 . Natural brotherhood is either universal or more restrained.
(1.) There is a universal fraternity of all mankind: “God hath made of one blood all nations of men to dwell on all the face of the earth,” Acts 17:26. Hence every one, by the law of nature, is every one’s neighbor and every one’s brother, his keeper and helper. Wherefore all strife, envy, hatred, wrong, oppression, and bloodshed among mankind, is of the evil one, 1 John 3:12. There is a love, therefore, due unto all mankind, to be exercised as opportunity and circumstances do require. We are to “do good unto all men,” Galatians 6:10. And where this love is wanting in any, (as it is in the most,) there dwells no real virtue in that mind.
(2.) Again, this natural brotherhood is restrained; and that,
[1.] With reference unto some stock or spring, from whence a people or nation did originally proceed, being therein separated from other nations or people. So there was a brotherhood among all the Israelites, who descended from the same common stock; that is, Abraham. Hence they esteemed themselves all brethren, and called themselves so: “My brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh,” Romans 9:3. So they are constantly called brethren in the law, in the prescription of duties unto them: “He is thy brother,” etc. [2.] With respect unto a near stock, as the children of the same parents; which in the Scripture is constantly extended unto grandfathers also. Hence they are commonly in the Scripture called brethren and sisters who are descendants from the same grandfather or grandmother; on which account some are called the brethren of Jesus, Matthew 12:46-47. The love required in this relation is known; but it is not here intended.
2. There is a civil fraternity. Persons voluntarily coalescing into various societies, do constitute a political brotherhood; but this hath here no place.
3. This brotherhood is religious. All believers have one Father, Matthew 23:8-9; one elder Brother, Romans 8:29, who is not ashamed to call them brethren, Hebrews 2:11; have one Spirit, and are called in one hope of calling, Ephesians 4:4; which being a Spirit of adoption, interesteth them all in the same family, Ephesians 3:14-15, whereby they become “joint-heirs with Christ,” Romans 8:17. See the exposition on Hebrews 3:1. This is the brotherhood principally intended in the duty of love here prescribed. For although there was the natural relation also among these Hebrews, yet it was originally from their coalescency into one sacred society, by virtue of their covenant with God, that they became brethren of one family, distinct from all others in the world. And this relation was not dissolved, but further confirmed, by their interest in the gospel; whence they became “holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling,” Hebrews 3:1.
This brotherhood is the foundation of the love that is here enjoined; for “every one that loveth him that begat, loveth him also that is begotten of him,” 1 John 5:1. It is not convenient to our purpose to insist long on the declaration of the nature of this grace and duty. It hath also been spoken unto in the exposition on Hebrews 6:10-11. Here I shall observe some few things only concerning it, and they are those wherein it differs from the natural love, or that which hath only moral or civil motives or causes. For,
(1.) The foundation of it is in gratuitous adoption: “Ye are all brethren, and one is your Father, which is in heaven,” Matthew 23:8-9. And it is by adoption that they. are all taken into and made brethren in the same family, 1 John 3:1.
(2.) It is a peculiar grace of the Spirit: “The fruit of the Spirit is love;” and therefore it is frequently, almost constantly, joined with faith in Christ Jesus, Phm 1:5 ; 1 John 3:23. It is that which no man can have in nor of himself; it must be “given us from above.”
(3.) It is peculiar in its example; which is the love of Christ unto the church, 1 John 3:16; which gives it a different nature from all love that ever was in the world before.
(4.) And it is so in the commandment, given for it by Christ himself, with the ends that he hath assigned unto it. He calls it his commandment in a peculiar manner, John 15:12, and thence “a new commandment,” John 13:35. 1 John 2:7-8; 2 John 1:5; that wherein he will be owned above all others And he designs the ends of it to be, the special glory of God, and an evidence unto the world that we are his disciples, John 13:35.
(5.) It is so in its effects, both internal and external: such are pity, compassion, joy in prosperity, prayer, usefulness in all things, spiritual and temporal, as occasion doth require patience, forbearance, delight, readiness to suffer for, and lay down our lives towards and for each other; which are all frequently inculcated and largely declared in the Scripture. And two things I shall only hence observe:
Obs. 1. That the power and glory of Christian religion are exceedingly decayed and debased in the world. Next unto faith in Christ Jesus, and the profession thereof, the life and beauty of Christian religion consist in the mutual love of them who are partakers of the same heavenly calling, which all pretend unto. And this is that whereon the Lord Christ hath laid the weight of the manifestation of his glory in the world, namely, the love that is among his disciples; which was foretold as the peculiar glory of his rule and kingdom. But there are only a few footsteps now left of it in the visible church; some marks only that there it hath been, and dwelt of old. It is, as unto its lustre and splendor, retired to heaven, abiding in its power and efficacious exercise only in some corners of the earth, and secret retirements. Envy, wrath, selfishness, love of the world, with coldness in all the concerns of religion, have possessed the place of it. And in vain shall men wrangle and contend about their differences in opinions, faith, and worship, pretending to design the advancement of religion by an imposition concerns of religion will more and more run into ruin.
The very name of a brotherhood amongst Christians is a matter of scorn and reproach; and all the consequents of such a relation are despised. But it is marvellous how any men can persuade themselves that they are Christians, and yet be not only strangers, but enemies unto this love.
Obs. 2. Where the pretense of this love is continued in any measure, yet its nature is unknown, and its effects are generally neglected. Such a love as arises from a joint interest in gratuitous adoption, powerfully infused into the mind and wrought in the heart by the Spirit thereof, effectually inclining unto its exercise, both internal and external, with a spiritual sense of a fraternal relation by the same new nature created in them all, of whom this love is required; extending itself not only unto all duties of mercy, bounty, compassion, and delight, but even unto the laying down of our lives for each other when called thereunto; is neither known by many nor much inquired after.
Secondly, The manner of the prescription of this duty is, that it should “continue,” or “abide constant;” which is peculiar. For he supposes that this love was already in them, already exercised by them; and he doth not therefore enjoin it, but only press its continuance. So he treateth them in like manner, Hebrews 6:9-12. And this insinuation or concession is of great force in the present exhortation. Men are free and willing to be pressed to continue in doing that which of themselves they have chosen to do. And it belongs unto ministerial wisdom, in exhortations unto duty, to acknowledge what is found of it already in them with ‘whom they treat.
For the owning of any duty is an encouragement, due unto them by whom it is performed.
Besides, the apostle in this charge seems to give an intimation of the difficulty that there is in the preservation of this grace, and the performance of this duty. So the word is used, and so rendered by many, “to abide constant;” that is, against difficulties, and temptations. It is not merely, ‘Let it continue,’but, ‘Take care that it. be preserved;’for it is that which many occasions will be apt to weaken and impair. When men are first called into that relation which is the foundation of this duty, they are usually warmly which are seated in the affections are apt of themselves to decay, if not renewed by fresh supplies from above. Against all those things which might weaken mutual love amongst them, the apostle gives them caution in this word, “Let it abide constant.” And,
Obs. 3. We are especially to watch unto the preservation of those graces, and the performance of those duties, which in our circumstances are most exposed unto opposition.. In particular,
Obs. 4. Brotherly love is very apt to be impaired and decay if we endeavor not continually its preservation and revival. This is evident in the sad event of things before mentioned. And,
Obs. 5. It is a part of the wisdom of faith to consider aright the ways and occasions of the decay of mutual love, with the means of its preservation. Without this we cannot comply with this caution and injunction in a due manner.
1. The causes of the decay of this love, whence it doth not continue as it ought, are,
(2.) Love of this present world;
(3.) Abounding of lusts in the hearts of men;
(4.) Ignorance of the true nature both of the grace and the exercise of it, in its proper duties;
(5.) Principally, the loss of a concernment, in the foundation of it, which is an interest in gratuitous adoption, and the participation of the same Spirit, the same new nature and life.
Where this is not, though conviction of truth and the profession of it may for a season make an appearance of this brotherly love, it will not long continue.
2. The occasions of its decay and loss are,
(1.) Differences in opinion and practice about things in religion;
(2.) Unsuitableness of natural tempers and inclinations;
(3.) Readiness to receive a sense of appearing provocations;
(4.) Different, and sometimes inconsistent, secular interests;
(5.) An abuse of spiritual gifts, by pride on the one hand, or envy on the other;
(6.) Attempts for domination, inconsistent in a fraternity: which are all to be watched against.
3. The means of its continuance or preservation are,
(1.) An endeavor to grow and thrive in the principle of it, or the power of adopting grace
(2.) A due sense of the weight or moment of this duty, from the especial institution and command of Christ; and,
(3.) Of the trial which is committed thereunto, of the sincerity of our grace and the truth of our sanctification; for by this we know that we are passed from death unto life:
(4.) A due consideration of the use, yea necessity, of this duty unto the glory of God and edification of the church; and,
(5.) Of that breach of union, loss of peace, disorder and confusion, which must and will ensue on the neglect of it:
(6.) Constant watchfulness against all those vicious habits of mind, in self- love or love of the world, which are apt to impair it:
(7.) Diligent heed that it be not insensibly impaired in its vital acts; such as are patience, forbearance, readiness to forgive, unaptness to believe evil; without which no other duties of it will be long continued:
(8.) Fervent prayer for supplies of grace enabling us thereunto: with sundry others of a like nature. And if we judge not this duty of such importance as to be constant in the use of these means for the maintenance of it, it will not continue.
The continuance of the church depends in the second place on the continuance of brotherly love. It doth so in the first place on faith in Christ Jesus, whereby we hold the Head, and are built on the Rock; but in the second place, it doth so on this mutual love. All other pretences about the succession and continuance of the church are vain. Where this faith and love are not, there is no church; where they are, there is a church materially, always capable of evangelical form and order.
It is not improbable but that the apostle might also have a respect unto the especial condition of those Hebrews. They had all relational foundations of mutual love among them from the beginning, in that they were all of one common natural stock, and were all united in the same sacred covenant for the worship of God. Hereon they had many divine commands for mutual love, and the exercise of all its effects, as became a natural and religious fraternity. Accordingly, they had an intense love towards all those who on these accounts were their brethren. But in process of time they corrupted this, as all other divine orders and institutions. For their teachers instructed them that the meaning of the command for mutual love did include a permission, if not a command, to hate all others. So they interpreted the law of love recorded Leviticus 19:18, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy,” Matthew 5:43. And the people practiced accordingly, not thinking themselves obliged to show the least kindness unto any but their own countrymen. Hereon they grew infamous in the world. So Tacitus affirms of them:
“Apud ipsos, tides obstinata, misericordia in promptu; adversus omnes alios hostile odium.” Hist, lib. 5.
And the satirist:
“Non monstrare vias eadem nisi sacra colenti, Quaesitum ad fontem solos deducere verpos.” Juv. Sat. 14:103.
This horrible corruption and abuse of the law, which exposed them to reproach, whereas the due observance of it was their glory, our Savior corrected as unto the doctrine of it, Matthew 5:43-44; and rectified as unto its practice in the parable of the Samaritan, Luke 10:30-31, etc. But yet their mutual love, on the grounds and reasons mentioned, was good, useful, and commendable. But whereas by the gospel their original brotherhood was as it were dissolved, the Gentiles being taken into the same sacred communion with them, some of them might suppose that the obligation unto mutual love which they were under before was now also ceased. This the apostle warns them against, giving in charge that the same love should still continue in all its exercise, but with respect unto that new fraternity which was constituted by the gospel.
Τῆς φιλοξενίας μὴ ἐπιλανθάνεσθε· διὰ ταύτης γὰρ ἔλαθόν τινες ξενίσαντες ἀγγέλους .
Φιλοξενίας . Syr., רְחֶמְתָא דַּאכְסְנָיֵא , “the compassionate love of strangers.” “Hospitalitatis,” “hospitality.” We have well rendered it, “to entertain strangers.” Πολυξενία , is “a promiscuous entertainment of all,” the keeping, as we call it, of an open house; ἀξενία , is “a defect in entertainment,” through covetousness or roughness of nature; both condemned by the heathen: Μηδὲ πολύξεινον , μηδ᾿ ἄξεινον καλεέσθαι , Hesiod.
῎Ελαθον . Most copies o£ the Vulgar read “placuerunt;” which was put in by them who understood not the Grecism of “latuerunt,” for “inscii,” “unawares,” not knowing (that is, at first) who they were whom they entertained.
The Syriac thus reads the whole verse: “Forget not love unto strangers; for by this some were worthy, when they perceived it not, to receive angels.”
Hebrews 13:2 . Be not forgetful [forget not] to entertain strangers; for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.
There are plainly in the words, first, A prescription of a duty; and, secondly, The enforcement of it by an effectual motive or reason.
1. The duty itself prescribed, which is to “entertain strangers;” and,
2. The manner of its prescription, “Forget not to do it;” be not forgetful of it.
1. The duty prescribed is the “ entertaining of strangers:” Φιλοξενία . The word is generally rendered by “hospitality;” and may well be so, if we consider the original of the word; but in its use it is somewhat otherwise applied among us. For it respects such as are strangers indeed, and unknown unto us as unto other circumstances, and so such as really stand in need of help and refreshment; but with us it is applied unto a bountiful, and, it may be, profuse entertainment of friends, relations, neighbors, acquaintances, and the like. The original word hath respect not so much unto the exercise of the duty itself, as to the disposition, readiness, and frame of mind, which are required in it and unto it. Hence the Syriac renders it, “the love of strangers,” and that properly. But it is such a love as is effectual, and whose proper exercise consisteth in the entertainment of them; which comprises the help and relief which strangers stand in need of, and which is the proper effect of love towards them. Hence we render it, “to entertain strangers.”
It is known what is meant by “entertainment;” even the receiving of them into our houses, with all necessary accommodations, as their occasions do require. In those eastern countries, where they traveled wholly or in part barefoot, washing of their feet, and setting meat before them, as also their lodging, are mentioned.
Strangers, even among the heathen, were counted sacred, and under the peculiar protection of God. So speaks Eumaeus unto Ulysses, when he entertained him as a poor unknown stranger: Ξεῖν , ᾿οὔ μοι ζέμις ἔστ , ᾿οὐδ ᾿εἰ κακίων σέθεν ἔλθοι , Ξεῖνον ἀτιμῆσαι· πρὸς γὰρ Διὸς εἰσὶν ἅπαντες Ξεῖνοί τε πτωχοί τε . Hom. Odyss. 14:56.
“O stranger! it is not lawful for me, though one should come more miserable than thou art, to dishonor or disregard a stranger; for strangers and poor belong to the care of God.”
And there was among some nations δίκη κακοξενίας , a punishment appointed for those that were inhospitable.
The Scripture frequently prescribes or commands this duty. See Deuteronomy 10:19; Isaiah 58:7; Matthew 25:35; Luke 14:13; Romans 12:13; 1 Peter 4:9; James 1:27.
This entertaining of unknown strangers, which was so great a virtue in ancient times, is almost driven out of the world by the wickedness of it. The false pretences of some with wicked designs, under the habit and pretense of strangers, on the one hand, and pretences for sordid covetousness, on the other, have banished it from the earth. And there are enough, who are called Christians, who never once dreamed of any duty herein. It is granted, therefore, that there is prudence and care to be used herein, that we be not imposed on by such as are unworthy of any entertainment. But it doth not follow that therefore we should refuse all who are strangers indeed; that is, whose circumstances we know not but from themselves.
It must also be acknowledged, that whereas provision is now made in all civilized nations for the entertainment of strangers, though at their own cost, things are somewhat, in this case altered from what they were in the younger days of the world.
But there was a peculiar reason, taken from the then present circumstances of the church, expecially of the Hebrews in their dispersions who belonged thereunto: whereon the apostle adjoins the prescription of this duty of entertaining strangers as the first branch of that brotherly love which he had before enjoined, as the first and most eminent way of its acting itself. For there were two things that make this duty more necessary than at other times. For the church was then under great persecution in sundry places, whereby believers were driven and scattered from their own habitations and countries, Acts 8:1. And hereon, following the direction of our blessed Savior, when they were persecuted in one city, to flee unto another, they did so remove into other parts and places wherein they were strangers, and where there were for the present some peace and quietness. For God is pleased so to order things, in his holy, wise providence, that for the most part persecution shall not be absolutely at any time universal, but that there may be some places of a quiet retirement, at, least for a season, unto them, or some of them, whose destruction is designed and endeavored in the places of their own habitation. So, under the furious papal persecution in this nation in the days of Queen Mary; many cities and places beyond the seas were a refuge for a season unto them who fled from hence for the preservation of their lives. God in such cases makes a double provision for his church, namely, a refuge and hiding-place for them that are persecuted and an opportunity for them that are at peace to exercise faith and love, yea, all gospel graces, in their helpful kindness towards them. And in case persecution at any time be universal (which state is at this time aimed at), and there be none to receive his outcasts, he himself will be their refuge and hiding-place: he will carry them into a wilderness, and feed them there, until the indignation be over-past. But in the state of the church wherein it was when the apostle wrote this epistle, those believers who were yet in peace and rest in their own habitations, had many obligations upon them to be ready to entertain strangers, who resorted unto them in their wanderings and distress.
Obs. 1. Especial seasons are directions and constraining motives unto especial duties. And he who on such occasions will forget to receive strangers, will not long remember to retain any thing of Christian religion.
Again; at that time there were sundry persons, especially of the converted Hebrews, who went up and down from one city, yea, one nation unto another, on their own cost and charges, to preach the gospel. “They went forth for the sake of Christ” (to preach the gospel), “taking nothing of the Gentiles,” unto whom they preached, 3 John 1:7. And these were only “brethren,” and not officers of any church, 3 John 1:5. The reception, entertainment, and assistance of these, when they came unto any church or place as strangers, the apostle celebrates and highly commends in his well- beloved Gaius, 3 John 1:5-6. Such as these, when they came to them as strangers, the apostle recommends unto the love and charity of these Hebrews in a peculiar manner. And he who is not, ready to receive and entertain such persons, will manifest, how little concernment be hath in the gospel, or the glory of Christ himself.
Now, whereas this grace or duty in general is much decayed among the professors of Christian religion we are greatly to pray, that, upon the returnal of the especial occasions it, which he at, the door, yea, are entered in many places, it, may be revived in the hearts and lives of all true believers.
2. The manner of the prescription of this duty is expressed in that word, “Forget it not,” be not umindful of it; which is peculiar. Another duty, of the same nature, in general with this, he gives in charge with the same expression, “Forget it not,” verse 16. And he doth there confirm his injunction with a peculiar reason “To do good and to communicate forget not; for with such sacrifices God is well pleased:” as here, “For thereby some have entertained angels” which intimates some peculiar concerns of these duties.
There is no doubt but that a positive command is included in the prohibition, “Forget not;” that is, “Remember.” There are some duties whereunto our minds ought always to be engaged by an especial remembrance; and they are such, for the most part, against which either much opposition ariseth, or many pretences are apt to be used for a countenance of their omission. Such is the observation of the Sabbath, the institution and command whereof are prefaced with a solemn injunction to remember it. And three things seem to be respected in this expression:
(1.) That we should endeavor to keep up our hearts in and unto a constant readiness for it. The word itself, φιλοξενία , respects more the frame of the mind and heart, their constant disposition unto the duty, than the actual discharge of it in particular instances. Unless the mind be preserved in this disposition, we shall fail assuredly in particular eases. “The liberal deviseth liberal things,” Isaiah 32:8. The mind is to be disposed and inclined habitually by the virtue of liberality, or it will not seek and lay hold on occasions of doing liberal things. And the reason why we find men so unready unto such duties as that here enjoined, is because they do not remember to keep their minds in a constant disposition towards them.
Obs. 2. Our hearts are not to be trusted unto in occasional duties, if we preserve them not in a continual disposition towards them. If that be lost, no arguments will be prevalent to engage them unto present occasions.
(2.) With respect unto surprisals. Seasons and occasions for this duty may befall us at unawares, and we may lose them before we are well composed to judge what we have to do. To watch against such surprisals is here given us in charge.
(3.) It respects a conquest over those reasonings and pretences which will arise against the discharge of this duty, when we are tried with especial instances. Some of them we have mentioned before, and others not a few will arise to divert us from our duty herein.
With respect unto these and the like difficulties or diversions, we are charged “not to forget,” that is, always to remember, to be in a readiness for the discharge of this duty, and to do it accordingly; for which reason, also, the command is enforced by the ensuing encouragement. And we may observe, that,
Obs. 3. The mind ought continually to be upon its watch, and in a gracious disposition towards such duties as are attended with difficulties and charge; such as that here commanded unto us: without which, we shall fail in what is required of us. The second thing in the words is the enforcement given unto the command, from the consideration of the advantage which some formerly had received by a diligent observance of this duty: “For thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”
“For thereby,” ‘for by this philoxeny;’ the virtue inclining and disposing the mind unto the entertainment of strangers is in the first place intended.
‘And hereby some being in a readiness for the discharge of this duty, had the privilege of receiving angels under the appearance of strangers.’Had they not been so disposed, they had neglected the opportunity of so great divine grace and favor. So, the mind inlaid with virtue and grace, is equally prepared to perform duties, and to receive privileges.
“Some” did so. This is usually referred unto Abraham and Lot, whose stories to this purpose are recorded, Genesis 18:1, etc., 19:1, etc. And there is no doubt but they are referred unto in an especial manner, as what they did is recorded expressly by the Holy Ghost. Yet I dare not ascribe it unto them alone, exclusively unto all others. For I question not but that in those ancient times, wherein God so much used the ministry of angels about the church, sundry other believers were visited by them “unawares ” in like manner; as also, that they were disposed unto the receiving of this privilege by their readiness on all occasions to entertain strangers. But those instances left on the sacred record are sufficient unto the purpose of the apostle.
Now this reception of angels was a great honor unto them that received them; and so intended of God. And herein lies the force of the reason for diligence in this duty, namely, that some of them who were so diligent, had the honor, the favor, the privilege, of entertaining angels. Those angels stood in no need of their hospitality, nor did make any real use of the things that were provided for them; but they honored them in a particular manner with their presence, and gave them thereby a pledge of the especial care and favor of God. How could they have any greater, than by sending his glorious angels to abide and confer with them? And both of them, upon this entertainment of angels, were immediately made partakers of the greatest mercies whereof in this life they were capable. And,
Obs. 4. Examples of privileges annexed unto duties, (whereof the Scripture is full,) are great motives and incentives unto the same or the like duties. For the motive used by the apostle does not consist in this, that we also, in the discharge of this duty, may receive angels, as they did; nor are we hereby encouraged to expect any such thing: but he shows hereby how acceptable this duty is unto God, and how highly it was honored; whereon we may, in the discharge of the same duty, hope for divine approbation, in what way soever it seems good to God to signify it unto us.
This they did “unawares.” Of the meaning of the Greek phrase, and the corruption of the Vulgar Latin, reading “placuerunt” for “latuerunt,” we have spoken before. It is observed, that at the appearance of these angels unto Abraham in the heat of the day, “he sat in the door of his tent,”
Genesis 18:1: and at their appearance unto Lot in the evening, “he sat in the gate of Sodom,” where strangers were to enter, Genesis 19:1. Probably both of them at those seasons had so disposed themselves on purpose, that if they saw any strangers, they might invite and receive them; whereon they did so on the first occasion that offered itself. And this also shows their readiness and disposition unto this duty, which they waited and sought occasion for.
This they did unawares, not knowing them to be angels; that is, they did not so when first they invited and entertained them; for afterwards they knew what they were. But at first, both of them made such entertainments for them of bread and meat, as they knew well enough that angels stood in no need of.
And this may be laid in the balance against all those fears and scruples which are apt to arise in our minds about the entertainment of strangers, namely, that they are not so good as they appear or pretend to be, seeing some were so much better and more honorable than what at first they seemed to be.
And in some likeness hereunto, the poet, Odyss P, after he hath discoursed sundry things excellently about poor and strangers, with the care of God over them, adds, as the highest consideration of them,
Καί τε θεοὶ ξέινοισιν ἐοικότες ἀλλοδαποῖσι Παντοῖοι τελέθοντες , ἐπιστρωφᾶσι πόληας ᾿Ανθρώπων ὕζριν τε καὶ εὐνομίην ἐφορῶντες Odyss, 17:485.
“The gods themselves, like unto wandering strangers, (seeing they are everywhere,) do come and visit cities, beholding what is done right or wrong among men.” Those that appeared unto Abraham are called “three men,” because of the outward shape they had assumed, and the manner of their communication. Two of them were angels by nature, one of them by office only; for he was the of God: for he is called Jehovah, Genesis 18:1; Genesis 13:17. And he deals with him in his own name, as unto the worship and covenant-obedience which he required of him, Genesis 13:17-18. And when the other angels departed, who entered Sodom at even, Genesis 19:1, he continues still with Abraham: “But, Abraham stood yet before the LORD,” Genesis 18:22. And all the passages between them were such, that if a divine person be not openly avowed therein, we can have no assurance that God ever spake or transacted any of those things which are ascribed unto him in the Scripture, as the making of the world, and the like.
So Abraham entertained angels, two of them who were so by nature, and him who was then so by office; but when they appeared unto him, they are not in the Scripture called angels, though those two of them which came to Sodom are so, Genesis 19:1.
Schlichtingius, to oppose the appearance of the Son of God in that place unto Abraham, takes great pains to confute an opinion, “That those three men were the three persons of the Trinity; and because Abraham spake unto one, that signified the unity of the divine essence in them all.” The same notion doth Kimchi oppose on the place; so doth Enjedinus in his explications: which makes me think that some have expressed themselves unto that purpose. And indeed there are passages in some of the ancients intimating such a sense of the words; but it is universally rejected long ago. And by these men it is raised again, for no end but that they may seem to have something to say against the appearances of the Son of God under the old testament, Neither hath Schlichtingius here any one word but only exceptions against that opinion, which no man owns or defends. But it is plain, that he who appeared here unto Abraham, who also appeared unto Jacob, Moses, and Joshua, is expressly called Jehovah, speaks and acts as God, in his own name, hath divine works and divine worship assigned unto him, was adored and prayed unto by them unto whom he appeared; and in all things so carries it, in assuming all divine properties and works unto himself, as to beget a belief in them unto whom he appeared of his being God himself. And we may observe,
Obs. 5. Faith will make use of the highest privileges that ever were enjoyed on the performance of duties, to encourage unto obedience, though it expects not any thing of the same kind on the performance of the same duties.
Obs. 6. When men, designing that which is good, do more good than they intended, the shall, or may, reap more benefit thereby than they expected.
The first branch of the exercise of brotherly love, enjoined Hebrews 13:1, is towards strangers, Hebrews 13:2; the next is towards sufferers, Hebrews 13:3.
Hebrews 13:3 Μιμνήσκεσθε τῶν δεσίων ὡς συνδεδεμένοι , τῶν κακουχουμένων ὡς καὶ αὐτοὶ ὄντες ἐν σώματι .
Μιμνήσκεσθε , “mementote.” Vulg. “memores estote,” be mindful of;” it is more than a bare remembrance that is intended.
Κακουχουμένων . Vulg. “laborantium,” “of them that labor;” that is, under distresses. But the word is of the passive voice, and not well rendered by the active. “Eorum qui malli premuntur,” Bez.; “malis afficiuntur;” that are pressed or affected with evils or sufferings. See Hebrews 11:37, where the same word is used in the same sense.
῾Ως καὶ αὐτοὶ ὅντες ἐν σὡματι . Syr., “as men who are clothed with flesh;” not amiss. “Ae si ipsi quoque corpoe afflieti essctis,” Bez.; “as if ye yourselves were afflicted in the body:” which interpretation we must afterwards examine. “Tanquam et ipsi in corpore existentes,” “as being yourselves in the body.”
Hebrews 13:3 . Remember [ be mindful of ] them that are in bonds [or bound,] as bound with them; [ and of ] them which suffer adversity, [ are pressed with evils,] being yourselves also in the body.
This is the second branch of the duty of brotherly love, enjoined in the first verse: the first concerned strangers; this concerns sufferers. And because strangers are unknown as unto their persons, before the exercise of the duty of love towards them, the injunction respects the duty in the first, place, “Forget not the duty of entertaining strangers.” But sufferers were known, and therefore the immediate object of the command is their persons: “Be mindful of them that are bound of them that suffer.”
By “Then that are bound and suffer,” not all that are so, or do so are intended; there are those who are bound for their crimes; and suffer as evil- doers. There is a duty required towards them also, as we have occasion; but, not that here intended by the apostle. They are those only which are bound and suffer for the gospel whom he, recommends unto our remembrance in this place.
Those who then suffered for the gospel, (as it is now also,) were in a twofold outward condition. Some were in prisons, or bonds, the devil had cast them into prison; and some were variously troubled, in their name, reputation, goods, and enjoyments, some being deprived of all, all of some of these things. And so it is at this day. The apostle mentions them severally and distinctly, varying his charge concerning them, as the consideration of their several conditions was meet to influence the minds of those who did not yet so suffer unto their duty towards them, as we shall see.
In the first clause of the verse there is,
1. The object of the duty enjoined; that is, “those that are bound,” or “in bonds.”
2. The duty itself; which is, to be “mindful of them.” And,
3. The manner of its performance; “as bound with them.”
1. The object of the duty required, is “those that are bound.” The word signifies any that are in prison, whether they are actually bound with chains or no, because in those days all prisoners were usually so bound, Acts 16:26. To be thus “in bonds,” or a prisoner, was esteemed a thing shameful, as well as otherwise penal; for it was the estate of evil-doers. But the introduction of a new cause made it an honorable title; namely, when any were made “prisoners of Christ,” or “prisoners for Christ.” So this apostle, when he would make use of a title of especial honor, and that which should give him authority among those with whom he had to do, so styles himself, and that emphatically, Ephesians 3:1, ᾿Εγὼ Παῦλος ὁ δέσμιος τοῦ Χριστοῦ ᾿Ιησοῦ , “I Paul, vinctus ille, that prisoner of Christ Jesus;” and so again, Ephesians 4:1. See 2 Timothy 1:8; Philemon 1:9.
This kind of punishment for the profession of the gospel began early in the world, and it hath continued throughout all ages, being most frequent in the days wherein we live. But “the word of God,” as the apostle speaks, “is not bound,” 2 Timothy 2:9. The devil was never able by this means to obscure the light, or stop the progress of the gospel; nor ever shall be so. He and his agents do but labor in vain. Men may, but the word of God cannot, be bound. Those therefore that were in bonds, were all that were in prison for the profession of the gospel. And observe,
Obs. 1. Are we called unto this kind of suffering? let us not think strange of it, it is no new thing in the world.
Obs. 2. Bonds and imprisonment for the truth were consecrated to God and made honorable by the bonds and imprisonment of Christ himself; and commended unto the church in all ages by the bonds and imprisonment of the apostles and primitive witnesses of the truth.
Obs. 3. It is better, more safe and honorable, to be in bonds with and for Christ, than to be at liberty with a brutish, raging, persecuting world.
2. The duty enjoined with respect unto those that are bound is, that we “remember them,” or “be mindful of them,” It seems those that are at liberty are apt to forget Christ’s prisoners, that they had need to be enjoined to be mindful of them; and for the most part they are so. And we are said to “remember” them, as we are desired to “remember the poor;” that is, so to think of them as to relieve them according to our ability. It is better expressed by being “mindful of them,” which carries a respect unto the whole duty required of us, and all the parts or acts of it. And they are many; I shall name the principal of them.
(1.) The first is care about their persons and concernments; opposed to that regardlessness which is apt to possess the minds of those that are at ease, and, as they suppose, free from danger. This the apostle commends in Philippians 4:10.
(2.) Compassion; included in the manner of the duty following, “As if ye were bound with them.” This he commends in these Hebrews with respect unto himself, Hebrews 10:34, “Ye had compassion of me in my bonds.” See the exposition. And this he enjoins them with respect unto others in the same condition. It is a great relief unto innocent sufferers, that there are those who really pity them, and have compassion on them, although they have no actual help thereby. And the want of it is expressed as a great aggravation of the sufferings of our Savior himself, Psalms 69:20, “I looked for some to take pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none.” (3.) Prayer; as it was in the case of Peter when he was in bonds, Acts 12:12. And indeed this is the principal way wherein we ought to be mindful of them that are in bonds; that which testifies our faith, sincerity, and interest in the same common cause with them; which gives life and efficacy unto every other thing that we do in their behalf.
(4.) Assisting of them, as unto what may be wanting unto their relief, unto the utmost of our ability and opportunity. Those who are prisoners for the gospel do not usually suffer only in their restraint. Wants and straits, with respect unto their relations and families, do usually accompany them. To be mindful of them as we ought to be, is to supply their wants according to our ability.
(5.) Visiting of them is in an especial manner required hereunto; which the; Lord Christ calls the visiting of himself in prison, Matthew 25:36; Matthew 25:43. And in the primitive times there were some designed to visit those who were in prison; which they did frequently unto the danger, sometimes unto the loss, of their lives.
These and the like duties, in particular, are contained in the present injunction. And it is a signal evidence of grace in the church, and in all professors in their particular capacities, when they are thus mindful of those that are in bonds on the account of the gospel; as it is an argument of a hypocritical state, when men, being satisfied with their own liberties and enjoyments, are careless of the bonds of others. See 1 Corinthians 12:25-26. And,
Obs. 4. Whilst God is pleased to give grace and courage unto some to suffer for the gospel unto bonds, and to others to perform their duty towards them, the church will be no loser by suffering.
Obs. 5. When some are tried as unto their constancy in bonds, others are tried as unto their sincerity in the discharge of the duties required of them. And,
Obs. 6. Usually more fail in neglect of their duty towards sufferers, and so fall from their profession, than do so fail under and on the account of their sufferings.
3. We are thus to be mindful of them that are bound, “as bound with them.” To be mindful of them, as bound with them is an act of union with them. And this is three-fold between suffering believers and those that are at liberty:
(1.) Mystical; a union of conjunction in the same mystical body. Being both sorts members of the same body, when one suffers, the other doth so also, as the apostle disputes, 1 Corinthians 12:25-26. And this, some think, is intended peculiarly by the next clause, of “being in the body.” But this union alone will not answer the expression; for men may be in the same body, and yet be neglective of their duty.
(2.) A union of sympathy or compassion; a union by spiritual affection, from a spiritual cognation. Hereby our minds are really affected with grief, sorrow, and trouble, at their sufferings, as if they were our own; as if we felt their chains, were restrained in their durance.
(3.) A union of interest in the same cause. Those who are free are equally engaged in the same cause, in all the good and evil of it, with them that are in bonds. These things give us the pleasure of our suffering with others, the frame of our minds, and the principle of our acting toward them, Wherefore,
To suffer with them that are bound, as if we were ourselves in bonds with them, requires,
(1.) A union in the same mystical body, as fellow-members of it with them.
(2.) The acting of the same common principle of spiritual life in them and us.
(3.) A compassion really affecting our minds with that kind of trouble and sorrow which are the effect of suffering.
(4.) A joint interest with them in the same common cause for which they suffer.
(5.) A discharge of the duties towards them before mentioned.
And where it is not thus with us, it argues a great decay in the power of religion. And there are none who are more severely reflected on than those who are at ease while the church is in affliction, Psalms 123:4; Zechariah 1:15.
Having given an especial instance of the, exercise of brotherly love towards sufferers for the gospel, namely, the prisoners of Christ, towards whom especial duties are required; that we may not suppose our love and duty with respect unto suffering to be confined unto them alone, he adds unto them under the charge of our mindfulness, all that undergo evil, or trouble of any sort, for the profession of the gospel: “And of them which suffer adversity,” etc.
And there is in the remaining words of this verse,
1. A designation of the persons in general whom we ought to be mindful of; and,
2. A motive unto the duty required of us.
1. The persons designed are “those that suffer adversity;” those that are, vexed, pressed, troubled with things evil, grievous, and hard to be borne. For the word includes both the things themselves undergone, they are evil and grievous; and the frame of men’s minds in the undergoing of them, they are pressed, vexed, and troubled with them.
The word is of a large signification, as large as we interpret it, “that suffer adversity;” extending itself unto all that is adverse or grievous unto us, as sickness, pain, losses, want and poverty, as well as other things. But it is here to be restrained unto those evils which inert undergo for the profession of the gospel; and unto all sorts of them it is to be extended: such are reproaches, contempt, scorn, turning out of secular employments, spoiling of goods, stigmatizing, taking away of children, banishment, every thing which we may undergo in and for our profession. Of all who are pressed or distressed with any of these we are enjoined to be, “mindful,” and that as unto all the ends and purposes before mentioned, according to our ability and opportunity. And by the distinction here used by the apostle between “those that are in bonds,” and “those who suffer other adversities,” yet both laid under the same charge as unto our remembrance, we are taught, that,
Obs. 7. Although there are peculiar duties required of us towards those who suffer for the gospel in an eminent manner, as unto bonds, yet are we not thereon discharged from the same kind of duties towards those who suffer in lesser degrees, and other things. We are apt to think ourselves released from any consideration of sufferings seeming of an inferior nature, if it may be we have had regard unto some prisoners, or the like. And,
Obs. 8. Not only those who are in bonds for the gospel, or suffer to a high degree in their persons, are under the especial care of Christ, but those also who suffer in any other kind whatever, though the world may take little notice of them; and therefore are they all of them commended unto our especial remembrance.
Obs. 9. Professors of the gospel are exempted from no sorts of adversity’, from nothing that is evil and grievous unto the outward man in this world; and therefore ought we not to think it strange when we fall into them.
2. The motive added unto the diligent discharge of the duty enjoined, is, that “we ourselves are also in the body.” There is a threefold probable interpretation of these words. The first is, that by “the body,” the mystical body of Christ, or the church, is intended. Whereas we are members of the same mystical body with them that suffer, it is just, equal, and necessary, that we should be mindful of them in their sufferings. This is the exposition of Calvin; and it seems to have great countenance given unto it by the discourse of the apostle unto this purpose, 1 Corinthians 12:13; 1 Corinthians 12:13; 1 Corinthians 12:26, etc.,” Whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it.” There is therefore a truth in this exposition, though I conceive it be not directly intended in this place. Another is that of Beza, both in his translation and annotations. For in his translation he adds to the text, for its exposition, “afflicti;” ‘as if ye yourselves were afflicted in the body.’And he expounds it, “as if we suffered the same calamity.” And he gives this reason of his interpretation, namely, that “whereas in the former clause we are enjoined to be mindful of them that are in bonds, as if we were bound with them; so in this, to be mindful of them that suffer adversity, as if we suffered in our own bodies with them.” But neither do I think this reason cogent. For it is indeed those who are bound that suffer in the body in an especial manner; and in this latter exposition those are intended who suffer in any other way. Wherefore the common interpretation of the words is most suited unto the scope of the place: The apostle minds those who are yet at liberty, and free from troubles or afflictions, such as others are pressed and perplexed withal, of what is their own state and condition, namely, that as yet they are in the body; that is, in that state of natural life which is exposed unto the same calamities which others of their brethren do undergo. Whence is it that Satan and the world have this advantage against them, as to load, oppress, and vex them with all manner of evils, as they do? It is from hence alone, that they are yet in that state of being in this life natural which is subject and obnoxious unto all these sufferings. Were they once freed from the body, the life which they lead in it in this world, none of these things could reach unto them, or touch them.
‘Whereas, therefore, ye are yet in the same state of natural life with them, equally exposed unto all the sufferings which they undergo, be they of what kind they will, and have no assurance that ye shall be always exempted from them, this ought to be a motive unto you to be mindful of them in their present sufferings. And this is the sense of the place. And we may observe from hence,
Obs. 10. That we have no security of freedom from any sort of suffering for the gospel whilst we are in this body, or during the continuance of our natural lives “Ante obitum nemo.” Heaven is the only state of everlasting rest. Whilst we have our bodily eyes, all tears will not be wiped from them.
Obs. 11. We are not only exposed unto afflictions during this life, but we ought to live in the continual expectation of them, so long as there are any in the world who do actually suffer for the gospel. Not to expect our share in trouble and persecution, is a sinful security, proceeding from very corrupt principles of mind, as may be easily discovered on due examination.
Obs. 12. A sense of our own being continually obnoxious unto sufferings, no less than those who do actually suffer, ought to incline our minds unto a diligent consideration of them in their sufferings, so as to discharge all duties of love and helpfulness towards them.
Obs. 13. Unless it do so, we can have no evidence of our present interest in the same mystical body with them, nor just expectation of any compassion or relief from others, when we ourselves are called unto sufferings. When we are called to suffer, it will be a very severe self-reflection, if we must charge ourselves with want of due compassion and fellow-suffering with those who were in that condition before us.
These are some instances of the acts and duties of that brotherly love which is required among Christians; that love which is so much talked of, so much pretended unto, by some who would have it consist in a compliance with all sorts of men, good and bad, in some outward rites of religion, unto the ruin of it, which is almost lost in the world.
Τίμιος ὁ γάμος ἐν πᾶσι , καὶ ἡ κοίτη ἀμίαντος· πόρνους δὲ καὶ μοιχοὺς κρινεῖ ὁ Θεός .
῾Ο γάμος , “conjugium,” “connubium;” “marriage,” “wedlock,” the state of it.
᾿Εν πᾶσι . Syr., בְּכֻל “in omnibus.” Bez., “inter quosvis, “inter omnes;’so is ἐν commonly used for “inter.”
Κοίτη , “thorus,” “cubile.” Syr., וְעַרְמְהוּן , “et cubile eorum,” “and their bed.” For so it reads this sentence, “Marriage is honorable in all, and their bed דּבְיָא הִי ,” “is pure, undefiled:” which, as I judge, well determines the reading and sense of the words.
Πόρνους . Vulg., “fornicatores;” Bez., “scortatores;” which we render “whoremongers,” not amiss. The difference between them and μοιχούς we shall see.
Κρινεῖ . Syr., דָּאֵן , “judicat;” “judicaturus est, judicabit,” “damnabit,” Bez; Arab., “Marriage is every way honorable, and the bed thereof is pure.”
Hebrews 13:4 . Marriage [is] honorable in all, and the bed undefiled; but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.
There is a double difficulty in the translation of the words of the first proposition, arising from a double defect in the original. The first is of the verb substantive, or the copula of the proposition; which some supply by ἔστι , “is;” others by ἔστω , “let it be,” or be accounted. The other is from the defect of the noun substantive, which πᾶσι , “all,” refers unto: some supply “men,” in all sorts of men; others, “things,” or every manner of way. For the first, the most of late incline to make it preceptive, and not indicative; “Let it be,” “let it be so esteemed.” We follow Beza, and render it indicatively; “it is,” “Marriage is honorable.”
The sole reason used by any for the former interpretation is, that the duties mentioned both before and after are expressed preceptively, by way of command, in words imperative, and there is no reason why this should be inserted in another form. The Vulgar supplies not the defect in the original: and our Rhemists render the words from thence, “Marriage honorable in all;” but in their annotations contend for the preceptive sense, “Let marriage be honorable in all;” hoping thereby to shield their tyrannical law of celibate from the sword of this divine testimony, but in vain. Neither is the reason which others plead of any force for this exposition. For the other duties mentioned are such as were never by any called in question, as unto their nature, whether they were universally good or no; nor ever were like so to be. There was no need, therefore, to declare their nature, but only to enjoin their practice. But it was otherwise in the case of marriage, for there always had been, and there were then, not a few, both of the Jews (as the Essenes) and of the Gentiles, who had unworthy thoughts of marriage, beneath its dignity, and such as exposed it to contempt. Besides, the Holy Ghost foresaw, and accordingly foretold, that in the succeeding ages of the church there would arise a sort of men that should make laws prohibiting marriage unto some, 1 Timothy 4:3; wherefore it was necessary that the apostle, designing to give unto the Hebrews a charge of chastity and purity of life, should give a just commendation of the means that God had ordained for the preservation of them. And the following words, wherein “the bed undefiled” is entitled unto the same honor with “marriage,” can have no just sense without a relation to the verb in the present tense, as it is accordingly expressed in the Syriac translation.
The truth is, the apostle opposeth this blessed declaration of the truth unto some principles and practices that were then current and prevalent in the world. And these were, that marriage was at least burdensome and a kind of bondage unto some men, especially a hinderance unto them that were contemplative; and that fornication at least was a thing indifferent, which men might allow themselves in, though adultery was to be condemned. In opposition unto these cursed principles and practices, the apostle, designing to commend and enjoin chastity unto all professors of the gospel, declares on the one side, the honorable state of matrimony, namely, from divine institution; and on the other, the wickedness of that lasciviousness wherein they allowed themselves, with the certainty of divine vengeance which would befall them who continued therein. There was just reason, therefore, why the apostle should insinuate the prescription of the duty intended by a declaration of the honor of that state which God hath appointed for the preservation of men and women in chastity.
And this leads us unto the supply of the other defect, “in all.” The preposition ἐν , applied unto persons, is constantly used in the New Testament for “inter” or “among: “ “among all,” that is, all sorts of persons; or as Beza, “inter quosvis.” And it will be granted, that if the words be taken indicatively, this must be the sense of them. And persons are here to be taken restricively, for those who duly enter into that state. The apostle doth not assert that marriage; was a thing in good reputation among all men, Jews and Gentiles; for as with some it was, so with others it was not: but he declares that marriage is honorable in all sorts of persons, who are lawfully called thereunto, and do enter into it according to the law of God and righteous laws among men. For by a defect herein it may be rendered highly dishonorable in and unto men, as will appear in the ensuing exposition of the words.
From a prescription of duties towards others, the apostle proceeds to give directions unto those wherein our own persons and walking are concerned. And he doth it in a prohibition of the two radical, comprehensive lusts of corrupted nature, namely, uncleanness and covetousness; the first respecting the persons of men in a peculiar manner, the other their conversation. The first, in all the acts of it, is distinguished from all other sins, in that they are immediately against a man’s self, in his own person: “Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth” (which is perpetrated in external acts) “is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body,” 1 Corinthians 6:18. And the other influenceth and corrupts all duties of life whatever.
His manner of the injunction of the first duty in this verse is peculiar, for the reasons before mentioned. And it consists of two parts:
1. A commendation of the remedy of the evil prohibited, which is marriage;
2. A condemnation of the sins prohibited, with a denunciation of divine judgments against them.
And he takes this way of insinuating the necessity of the duty prescribed,
1. Because the remedy was by some despised; and by others, who were called unto the use of it, neglected.
2. Because the sins prohibited were thought by many not so highly criminal; and if they were, yet usually were shaded in secrecy from punishment among men. Without the removal of these prejudices, his exhortation could not obtain its due force in the minds of them concerned.
In the First place, we have a proposal,
1. Of a state of life; that is, “Marriage.”
2. Of the duties of that state; “The bed undefiled.” And of them both it is affirmed, that they are “honorable.”
1. The first is “marriage.” It is that which is lawful and according to the mind of God which is intended; for there may be marriages, or such conjunctions for the ends of marriage between men and women, so called, that are highly dishonorable. It must be marriage of two individual persons, and no more, according to the law of creation and divine institution (polygamy was never honorable); marriage not of persons within the degrees of consanguinity laid under divine prohibition (incest being no less dishonorable than adultery); marriage in a concurrence of all necessary circumstances both of mind and body in them that are to be married,
such are, power over their own persons, freedom in choice or consent, personal mutual vow or contract, natural meetness for the duties of marriage, freedom from guilt as to the persons intended, and the like. Wherefore, taking marriage for a conjunction of a man and woman, by mutual consent, for all the ends of human life, and it cannot be absolutely pronounced “honorable;” for there may be many things in such a conjunction rendering it sinful and vile. But that marriage is so, which, on the ground and warranty of divine institution, is a “lawful conjunction of one man and one woman, by their just and full consent, into an indissoluble union (whereby they become one flesh), for the procreation of children, and mutual assistance in all things, divine and human.”
As the apostle speaks of this marriage in general, as unto its nature and use, so he hath an especial respect unto it in this place as it is the means appointed and sanctified of God for the avoiding and preventing of the sins of fornication and adultery, and all other lusts of uncleanness, which without it the generality of mankind would have rushed into like the beasts of the field.
And this marriage he affirms to be “honorable.” It is so on many accounts, and so it is to be esteemed. It is so,
(1.) From the consideration of the Author of it, him by whom it was originally appointed; which is God himself, Genesis 2:18; Genesis 2:23-24, Matthew 19:5; and all his works are “honorable and glorious,” Psalms 111:3.
(2.) From the manner of its institution, being expressed as a peculiar effect of divine wisdom and counsel for the good of man, Genesis 2:18, “And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone: I will make him an help meet for him.” Greater honor could not be put on this institution and state of life.
(3.) From the time and place of its institution. It is co-equal with mankind; for although Adam was created in single life, yet he was married in the instant of the production of Eve. Upon the first sight of her he said, “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh,” Genesis 2:23: which she complying with, was the formal cause of their matrimony. And it was in paradise, whilst man and woman were in the state of innocency and beauty: so foolish is the law in the church of Rome prohibiting marriage unto their ecclesiastics, on pretense of an unsuitableness in it unto their holiness; as though they were more pure than our first parents in paradise, where they entered into their married estate.
(4.) From the many tokens or pledges of divine favor, communicating honor unto it. God first married and blessed Adam and Eve himself, Genesis 2:22-23. He gave laws for the regulation of it, Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:5. He had especial respect unto it in the decalogue; yea, all the commands of the second table arise from and have respect unto this institution. He by his law excluded from all administration of office in the congregation those that were not born in lawful wedlock, Deuteronomy 23:2, etc. And the Lord Christ approved of all these things by his presence at a lawful marriage, and a feast thereon, John 2:1-11.
(5.) It is so from the use and benefit of it. The writings of all sorts of wise men, philosophers, lawyers, and Christian divines, have elegantly expressed these things. I shall only say, that as the legitimate and orderly continuation of the race of mankind depends hereon, and proceeds from it, so whatever is of virtue, honor, comeliness or order, amongst men; whatever is praiseworthy and useful in all societies, economical, ecclesiastical, or political, it depends hereon, and hath regard hereunto. To all unto whom children are dear, relations useful, inheritances valuable, and acceptation of God in the works of nature preferred before sordid uncleanness and eternal ruin; this state is, and ought to be, accounted honorable to them.
The apostle adds, that it is thus “honorable in all;” that is, amongst all sorts of persons that are called thereunto. ‘There is no sort, order, or degree of men, by reason of any calling, work, or employment, but that marriage is an honorable state in them, and unto them, when they are lawfully called thereunto.’This is the plain sense of the words, as both their signification and occasion in this place do manifest. Some had rather it should be, “in all things,” or “every manner of way;” or “in all ages, at all times;” none of which do here suit the mind of the apostle. For whereas his design is to give direction for chastity and universal purity of life, with the avoiding of all sorts and degrees of uncleanness, and whereas the proneness unto such sins is common unto all, (though cured in some by especial gift,) he declares that the remedy is equally provided for all who are called thereunto, 1 Corinthians 7:9, as not having received the gift of continency, at least as unto inward purity of mind, without the use of this remedy. However, if it should be rendered “in all things,” or “every manner of way,” the popish celibate can never be secured from this divine testimony against it. For if it be not lawful to call that, common which God hath declared clean, is it lawful for them to esteem and call that so vile as to be unmeet for some order or sort of men among them, which God hath declared to be “honorable in all things,” or every manner of way? The reader may, if it be needful, consult the writings of our divines against the Papists, for the confirmation of this exposition. I shall only say, that their impiety in their law imposing the necessity of single life on all their ecclesiastics, wherein they have usurped divine authority over the consciences of men, hath often been openly pursued by divine vengeance, in giving it up to be an occasion of the multiplication of such horrid uncleannesses as have been scandalous unto Christian religion, and ruinous to the souls of millions, In other persons they make matrimony a sacrament; which, according to their opinion, conferreth grace, though well they know not what: but it is evident, that this law of forbidding it unto their clergy, hath deprived them of that common gift of continence which other men, by an ordinary endeavor, may preserve or attain unto. But it belongs not unto my present purpose to insist on these things. And we may observe,
Obs. 1. That divine institution is sufficient to reader any state or condition of life honorable.
Obs. 2. The more useful any state of life is, the more honorable it is. The honor of marriage ariseth much from its usefulness.
Obs. 3. That which is honorable by divine institution, and useful in its own nature, may be abused and rendered vile by the miscarriages of men; as marriage may be.
Obs. 4. It is a bold usurpation of authority over the consciences of men, and a contempt of the authority of God, to forbid that state unto any which God hath declared “honorable among all.”
Obs. 5. Means for purity and chastity not ordained, blessed, nor sanctified unto that end, will prove furtherances of impurity and uncleanness, or worse evils.
Obs. 6. The state of marriage being honorable in the sight of God himself, it is the duty of them that enter thereinto duly to consider how they may approve their consciences unto God in what they do. And,
Obs. 7. A due consideration of their call unto it, of their ends in it, that they are those of God’s appointment, prayer for, and expectation of his blessing on it, reverence of him as the great witness of the marriage covenant, with wisdom to undergo the trials and temptations inseparable from this state of life, are required hereunto.
2. Unto the state of marriage the apostle adds the consideration of the duties of it, in that expression, “The bed undefiled.” The word κοίτη is three times used by our apostle; once for the conception of seed in the marriage-bed, Romans 9:10; once for excess in lustful pleasures, Romans 13:13, where we render it “chambering;” and here for the place of marriage duties, “torus,” “lectum,” “cubile.” Its commendation here is, that it is “undefiled.” And two things are intended herein.
(1.) An opposition unto the defiled beds of whoremongers and adulterers, from the honorable state of marriage. The bed of marriage is pure and undefiled, even in the duties of it.
(2.) The preservation of marriage duties within their due bounds; which the apostle giveth directions about, 1 Thessalonians 4:3-7; 1 Corinthians 7:2-5. For there may be many pollutions of the marriage bed, not meet here to be mentioned; and there are some dilated on in the popish casuists, which are not fit to be named among Christians, nor could have been believed, had they not divulged them from their pretended penitents. But that which we are here taught is, that,
Obs. 8. Conjugal duties, regulated by the bounds assigned unto them by natural light, with the general rules of Scripture, and subservient unto the due ends of marriage, are honorable, giving no cause of pollution or shame.
From this state and use of marriage, the means appointed of God for the preservation of the purity and chastity of our persons, the argument is cogent unto diligence in our duty therein, and the aggravation great of the contrary sins. For whereas God hath provided such a way and means, for the satisfaction of natural inclination, the procreation of children, and comfort of life in mutual society, as are honorable, and as such approved by himself, so as no way to defile the body or mind, or to leave any trouble on the conscience; who can express the detestable wickedness that is in the forsaking of them, in a contempt of the authority and wisdom of God, by men’s seeking the satisfaction of their lusts in ways prohibited of God, injurious to others, debasing and defiling to themselves, disturbing the whole order of nature, and drowning themselves in everlasting perdition, which the apostle declares in the next words?
Secondly, Having confirmed the exhortation unto personal purity or holiness, and chastity, included in the words, from the commendation of the state and duties whereby they may be preserved, with assurance of divine acceptation therein, he further presseth it by declaration of the contrary state and opposite vices of those who, despising this only remedy of all uncleanness, or not confining themselves thereunto, do seek the satisfaction of their lusts in ways irregular and prohibited.
This opposition of the two states and acts is declared in the particle δέ , “but:” ‘So it is with marriage and its duties; but as unto others, it is not so with them.’And,
1. He declares who are the persons that transgress the rule prescribed, who are of two sorts,
2. He declares their state with respect to God, and what will be their end; “God will judge” or condemn them.
1. The distinction between “whoremongers,” or fornicators, and “adulterers,” is allowed by all to be between single persons, and those that are both or one of them in a married state. The sin of the first is fornication; of the other, adultery. And although πορνεύω and πορνεία may sometimes be used to denote any kind of uncleanness in general, and so to comprise adultery also; yet wherever these words are put together, as they are often, they are so to be distinguished, as the one of them to signify fornication, and the other adultery, Matthew 15:19; Mark 7:21; Galatians 5:19. And for the most part, when πόρνος and πορνεία are used alone, they denote precisely the sin of unmarried persons, or at least where the woman is so: that we call fornication, Hebrews 11:31; James 2:25; Acts 15:20; 1 Corinthians 6:18; Ephesians 5:3; Colossians 3:5; 1 Thessalonians 4:3. Wherefore πόρνοι , which we render here “whoremongers,” as distinguished from adulterers, are persons who in single or an unmarried state of life do know one another carnally, whether it be by single acts or a frequent repetition of them, by the means of cohabitation, without a marriage vow or covenant between them.
Some have fallen into that impudence in our days, as to countenance themselves with the opinion and practices of some of the heathen, who thought that this sin of fornication was no sin, or a matter not much to be regarded. But as it is contrary unto the law of creation, and consequently the light of nature, being a filthy spring of other evils innumerable; so it is expressly condemned in the Scripture, as Deu 23:17 , 1 Corinthians 6:18, Colossians 3:5, and in the other places before cited. And this one place, where it is said to render men obnoxious to eternal damnation, is enough to determine this case in the minds of men not flagitiously wicked. And shall we suppose, that that religion which condemneth the inward lust of the heart after a woman, without any outward act, as a sin worthy of judgment, doth give countenance, or doth not most severely condemn, the actual abomination of fornication?
But whatever may be the judgment of any men, or whatever they may pretend so to be, (for I am persuaded that no man can so far debauch his conscience, and obliterate all impressions of Scripture light, as really to think fornication to be no sin, who thinks there is any such thing as sin at all,) yet the practice of multitudes in all manner of licentiousness this way at present among us, can never sufficiently be bewailed. And it is to be feared, that if magistrates, and those who are the public ministers in the nation, do not take more care than hitherto hath been used, for the reproof, restraint, and suppressing of this raging abomination, divine judgments on the whole nation on the account of it will speedily satisfy men’s scruples whether it be a sin or no.
For “adulterers,” who are mentioned in the next place, there is no question amongst any about the heinousness of their sin; and the common interest of mankind keeps up a detestation of it. But it is here, together with fornication, reserved in a peculiar manner unto divine vengeance:
(1.) Because for the most part it is kept secret, and so free from human cognizance; and,
(2.) Because, although the divine law made it capital, or punishable by death, as did also some laws among the heathens themselves, yet for the most part it ever did, and doth still, pass in the world under a less severe animadversion and punishment. But,
2. Whatever such persons think of themselves, or whatever others think of them, or however they deal with them, God will judge and condemn them.
“God will judge,” or “damnabit;” he will “condemn,” he will damn them. It is the final judgment of the last day that is intended; they shall not be acquitted, they shall not be absolved, they shall be eternally damned. And there is included herein,
Obs. 9. Whatever light thoughts men may have of sin, of any sin, the judgment of God concerning all sin, which is according to truth, must stand forever. To have slight thoughts of sin, will prove no relief unto sinners.
Obs. 10. Fornication and adultery are sins in their own nature deserving eternal damnation. If the due wages of all sin be death, much more is it so of so great abominations.
Obs. 11. Men living and dying impenitently in these sins shall eternally perish; or, a habitual course in them is utterly inconsistent with any spark of saving grace. See1 Corinthians 6:9-10; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; Ephesians 5:5; Revelation 21:8; Revelation 22:15. And there is an emphasis in the expression, “God will judge;” wherein we may see,
(1.) That the especial aggravation of these sins doth expose men unto a sore condemnation in a peculiar manner, 1 Corinthians 3:17; 1 Corinthians 6:16-19.
(2.) All occasions of, all temptations leading unto these sins, are to be avoided, as we take care of our souls.
(3.) Although the state of men may be changed, and divine wrath due to these sins may be finally escaped by repentance, yet it may be observed, that of all sorts of sinners, those who are habitually given up unto these lusts of the flesh, are the most rarely called, and brought to effectual repentance. Yet,
(4.) Many of those persons, by reason of their convictions, received in the light of a natural conscience, do live in a kind of seeming repentance, whereby they relieve themselves after some acts of uncleanness, until by the power of their lust they are hurried again into them. But I must not here further discourse these things.
῾Αφιλάργυρος ὁ τρόπος , ἀρκούμενοι τοῖς παροῦσιν· αὐτὸς γὰρ εἴρηκεν , Οὐ μή σε ἀνῶ , οὐδ᾿ οὐ μή σε ἐγκαταλίπω , ὥστε θαῤῥοῦντας ἡμᾶς λέγειν , Κύριος ἐμοὶ βοηθὸς ¸ καὶ οὐ φοβηθήσομαι τὶ ποιήσει μοι ἄνθρωπος .
᾿Αφιλάργυρος . Syr., לָא הֲוָא רָחֵם כֶּסְפָא , “let not [your mind] be loving of silver;” “love not silver,” according to the original signification of the word; but its use is of larger extent, “sine avaritia, alieni ab avaritia;” “not inclined unto, alien from covetousness.” 
 EXPOSITION. ᾿Αφιλάργυρος… παροῦσιν . This construction is so remarkable, that it identifies, it has been thought, this epistle as a production of Paul. One nominative absolute in the singular expands into a nominative absolute in the plural, and the only construction parallel to this is to be found in another epistle of Paul, Romans 12:9. ED.
῾Οτρόπος . Syr., רעֲיָנְכוּן , “your mind;” as τρόπος doth sometimes signify “ingenium, animum, mentem, indolem,” the mind with its bent and inclination. Other interpreters render it by “mores,” and supply “vestri;” “your manners,” ‘the way and manner of your conversation:’as it is well rendered by ours, “your conversation;” though that be properly ἀναστροφή , which we render “conversation,” verse 7; but we have no other word whereby to express the force of the Latin “mores.” Τρόπος is men’s “moral conversation,” or their conversation in morals. So we read χρηστὸς , “honest manners,” an honest conversation; and βέλτιστος τρόπος , “excellent manners;” and τρόπος δίκαιος , “a just, righteous conversation;” and τρόπος ὅσιος , “holy manners;” and on the contrary, πικρὸς τρόπος , “bitter, froward manners.”
Hebrews 13:5-6 . [ Let your ] conversation [ be ] without [ free from ] covetousness; [ and be ] content with [ present things ] such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord [ is ] my helper, and I will not fear what man can do unto me.
From particular duties, the apostle proceeds unto that which is more general, which relates unto our whole course of walking before God. And the vice prohibited is frequently joined with that foregoing, fornication and covetousness, Ephesians 5:3; Ephesians 5:5; Colossians 3:5; 1 Thessalonians 4:6: not that they have any especial affinity one with the other, but that they are both of them such as corrupt the whole Christian profession.
There is in the words,
1. A duty prescribed:
2. An enforcement of it from its reason and cause:
3. An inference from that reason, in an application of it unto all cases wherein the duty is required; the two latter consisting in two divine testimonies, one concerning the promises of God, the other concerning the experience of believers.
1. The duty is enjoined,
(1.) Negatively, “Let your conversation be without covetousness;”
(2.) Positively, “Be content with such things as ye have.” Covetousness and contentment are absolutely opposite, and inconsistent in the same mind.
(1.) As unto the manner of expression in the negative precept, it is in the original doubly defective, “Conversation without covetousness;” which we well supply with “your,” and “let it be;” which is the intention of the words. And we must inquire,
[1.] What is our “conversation.”
[2.] How it ought to be “without covetousness.”
[1.] The word here used may be taken in a threefold sense:
1 st . For the mind, or the frame and inclination of it in its acting about the things of this life. So it is rendered by the Syriac, “Let your mind.” And respect must be had hereunto, because the evil prohibited is a vice of the mind, and the opposite grace a virtue of the mind.
2 dly . For accustomed practice; ‘Live, act, trade, do all things without covetousness.’
3 dly . For the way, and manner, and course we use and take in the getting of a livelihood, or food and raiment. And all these significations of the word are consistent, nor can any of them be excluded from the sense of the place. We render it by “conversation,” which is comprehensive of them all. But it is in this place alone thus used. The word which in all other places we render “conversation,” is ἀναστροφή , Galatians 1:13; Ephesians 4:22; 1 Timothy 4:12; James 3:13, etc.: but the same is plainly here intended, though the word yields somewhat a larger sense than the other. Wherefore, our “conversation” here includes both the frame of our minds and the manner of our acting, as unto the morality of it, in all that we do about the things appertaining unto this life. And because of this restraint of it unto our actings about the things of this life, the apostle useth this word τρόπος , “mos” or “mores,” and not ἀναστροφή , which expresseth our “universal walk before God,” in all holy obedience, Philippians 1:27; Philippians 3:20;  James 3:13; 1 Peter 1:15; 2 Peter 3:11.
 In these two passages, πολιτεύεσθε and πολίτευμα are the words employed. ED.
[2.] The ordering of our conversation aright in this matter is of great importance in our Christian profession. And for the direction of it the apostle gives this rule, that it be “without covetousness.” The word is only once more used in the New Testament, 1 Timothy 3:3, “Not covetous;” as that which it denies is twice, Luke 16:14, 2 Timothy 3:2; in both which places we render it “covetous.” Φιλαργυρία , the substantive, we render according to its original signification, “the love of money,” 1 Timothy 6:10. The word used constantly in the New Testament for “covetousness” is πλεονεξία , Mark 7:22; Rom 1:29 ; 2 Corinthians 9:5; Ephesians 5:3; Colossians 3:5; 1 Thessalonians 2:5. But whereas (as the wise man tells us) “money answereth all things,” Ecclesiastes 10:19, and is therefore the peculiar object of covetous desires, “covetousness” and “the love of money” are the same. Wherefore the word here, being “without the love of money,” is well rendered by “without,” or “alien from covetousness.”
Covetousness is an inordinate desire, with a suitable endeavor, after the enjoyment of more riches than we have, or than God is pleased to give unto us; proceeding from an undue valuation of them, or love unto them. So it is described by our apostle, 1 Timothy 6:9-10.
A vice this is which, by its effects, manifests itself always to be contrary to the light of nature, as debasing the minds of men, making them useless, and exposing them to all manner of vile practices. Hence it was always stigmatized by sober heathens, as one of the vilest affections of the minds of men. And there is nothing which the Scripture doth more severely condemn, nor denounce more inevitable punishment unto. Two places in our apostle may suffice to confirm it. In the one he tells us, that “covetousness is idolatry,” Colossians 3:5; that is, such an abominable sin, as there is no name fit to be given unto it but that which intimates a rejection of God himself; or, it may be, respect is also had unto the minds of covetous persons, who even adore their money, and put their trust in it in the stead of God. “The rich man’s riches are his strong tower.” The other is 1 Timothy 6:9-10, where he affirms that it gives men present perplexing anxieties of mind, and plungeth them into eternal perdition.
But hereof there are many degrees. Where it is predominant, the Scripture doth absolutely exclude those in whom it is from life and salvation, amongst the most profligate of sinners. But there may be, and are, lesser degrees of inordinate desires after earthly things, which partake of the nature of this vice, that may abide in believers themselves, and are a subject of mortification all their days. And these inclinations, according to their degree, are obstructive of duties, and means of exposing men unto various temptations at all times, especially in those of persecution. And the apostle seems to have respect here unto such a season. For when men are spoiled of some of their goods, and in danger of losing all, it is apt to stir up in them earnest and inordinate desires after somewhat more than they have, and not to be contented with what is present; which the apostle here declares to be covetousness. This he would have us free from at all times, especially in the times of persecution; which that he hath respect unto, the sixth verse doth plainly declare. And we may hereon observe sundry things; as,
Obs. 1. All covetousness is inconsistent with a Christian conversation, according to the gospel. It is to be alien in all things from covetousness. Neither is there any thing at this day that doth more stain the glory of our Christian profession. For in the profligate lives of debauched persons, their blasphemies, adulteries, drunkenness, and the like, religion is not concerned. They openly avow themselves to have no interest in it; neither hath that any in them. But whereas covetous men, from the predominancy of that one lust, do ofttimes keep themselves from open sins of the flesh, and withal make a profession of religion, having “a form of godliness,” this vice is a high reproach to their profession.
Obs. 2. Covetousness in any degree is highly dangerous in a time of persecution, or suffering for the gospel. It is with respect unto such a season that we are here warned against it. For there is no sin which so intimidates the spirit, and weakens all resolution, in a time of suffering, as this doth. For sufferings generally in the first place fall on that wherein its power and interest do lie, namely, the riches and possessions of men; whence they are filled with fears about them, disanimating them in all their resolutions. And it constantly riseth up against seasonable duties at such a time; such as contribution unto the wants of other sufferers. It is always accompanied with a distrust of God, as we shall see afterwards, and fixeth the soul in an overvaluation of earthly things; which is directly opposite unto the exercise of all grace whatever. It fills the soul at such a season with anxiety and disquietment of mind, piercing it through with many sorrows, with equal hopes and fears, irregular contrivances for supply, and reserves of trust in what men have, with other evils innumerable.
(2.) In opposition hereunto, we are directed and enjoined to be “content with things that are present,” or “such things as we have.” ᾿Αρχέω and the passive are “to suffice,” “to be sufficient,” to be that which is enough, Matthew 25:9; John 6:7. The passive is used here, and 1 Timothy 6:8; to be content or satisfied with what is sufficient in earthly things: whose measure the apostle gives there to consist in “food and raiment.” Αὐτάρκεια is once used to the same purpose; which signifies, not a self-sufficiency, but a satisfaction in ourselves, as to what we have, 1 Timothy 6:6. So also is αὐτάρκης , which we render “content,”
Philippians 4:11; that is, satisfied in our condition.
This is that which the apostle opposeth unto that covetousness which he doth condemn; and they are inconsistent in the same mind, in any prevalent degree. The assertion Of the one denies the other; and so on the contrary. Wherefore this contentment is a gracious frame or disposition of mind, quiet and composed; without,
[1.] Complaining or repining at God’s providential disposals of our outward concerns;
[2.] All envy at the more prosperous condition of others;
[3.] Fears and anxious cares about future supplies; and,
[4.] Desires and designs of those things which a more plentiful condition than what we are in would supply us withal.
And this contentment is with respect unto “such things as we have;” or “things that are present,” as it is in the original. Now, things present are not here opposed unto things that are future; as though we should be content with them, and not look after the future reward: but they are opposed unto things which are not present with us in our present state and condition, though so they might be; and therefore, as unto the sense, it is tendered by, “such things as ye have.” Yet are not “things” only intended, but in general the state and condition wherein we are, be it of poverty, or affliction, or persecution, or of more enlargement in earthly things. So it is declared by our apostle, Philippians 4:11, “I have learned ἐν οἷς εἰμὶ αὐτάρκηχ ει῏ναι , “in whatever state I am,” say we, “therewith to be content;” ‘in the condition and circumstances wherein I am, whether it be of abounding or need,’as he explains it in the next verse. And it respects the things that are present with us, such things as we have; namely, for the use of this natural life. And the measure of them, in ordinary cases, is food and raiment, as the rule is given us, 1 Timothy 6:8, “Having food and raiment, let us be therewith content:” not that we are allowed to be discontented if we want them; but that these are such a sufficiency as are a rational obligation unto contentment, a man need seek no further. But among other evils that we may undergo for the gospel, we may be called unto “hunger and nakedness,” Romans 8:35; by which many witnesses of Christ have been destroyed. And when we are so, we are obliged to be therewithal content also. For contentation, or satisfaction of mind, in things present, doth not arise from, nor depend on, any measure, great or small, of the things themselves which we do enjoy, but on the presence of God with us, and the reward that is therein, as the next words declare.
And it may not be impertinent to observe some few things for the declaration of the virtue of it; as,
[1.] Contentment with what we have is not exclusive of honest industry, to make an addition unto it, and so enlarge the provision of earthly things for ourselves and our families. Honest industry, even unto this end, is the command of God, who hath given us six days in seven for the exercise of it. Wherefore,
[2.] It doth not consist in a slothful neglect of the occasions of this life; nor in a pretended apathy or regardlessness of them; nor in the relinquishment of an industrious course of life, to betake ourselves unto monastic idleness, under a pretense of contempt of the world; but,
[3.] It is a gracious disposition of mind, arising solely from trust in and satisfaction with God alone, against all other things whatever that may appear to be evil, as the next words declare. [4.] It is utterly exclusive,
1 st . Of covetousness, or an inordinate inclination of mind and desire after an increase of our present enjoyments, with all the ways and means whereby they usually act themselves;
2dly . Of all anxious care, distrust of things future, or complaints of things present;
3dly . Of that foolish elation of mind, and contempt of others, which riches give unto men of weak minds; for contentment is a grace in the rich as well as in the poor.
1 st . Of distress and distrust under an apprehension of want;
2 dly . Of despondency under oppression, persecution, and suffering the things that men can do unto us, or bring upon us.
And both these evils arise from covetousness, or an inordinate desire after and valuation of earthly things.
2. Having prescribed the duty, the apostle adds an enforcement of its practice, from the cause which renders it just and reasonable: “For he hath said,” etc. This is from something that was said or spoken to this purpose: concerning which he proposeth,
(1.) Who spake it;
(2.) What he spake; wherein is included the consideration of him to whom he spake it, and when, and with reference unto what occasion.
(1.) “He hath said.” That this is causal, as unto the duty proposed, is declared in the conjunction “for:” ‘Do so, “for he hath said.”’He nameth not the person that spake; but by the way of eminency calleth him “He.” אַתָּה הוּא “Thou art He,” Psalms 102:28; which the apostle renders Σὺ αὐτὸς ει῏ Hebrews 1:12. “Thou art He,” is a name of God; He who alone hath all being and existence in himself; He who with us, as in himself, is “all, and in all.” Αὐτὸς ἔφα was an ascription of honor to a man: but this αὐτὸς εἴρηκεν is infinitely above it. And hereby the apostle refers us to the greatness and power of God. ‘He who is over all, the supreme disposer of all things in heaven and earth, in whose hand and power are all the concerns of men, who can do whatever he pleaseth, He hath said it.’For,
Obs. 3. All the efficacy, power, and comfort of divine promises, arise from, and are resolved into, the excellencies of the divine nature. He hath said it who is truth, and cannot deceive: He who is almighty, etc.
(2.) What he hath said unto this purpose: “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” It is observed by all, that there is a vehement negation in the last clause, by a multiplication of the negative particles, two of them are used in the former. And the design hereof is, to obviate all objections which fear and unbelief may raise against the assurance given, from such circumstances as men may fall into: ‘Be they what they will, I will not at any time, on any occasion, for any cause, leave thee, nor forsake thee.’In these negative expressions positive blessings are contained, and those distinct also, as the expressions are. By the first, the continuance of God’s presence is intended; by the other, the continuance of his help, which the apostle takes notice of in the next verse: ‘“I will not leave thee;” whatever be thy state and condition, I will never withdraw my presence from thee: “I will never forsake thee,” or suffer thee to be helpless in any trouble; my aid and help shall be continued with thee.’Only these things are expressed negatively, directly, and immediately, to obviate the fears which in difficult trials believers are apt to be exercised withal; and they are the principal way of the secret working of unbelief. Wherefore, the vehemency of the expression, by the multiplication of the negative particles, is an effect of divine condescension, to give the utmost security unto the faith of believers in all their trials. That God doth design in general so to do, our apostle declares at large, Hebrews 6:17-18, whereon see the exposition.
Obs. 4. Divine presence and divine assistance, which are inseparable, are the spring and cause of suitable and sufficient relief and supplies unto believers in every condition.
Obs. 5. Especially, the due consideration of them is abundantly sufficient to rebuke all covetous inclinations and desires, which without it will be prevalent in us in a time of straits and trials. Whereas these words contain a promise made of old unto some or other, we must inquire into the circumstances of it, as unto whom it was made, and when, and on what occasion.
There is a promise to this purpose, yea in these very words, given unto Solomon by David, in the name of God: “The LORD God, even my God, will be with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee,” 1 Chronicles 28:20. And it is found frequently repeated unto the church, as unto the substance of it. See Isaiah 41:10-13. But it is generally granted that it is the promise which God made unto Joshua when he gave him in charge the great work of destroying the enemies of the church in the land of Canaan. So are the words of God unto him expressly, Joshua 1:5, “I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.” The words, indeed, were used by Moses unto Joshua before, Deuteronomy 31:6; Deuteronomy 31:8; where the translation of the LXX. is much the same with the words used by the apostle in this place: but whereas the apostle refers the words spoken immediately to the speaking of God himself, “For he hath said,” they are taken from that place in the Book of Joshua, where God speaks directly unto him; and not from that in Deuteronomy, which are the words of Moses.
Now this promise was personal, and given unto Joshua on the account of that great and difficult undertaking which he was called unto, in the conquest of Canaan. It is not therefore easily to be understood how an application may be made of it unto every individual believer, in all their straits and trials. To clear this difficulty, we may observe,
[1.] That the dangers and difficulties which every believer has to undergo in his spiritual warfare, especially in times of trial and persecution, are no less than those that Joshua conflicted withal in his wars, nor do stand in less need of the especial presence and assistance of God to overcome them than his did. And therefore, in using these words unto Joshua, God did but expressly declare, for his encouragement, how he will deal with all believers, in every state and condition that he calls them unto.
[2.] The faith of all believers stands in need of the same supportment, the same encouragement with that of Joshua, and is resolved into the same principles with his, namely, the presence and assistance of God. Wherefore,
[3.] All the promises made unto the church, and every particular member of it, for the use of the church, are made equally unto the whole church, and every member of it, in every age, according as the grace and mercy of them is suited unto their state and condition. There was in many of the promises of old something of especial privilege (as in that of a kingdom to David) and somewhat that respected circumstances, and the state of the people in the land of Canaan, wherein we are only analogically concerned; but as unto the grace, love, and mercy of God in them all, with their accommodation unto all our cases and necessities, they belong unto all believers, no less than they did unto them unto whom they were first given and made. Hence,
[4.] Faith sets every believer in the room or place of him or them unto whom the promises were originally made; and as they are recorded in the Scripture, wherein God continues to speak unto the church, they are spoken directly unto every one of them. So the apostle here declares it: ‘“He hath said,” that is, unto you, and every one of you unto whom I speak, “I will never leave thee;”’which is the ground of the inference which he makes in the next verse. Yea,
[5.] Whereas those promises which contained especial privileges, (as those made to Abraham and David), and those which respected the interest of the people in the land of Canaan, did proceed from, and were enlivened by, the love and grace of God in the covenant made with the church, or all believers, every one of them may apply unto themselves the same love and grace, to be acted suitably unto their condition, by mixing those promises with faith. For if “whatsoever things were written aforetime, were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the Scripture might have hope,” as Romans 15:4, much more are the promises recorded therein for our use and benefit.
There hath not been in our days a more desperate attempt against the life of religion, and the whole covenant-relation between God and the church, than that whereby the application of the promises recorded in the Scripture unto the present state, condition, and wants of believers, hath been opposed and ridiculed. But faith will triumph over such foolish and impious assaults.
In brief, all the promises recorded in the Scripture, being nothing but ways and means of the exhibition of the grace of the covenant, which is made with the whole church, with all believers, and the accommodation of it unto their state, condition, and occasions; being all in the ratification of the covenant made “yea and amen in Christ Jesus, unto the glory of God by us;” they do equally belong unto all believers, and what God says in any of them, he says it unto every one that doth truly believe.
Herein, then, lieth the force of the apostle’s argument: That if God hath said unto every one of us, what he said unto Joshua, that he will never leave us as to his presence, nor forsake us as to his assistance, we have sufficient ground to cast away all inordinate desires of earthly things, all fears of want, and other pressures, to rest quiet and contented with his undertaking for us.
3. This inference, from this promise given unto us, the apostle declares in the next verse, confirming it with the experience of David; which was not peculiar unto him, but is common to all believers.
Hebrews 13:6 . “So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.”
We may every one of us say as David did in the like case; for he so spake in confidence of the same promise of the presence and assistance of God, which is given also unto us. The words are taken from Psalms 118:6, “The LORD is on my side, (for me, my helper;) I will not fear what man can do unto me.” To the same purpose the psalmist speaks, Psalms 56:3-4; Psalms 56:11; only for “man,” verse 4, he useth the word “flesh,” “what flesh can do unto me;” with a great contempt of all the power of his adversaries.
He confirms his argument by a divine testimony; wherein we may consider both the manner of its introduction, and the testimony itself.
(1.) The former is in these words, “So that we may boldly say;” or, “So as that we are bold to say;” or, “We do boldly say,” or have right so to do: the verb being of the infinitive mood, may be limited either of these ways.
“So that,” or “so as that;” a note of inference, or collection of one thing out of another. ‘By what is said to us, we are enabled and justified thus to say ourselves.’
“Boldly;” ‘We being hold, using confidence, may say.’This the apostle ascribes to us herein,
[1.] Because it is evident that David, in uttering those words, did use a more than ordinary boldness and confidence in God. For he spake them first in a time of great distress, “when the Philistines took him in Gath,” and his enemies were continually ready to “swallow him up,” Psalms 56:1-2. In the midst of this distress, with great confidence he expresseth his trust in God, and says, “I will not fear what flesh can do unto me,”
Psalms 56:4. And in the same state he was, Psalms 118:6-10. The like confidence in the like condition is required of us.
[2.] Because an act of high trust and confidence in God is required unto the profession here expressed. The word signifies the frame of mind that is in valiant men when they are preparing with shouts to engage against their adversaries.
[3.] To intimate our duty on this occasion; which is, to cast out all fears, every thing that may intimidate our spirits, or disquiet our minds, or hinder us from making a cheerful profession of our confidence in God. For that is required of us. We are to “say” what we believe, to profess it; yea, to glory and make our boast in God, against all opposition. Wherefore,
Obs. 6. The cheerful profession of confidence in God, against all opposition, and in the midst of all distresses, is that which believers have a warrant for in the promises that are made unto them.
Obs. 7. As the use of this confidence is our duty, so it is a duty highly honorable unto the profession of the gospel. “Degeneres animos timor arguit.”
In the application of this testimony, as taken from Psalms 56:4, the apostle supposeth that David spake these words not merely in his own person, and with respect unto his own case, or the especial promises he had about it, but in the person of the whole church, or on the general right of all true believers. For it is the word of God, or the promises therein contained, which are common to all believers, which was the ground of what he said or professed. So the words in the beginning of the verse do testify, “In God I will praise his word.” He would give unto him the glory of his truth and power, by believing. Wherefore,
Obs. 8. Believers having the same grounds of it that he had, may use the same confidence that he did. For outward circumstances alter not the state of things as unto faith or duty. We may use the same confidence with him, though our case be not the same with his. And,
The apostle, in the application of this testimony, extends the case which he at first applies his exhortation unto. For at first he speaks only with respect unto want and poverty; but here he compriseth in it persecution and oppression, which usually are the causes of distressing want and poverty.
(2.) These things being premised, we may proceed to inquire what is in the testimony itself produced, unto the end of the apostle’s exhortation. And we may consider,
[1.] That there is an opposition, a conflict, a contest, between distinct parties, supposed in the words. And the persons concerned immediately herein, are believers on the one hand, and man on the other; whereon a third person, namely, God himself, interposeth, and becometh a party in the contest. For,
[2.] God is herein on the side of the church: “The LORD is my helper;” ‘a helper unto me.’Respect seems to be had in this expression unto Psalms 118:6-7; though the words also of Psalms 56:0 are intended. And there are two ways whereby the psalmist asserts this matter:
1 st . יְהָֹוה לִי , verse 6, ‘ “The LORD is unto me, for me, on my side,” (as we render it,) in this contest.’
2 dly . יְהָֹוה לִי בְּעֹזְרָי , verse 7, say we, “The LORD taketh my part with them that help me;” ‘the LORD is for me among the helpers.’Both these the apostle compriseth in this one, ἐμοὶ βοηθός , “he is my helper.” Wherein the help of God in this case consists, we shall show immediately. In the meantime, it is certain that believers do stand in need of help in that contest which they have with the world. Of themselves they are not able to go through it with success. Yet have we no reason to fear an engagement in what is above our strength or ability, when we have such a reserve of aid and assistance; but in whatever befalls us, “we may say boldly, We will not fear.” For if God be on our side, “if God be for us, who shall be against us?” Let who so will be so, it is all one, the victory is secured on our side.
[3.] There is a double opposition in the words, giving an emphasis unto the sense of the whole:
1 st . Between God and man. “The LORD is on my side; I will not fear what man can do.” And this “man” he calls “flesh,” Psalms 56:0., “what flesh can do.”
2 dly . Between what God will do, “He will help;” and what men can do, expressed in the psalm by an interrogation in way of contempt, “What can flesh do to me?” that is, ‘whilst God is my helper.’
[4.] This help of God, which believers are assured of in their trials, and under their persecutions, is twofold.
1 st . Internal, by supplies of grace, spiritual strength, and consolation, enabling them with a victorious frame of mind to go through all the difficulties and dangers of their conflict with a certain success;
2dly . External, in actual deliverance, by the destruction of their adversaries: both which are frequently exemplified in the Scripture, and present experience.
[5.] There is a double contempt cast on the adversaries of the church:
1 st . From their state: they are but “man,” “what man can do;” which he calls “flesh” in the psalm, a poor, contemptible, dying worm, compared with the eternal, infinitely powerful God.
2 dly . From his power: “What can he do?” whatever his will and his desires may be, in his power he is weak and impotent. And that which we are taught from hence is,
Obs. 9. That all believers, in their sufferings, and under their persecutions, have a refreshing, supporting interest in divine aid and assistance. For the promises hereof are made unto them all equally in their suffering state, even as they were unto the prophets and apostles of old. And,
Obs. 10. It is their duty to express with confidence and boldness at all times their assurance of the divine assistance declared in the promises, to their own encouragement, the edification of the church, and the terror of their adversaries, Philippians 1:28.
Obs. 11. Faith duly fixed on the power of God as engaged for the assistance of believers in their sufferings, will give them a contempt of all that men can do unto them.
Obs. 12. The most effectual means to encourage our souls in all our sufferings, is to compare the power of God who will assist us, with that of man who doth oppress us So is it prescribed by our blessed Savior, Matthew 10:28.
Obs. 13. That which in our sufferings delivereth us from the fear of men, takes out all that is evil in them, and secures our success.
From a prescription of the foregoing duties of morality, and obedience in them, the apostle proceeds unto those which concern faith and worship, laying the foundation of them in that respect which is due unto them that declare unto us the word of truth, for their work’s sake, and on the account of the example which they give unto us.
Hebrews 13:7 . Μνημονεύετε τῶν ἡγουμένων ὑμῶν ¸ οἵτινες ἐλάλησαν ὑμῖν τὸν λόγον τοῦ Θεοῦ· ὧν ἀναθεωροῦντες τὴν ἔκβασιν τῆς ἀναστροφῆς μιμεῖσθε τὴν πίστιν .
῾Ηγουμένων . Vulg., “praepositorum.” Rhem., “your prelates;” but yet they interpret the words of saints departed, with such a usual inconsistency as prejudice and interest produce. Syr., “your leaders;” “ductoram,” “dueum.” We, “them that have the rule over you;” as indeed the word is sometimes used to express rule; but it is not proper unto this place, wherein the apostle speaks of them who are departed this life; and so, whatever they had, they have not still the rule over us.
᾿Αναθεωροῦντες , “intuentes,” “contemplantes,” “considerantes;” “looking into.” ῎Εχζασιν , “quis fuerit exitus,” “exitum;” “the end,” “the issue,” what it came to. The Syriac puts another sense on the words, “Search out the perfection of their conversation;” but to the same purpose.
Hebrews 13:7 . Remember your guides, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of [ their ] conversation.
That which the apostle designs in the following discourse, is perseverance in the faith and profession of the truth, in opposition unto an infection with, or inclination unto “various and strange doctrines,” as he expresseth it, verse 9. And this, in the first place, he commends unto them from the formal cause of it, or the word of God; and the instrumental cause of it in them, which is the preaching of it, and those that taught it. For this is the method of believing, faith cometh by hearing; hearing by the word of God; and the word of God by them that are sent to preach it, Romans 10:14-17. The duty prescribed hath a threefold object, or there are three distinct parts or considerations of its object:
1. The persons of some men, their “guides;”
2. Their “faith;”
3. Their “conversation,” with “the end of it.”
And so there are three distinct parts of the duty respecting them distinctly:
1. To “remember them,” or their persons.
2. To “imitate their faith.”
3. To “consider the end of their conversation.”
1. We must consider who are the persons intended. Our translation makes them to be their present rulers, “Them which have the rule over you.” So Erasmus, “Eorum qui vobis praesunt.” But it is an evident mistake. That which seems to have led them into it is, that ἡγούμενος is a participle of the present tense. But it is most frequently used as a noun; and so it is here. But that their present rulers cannot be here intended, is evident,
(1.) Because there is another precept given with respect unto them afterwards, verse 17, and that in words suited unto the duty which they owe them whilst alive and present with them: “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves.”
(2.) He describes them as those which had formerly spoken unto them the word of God, and not as those who yet continued so to do.
(3.) They were such as had received ἔκβασιν ἀναστροφῆς , “the event and end of their conversation” in this world.
῾Ηγέομαι , is duco, arbitror, existimo; “to think, to esteem,” or “to judge:” and so it is constantly used in the New Testament. But it also signifies praesum, praeeo, duco; “to go before,” “to rule,” “to lead.” And ἡγούμενοι is variously used: sometimes for a ruler, Matthew 2:6, Acts 7:10: sometimes for a principal person among others; so Judas and Silas are called ἄνδρας ἡγουμένους ἐν τοῖς ἀδελφοῖς , Acts 15:22, “chief men among the brethren;” which one would have to be bishops over them, very absurdly, for they are reckoned among those brethren of the church who were distinguished from the apostles and elders: and sometimes for them that are chief in any work; so it is said that Paul, when he spake with Barnabas, was ὁ ἡγούμενος τοῦ λόγου , “the chief speaker,” Acts 14:12, who was chief or forwardest in speaking. It is used in this chapter only, Hebrews 13:7; Hebrews 13:17; Hebrews 13:24, for an officer or officers in the church; that is, such as go before, who guide and direct the church; which is the nature of their office. That is, bishops, pastors, elders, that preside in the church, guide it, and go before it; for they have such a rule as consists principally in spiritual guidance.
By the description following, it is evident that the apostle intends all that had spoken or preached the word of God unto them, whether apostles, evangelists, or pastors, who had now finished their course; not with any respect unto James, as some think, for he was yet alive, as appears, Hebrews 12:4. Nor doth the apostle, in this case of retaining the truth, give any direction for peculiar regard to Peter, much less to his chair or successors; but unto all that had spoken the word of God unto them.
2. What it is so to remember them, to be mindful of them, to bear them in our minds and memories. And this is done two ways:
(1.) Naturally; to retain them in our minds, as those whom we highly value and prize. So we are commanded to bear ourselves towards them whilst they are alive; namely, to “esteem them very highly in love, for their work’s sake,” 1 Thessalonians 5:13. And the same respect we are to have for them when they have finished their work. Suddenly to forget them, is an evidence that we have not profited by their labors as we ought to have done.
(2.) It is to retain them in our minds morally, with respect to the ends here mentioned. A bare remembrance of them is of little or no use. But to remember them in what they did and taught, so as to follow them in their faith and conversation, this is a duty of no small advantage unto us.
In process of time the latter of these, namely, to remember them so as to follow them in their faith and holiness, was much lost among the professors of the Christian religion. But the former was retained, and new ways invented for the continuation of it, which ended in various superstitions. For there were found out unto this end certain religious celebrations of the supposed times of their deaths, with assemblings at their tombs; wherein they placed much devotion, not without a great mixture of heathenish rites; which issued at length in prayer, adoration, and sundry acts of religious worship. But no such thing is here enjoined; no prayers for them nor to them; no dedications of temples or altars unto their memory; no preservation, much less adoration, of their relics or bones, nor ascription of miraculous cures or operations unto them; yea, the apostle, limiting the end of our remembrance of them unto our imitation of their faith and holiness, doth sufficiently condemn all these superstitions.
Obs. 1. This, therefore, is our best, this is our only way of remembering them who have been our guides, leaders, and rulers, in the church, whether they have been apostles, or evangelists, or ordinary pastors, namely, to follow them in their faith and conversation. And,
Obs. 2. This ought to be the care of the guides of the church, namely, to leave such an example of faith and holiness, as that it. may be the duty of the church to remember them, and follow their example. Alas! how many have we had, how many have we, who have left, or are likely to leave, nothing to be remembered by, but what it is the duty of the church to abhor! how many whose uselessness leads them into everlasting oblivion!
3. The apostle gives the character of the persons whom he would have them remember; and they are “those who had spoken to them the word of God.” This is the characteristical note of church guides or rulers. Those who do not labor herein unto the edification of the church, let them pretend what they will, are no such guides or rulers, nor are so esteemed by Christ or the church; nor is the remembrance of them any duty.
The “word of God” in this place, is the written word, and what is contained therein. Probably some parts of the Scripture, as the epistles of John, and the second of Peter, and certainly the Revelation, were written after this epistle. But what was then written was a sufficient, and the sole rule of faith unto the church. Yet I will not deny but that the vocal speaking of the word of God, by virtue of new revelations in them who were divinely inspired, as the apostles and evangelists, may be comprised herein. And whereas the word of the gospel is principally intended, this speaking may comprise the apostolical writings as well as their vocal preaching. For in and by them they spake, that is, delivered and declared unto them, the word of God, 1 Thessalonians 2:13. What they wrote, what they taught, by divine revelation, what others taught out of their writings and other scriptures, is this word of God.
Obs. 3. This word of God is the sole object of the faith of the church, the only outward means of communicating the mind and grace of God unto it. Wherefore upon it, the being, life, and blessedness of the church do depend. And it is that alone that is to be spoken in and unto it, in all things appertaining unto faith, obedience, or worship, even the whole discipline of Christ. To speak of traditions, canons of councils, human institutions of any sort, unto the church, belongs not unto them who have the rule of it. This they are confined unto in their whole work; nor is the church obliged to attend unto them in any thing else.
As they preached nothing but the word of God, so the expression intimates their diligence therein. They “gave themselves unto prayer and the word.” And this is the ground, the cause of the respect that is due from the church unto its guides, and this alone; namely, that they have diligently, carefully, and constantly, spoken the word of God unto them, and instructed them in the way of life thereby.
4. This remembrance of our guides is prescribed with reference unto the duty of following their faith: “Whose faith follow;” ‘So mind them and their work, in preaching the word of God, as to follow or imitate them in their faith.’
Μιμέομαι is “to imitate;” that is, lively to express an example proposed unto us. And it is the word used by the apostle unto that end which we translate “to follow,” 2Th 3:7 ; 2 Thessalonians 3:9; as μιμητής is constantly for the person performing that duty, which we render a “follower,” 1 Corinthians 4:16; 1 Corinthians 11:1; Ephesians 5:1; 1Th 1:6 ; 1 Thessalonians 2:14; Hebrews 6:12. So the word is applied unto painting, when one picture is exactly drawn by another, so as in all things to represent it. Hence one wrote under his excellent piece, Μωμήσεταί τις μᾶλλον ἣ μιμήσεται , “It is easier to envy it than to imitate it,” or do the like. So poets and players are said μιμεῖσθαι , “to imitate” the persons whom they represent; and the more accurately they do it, the more exact are they esteemed in their arts. I mention it only to show that there is more intimated in this word than “to follow” in the usual sense seems to express. It is such a following as wherein we are fully conformed unto, and do lively express, that which we are said so to follow. So a scholar may be said to follow his master, when, having attained all his arts and sciences, he acts them in the same manner as his master did. So are we to follow the faith of these guides.
Their faith may be considered two ways:
(1.) Objectively, for the faith which they taught, believed, and professed, or the truth which they did believe.
(2.) Subjectively, for the grace of faith in them, whereby they believed that truth. And it is here taken in the latter sense; for their faith in the other sense is not to be imitated, but professed. Nor doth the apostle, by their faith, intend only the grace of faith in them, but its whole exercise, in all that they did and suffered. Their faith was that which purified their hearts, and made them fruitful in their lives. Especially, it was that whereby they glorified God in all that they did and suffered for the name of Jesus Christ. Wherefore saith the apostle, ‘Remember them; and in so doing, remember their faith, with what it enabled them to do and suffer for the gospel, their faith in its principle, and all the blessed effects of it.’In the principle, this faith is the same, as unto the nature of it, in all true believers, whether they are rulers or under rule, 2 Peter 1:1. But it differs in its fruits and effects. In these they were eminent. And therefore are the Hebrews here enjoined to secure it in its principle, and to express it in its exercise, even as they did.
Herein are we to imitate and follow them. No mere man, not the best of men, is to be our pattern or example absolutely, or in all things, this honor is due unto Christ alone; but they may be so, we ought to make them so, with respect unto those graces and duties wherein they were eminent. So the apostle proposeth himself as an example to believers, 1 Corinthians 4:16; Php 3:17 ; 1 Thessalonians 1:6: but with this limitation, as he followed Christ, 1 Corinthians 11:1. And,
Obs. 4. A due consideration of the faith of those who have been before us, especially of such who were constant in sufferings, above all, that were so unto death, as the holy martyrs in former and latter ages, is an effectual means to stir us up unto the same exercise of faith, when we are called unto it. And if the imitation of former ages had kept itself within these bounds, they had been preserved from those excesses whereby at length all the memory of them was corrupted and polluted.
5. The last thing in the words, is the motive that the apostle gives unto this duty of following their faith; which ariseth from the consideration of the “end of their conversation,” or what, through their faith, they came or were brought unto. ‘They have,’saith he, ‘finished their course in this world.’ What was their “conversation,” what was the “end” of it, and how it was to be “considered,” and wherein the so doing was a motive to “follow their faith,” lies before us in these words.
(1.) ᾿Αναστροφή is the word constantly used in the New Testament to express the way or course of men’s walking and converse in the world, with respect unto moral duties, and the whole of the obedience which God requires of them; which we usually call their “conversation.” And it is used concerning that which is bad and to be disallowed, as well as that which is good and approved. But usually when it is used in the first sense, it hath some discriminating epithet joined with it, as “evil,” “vain,” or “former,” Galatians 1:13; Eph 4:22 ; 1 Peter 1:18. In a good sense we have it, 1 Timothy 4:12; James 3:13; 1 Peter 1:15; 1Pe 3:2 ; 1 Peter 3:16. This is that which God enjoins in the covenant: “Walk before me, and be thou upright” Our “conversation” is our walk before God in all duties of obedience.
(2.) This conversation of theirs had now received its ἔκβασις . The word is but once more used, and then we render it “an escape:” Σὺν τῷ πειρασμᾷ καὶ τὴν ἔκβασιν , 1 Corinthians 10:13; “Together with the temptation an escape,” or “a way to escape.” It is not therefore merely an “end” that is intended: nor doth the word signify a common end, issue, or event of things; but an end accompanied with a deliverance from, and so a conquest over, such difficulties and dangers as men were before exposed unto. These persons, in the whole course of their conversation, were exercised with difficulties, dangers, and sufferings, all attempting to stop them in their way, or to turn them out of it. But what did it all amount unto, what was the issue of their conflict? It was a blessed deliverance from all troubles, and conquest over them. And it is not so much their conversation, as this end of it, which the apostle here calls them unto the consideration of; which yet cannot be done without a right consideration of the conversation itself. Consider what it came to. Their faith failed not, their hope did not perish, they were not disappointed, but had a blessed end of their walk and course.
(3.) This they are advised to “consider,” ἀναθεωροῦντες . The word is but once more used in the New Testament, where the apostle applies it to express the consideration which he took of the devotion or the altars of the Athenians, Acts 17:23. He looked diligently on them, again and again, with a reiterated inspection, to read and take notice of their inscriptions; which required a curious and careful consideration. Such is here spoken of; not consisting in some slight, transient thoughts, with which we usually pass over such things, but a repeated, reiterated contemplation of the matter, with its causes and circumstances.
(4.) And in the last place, by their so doing they would be stirred up to follow their faith. It was a motive to them so to do. For their faith it was which carried them through all their difficulties and all their temptations, and gave them a blessed issue out of them all. See James 5:10-11.
Vulg., “Jesus Christus heri et hodie, ipse et in seculum;” “Jesus Christ, yesterday and to-day,” (where it placeth the comma,)” and he [is] the same for ever.” So Beza; “Jesus Christ yesterday, and to-day, and he is the same for ever.” Others, better, “Jesus Christus heri et hodie, idem etiam est in secula.” So the Syriac, וְהוּיוּ וַלְעָלַם , “is the same, and for ever.” 
 EXPOSITION. This is a distinct sentence, in which the substantive verb is understood. It is often read as if in grammatical construction with the preceding verse, and Jesus Christ were “the end” there mentioned. But the different cases of the two words in the Greek show that this is a mistake. Turner. Ebrard understands it as a motive to enforce the exhortation in verse 7, enjoinining the imitation of deceased rulers in the church, and adopts the interpretation of Calvin, “The same Christ, trusting in whom those died, still lives to-day, and is also our consolation.” ED.
Hebrews 13:8 . Jesus Christ the same yesterday, to-day, and forever. Two things are to be considered in these words: first, the occasion of them; and then their sense and meaning. And as unto the occasion of their use in this place, some think that they refer to what went before, in confirmation of it; some unto what follows after, as a direction in it; and some observe their usefulness unto both these ends. But this will be the more clearly discovered when the sense of them is agreed upon. For to me they appear as a glorious light which the apostle sets up to guide our minds in the consideration of his whole discourse, that we may see whence it all proceeds, and whereunto it tends. He is the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the beginner and finisher of our faith, as we shall see.
There are various interpretations of the words; of these especially, “yesterday” and “to-day. By “to-day,” all understand the present time, or the time during the dispensation of the gospel. By “yesterday,” Enjedinus says that a short time before is intended; that which was of late, namely, since the birth of Christ, at most; which was not long before. He is followed by Schlichtingius and all the Socinians. Than this there cannot be a more absurd sense given of the words For when we say of any one that he is of yesterday, χθὲς καὶ πρώην , it is spoken of him in contempt. “We are of yesterday, and know nothing,” Job 8:9. But the design of the apostle is to utter that which tends to the honor of Christ, and not unto his diminution. And the Scripture expressions of him unto this purpose are constantly of another nature. “He was in the beginning, he was with God, and he was God;” “The LORD possessed me in the beginning of his way;” “Whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting.” The same Holy Spirit doth not say of him he is of yesterday, a new god, whom their fathers knew not. Nor is such an intimation of any use unto the purpose of the apostle. Grotius, and he that follows him, would have “yesterday” to denote the time wherein the rulers before mentioned did live, as “today” is the present time of these Hebrews. But this sense also is jejune, and nothing to the mind of the apostle, invented only for an evasion from the testimony supposed to be here given unto the eternity of the person of Christ; which I wonder the other did not observe, who follows not Grotius in such things.
“Yesterday,” say some, is used here not only for all time that is past, but unto the spring of it in eternity; as “to-day” signifies the whole course of time to the end of the world; and “for ever,” that everlasting state that doth ensue. Neither is this unconsonant unto what the Scripture affirms of Christ in other places. See the exposition on Hebrews 1:10-12.
By “yesterday,” some understand the time of the old testament, that dispensation of God and his grace that was now ceased, and become like the day that is past. And a day it was, Hebrews 3:0; and it was now as yesterday. And so “to-day” denotes the times of the gospel. Neither is there any thing in this interpretation that is uncompliant with the analogy of faith.
But clearly to comprehend the mind of the Holy Ghost herein, sundry things are to be observed; as,
1. That it is the person of Jesus Christ that is spoken of. Nor is this whole name, Jesus Christ, ever used unto any other purpose but to signify his person. It is false, therefore, that it is here taken metonymically for his doctrine, or the gospel; nor is such a sense any way to the purpose of the apostle.
2. Where the person of Christ is intended, there his divine nature is always included; for Christ is God and man in one person.
3. The apostle speaks not of the person of Christ absolutely, but with respect unto his office, and his discharge of it; or he declares who and what he was therein.
4. It is from his divine person, that, in the discharge of his office, he was ὁ αὐτὸς , “the same.” So it is said of him, Σὺ δὲ ὁ αὐτὸς ει῏ Hebrews 1:12, “But thou art the same;” that is, eternal, immutable, indeficient. See the exposition of that place.
5. Being so in himself, he is so in his office from first to last; so that, although divers alterations were made in the institutions of divine worship, and there were many degrees and parts of divine revelation, yet in and through them all Jesus Christ was still the same. Wherefore,
6. There is no need to affix a determinate, distinct sense, as unto the notation of time, unto each word, as “yesterday,” “to-day,” and “for ever;” the apostle designing, by a kind of proverbial speech, wherein respect is had unto all seasons, to denote the eternity and immutability of Christ in them all. To the same purpose he is said to be ὁ ὧν , καὶ ὁ η῏ν , καὶ ὁ ἐρχόμενος , Revelation 1:4; “he who is, and who was, and who is to come.”
7. This, then, is the sense of these words: Jesus Christ, in every state of the church, in every condition of believers, is the same unto them, being always the same in his divine person; and will be so unto the consummation of all things. He is, he ever was, all and in all unto the church. He is “the same,” the author, object, and finisher of faith; the preserver and rewarder of them that believe, and that equally in all generations.
Our last inquiry is concerning the connection of these words with the other parts of the apostle’s discourse, and what is the use of the interposition of this assertion in this place. And it is agreed that it may have respect either unto what goes before, or what follows after, or unto both. And this we may comply with; though, as I observed before, there is a great appearance that it stands absolutely by itself, as directing believers, on all occasions of duty such as he insists on, whither they should retreat and repair in their minds for direction, relief, and supportment; namely, unto Jesus Christ, who is always the same for these ends. Whatever difficulties they may meet withal in the duties of their evangelical profession, let them but remember who it is that is concerned in them and with them, and it will give them both strength and encouragement.
But the words have a seasonable respect unto what goeth before, and what follows after them. In the preceding verse (for we have no reason to look higher in this series of duties, independent one on another) the Hebrews are enjoined to persevere in the faith of their first apostolical teachers, and to have the same faith in themselves as they had. Now, whereas they had by their faith a blessed and victorious end of their whole conversation, they might consider, that Jesus Christ, who is always the same in himself, would likewise be the same to them, to give them the like blessed end of their faith and obedience. As he was when they believed in him, so he is now unto them; because he is in himself always the same, and forever. No greater encouragement could be given them unto diligence in this duty:
‘You shall find Christ unto you what he was unto them.’As unto that part of his discourse which follows, it is a dehortation from strange doctrines and the observation of Judaical ceremonies. And unto both parts of it this declaration of the nature and office of Christ is subservient. For here a rule is fixed as unto trial of all doctrines, namely, the acknowledgment of Christ in his person and office; which in the like case is given us by the apostle 1 John 4:2-3. Let this foundation be laid, Whatever complies with the revelation hereof is true and genuine; what doth not, is various and strange. And as unto the other part of the dehortation, ‘To what end,’saith the apostle, ‘should men trouble themselves with the distinction of meats, and the like Mosaical observances, whereas in the time wherein they were enjoined they were in themselves of no advantage, though for a season they had their especial ends? for it was Christ alone that even then was all unto the church, as unto its acceptance with God.’
And so I hope we have restored these words unto their sense and use. And we may observe, that,
Obs. 1. The due consideration of Jesus Christ, especially in his eternity, immutability, and indeficiency in his power, as he is always the same, is the great encouragement of believers in their whole profession of the faith, and all the difficulties they may meet withal upon the account thereof.
Obs. 2. As no changes formerly made in the institutions of divine worship altered any thing in the faith of the church with respect unto Christ, for he was, and is still the same; so no necessitudes we may meet withal in our profession, by oppression or persecution, ought in the least to shake us, for Christ is still the same, to protect, relieve, and deliver us.
Obs. 3. He that can in the way of his duty on all occasions retreat unto Jesus Christ, and the due consideration of his person in the discharge of his office, will not fail of relief, supportment, and consolation.
Obs. 4. A steadfast cleaving unto the truth concerning the person and office of Christ, will preserve us from hearkening to various and strange doctrines perverting our souls. And,
Obs. 5. Jesus Christ from the beginning of the world was the object of the faith of the church; that is, from the giving of the first promise. And,
Obs. 6. It is the immutability and eternity of Jesus Christ in his divine person that renders him a meet object of the faith of the church in the discharge of his office.
All which truths are contained in this assertion of the apostle, with the occasion and use of it in this place.
The ensuing context, from hence unto the 17th verse, seems abstruse, and the reasonings of the apostle in it not easy to be apprehended. But expositors do generally overlook it, and attend only unto the exposition of the parts of it severally by themselves. To find out the mind of the Holy Ghost in the whole, we must consider the design of the apostle in it, and how he deduces one thing from another. These things, therefore, we must inquire into; and thereby the way will be prepared for the exposition of the several parts of the discourse itself. And we must take our rise from the occasion of it.
1. There was at this time not only an obstinate adherence unto Mosaical ceremonies amongst many of the Jews who professed the gospel, but also an endeavor to re-enforce their necessity, and to impose their observation upon others. These things the apostle opposeth in the whole epistle; and on the occasion of the mention of Christ with his unchangeableness in the church, he adds in this place a dehortation in general from a continuance in the observance of those rites, or reaching after doctrines concerning them; such as were taught amongst the Gentiles by some out of Judea, Acts 15:1.
2. He adds a reason of this dehortation and warning; which is, their inconsistency with the gospel, the nature of Christian religion, and that great principle of it, namely, that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, to- day, and for ever.” And he proceedeth herein on sundry acknowledged principles, which he supposeth or expresseth.
(1.) He supposeth that the spring of all their observances about meats, eating or not eating, and consequently of the other rites of the same nature, was from the altar. With respect thereunto was the determination of things clean and unclean. For what might be offered on the altar, was clean; and what might not, was not so. And sundry laws there are of what may be eaten of the sacrifices by the priests, and what might not.
(2.) That the foundation of religion lies in an altar; for it doth so in an atonement for sin made in it, or upon it. And by it is all our worship to be offered unto God; nor can it be otherwise accepted with him. Wherefore he affirms that we also have an altar; yet not of such a nature as that from thence any distinction of meats should ensue, Hebrews 12:10.
(3.) That whatever be the benefits of this altar of ours, the way of the participation of them is not the administration of the services of the old tabernacle; nor could they who administered therein claim a title or right unto them by virtue of any divine institution, but if they rested in that administration, they were excluded from them.
3. He adds the reason hereof, taken from the nature of our altar, and the sacrifice thereon; which is a sacrifice of expiation, to sanctify the people by blood. And in the very type of it, it was declared that there was no right of eating or distinction of meats to ensue thereon. For in the solemn sacrifices of expiation and atonement, as we shall see, the blood of them was carried into the holy place, and the bodies of them were burned entirely without the camp, so as that the priests themselves had no right to eat any thing of them, Hebrews 12:11-12.
4. In answer hereunto, the Lord Christ, who is himself both our altar and our sacrifice, in the offering of himself, carried his own blood, in the efficacy of it for atonement, into the holy place of heaven; and suffered in his body “without the gate,” or in the place answering unto that without the camp wherein the bodies of the beasts that were sacrificed were burned, Hebrews 12:12. So that there is no place now left for eating, or distinction of meats. Yea,
5. Hereby a new state of religion, answerable unto the nature of this altar and sacrifice, is introduced, wherewith those observances which depended on the nature and use of the altar at the tabernacle were utterly inconsistent. Wherefore, whoever adhered unto them did therein renounce this altar of ours, and the religion founded thereon; for none can have an interest in two altars at the same time, of such different natures, and drawing after them such different religious observations. And,
6. He adds, in the last place, what we are to learn from the nature and use of our altar and sacrifice, in opposition unto the meats which belonged to the old typical altar. And hereof he instanceth in patient bearing of the cross, or suffering for Christ, verse 13; self-denial, as unto any interest in temporal enjoyments, verse 14; the continual worship of God in and by spiritual sacrifices, made acceptable in Christ, our altar, priest, and sacrifice, verse 15; and usefulness amongst men in all good works of piety and charity, verse 16; these being the only sacrifices that we are now called unto.
I hope we have not missed the apostle’s design and reasoning in this analysis of his discourse; which makes his sublime way of arguing in this great mystery plain and evident, and gives us a safe rule for the interpretation of every particular passage in it.
Hebrews 13:9 . Διδαχαῖς ποικιλαις καὶ ξέναις μὴ περιφέρεσθε· καλὸν γὰρ χάριτι βεβαιοῦσθαι τὴν καρδίαν , οὐ βρώμασιν , ἐν οἷς οὐκ ὠφελήθησαν οἱ περιπατήσαντες .
Hebrews 13:9 . Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines; for [ it is ] good that the heart be established with grace; not with meats, which have not profited them that have walked in them.
There is an inference in these words from what was before asserted concerning the immutability of Christ, and his continuing the same in the church forever; and several things are included in it.
1. A supposition that the truth concerning the person and office of Christ, whereon all other evangelical truths and duties do depend, had been once delivered unto the Hebrews, by them that had spoken unto them the word of God; of whom mention is made Hebrews 13:7.
2. That this doctrine is one; whence in the church there is but “one faith,” Ephesians 4:3-6; and that “once delivered unto the saints,” Jude 1:3, in the revelation made of it by Christ and the apostles, Hebrews 2:3-4. Hence whatever agrees not with it, that proceeds not from it, is uncertain, foreign and alien unto the faith of the church.
3. That by this doctrine the hearts of believers were established in peace with God, and assurance of their acceptance with him.
4. That as there were direct oppositions made unto this doctrine by the obstinate Jews at that time, so there were amongst those who outwardly professed the Christian religion sundry doctrines broached and maintained that were indeed inconsistent with that one faith, and served to no end but to entangle the minds of believers, and at length to turn them off from the gospel.
5. That experience had already evinced the folly of those new doctrines, inasmuch as the things which they led unto were of no use unto the souls of men. And,
6. In particular, this was the state of those doctrines about Mosaical institutions in the distinction of meats, and things of an alike nature, which many false teachers did then press upon them with great noise and earnestness.
This is the design and substance of the apostle’s discourse in this verse, which we shall now consider in particular.
The words contain a dehortation from an evil, with the reason or enforcement of it.
First, The dehortation is in these words, “Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines.” And we must inquire what these “strange doctrines” were; and what it is to be “carried about” with them.
1. It is evident that the doctrines intended were such as did then infest the churches of the Hebrews; others they were not in present danger of. And this is manifest in the especial instance given about meats. And they are called “various,” as it may be on other accounts, (as we shall see,) so because they were not reducible unto that “one faith” which was “once delivered unto the saints.” And they are called “strange,” or “alien,” as being of another kind than they, no way related unto them.
And it may be they are said to be “various,” because they had no consistency nor agreement among themselves. For so some think that the apostle had respect unto the doctrines which were controverted in the schools of the Jews, between the followers of Hillel on the one side, and Shammai on the other. But these they kept within themselves, and never troubled the Christian churches withal. Howbeit, because the Jews placed much of their religion in these doctrines, and their contests about them, it may be the apostle here reflects on them, as he doth in other places, Titus 1:14; Titus 3:9; 1 Timothy 1:4. But I rather think he calls them “various” from their object. They were about various things. So he calls, by another word of the same signification, the Jewish rites, “divers” or “various washings,” Hebrews 9:10. The things were many and various, and so were the doctrines concerning them; which are since multiplied in their Talmud and other writings, into such a heap of confusion as is inexpressible. Or he calls them “various,” as those which took off the mind from its stability, tossing it up and down in all uncertainties; as variety of doctrines is apt to do. When once men begin to give ear unto such doctrines, they lose all the rest and composure of their minds; as we see by experience.
And they are “strange,” as being concerning things foreign to the gospel, that are uncompliant with the nature and genius of it. Such are all doctrines about religious ceremonies, and the scrupulous observation of them; for “the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost,” Romans 14:17.
2. With respect unto these doctrines, the charge in the dehortation is, that they should not be “carried about” with them. To the same purpose he useth the same word, Ephesians 4:14, “Tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine.” There is an allusion unto ships, and the impression of the wind upon them; for the word joined with this here used, κλυδωνιζόμενος , signifies one that is tossed on the waves of the sea when they are agitated by the wind. And a similitude it is lively expressing both the nature of these strange doctrines, the way of spreading of them, and their effects on the minds of men. In themselves they are light and vain as the wind, or “clouds without water, carried about of winds.” And those who would impose them on others commonly do it with a great and vehement blustering. ‘You must be circumcised, or you cannot be saved!’ as Acts 15:1. ‘Unless you believe and practice these things, you are heretics, or schismatics, and cannot be saved!’All imposition of doctrine is with such a noise and wind. And the effects of them on the minds of men are as those of contrary winds at sea. They toss men up and down; they turn them out of their course, and endanger their destruction. So is it with these doctrines: First, they fill the minds of men with uncertainties, as unto what they have believed, and as unto what is proposed unto them; and then, for the most part, they alter the whole course of their profession; and lastly, endanger their eternal ruin. All these are fully exemplified in the instance of the Galatian churches, which were carried about with these strange doctrines. See Galatians 1:6-7; Galatians 3:1; Galatians 4:9-11; Galatians 5:1-5. Throughout that whole epistle the evil here cautioned against is evidently exemplified.
And there are many weighty directions intimated and included in these words, for the use of the church at all seasons; as,
Obs. 1. That there is a revelation of truth given unto the church in the word of God; which is the only doctrinal foundation and rule of faith unto it.
Obs. 2. That this doctrine is cognate, and every way suited unto the promotion of the grace of God in believers, and the attainment of their own salvation.
Obs. 3. That doctrines unsuited unto this first revelation by Christ and his apostles, as recorded in the Scripture, alien and foreign from them, did soon spring up, unto the trouble of the church; they had done so in those days, and continued to do so in all ensuing ages.
Obs. 4. That usually such doctrines as are empty of truth and substance, useless and foreign to the nature and genius of evangelical grace and truth, are imposed by their authors and abettors with great noise and vehemency on those who have been instructed in the truth.
Obs. 5. Where such doctrines are entertained, they make men double-minded, unstable, turning them from the truth, and drawing them at length into perdition.
Obs. 6. The ruin of the church in after ages arose from the neglect of this apostolical caution, in giving heed unto various and strange doctrines; which at length overthrew and excluded the fundamental doctrines of the gospel.
Obs. 7. Herein lies the safety of all believers, and all churches, namely, to keep themselves precisely unto the first complete revelation of divine truth in the word of God. Let men pretend what they will, and bluster whilst they please, in an adherence unto this principle we are safe; and if we depart from it, we shall be hurried and carried about through innumerable uncertainties unto ruin.
Secondly, The remaining words give a reason and enforcement of this charge. So the conjunctive particle, “for,” doth declare. And a particular instance is given of those doctrines which he had warned them about, namely, “meats.” And in the words there is,
1. An end proposed which ought to be aimed at in the profession of religion; and that is, “the establishment of the heart.”
2. Two ways mentioned whereby, as is pleaded, it may be attained; and they are “grace” and “meats.”
3. A preference given herein unto grace: “It is good that the heart be established with grace, not with meats.”
4. A reason is added hereof from the insufficiency of meats unto that purpose: “They have not profited them that walked in them.” All which must be opened.
1. The end to be aimed at in the profession of religion, is, that “the heart be established.” The “heart,” that is, of every believer, and so of them all Βεβαιόω is to “confirm,” to “establish;” and is applied both to things and persons. So the word of the gospel is said to be “confirmed” or “established by signs,” Mark 16:20; and the testimony of Christ, 1 Corinthians 1:6; and the promises, by their accomplishment, Romans 15:8. And so it is applied unto persons, 1 Corinthians 1:8, “confirm” or “establish you;” “he that stablisheth us,” 2 Corinthians 1:21; and we are said to be “established in the faith,” Colossians 2:7: in all which places the same word is used. And “the heart” is here taken for the mind, the soul or spirit, as is usual in the Scripture. Wherefore, to have “the established,” is to be so confirmed in the faith, as to have these two effects wrought thereby:
(1.) A fixed persuasion of the mind in the truth; a just, firm settlement of mind in the assurance of it. This is opposed unto a being “tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine” Ephesians 4:14. And hereunto it is required that the pure doctrine of the gospel be embraced.
(2.) That through the truth the heart do enjoy peace with God; which alone will establish it, giving it firmitude and rest in every condition. It is to be kept in perfect peace, with the mind stayed on God. This is that which we ought to aim at in and by religion Hereby the mind comes to assured peace; which nothing can give but grace, as we shall see. And hereby the heart is rendered unmovable, 1 Corinthians 15:58.
2. The heart is thus “established by grace.” “Grace” is a word of various significations. There is one who hath reckoned up a great number of places to prove that by grace the gospel is signified, whereof scarce any one doth prove it. The gospel is indeed sometimes called “the word of God’s grace;” and sometimes it may be metonymically grace, as being the means of the revelation of the grace of God, and the instrument of the communication of it unto believers, “the power of God unto salvation.” Wherefore “grace” here, is the free grace of God in Christ Jesus, for the justification and sanctification of the church, as it is revealed in the gospel. The revelation of it in the gospel is included, but it is the grace of God himself that is principally intended. In brief, “grace” here is to be taken comprehensively, for the grace, good-will, and love of God towards men, as it came by Jesus Christ, as it is revealed in the gospel as the cause of our justification and acceptance with God, in opposition unto the works of the law and the observance of Mosaical rites unto that end. This is the most eminent signification of “grace,” with respect unto the expiation of our sins in the blood of Christ, and the pardon of them thereon, revealed and tendered unto us in the gospel. This is that alone which doth, which can, which will, establish the heart of a sinner in peace with God, Romans 5:1; which will keep it from being moved or tossed up and down with a sense of the guilt of sin, or divine displeasure.
That which is opposed hereunto, with respect unto the same end, is meats, “Not with meats.” Not that the heart may be established by meats also; for this the apostle denies in the next words. The meaning is, not that there are indeed two ways whereby the heart may be established, the one by grace, the other by meats; but that grace is the only way thereof, though some foolishly pretended that it might be done by meats. That by “meats,” in this case, the apostle doth constantly intend the religious distinction of meats among the Jews, is openly evident. See Rom 14:17 ; 1 Corinthians 8:8; Colossians 2:16; Hebrews 9:10. There is no reason, therefore, to question but that this is the sense of it in this place. And as in other places, so here, by a synecdoche, the whole system of Mosaical institutions is intended, but expressed by “ meats, ” because of their immediate relation unto the altar, whereof the apostle designs to speak.
All distinction of meats among the Jews, as was before observed, arose from the altar. And those meats were of two sorts; such as were enjoined or prohibited by way of duty, and such as were obtained by way of privilege. Of the first sort was the distinction of meats, clean and unclean. For when the apostle speaks of meats, he doth not intend only the eating of meats in a particular way and manner, (though, as we shall see, he intends that also,) but an abstinence also from eating of meats, by virtue of divine prohibition; concerning which were those legal institutions which the apostle expresseth by “Touch not, taste not, handle not,” Colossians 2:21. And in these abstinences from meats the Jews placed so much of their religion, that they would rather die by the cruelest tortures than eat flesh prohibited by the law; and that justly and according to their duty, whilst the divine prohibition was yet in force. And this distinction of meats arose from the altar. The beasts that might be offered at the altar in sacrifice were clean: for therein the first-fruits, or principal part, being dedicated unto God, the whole of the kind became clean unto the people. And what had not the privilege of the altar, was prohibited unto the people. Again, there were meats that were obtained by privilege; and such were the portions taken from the sacrifices, that the priests, and in some cases (as of the thank-offering, Leviticus 7:11-15) other clean persons, might and did eat, by divine institution. And these kinds of meats depended solely on the altar. This institution is mentioned only to show the ground of the apostle’s rejecting all these kinds of meats on this consideration, that we have an altar of another sort, whereon no such institutions do depend, nor can any such differences in meats arise.
And hence we may see the reason why the Jews laid so much weight on these meats, namely, because the taking of them away, the distinction about them and the privilege of them, did declare that their altar, which was the life and center of their religion, was of no more use. And hence we may also see the reason of the apostle’s different treating with them in this matter. For speaking of meats in themselves, and in their own nature, he declares that the use or forbearing of them is a thing indifferent, wherein every one is to be left unto his own liberty, to be regulated only by offense or scandal (see Romans 14:0 throughout); but when he treats of them as unto a necessary observation, as deriving from the altar, he utterly condemns them, and shows that their observance did evacuate the gospel, Galatians 2:0; Colossians 2:16-23.
From this apprehension of their derivation from the altar, the Judaizing Christians had a conceit that they were of use to establish the heart; that is, had an influence into our justification and peace with God. This the apostle here rejects; as he vehemently disputes against it in his whole epistle to the Galatians.
3. The next thing in the words is the way whereby the apostle assigns this whole effect of establishing the heart unto grace, and wholly takes it away from meats, or the manner of the expression used by him, “It is good,” etc. The meaning is, the heart is to be established; and that not only as unto the essence of that duty, or grace, but as unto such degrees of it as may safeguard and preserve it from being “carried about with various and strange doctrines,” or otherwise shaken as unto its peace. ‘This is good, this is excellent,’saith the apostle, ‘when it is done by grace; this is approved of God; this it is our duty to labor after.’And in this positive the comparative is included (the Vulgate renders it by the superlative, “optimus”), it is so good and excellent as to be far better than a false, pretended settlement by meats. And this the apostle proves in the last place, from the insufficiency of meats unto that end, taken from experience.
4. “Which have not profited them who have walked in them.” To walk in meats, is to assent unto and observe the doctrine concerning them “Touch not, taste not, handle not.” And he speaketh of the time past, both whilst the distinction of meats was in force, and since it was taken away. For of themselves they profited not those who observed them, even whilst the institutions concerning them were in force; for they were a part of the
“yoke” that was imposed on them “until the time of reformation,” Hebrews 9:10. And so far as they were trusted unto as a means of acceptance with God, they were pernicious unto them: which the apostle by a common figure intimates, in that “they did not profit them;” that is, they tended to their hurt. And it was much more so with them who continued to walk in them after the obligation thereunto did cease. They were so far from having their hearts established, as that they received no benefit or advantage, but much hurt and prejudice, by them. And we see,
Obs. 8. That those who decline in any thing from grace, as the only means to establish their hearts in peace with God, shall labor and exercise themselves in other things and ways unto the same end, whereby they shall receive no advantage. And this is the state of all false worshippers in the world, especially in the papal church, and those that follow its example.
Hebrews 13:10 . ῎Εχομεν θυσιαστήριον , ἐξ οὗ φαγεῖν οὐκ ἔχουσιν ἐξουσίαν οἱ τῇ σκηνῇ λατρεύοντες .
Hebrews 13:10 . We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat who serve the tabernacle. The design of the context and the coherence of the words have in general been spoken unto before. The introduction of them, at first view, seems to be abrupt; but whereas he had spoken in the foregoing verse about meats, treating here about a right to eat or not, it is evident that he hath a respect thereunto. Wherefore, having asserted the only way of the establishment of the heart in peace with God, and the uselessness of all distinctions of meats unto that purpose, he here declareth the foundation of the truth on the one side and the other. For whereas the sole ground of all distinction of meats and other ceremonies among the Jews, was the altar in the tabernacle, with its nature, use, and services; he lets them know that that altar being now removed, and taken away, we have an altar of another nature, which requireth and produceth services quite of another kind than those which arose from the altar of old, such as he describes, Hebrews 13:13-15. This is the direct design of the apostle in this place, and the proper analysis of his words.
There is in the words,
1. An assertion, “We have an altar.”
2. A. limitation of its use, by a rejection of them who had a right unto the privileges of the old altar, “Whereof those have no right,” etc.
1. “We have;” that is, ‘ We also, who believe in Christ according to the gospel, and worship God in spirit and truth, we also have an altar; we have every thing in the sub stance, whereof they of old had only the name and shadow.’
What this altar is which the Christian church hath and useth, there have been some disputes, occasioned by the superstition of latter ages. For some would have it a material altar made of stone, whereon an unbloody sacrifice of the flesh and blood of Christ is offered by priests every day; plainly of the same kind, nature, and use, with that in the tabernacle. And thence this altar also hath been made the spring of many ceremonial observances, distinction of meats, with such an eating of flesh from it as is indeed destructive of all religion. And some think that the table which the church useth in the celebration of the supper of the Lord is here metaphorically called an altar, because of the communication of the sacrifice of Christ which is made at it. But these things are wholly foreign to the design of the apostle. The altar which we now have is Christ alone, and his sacrifice. For he was both priest, altar, and sacrifice, all in himself; and continueth still so to be unto the church, as unto all the use and efficacy of them. And this is evident in the context. For,
(1.) This altar here is, in its nature, use, and efficacy, opposed unto the altar in the tabernacle, as it is express in the words of this verse; but that which throughout this whole discourse the apostle opposeth unto all the utensils, services, and sacrifices of the tabernacle, is Christ alone, and the sacrifice of himself, as is manifest and undeniable. Besides, the opposition he makes is between signs and things signified, shadows and the substance, types and the reality of the things themselves; but it is fond to imagine that the altar of old was a type, a sign, a shadow of a table in the church, or that any thing but Christ was so [signified].
(2.) The apostle doth declare who and what it is that he intends by the altar which we have; namely, that it is Jesus, who, to sanctify the people with his blood, which was to be done at or on the altar, “suffered without the gate,” Hebrews 13:12. And by him, as our altar, we are to offer our sacrifices unto God, Hebrews 13:15. This is Christ and his sacrifice alone.
(3.) The sacrifices which we are obliged unto by virtue of this altar are such as have no respect unto any material altar, but are such as are to be offered unto God through Christ alone, as all the Scripture testifieth, Hebrews 13:15; namely, “the sacrifice of praise,” which is “the fruit of our lips, confessing unto his name;” which leads us off from all thoughts and conceptions of any material altar.
(4.) In those days, and in some ages after, the Christians had no material altars; and they denied on all occasions that they had any.
Estius, one of the soberest expositors of the Roman church, concludes that it is Christ and his sacrifice alone that is intended in this place. But he adds withal, that because the fathers (that is, some of them, for all do not) do expound it of the altar for the sacrament in the church, the heretics are to be urged with their authority for a material altar and sacrifice in the church! wherein he extremely departs from his wonted modesty. For can any man in his wits suppose that the authority of men asserting a confessed untruth, can be of any weight in way of testimony? If a man should produce witnesses in any cause, and after he hath declared of what credit they are, and how they deserve to be believed, should add, that what they bear witness unto is undoubtedly false, would not his plea of testimonies be weak and contemptible? Yea, is not this sufficient to warrant any man to question their bare authority in other things, when, as it seems, they agree so well in that which is untrue? But thus it falls out frequently with this Estius in his commentaries. When he hath (which he doth frequently, in things of great importance) come nearer the truth than the current expositions of the Roman church will bear, he is forced to countenance himself by some impertinent reflections on Calvin, or Beza, or the sectaries in general, which he hath neither occasion nor countenance for from the context; so vile a thing is ecclesiastical bondage.
The truth is, this place is so far from giving countenance unto the altar and sacrifice on it in the church of Rome, that it sufficiently testifieth that the apostle knew not of any such thing; but proposeth a scheme of Christian profession and worship, utterly inconsistent with them, as we shall see in the ensuing exposition. For whereas their altar, with its sacrifice, is the life and soul of their religion, without which they profess they have none, and contend that there can be none, and that all the mystery and solemnity of their sacred worship consist in the observances and veneration of and at this altar, whereon they have slain or burned to ashes innumerable Christians for their non-compliance with them in the faith and worship of this altar and its sacrifice, the apostle here, where, if anywhere, he had occasion to make mention of it, yea, to declare its whole nature and use in the church, and at least give some intimation of its way of observance, wherein all the glory of their worship doth consist, doth not only pass it by in silence, but also, avowing Christ himself to be our altar, and asserting a worship or service thereon of no alliance, as we shall see, unto their altar service, he leaves their altar, its sacrifice, and services, quite out of the compass of our Christian profession. But I return. And we may observe,
Obs. 1. That the Lord Christ, in the one sacrifice of himself, is the only altar of the church of the new testament.
Obs. 2. That this altar is every way sufficient in itself for the end of an altar, namely, the sanctification of the people; as Hebrews 13:12.
Obs. 3. The erection of any other altar in the church, or the introduction of any other sacrifice requiring a material altar, is derogatory to the sacrifice of Christ, and exclusive of him from being our altar.
Obs. 4. Whereas the design of the apostle, in the whole of his discourse, is to declare the glory of the gospel and its worship above that of the law, of our priest above theirs, of our sacrifice above theirs, of our altar above theirs; it is fond to think, that by our altar, he intends such a material fabric as is every way inferior unto that of old.
Obs. 5. When God appointed a material altar for his service, he himself enjoined the making of it, prescribed its form and use, with all its utensils, services, and ceremonies, allowing of nothing in it, or about it, but what was by himself appointed; it is not therefore probable, that under the new testament there should be a material altar of equal necessity with that under the old, accompanied in its administrations with various utensils, ceremonies, and services, neither itself nor any of them being of divine appointment. But,
Obs. 6. Sinners under a sense of guilt have in the gospel an altar of atonement, whereunto they may have continual access for the expiation of their sins. He is the propitiation.
2. The limitation of the use of this altar ensues: “Whereof they have no right to eat who serve the tabernacle.” The persons excluded from the right mentioned are those who “serve the tabernacle.” The apostle speaks in the present tense, those “who do serve,” or “who are serving” at the tabernacle. For he hath respect unto the original institution of divine worship, and that was in and under the tabernacle; and he takes no notice of the things that ensued on the erection of the temple, which made no alteration in the worship itself. And supposing them in the state wherein they were at first appointed, he expresseth it in the present tense, “that do serve.”
“That do serve:” The word is used constantly for the services that are used in sacred worship. So it is here; those who administered the things belonging unto divine worship in the tabernacle. These were the priests and Levites, in their several orders and degrees.
These had a right to eat of the altar in the tabernacle; that is, of the things that were consecrated thereby, and a part whereof was offered thereon. Hereunto they had a right by divine institution. For they who minister about holy things, eat the things of the temple; and they that wait at the altar, partake with the altar, 1 Corinthians 9:13. So also 1 Corinthians 10:18; wherein the apostle had respect unto the institutions of the law giving right unto the priests to eat of things sanctified by the altar. And it was a right which did appropriate this privilege unto them. It was not lawful for any others to eat any thing from the altar, unless it were in the case of the thank-offering, by especial indulgence, or in case of extreme necessity, Matthew 12:3-4.
This right, or any other of an alike nature, they had not, to eat of that altar which we have.
“Whereof,” “of which;” the altar, and all the things which are sanctified thereby.
“To eat:” Eating was the only way of the participation of meats from the altar; what was every one’s portion was to be eaten. Hence the apostle useth “to eat” here, for any kind of participation. He doth not intend that we have an altar whereof some may eat, namely, of meats taken from it and consecrated by it, which they had no right to do; but only that they have no right to participate of the benefits of our altar in any way or kind. Hereunto they had “no right” or title; that is, they had not by virtue of any divine institution. He doth not absolutely exclude such persons from ever attaining an interest in our altar. But he doth it in two respects:
(1.) They had no such right by virtue of their office and relation unto the tabernacle:
(2.) That whilst they adhered unto that privilege, and the use of meats thereby for the establishment of their hearts in peace with God, they could have no interest in this altar of ours And we may see,
Obs. 7. That all privileges, of what nature soever, without a participation of Christ, as the altar and sacrifice of the church, are of no advantage unto them that enjoy them.
Hebrews 13:11-12 . ῟Ων γὰρ εἰσφέρεται θώων τὸ αἷμα περὶ ἁμαρτίας εἰς τὰ ἅγια διὰ τοῦ ἀρχιερέως ¸ τούτων τὰ σώματα κατακαίεται ἔξω τῆς παρεμβολῆς . Διὸ καὶ ᾿Ιησοῦς , ἵνα ἁγιάσῃ διὰ τοῦ ἰδίου αἴματος τὸν λαὸν , ἔξω τῆς πύλης ἔπαθε .
Hebrews 13:11-12 . For the bodies of those beasts whose blood, [being] a sin-offering, is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest, are burnt without the camp. Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate The apostle in these words proceeds to the confirmation of his whole present design, in all the parts of it; and they are three:
1. To declare of what nature our altar and sacrifice are; and thereon of what nature and kind the duties of religion are which proceed from them and depend upon them.
2. To testify that the removal of all distinction of meats, by virtue of this altar, was signified in the old institutions, which had their accomplishment in this altar and sacrifice.
3. To show the necessity of the suffering of Christ without the gate of the city, from the typical representation of it; so to make way for the declaration of the use that we are to make of it. All which will be evidenced in the exposition of the words.
Hebrews 13:11 . “For the bodies of those beasts whose blood, [ being ] a sin-offering, is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest, are burnt without the camp.”
1. An instance is given unto the end mentioned, in a sacrifice typical of the sacrifice of Christ. And this is περὶ ἁμαρτίας , that is, “a sin-offering.” See Hebrews 10:6, with the exposition.
2. Two things are affirmed concerning this sacrifice:
(1.) That the blood of the beasts was brought into the sanctuary by the high priest.
(2.) That the bodies of the beasts whose blood was so offered for sin were burnt without the camp.
1. The sacrifice intended is the sin-offering. For concerning this kind of sacrifice, and this alone, the institution is plain, Leviticus 6:30, “And no sin-offering, whereof any of the blood is brought into the tabernacle of the congregation, to reconcile withal in the holy place, shall be eaten, it shall be burnt in the fire,” And that the whole body of the beast was to be carried out of the camp, and burnt in a clean place, is ordained, Leviticus 4:12. But the apostle hath especial respect unto the sin-offering on the great day of atonement, which was appointed, by “an everlasting statute, to make an atonement for the children of Israel, for all their sins, once a-year,” Leviticus 16:34; for it was the blood of that sacrifice alone that was carried into the most holy place by the high priest, Leviticus 16:14-16. And there was an especial institution for the burning of the bodies of the beasts whose blood was then offered, without the camp, the words whereof the apostle doth here repeat: Leviticus 16:27, “And the bullock for the sin offering, and the goat for the sin-offering,” (that is, the bodies of the beasts whose blood was brought in to make atonement in the holy place by the high priest,) “shall one carry forth without the camp; and they shall burn in the fire their skins, and their flesh, and their dung.”
2. It is therefore evident both what sacrifice is intended, and what are the things affirmed of it; wherein the apostle repeats two divine institutions, the one concerning the blood, the other concerning the bodies, of the beasts that were sacrificed.
(1.) For the first of these, or the way and manner of the high priest’s carrying the blood into the holy place to make atonement, see the exposition on Hebrews 9:6-7.
(2.) The burning of the bodies was ordained to be “without the camp;” namely, whilst the Israelites were in the wilderness, and abode in tents encamped round about the tabernacle, after the priests and Levites, who pitched immediately about it, Numbers 1:53: the order and manner of which encamping is appointed and described, Numbers 2:0; which took up some miles in compass. Unto this camp of the Israelites the city of Jerusalem did afterwards answer, and all the institutions about it were applied thereunto. Wherefore, when this sacrifice was observed in the temple, the bodies of the beasts were carried out of the city to be burned. Hence the apostle makes the suffering of Christ “without the gate,” to answer unto the burning of the bodies of the beasts without the camp, the city and the camp being the same thing in this institution.
And sundry things we may here observe, as unto the purpose of the apostle in this place; as,
[1.] That this sin-offering on the day of atonement was the principal type of Christ and his sacrifice, among all the sacrifices of the law, as hath been before fully demonstrated.
[2.] That the matter of this sacrifice was totally anathematized and devoted, as that which had all the sins and uncleannesses of the church upon it; whence he that burned the bodies of the beasts was legally unclean, Leviticus 16:28; to manifest how fully the Lord Christ was made a curse for us.
[3.] That in this sacrifice there was no eating, no meats, or distinction of them, or privilege about them; all was consumed.
Hence the apostle proves that meats did never contribute any thing towards the establishment of the heart before God. For there was no use of them in or about that sacrifice whereby atonement was made for sin, whereon the establishment of the heart doth depend. Yea, there was herein a clear prefiguration, that when the great atonement was made, there should be no use of the distinction of meats left in the church.
And hereby further way is made for the description of our altar and sacrifice, with the nature of the divine worship ensuing thereon.
Hebrews 13:12 . “Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate.”
This is the altar which we have, this is the sacrifice on that altar, and this is the effect of it, namely, the sanctification of the people.
And the first thing in the words is the note of inference from what was spoken before: ‘“ Wherefore Jesus also,” what he did was in compliance with the legal institution mentioned.’There was no obligation on him from that institution; but the end of it being a prefiguration of what he was to do and suffer, it was necessary that he should comply therewith. So, although he did nothing but by his own will and choice, yet this reason of what he did is frequently assigned, namely, “that the Scriptures might be fulfilled.” Being to fulfill all righteousness, and the whole law, what he did was regulated by the predictions of the Scripture, and the typical representations of what was to be done. See Hebrews 3:5, with the exposition. This is the ground of the inference here: “Wherefore Jesus also;” ‘It must so be, because divine wisdom had given this prefiguration of it.’And,
Obs. 1. The complete answering and fulfilling of all types in the person and office of Christ, testifieth the sameness and immutability of the counsel of God in the whole work of the redemption and salvation of the church, notwithstanding all the outward changes that have been in the institutions of divine worship. For hence it is manifest, that in the whole “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever.”
And there is not only an inference in this expression, but an intimation of a similitude also, such as is between the type and the thing typified: ‘As was that sacrifice or sin-offering under the law, so was this of Christ;’ “Wherefore Jesus also.”
There are sundry truths of great importance in these words, the consideration whereof will give us the just exposition of them; as,
1. That Jesus in his sufferings did offer himself unto God. This is plain in the words. That he might sanctify the people with his blood, he “suffered;” for in that suffering his blood was shed, whereby the people were sanctified: which utterly overthrows the Socinian figment of his oblation in heaven.
2. That in his sufferings he offered himself a sin offering, in answer unto those legal sacrifices whose blood was carried into the holy place, and their bodies burned without the camp; which were sin-offerings only. It answered, indeed, unto all offerings made by blood (for blood was never used but to make atonement, Leviticus 17:11,) yet it had a peculiar representation in the Sin-offering on the day of expiation, Leviticus xvi., as hath been before declared.
3. The end of this offering of Christ was, “that he might sanctify the people.” This was “finis operis et operantis;” “the end of what was done, and of him who did it.” Ινα hath respect to the final cause; and the object of the work wrought is “the people:” not the church and people of the Jews in general, for the most of them were rejected from the benefit of this sacrifice; and to show that he left them herein, he suffered and offered himself without the gate. In the typical sacrifice of expiation, the bodies of the beasts were carried out of the camp, and burned, to show that they were absolutely anathematized; but the blood was shed and offered at the tabernacle, in the midst of the congregation, because the whole congregation was to be sanctified thereby. But the Lord Jesus offered himself and his blood without the city, or the camp, because he designed not either to confine the benefit of his offering unto that people, or to take them in unto it as a camp, a city, a church, or congregation. But this “people” are elsewhere called “his people,” Matthew 1:21, and “church,” or “body,” Ephesians 5:25-27, that is, all the elect of God, both Jews and Gentiles, 1 John 2:1-2.
4. That which he designed and accomplished for this people, was their sanctification. What it is to be sanctified by blood, as offered, hath been before declared; and it is here manifest, by the respect that his had unto the great sacrifice of expiation. It is to have atonement made, or an expiation of the guilt of their sins; an acquitment obtained from the defilement of it, as separating from the favor of God; and a sacred dedication unto him.
5. This is that which the Lord Jesus designed for his church; and he did effect it by his own blood. When the blood of Christ is mentioned in this matter, it is emphatically called “his own blood:” “Purchased his church with his own blood,” Acts 20:28: “Washed us from our sins in his own blood,” Revelation 1:5. Hebrews 9:12, as in this place. And three things are included therein.
(1.) An opposition unto the sacrifices of the high priests under the law, which were of the blood of beasts, and not their own. See Hebrews 9:12, with the exposition.
(2.) An evidence of the unspeakable worth and value of this offering, whereon all its efficacy doth depend. Hence it is called God’s own blood, Acts 20:28. See Hebrews 9:15.
(3.) A testimony of what it cost the Lord Jesus to sanctify the people, even his own blood.
6. The last thing in the words, is the circumstance of the suffering of Christ, namely, that it was “without the gate,” that is of the city, namely, of Jerusalem; which answered the camp in the wilderness, after the tabernacle was fixed therein. And sundry things are herein included:
(1.) That he left the city and church-state of the Jews; whence he denounced their destruction as he went out of the gate, Luke 23:28-30.
(2.) He put an end unto all sacrificing in the city and temple, as unto divine acceptation. All was now finishing.
(3.) He declared that his sacrifice and the benefits of it were not included in the church of the Jews, but were equally extended unto the whole world, 1 John 2:2, John 11:52.
(4.) He declared that his death and suffering were not only a sacrifice, but a punishment for sin; namely, the sins of the people that were to be sanctified by his blood. For he went out of the city as a malefactor, and died the death which by divine institution was a sign of the curse, Galatians 3:13.
By all these things it appears how different our altar and sacrifice are from theirs under the law; and how necessary it is from thence that we should have a worship of another nature than what they had, wherein in particular the distinction of meats should be of no use. And we may observe,
Obs. 2. That the church could no otherwise be sanctified, but by the blood of Jesus, the Son of God. See Hebrews 10:4-7, with the exposition.
Obs. 3. The Lord Jesus, out of his incomprehensible love unto his people, would spare nothing, avoid nothing, deny nothing, that was needful unto their sanctification, their reconciliation, and dedication unto God. He did it “with his own blood,” Ephesians 5:25-27; Galatians 2:20; Revelation 1:5; Acts 20:28.
Obs. 4. There was, by divine constitution, a concurrence in the same work of suffering and offering; that satisfaction unto the law and its curse might be made by it, as penal in a way of suffering; and atonement, or reconciliation with God, by the way of a sacrifice or offering.
Obs. 5. The whole church is perfectly sanctified by the offering of the blood of Christ, as unto impetration; and it shall be so actually by the virtue of the same blood in its application.
Obs. 6. When the Lord Jesus carried all the sins of his own people in his own body unto the tree, he left the city, as a type of all unbelievers, under the wrath and curse of God.
Obs. 7. Going out of the city as a malefactor, he bore all the reproach that was due to the sins of the church; which was a part of the curse.
Hebrews 13:13-14 . Τοίνυν ἐξερχώμεθα πρὸς αὐτὸν ἔξω τῆς παρεμβολῆς , τὸν ὀνειδισμὸν αὐτοῦ φέροντες . Οὐ γὰρ ἔχομεν ὧδε μένουσαν πόλιν , ἀλλὰ τὴν μέλλουσαν ἐπιζητοῦμεν .
Hebrews 13:13-14 . Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach. For we have here no abiding city, but we seek one to come.
From the account given of our altar in the suffering and offering of Christ, with the manner thereof, the apostle draws an exhortation unto that general duty which is the foundation of all our Christian profession, Hebrews 13:13; and gives an enforcement of the same exhortation, Hebrews 13:14.
1. The exhortation unto the duty is introduced by a note of inference, which we render “therefore;” which is the sense of the particles τοὶ νῦν in conjunction. ‘Seeing the Lord Jesus hath so suffered and offered himself, this now is our duty, that which thereon is required of us; which I therefore exhort you unto.’And for the opening of the words, we must consider,
(1.) What is meant by “the camp;”
(2.) How we are to “go forth” from it;
(3.) How we go to him in our so doing;
(4.) In what manner.
(1.) The apostle in all this epistle hath respect unto the original institution of the Jewish church-state and worship in the wilderness: therefore he confines his discourse to the tabernacle and the services of it, without any mention of the temple, or the city wherein it was built; though all that he speaks be equally applicable unto them. Now the camp in the wilderness was that space of ground which was taken up by the tents of the people, as they were regularly pitched about the tabernacle. Out of this compass the bodies of the beasts for the sin-offerings were carried and burned. Hereunto afterwards answered the city of Jerusalem, as is evident in this place. For whereas in the foregoing verse Christ is said to “suffer without the gate,” here he is said to be “without the camp;” these being all one and the same, as to the purpose of the apostle. Now the camp and city was the seat of all the political and religious converse of the church of the Jews. To be ‘in the camp,’is to have a right unto all the privileges and advantages of the commonwealth of Israel, and the whole divine service of the tabernacle. For if any lost that right by any means, though but for a season, they were removed out of the camp, Leviticus 13:46; Leviticus 24:23; Numbers 5:2; Numbers 12:15.
(2.) How were the Hebrews, on the account of this sacrifice of Christ and the sanctification of the people by his own blood, to go out of this camp? For it is all one whether we read the word, “go out of the camp unto him,” or “go forth unto him without the camp,” namely, who there suffered. Now it is not a local departure out of the city which is intended in the first place; though I am apt to think, from the next verse, that the apostle had some respect also thereunto, for the season was now approaching wherein they were so to depart out of the city before its final destruction. This the apostle may now prepare them for: but that which principally is intended is a moral and religious going forth from this camp. There was nothing that these Hebrews did more value, and more tenaciously adhere unto, than that political and religious interest in the commonwealth of Israel. They could not understand how all the glorious privileges granted of old unto that church and people should so cease as that they ought to forsake them. Hereon the most continued in their unbelief of the gospel; many would have mixed the doctrine of it with their old ceremonies, and the best of them found no small difficulty in their renunciation. But the apostle shows them, that, by the suffering of Christ without the gate or camp, this they were calmed unto; as,
Obs. 1. All privileges and advantages whatever are to be foregone, parted withal, and renounced, which are inconsistent with an interest in Christ and a participation of him; as our apostle shows at large, Philippians 3:4-10.
(3.) They were thus to go forth unto him. He went forth at the gate, and suffered; and we must go forth after him, and unto him. And it denotes,
[1.] A relinquishment of all the privileges of the camp and city for his sake. Leave them, and go to him.
[2.] A, closing by faith with his sacrifice, and sanctification thereby, in opposition unto all the sacrifices of the law.
[3.] The owning of him under all that reproach and contempt which were cast upon him in his suffering without the gate, or a not being ashamed of his cross.
[4.] The betaking ourselves unto him in his office, as the king, priest, and prophet of the church, as unto our acceptance with God, and in his worship; as the apostle directs, Hebrews 12:15.
(4.) In our thus doing, we are “to bear his reproach.” See for the exposition hereof, Hebrews 11:26, where the same thing is ascribed unto Moses. In brief, “the reproach of Christ,” is either the reproach that was cast on his person, or the reproach that is cast on our persons for his sake. The first was in the cross, with all the shame, contempt, and reproach, wherewith it was accompanied. This was that great scandal at which the unbelieving world of Jews and Gentiles stumbled and fell. This reproach of Christ we bear, when we own him, believe in him, and make profession of his name; despising this reproach, through a spiritual view of the power of God and the wisdom of God in his cross. The reproach of Christ in the latter sense, is all that contempt, scorn, and despite, with revilings, which are cast upon us for our faith in him and profession of his name. See Hebrews 10:33, with the exposition. This we bear when we patiently undergo it, and are not shaken in our minds in what we suffer by it.
In these things consist the first general duties of our Christian profession, which we are called and directed unto by his offering himself, and the manner of it, namely,
(1.) In a separation from all ways of religious worship not appointed by himself.
(2.) In a relinquishment of all civil and political privileges which are inconsistent with the profession of the gospel.
(3.) In avowing the wisdom, grace, and power of God in the cross, notwithstanding the reproaches that are cast upon it.
(4.) In giving up ourselves unto him in the discharge of his whole office towards the church.
(5.) In conformity unto him in self-denial and suffering. All which are comprised in this apostolical exhortation. And we may observe unto our own instruction,
Obs. 2. That if it was the duty of the Hebrews to forsake those ways of worship which were originally of divine institution, that they might wholly give up themselves unto Christ in fall things pertaining unto God; much more is it ours to forego fall such pretenses unto religious worship as are of human invention. And,
Obs. 3. Whereas the camp contained not only ecclesiastical, but political privileges also, there ought to be a readiness to forego all civil accommodations also, in houses, lands, possessions, converse with men of the same nation, when we are called thereunto on the account of Christ and the gospel.
Obs. 4. If we will go forth unto Christ as without the camp, or separated from all the concerns of this world, we shall assuredly meet with all sorts of reproaches.
The sum of all is, that we must leave all, to go forth unto a crucified Christ.
2. An enforcement of this exhortation, or an encouragement unto this duty, the apostle adds in the next words.
Hebrews 12:14 . “For we have here no continuing city, but we seek one to come.”
See the exposition on Hebrews 11:10; Hebrews 11:16.
The argument is taken from the consideration of the state of believers in this world, which is such as calls and directs them to go out of the camp unto Christ. This is our duty, seeing “we have here no continuing city,” unless we intend to be without rest or refuge.
Two things are asserted in this description of the present state of believers:
(1.) That “they have here no continuing city.”
(2.) That “they seek one to come.”
It seems, therefore, that a city is necessary unto all; and those who have none at present must seek for one to come. And,
(1.) It is declared,
[1.] Where they have it not; not “here,” that is, in this world, in this life. Their interest in the city of Jerusalem was gone after the Lord Jesus went out of the gate to suffer. And if it had continued, yet was not that an abiding city; for neither could they long continue in it, nor was itself to be of any long continuance, but was speedily to be destroyed.
[2.] They had not a “city.” A city is the center of men’s interests and privileges, the residence and seat of their conversation. Hereby are they freed from the condition of strangers and pilgrims; and have all that rest and security whereof in this world they are capable. For those who have no higher aims or ends than this world, a city is their all. Now it is not said of believers absolutely that they belonged to no city, had none that was theirs in common with other men; for our apostle himself pleaded that he was “a citizen of no mean city.” And this is intimated, as we shall see, in the restriction of the assertion, “a continuing city.” But it is spoken on other accounts.
1st . They had no city that was the seat of divine worship, whereunto it was confined, as it was before unto Jerusalem. This the Jews boasted of, and the apostle acknowledgeth that the Christians had none such. The Roman pretenses of their sacred city were yet unforged.
2dly . They had no city wherein they did rest, or which was the seat of their polity or conversation; for that is in heaven, Philippians 3:20: not such a city as should give them their state and rest; the things which they did ultimately aim at: no such city as wherein their lot and portion did lie; such as by whose laws and rules their conversation was regulated.
3dly . They had not an abiding city. Whatever conveniencies they might have here in this world for a season, yet they had no city that was to abide forever, nor which they could for ever abide in.
And probably herein the apostle shows the difference and opposition between the state of the Christian church and that under the old testament.
For they, after they had wandered in the wilderness and elsewhere for some ages, were brought to rest in Jerusalem; but saith he, ‘With us it is not so; we have no city unto such an end; but we seek one that is to come.’
See the description of the state of pilgrimage here intended, in the exposition on Hebrews 11:9-10; Hebrews 11:13-16.
(2.) The second thing in the description given of the present state of believers, is, that “they are seeking one [a city] to come.” They are seeking after it, not as a thing unknown or hard to be found, but endeavoring to attain it, to come unto it. The use of the way and means unto this end is intended, and that with diligence and desire, as the words import.
And it was such a city they sought as they did not yet possess, nor could do so whilst they were in this world; it was one that was yet for to come, as unto them and their enjoyment of it: τὴν μέλλουσαν , “that city;” not one indefinitely, but that city which was to be their eternal habitation. And it is said to be to come, not merely because it was future as unto their state and interest in it, but with respect unto their certain enjoyment of it on the account of divine designation and appointment. And it was,
[1.] Prepared for them; and what belonged thereunto. See Hebrews 11:16.
[2.] It was promised unto them. For in this city lies that eternal inheritance which was proposed in the promises from the foundation of the world.
[3.] The way unto it was prescribed and directed in the scripture of the Old Testament, but now laid open and made plain by Jesus Christ, who “brought life and immortality to light by the gospel.” In brief, it is the heavenly state of rest and glory which is intended by this “city.” And we are taught herein,
Obs. 5. That believers are not like to meet with any such encouraging entertainment in this world, as to make them unready or unwilling to desert it, and to go forth after Christ, bearing his reproach. For it is a motive in the apostle’s reasoning unto a readiness for that duty, “We have here no continuing city.”
Obs. 6. This world never did, nor ever will, give a state of rest and satisfaction unto believers. It will not afford them a city. It is “Jerusalem above” that is the “vision of peace.” “Arise and depart; this is not your rest.”
Obs. 7. In the destitution of a present satisfactory rest, God hath not left believers without a prospect of that which shall be so unto eternity. We have not, but we seek.
Obs. 8. As God hath prepared a city of rest for us, so it is our duty continually to endeavor the attainment of it in the ways of his appointment.
Obs. 9. The main business of believers in this world is diligently to seek after the city of God, or the attainment of eternal rest with him; and this is the character whereby they may be known.
Hebrews 12:15-17 . Having declared of what nature our altar is, and the fundamental points of our religion thence arising, namely, our faith in Christ Jesus, and the profession thereof, in readiness for the cross, and conformity unto him thereby, the apostle proceeds to declare the other necessary duty of our Christian profession, proceeding from the same cause, namely, the nature of our altar and sacrifice. And this he doth still in opposition unto those doctrines and observances about meats, and other things of an alike nature, which depended on the altar in the tabernacle with its institutions. And he reduceth all our Christian duties unto three heads, giving especial instances in each kind. Now, these are such as are,
1. Spiritual, with respect unto God; whereof he gives an instance, verse 15:
2. Moral, with respect unto men of all sorts; an instance whereof, comprehensive of all duties towards others, we have, verse 16: and,
3. Ecclesiastical, in the church-state whereinto we are called by the profession of the gospel; the principal duty whereof is instanced in, verse 17.
We have therefore in these verses, which are upon the matter the close of the epistle, so far as it is instructive, a summary of the whole duty of believers, and that cast under three heads, in a most proper order. For, beginning with that duty that doth immediately concern God himself, which contains the sum of the first table, he proceeds unto that towards men, which eminently contains those of the second; and so concludes with that duty which ariseth peculiarly from divine institution, which is superadded unto the other. It is not my business to insist at large on the things themselves, but only to open the words, and declare what is the mind of the Holy Ghost in them.
First, he proposeth the duty which we owe unto God immediately, on the account of our altar and sacrifice.
Hebrews 13:15 . Δι᾿ αὐτοῦ ου῏ν ἀναφέρωμεν θυσίαν αἰνέσεως διαπαντὸς τῷ Θεῷ , τοῦτ᾿ ἔστι καρπὸν χειλέων ὁμολογούντων τῷ ὀνόματι αὐτοῦ .
Hebrews 13:15 . By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually; that is, the fruit of [our] lips, confessing to his name. The words are an exhortation unto duty, by way of inference from what was before declared concerning the Lord Christ his sufferings and offering unto the sanctification of the people: “Therefore let us.” Two things do follow on the due consideration thereof:
1. In general, the necessity of a return unto God in a way of duty, on the account of so great a mercy. Seeing we are sanctified and dedicated unto God, by the blood of Christ, it cannot be but that the duty of obedience unto God is required of us.
2. The especial nature of that duty, which is described in the words. And it is placed principally in “praise,” as that which it naturally calleth for and constraineth unto; for thankfulness is the peculiar animating principle of all gospel obedience. And,
Obs. 1. Every act of grace in God, or love in Christ, towards us, is in its own nature obligatory unto thankful obedience.
The duty itself exhorted unto is expressed two ways:
1. Positively, “Let us offer the sacrifice of praise unto God continually.”
2. Declaratively, as unto its especial nature, “That is, the fruit of our lips, confessing unto his name.”
1. The duty exhorted unto in general, is offering sacrifice to God. What it is that he peculiarly intends the next words declare. But he thus expresseth it,
(1.) To show what is the use of our altar, in opposition unto all the services of the altar in the tabernacle, which consisted in the offering of sacrifices; for we also having an altar, must have sacrifices to offer, without which an altar is of no use.
(2.) To show the immediate end and object of all gospel worship; which is God himself, as he was of all sacrifices. None might be offered but to him alone. So,
Obs. 2. The religious worship of any creatures, under what pretense soever, hath no place in our Christian profession. And,
Obs. 3. Every act and duty of faith hath in it the nature of a sacrifice to God, wherewith he is well pleased.
2. The especial nature of this sacrifice is declared, in opposition unto the carnal sacrifices of the law; and that,
(1.) In the only way and means of offering it; which is by Christ: “By him let us offer.” All the sacrifices of the people under the law were offered by the priests: wherefore respect is here had unto Christ in the discharge of his priestly office. How we come to God by him as our high priest, and offer our sacrifices by him, hath been fully declared in the exposition of Hebrews 4:14-16; Hebrews 10:19-22. In brief,
[1.] He sanctifies and dedicates our persons unto God, that we may be meet to offer sacrifices unto him. He “sanctifieth the people with his own blood,” Hebrews 13:12; and makes us “priests unto God,” Revelation 1:6; “an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable unto God by him,” 1 Peter 2:5.
[2.] He hath prepared and made a way for our access with boldness into the holy place, where we may offer these sacrifices, Hebrews 10:19-22.
[3.] He “beareth the iniquity of our holy things,” and makes our offerings acceptable through his merit and intercession.
[4.] He continues to administer in the tabernacle of his own human nature all the duties and services of the church; offering them up unto God in our stead and on our behalf, Hebrews 8:2; Revelation 8:3-4. With respect unto these, and other the like acts of his mediation, we are said “by him” to offer this sacrifice to God; that is, under his guidance, trusting to him, relying on him, pleading his name and his grace for acceptance with God.
And “by him,” is the same with by him alone. There is a profane opinion and practice in the papal church about offering our sacrifices of prayer and praise to God by others; as by saints and angels, especially the blessed Virgin. But are they our altar? Did they sanctify us by their blood? Did they suffer for us without the gate? Are they the high priests of the church?
Have they made us priests unto God; or prepared a new and living way for our entrance unto the throne of grace? It is on the account of these things that we are said to offer our sacrifice by Christ; and it is the highest blasphemy to assign them unto any other. And,
Obs. 4. The great, yea the only, encouragement which we have to bring our sacrifices unto God, with expectation of acceptance, lieth herein, that we are to offer them by him, who can and will make them acceptable in his sight. And,
Obs. 5. Whatever we tender unto God, and not by Christ, it hath no other acceptance with him than the sacrifice of Cain.
(2.) In the especial nature of it; it is a “sacrifice of praise.” Praise is not a concomitant, but the matter of the sacrifice intended. There were thank- offerings under the law, which were peculiarly accompanied with praises and thanksgivings; but the matter of them was the blood of beasts. But this is such a sacrifice as consisteth in praise only, exclusively unto any other matter of it.
The nature of gospel obedience consisting in thanksgivings for Christ and grace by him, the whole of it may be called a “sacrifice of praise.” So the apostle describes it by “presenting our bodies” (that is, our persons) “a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God,” as our “reasonable service,” Romans 12:1. But in the following description the apostle limits it unto the duties of worship, and our oral praising of God therein.
There were two things in the sacrifices of old:
[1.] The mactation, killing, or shedding the blood, of the beast that was to be offered;
[2.] The actual offering of the blood on the altar. And both these were required unto the completing of a sacrifice. The slaying or shedding the blood of a beast, wherever it was, was no sacrifice, unless the blood was offered on the altar; and no blood could be offered on the altar unless the beast was immediately slain at the altar in order thereunto. And there is a twofold spiritual sacrifice, in a resemblance hereunto, wherein our Christian profession doth consist. The first is of a broken spirit. “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit,” Psalms 51:17. Repentance, in mortification and crucifying of the flesh, is the first Christian sacrifice. Herein we “present our bodies a living sacrifice unto God.” See Romans 6:13. This answers the mactation or killing of the beast for sacrifice, as it is the death and destruction of the flesh. The other is this sacrifice of praise; which answers the offering of the blood on the altar by fire with incense, yielding a sweet savor unto God. The other sacrifices, mentioned in the next verse, are so called from the general adjunct of acceptation, though God be not their immediate object, as we shall see. There are sundry things observable in this exhortation of the apostle unto the offering of a sacrifice of praise, on the consideration of the Lord Christ as our altar and sacrifice, with the atonement made, and sanctification of the church thereby; as,
[1.] The great obligation that is upon us of continual thankfulness and praise unto God on the account thereof. The sum and glory of our Christian profession is, that it is the only way of praising and glorifying God for his love and grace in the person and mediation of Christ.
[2.] This obligation unto praise, succeeding into the room of all terrifying legal constraints unto obedience, alters the nature of that obedience from what was required under and by the law.
[3.] Where the heart is not prepared for, and disposed unto, this fundamental duty of praising God for the death and oblation of Christ, no other duty or act of obedience is accepted with God.
(3.) Again, whereas the apostle confines our sacrifices unto praise, whereunto he makes an addition in the next verse of “doing good, and communicating,” all which are metaphorical, it is evident that he excludeth all proper or propitiatory sacrifices from the service of the church. Here had been a place, if anywhere, for the introduction of the sacrifice of the mass, if any such thing had been of divine institution. For whereas it pretends to be, not only a representation, but a repetition of the sacrifice of Christ, and the principal duty of the church on the consideration thereof; is it not strange, and that which evinceth it to be a mere human figment, that the apostle, proposing the consideration of that sacrifice on so high an occasion and in so eminent a manner, describing thereon the entire duty of the church, and what by virtue thereof is required of it, should not only not mention this mass and its sacrifice, but also determine the duties of the church unto things quite of another nature? It is indeed absolutely and peremptorily excluded out of Christian religion in this context of the apostle. For his design is to show that the one sacrifice of Christ hath put an end unto all other altars and sacrifices in the worship of God, establishing such a way of it as hath no relation unto them, yea, as is inconsistent with them. Certainly, had there been any such thing in the church, they of Rome have great reason to take it unkindly of him, that, treating so distinctly and at large of all the sacrifices of the law, and of their accomplishment in the one sacrifice of Christ, with the whole duty of the church thereon, he should not give the least intimation of this sacrifice of the mass, which was to succeed into the room of all them of old, but leave them absurdly to seek for a sorry pretense in the bread and wine which Melchizedek brought forth unto Abraham and his soldiers. But the truth is, he hath dealt yet more unkindly with them; for he hath so declared the nature of the sacrifice of Christ, its use and efficacy, as either it or the mass must be turned out of the church, for they are inconsistent.
(4.) This sacrifice of praise we are enjoined to offer “continually,” διαπαντός : the same with πάντοτε , Luke 18:1, “to pray always;” and ἀδιαλείπτως , 1 Thessalonians 5:17, “without ceasing.” And two things are included in it:
[1.] Freedom from appointed times, seasons, and places. The sacrifices under the law had their times and places prescribed unto them, out of which they were not accepted; but as unto this of ours, every time and place is equally approved. For it may comprise places as well as times; 1 Corinthians 1:2.
[2.] Diligence and perseverance. This is that which we ought to attend unto and to abide in; that is, to do it continually, as occasions, opportunities, and appointed seasons, do require. A constant readiness of mind for it, with a holy disposition and inclination of heart unto it, acted in all proper seasons and opportunities, is enjoined us, And,
Obs. 6. To abide and abound in solemn praise to God for Jesus Christ, his mediation and sacrifice, is the constant duty of the church, and the best character of sincere believers.
(5.) In the last place, the apostle gives us a declaration of the nature of this sacrifice of praise, which he recommendeth unto us. ‘It is,’saith he, ‘or it consisteth in “the fruit of our lips, confessing unto his name.”’
It is generally granted that this expression, “The fruit of our lips;” for the sense is the same in both places, and praise unto God is intended in them both. But the design of the apostle in alleging this place is peculiar. For the prophet is praying in the name of the church for mercy, grace, and deliverance; and hereon he declareth what is the duty of it upon an answer unto its prayers. Now whereas this, according to the institutions of the law, was to have been in vows and thank-offerings of calves and other beasts, he declares, that, instead of them all, vocal thankfulness, in celebrating the praise of God, should succeed. This he calls “the calves of our lips,” because that the use of our lips in praise was to come into the room of all thank-offerings by calves. The psalmist speaks to the same purpose, Psalms 51:15-16. But moreover, the mercy, grace, and deliverance which the prophet treats about in that place, were those which were to come by the redemption which is in Christ Jesus. After that there was to be no more sacrifice of calves, but spiritual sacrifices of praise only; which he therefore calls “the calves of our lips.” פָרִים שְׂפָתֵינוּ The apostle therefore doth not only cite his words, but respects the design of the Holy Ghost in them, which was to declare the cessation of all carnal sacrifices, upon the deliverance of the church by the sacrifice of Christ. And he changeth the words from “calves” to “fruit,” to declare the sense of the metaphor in the prophet.
And because there may yet be some ambiguity in that expression, “The fruit of our lips,” which in general is the product and effect of them, he adds a declaration of its nature in these words, “Confessing unto his name:” our lips confessing; that is, we confessing by our lips. The Hebrew word ָֻידָה , which the LXX. usually render by ὁμολογέω , signifies “to praise,” properly. But because the praise of God consisteth principally in the acknowledgment of his glorious excellencies and works, to “confess unto him,” that is, so to profess and acknowledge those things in him, is the same with praising of him. And the apostle chooseth to make use of this word in this place, because the praise which he intends did consist in the solemn acknowledgment of the wisdom, love, grace, and goodness of God, in the redemption of the church by Jesus Christ. This is “confessing unto his name.” Wherefore this is that which we are taught, namely, that
Obs. 7. A constant solemn acknowledgment of the glory of God, and of the holy excellencies of his nature (that is, his name), in the work of the redemption of the church by the suffering and offering of Christ, is the principal duty of it, and the animating soul and principle of all other duties whatever.
This is the great sacrifice of the church, the principal end of all its ordinances of worship, the means of expressing our faith and trust in the blood or mediation of Christ, and of giving up that revenue of glory to God which in this world we are intrusted withal.
Hebrews 13:16 . Τῆς δὲ εὐποιί ας καὶ κοινωνίας μὴ ἐπιλανθάνεσθε· τοιαύταις γὰρ θυσίαις εὐαρεστεῖται ὁ Θεός .
Hebrews 13:16 . But [moreover] to do good and to communicate forget not, [ of well-doing and communication, or distribution, be not forgetful ]; for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.
From the first great instance of Christian duties on the account of the sanctification of the church by the blood of Christ, in those spiritual duties of worship whereof God himself is the immediate object, to manifest what influence it ought to have upon the whole of our obedience, even in things moral also, and the duties of the second table, he adds this exhortation unto them in such instances as are the spring of all mutual duties among ourselves, and towards mankind. And because he persisteth in his design of declaring the nature of gospel-worship and obedience, in opposition unto the institutions of the law, (which is his argument from the 9th verse;) he calls these duties also “sacrifices, upon the account of the general notion of being accepted with God, as the sacrifices were of old.
There is in the words,
1. A note of connection; 2. Duties prescribed; 3. An enforcement of the exhortation unto them.
1. The first is in the particle δέ , “but.” It is not here exceptive or adversative, as though something adverse unto what was spoken of is now prescribed; but it is only continuative, and may well be rendered “moreover.” ‘Unto the former duties add this also.’It may be, also, that the apostle doth prevent an evil that is apt to arise in the minds of men on this occasion. Having prescribed the great duty of divine worship, of that acknowledgment of God which compriseth all the actings of our souls whereof he is the immediate object, some might think that this is the whole required of them, or that whilst they do attend thereunto they might be regardless of other things. To obviate this evil the apostle thus introduceth the injunction of this duty, “But ; ” that is, ‘But yet, notwithstanding the diligence required in the other duty, forget not this.’
Obs. 1. It is dangerous unto the souls of men when an attendance unto one duty is abused to countenance the neglect of another. So may the duties of the first table be abused to the neglect of those of the other, and on the contrary. There is a harmony in obedience, and a failure in any one part disturbs the whole.
2. In the first part of the words, there is first the manner of the prescription of the duties intended; and then the duties themselves.
(1.) The manner of their prescription is, “Forget them not.” See the exposition on verse 2, where the same phrase is used. But the apostle applying this caution unto this sort of duties, seems to intimate that there is a more than ordinary proneness in men to forget and neglect them. And it is not a natural, but a sinful forgetfulness that is prohibited. And this may arise from many vicious habits of mind:
[1.] From an undue trust unto religious duties; as it doth in many barren professors of religion.
[2.] From vain pleas and pretences against duties attended with trouble and charge, proceeding from self-love.
[3.] A want of that goodness of nature and disposition which effectual grace will produce.
[4.] A want of that compassion towards sufferers which is required in them that are themselves in the body, recommended verse 3. From these and the like corrupt inclinations may arise a sinful neglect and forgetfulness of these duties; which are therefore all to be watched against. Or there may be a meiosis in the expression: “Forget not;” that is, diligently attend unto these things. However, the warning is wholesome and useful, that we should not suffer a forgetfulness or neglect of these duties by any means to creep upon us, but be diligent in attending unto them on all occasions.
(2.) The duties themselves are two; the one more general, the other more particular.
[1.] The first is εὐποιία , “doing of good,” well-doing. This concerns the whole course of our lives, that which in all things we ought to attend unto. “Patient continuance in well-doing” is the life of a believer, Romans 2:7. This we are warned not to be weary of or faint in, Gal 6:9 ; 2 Thessalonians 3:13; and it is commended unto us, 1 Peter 2:15; 1Pe 3:17 ; 1 Peter 4:19.
And this εὐποιία includeth in it three things:
1st. A gracious propensity and readiness of mind to do good unto all. “The liberal deviseth liberal things,” Isaiah 32:8.
2dly . The acting of this inclination in all ways and things, spiritual and temporal, whereby we may be useful and helpful unto mankind.
3 dly . The embracing of all occasions and opportunities for the exercise of pity, compression, and loving-kindness in the earth. It requires that the design of our lives, according unto our abilities, be to do good unto others; which is comprehensive of all the duties of the second table.
Hereon “vir bonus est commune bonum.” This beneficence, in the acting of it, is the life, salt, and ligament of human conversation; without which the society of mankind is like that of beasts, yea, of devils. It is the glory of religion; nothing doth render it so honorable as its efficacy to make men good and useful. It is the great evidence of the renovation of our nature into the likeness and image of God, who is good, and doeth good unto all: a demonstration of altering our center, end, and interest, from self to God.
For men to be unready unto this duty, the principle whereof ought to regulate them in the whole course of their lives, not to embrace occasions cheerfully of exercising loving-kindness in the earth according to their ability, is a representation of that image whereunto they are fallen in their departure from God. And nothing will be a greater relief to a man, in any calamity that may befall him in this world, than a satisfaction in his own mind that the design of his life hath been in all things, and by all ways, according to his ability and opportunities, to do good unto men.
[2.] There is prescribed a particular instance of this beneficence, which on sundry accounts constitutes an especial duty in itself, and that is “communication; ” that is, a distribution of the good things we enjoy unto others, according as their necessities do require. It is beneficence restrained by its object, which is peculiarly the poor and indigent; and by its principle, which is pity and compassion. Κοινωνία is the actual exercise of that charity towards the poor, which is required of us in the distribution of good things unto them, according to our ability.
This is an important evangelical duty, which the Scripture everywhere gives us in charge, as that wherein the glory of God, the salvation of our own souls, with the honor of our profession, are highly concerned. To be negligent herein, is to despise the wisdom of God in the disposal of the lots and conditions of his own children in the world in so great variety as he hath done always, and will always continue to do. He doth it for the exercise of those graces in them which their several conditions call for:
such are patience, submission, and trust, in the poor; thankfulness, bounty, and charity, in the rich. And where these graces are mutually exercised, there are beauty, order, and harmony, in this effect of divine wisdom, with a revenue of glory and praise unto himself. Good men are scarce ever more sensible of God than in giving and receiving in a due manner, he that gives aright, finds the power of divine grace in his heart, and he that receives, is sensible of divine care and love in supplies: God is nigh to both. Wherefore to be negligent herein, is to despise the wisdom of God in his holy disposal of the various outward conditions of his children in this world. No man is rich or poor merely for himself, but to fill up that public order of things which God hath designed unto his own glory. But there is no end of what might be spoken on this head, or unto the necessity and excellency of this duty. And from the injunction of these duties we may observe,
Obs. 2. That the world itself, even in those that believe not, doth receive great advantage by the grace administered from the death of Christ, and its fruits, whereof the apostle treats. For there is an obligation on them, and an inclination wrought in them, who are sanctified by his blood, to “do good unto all men,” all manner of ways, as they are able. And there was a time when the world was filled with the fruits of it. Did all those who at this day profess the name of Christ, show forth the virtue of his mediation in these duties, as the profession of religion would be glorious, so the benefit which the world would receive thereby would be unspeakable.
Obs. 3. That religion hath no relation unto the cross of Christ, which doth not incline and dispose men unto benignity, and the exercise of loving-kindness towards all.
Obs. 4. Much less hath that so which guides and disposeth its professors unto rage, cruelty, and oppression of others, on the account of an interest of its own.
Obs. 5. We ought always to admire the glory of divine wisdom, which hath so disposed the state of the church in this world that there should be continual occasion for the exercise of every grace mutually among ourselves. For all the works of providence do serve the glory of God in the exercise of grace.
Obs. 6. Beneficence and communication are the only outward evidences and demonstrations of the renovation of the image of God in us.
Obs. 7. God hath laid up provision for the poor in the grace and duty of the rich; not in their coffers and their barns, wherein they have no interest. And in that grace lies the right of the poor to be supplied.
3. The observance of these duties the apostle presseth on them from this consideration, that “with such sacrifices God is well pleased.” He persists in his way of calling our Christian duties by the name of “sacrifices;” and he doth it to confirm the cessation of all other sacrifices in the church, upon the accomplishment of the signification of them all in the sacrifice of Christ. But yet there is a peculiar reason for assigning this appellation unto moral duties, to be performed mutually among ourselves. For in every sacrifice there was a decrement unto the offerer. He was not to offer that which cost him nothing. Part of his substance was to be transferred from himself unto God. So is it in these duties: they cannot be duly observed, but there must be an alienation of what is ours, in time, in ease, in our substance, and a dedication of it unto God. Hence they have the general nature of sacrifices, as to cost and parting with our substance, or what is ours. So in the first recorded sacrifices of Cain and Abel, each of them gave somewhat of his own unto God; the one of the fruit of the ground, the other of the firstlings of the flock. In things of the like nature do these sacrifices much consist. But in general all things done for God, unto his glory, and accepted with him, may be so called.
The force of the motive consists in this, that “with these sacrifices God is well pleased.” The Vulg. Lat. renders the words, promeretur Deus; and the Rhem., “God is promerited:” with a barbarous word, and a false signification assigned unto it. And from their own feigned word those of the church of Rome dispute for the merit of good works; whereof, at least in their sense, there is nothing in the text, nor any thing to give the least countenance thereunto. The word is no more but “accepted,” or “well approved of;” and being spoken of God, is his being well pleased with what is done; that is, his approbation of it. Wherefore the apostle having called these duties “sacrifices,” he expresseth God’s respect unto them by a word signifying the act of his mind and will towards the sacrifices of old. So it is said he had “respect unto the offering of Abel,” Genesis 4:4; that is, he approved of it and accepted it, as our apostle declares, Hebrews 11:4. So, on the sacrifice of Noah, it is said that he “smelled a savor of rest,” Genesis 8:21. It was well-pleasing unto him. And this frame of rain, in God with respect unto those sacrifices doth the apostle express by this word, “Is well pleased.” But there is also in the word a clear intimation of the especial pleasure of God in these things. This is that which he is well pleased withal in an especial manner. And hence we may learn,
Obs. 8. That the will of God revealed concerning his accept ance of any duties, is the most effectual motive unto our diligence in them. Promise of acceptance gives life unto obedience.
Obs. 9. The works and duties which are peculiarly useful unto men, are peculiarly acceptable unto God.
Hebrews 13:17 . Πείθεσθε τοῖς ἡγουμένοις ὑμῶν καὶ ὑπείκετε· αὐτοὶ γὰρ ἀγρυπνοῦσιν ὑπὲρ τῶν ψυχῶν ὑμῶν , ὠς λόγον ἀποδώσοντες· ἵνα μετὰ χαρᾶς τοῦτο ποιῶσι καὶ μὴ στενάζοντες· ἀλυσιτελὲς γὰρ ὑμῖν τοῦτο .
Hebrews 13:17 . Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls as they that must give an account, that they may do it with joy, and not mourning; for that is unprofitable for you.
This is the third instance of duties required in our Christian profession on the account of the sacrifice of Christ, and our sanctification by his blood. And it is in things ecclesiastical, or gospel institutions. And some things are to be premised unto the exposition of the words.
1. There is a supposition of a settled church-state among them unto whom the apostle wrote; whereof he gave intimation, Hebrews 10:24-25. For there were among them rulers, and those that were ruled; into which two sorts he distributes the whole. And he adds moreover their mutual duties in that church-state, and that distinctly, according to the office of the one and capacity of the other.
2. This epistle was written immediately to the community of the faithful, or body of the fraternity in the church, and that in distinction from their rulers or guides, as appeareth both in this place and Hebrews 10:24. Hence all the duties contained in it are given in immediate charge unto them. So it was in those primitive times, when the church itself was intrusted with the care of its own edification. But these things can scarce be accommodated unto the present, state of most churches in the world, wherein the people as such have no interest in their own edification.
3. The especial duty here prescribed includes all that concerns church rule and order; for the springs of all things belonging thereunto lie in the due obedience of the church unto its rulers, and their due discharge of their office; in them [it?] they also are enjoined. This, therefore, added unto the spiritual and moral duties before mentioned, gives us a summary of the whole duty of believers.
The words contain a prescription of a duty, with the ground or reason of it. In the first there is,7
(1.) The persons towards whom it is to be discharged; that is, their “rulers.”
(2.) The duty itself, whereof there are two parts:
[1.] Obedience, “Obey them;”
[2.] Submission, “And submit yourselves.” In the second there are two things:
(1.) The reason for the equity and necessity of this duty: and this is taken from a due discharge of their office and work, “They watch for your souls;” which is amplified from the consideration of their accountableness unto Christ for their office, “As those that must give an account.”
(2.) An enforcement of the reason itself, from the different ways of their giving account, with the different causes and events thereof, “That they may do it with joy,” etc.
1. (1.) The persons towards whom the duty is prescribed, are “those that have the rule over them.” Of the meaning of the word here used, see the exposition of verse 7 of this chapter. It signifies properly guides or leaders, though usually applied unto them that guide, feed, or lead with authority, or by virtue of office. But all the names given by the Holy Ghost unto those who preside in the church are exclusive of rigid authority, and pregnant with notions of spiritual care, duty, and benignity. Styles or titles of magisterial power, of earthly dignity, of rigid authority, are foreign to evangelical churches: ‘Your guides, your leaders; who rule by rational guidance and conduct.’
These guides or rulers are those who are called the “elders” or “bishops” of the church. And,
[1.] There were many of them in each church. For suppose that the apostle wrote this epistle directly and immediately unto all the churches in Judea (which yet he did not, but unto that at Jerusalem,) yet each of them must be supposed to have had more of these rulers of their own than one; for they are directed to obey them that had the rule over them, and not over others; those that watched over their souls, and were to give an account of them. Here is no room left for a single bishop, and his rule in the church, much less for a pope.
[2.] These rulers or guides were then of two sorts, as the apostle declares, 1 Timothy 5:17; first, such as together with rule labored also in word and doctrine; and then such as attended unto rule only. And if this be not here allowed, let it be taken in the other sense, and then the two parts or duties of the same office, or teaching and ruling, are directed unto. For distinct respect is had unto them in the prescription of the duties here mentioned, as we shall see.
[3.] The grant of these guides unto the church, this office and its due discharge, being of necessity unto its edification, is an act of the authority of Christ, and an effect of his love and care, as our apostle declares at large, Ephesians 4:8-16. And where those that take upon them so to be are useless, or obstructive as unto that end, they must bear their own judgment. This is certain, that in after ages the church owed its ruin unto its guides, who led it into a fatal apostasy.
[4.] The rulers or guides here intended were the ordinary elders, or officers of the church, which were then settled among them. For although probably one of the apostles was yet alive among them, yet it is plain that it is their ordinary officers, which had the peculiar rule of them, that are intended. And that there be such, more than one in every church, belongs unto the complete state and constitution of it.
(2.) There are two parts of the duty enjoined with respect unto these guides, and that with distinct respect unto the two parts of their office before mentioned, namely, of teaching and ruling.
[1.] It is with respect unto their teaching, preaching, or pastoral feeding, that they are commanded to “obey them.” For the word signifies an obedience on a persuasion; such as doctrine, instruction, or teaching, doth produce. And,
[2.] The submission required, “Submit yourselves,” respects their rule, ‘Obey their doctrine, and submit to their rule.’And some things must be observed, to clear the intention of the apostle herein.
1st . It is not a blind, implicit obedience and subjection, that is here prescribed. A pretense hereof hath been abused to the ruin of the souls of men: but there is nothing more contrary to the whole nature of gospel obedience, which is our “reasonable service;” and in particular, it is that which would frustrate all the rules and directions given unto believers in this epistle itself, as well as elsewhere, about all the duties that are required of them. For to what purpose are they used, if no more be required but that men give up themselves, by an implicit credulity, to obey the dictates of others
2dly . It hath respect unto them in their office only. If those who suppose themselves in office do teach and enjoin things that belong not unto their office, there is no obedience due unto them by virtue of this command. So is it with the guides of the church of Rome, who, under a pretense of their office, give commands in secular things, no way belonging unto the ministry of the gospel.
3dly . It is their duty so to obey whilst they teach the things which the Lord Christ hath appointed them to teach; for unto them is their commission limited, Matthew 28:20: and to submit unto their rule whilst it is exercised in the name of Christ, according to his institution, and by the rule of the word, and not otherwise. When they depart from these, there is neither obedience nor submission due unto them. Wherefore,
4thly . In the performance of these duties, there is supposed a judgment to be made of what is enjoined or taught, by the word of God, according to all the instructions and rules that are given us therein. Our obedience unto them must be obedience unto God.
5thly . On this supposition their word is to be obeyed and their rule submitted unto, not only because they are true and right materially, but also because they are theirs, and conveyed from them unto us by divine institution. A regard is to be had unto their authority and office-power in what they teach and do. And it is hence evident,
Obs. 1. That the due obedience of the church, in all its members, unto the rulers of it, in the discharge of their office and duty, is the best means of its edification, and the chief cause of order and peace in the whole body. Therefore is it here placed by the apostle as comprehensive of all ecclesiastical duties.
2. The ground of this duty, or the principal motive unto it, is taken from the office of these rulers, and their discharge of it.
(1.) “They watch for your souls, as they that must give account.” ‘Obey them, for they watch. Make the consideration hereof a motive unto your duty.’
“They watch.” The word used is peculiar unto this place, and it denotes a watchfulness with the greatest care and diligence, and that not without trouble or danger; as Jacob kept and watched the flocks of Laban in the night. And they did it “for their souls; ” about them, concerning them and the things that belonged unto them; for their good, (so ὑπέρ frequently denotes the final cause), that souls may be guided, kept, and directed, unto their present duty and future reward.
And the apostle compriseth herein the whole duty of the pastoral office, with the manner of its discharge. Wherein that duty doth consist, what are the principal parts and acts of it, I have elsewhere declared.  Here the thing itself is intimated, but the manner of its discharge is principally intended; that is, with design, care, and diligence; and that against troubles, dangers, and oppositions. As if it were said, ‘The work and design of these rulers is solely to take care of your souls, by all means to preserve them from evil, sin, backsliding; to instruct and feed them; to promote their faith and obedience; that they may be led safely to eternal rest. For this end is their office appointed, and herein do they labor continually.’
 See “Duty of Pastors and People,” etc., vol. 13:7; and “A Brief Instruction in the Worship of God,” etc., vol. 15:493, miscellaneous works. ED
Where this is not the design of church rulers, where it is not their work and employment, where they do not evidence it so to be, they can claim no obedience from the church, by virtue of this rule. For the words here used are so a motive unto this obedience, as that they also contain the formal reason of it; because this watching belongs unto the essence of the office in the exercise of it, without which it is an empty name.
Obs. 2. An assumption of right and power by any to rule over the church, without evidencing their design and work to be a watching for the good of their souls, is pernicious unto themselves, and ruinous unto the church itself.
On the other side; that all the members of the church may be kept in due obedience unto their guides, it is necessary that they always consider the nature of their orifice, and their discharge of it. When they find that the office itself is a divine institution for the good of their souls, and that it is discharged by their guides, with labor, care, and diligence, they will be disposed unto that obedience and submission which are required of them.
And herein consist the beauty and usefulness of church order, namely, when the guides of it do make it evident that their whole design is with labor and diligence to promote the eternal welfare of the souls of them that are committed unto their care; and they, on the other hand, on the account hereof, do obey them in their doctrine, and submit unto them in their rule. Without this, all pretense of order is but confusion.
(2.) There is, moreover, an enforcement added unto this motive, from the consideration of the condition whereon they undertake this work of watching for their souls; namely, “As those that must give an account;” that is, of their office, work, duty, and discharge of it. So we render the words, “Those that must give an account;” referring it unto the last day of universal account. But respect is had also unto their present state and work; as,
[1.] They are in their office accountable persons; such as are obliged to account. They are not owners, but stewards; they are not sovereigns, but servants. There is a “great Shepherd of the sheep,” verse 20; the “Prince of the shepherds,” 1 Peter 5:4; to whom they must give an account of their office, of their work, and of the flock committed to their charge.
[2.] They behave themselves as those that are so intrusted, and so accountable. This is included in the particle ὡς , “as those.” And those who have an accountable office or work committed unto them, do act,
1 st . With good boldness and confidence towards those that are under their care; for they are committed unto them by him who hath the sovereign power over them all, unto whom they must give an account. They are not afraid to be esteemed intruders, or to impose themselves unduly on others, in any acts or duties of their office. Stewards are bold in the honest management of things committed unto them. This gives them encouragement against all oppositions and reflections, as though they took too much upon them at any time. The remembrance of their trust and their account animates them unto their duty.
2 dly . With care, diligence, and circumspection, and a continual regard unto the issue of things, and the trial which they must come unto. This the nature of the thing requires.
[3.] Although the last great account, which all church guides must give of their stewardship, may be intended, yet the present account which they give every day to Jesus Christ of the work committed to them, is included in it also. There are no conscientious church guides, but they do continually represent unto the Lord Christ the state of the flock committed unto them, and what is the success of their ministry among them. If they thrive, if they flourish, if they go on to perfection, this they give him an account of, blessing him for the work of his Spirit and grace among them. If they are diseased, unthrifty, fallen under decays, or do any way miscarry themselves, therein also they give an account unto Jesus Christ; they spread it before him, mourning with grief and sorrow. And indeed the different ways of giving this account, with joy or sorrow, mentioned in the next words, seem to have respect hereunto.
Obs. 3. Those who do attend with conscience and diligence unto the discharge of the work of the ministry towards their flocks, committed in an especial manner unto their charge, have no greater joy or sorrow in this world, than what accompanies the daily account which they give unto Christ of the discharge of their duty amongst them, as their success falls out to be.
[4.] The account, as was said, of the last day, when every shepherd shall be called on for his whole flock, by number and tale, is referred unto. But whereas this consists only in a solemn declaration and manifestation of what is done in this life, the present account is principally regarded, in the pressing of this duty. For the last clause of the words, “That is unprofitable for you,” on the supposition of an account given with sorrow, can refer to no other account but that which is present, with respect unto the success of the ministry. And much of the life of the ministry and benefit of the church depends on the continual giving an account unto Christ, by prayer and thanksgiving, of the state of the church, and success of the word therein. Those guides who esteem themselves obliged thereunto, and do live in the practice of it, will find their minds engaged thereby unto constant diligence and earnest laboring in the discharge of their duty. And the dealings of Christ with the church itself are regulated according unto this account, as the last words do manifest. For,
Lastly, The motive proposed unto obedience is further improved from the consideration of the frame of mind which is, or may be, in the guides of the church in giving this account; which wholly depends on the due observance or omission of the duty prescribed. For on the one they will give their account with joy, and on the other with sorrow. And as unto this latter frame it is added, “For that is unprofitable for you,” the contrary is to be understood with respect unto the former, namely, that it is profitable for them. Now, this joy or sorrow wherewith they are affected in giving of their accounts, doth not respect themselves, or their own ministry; for they are “a sweet savor unto God, both in them that are saved, and in them that perish: “ but it respects the church itself committed unto their guidance.
[1.] The duty is urged, “that they may give their account with joy.” It is matter of the greatest joy unto the pastors of the churches, when they find the souls of them committed unto their charge thriving under their ministry.
So was it with the apostles themselves. “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth,” saith one of them, 3 John 1:4. And another, “What is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming? For ye are our glory and joy,” 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20. And when they give their account with praise, it fills their hearts with joy in a particular manner. And this, on many accounts, is profitable for the church itself. They will quickly find the effects of the joy of their guides in their account, by the cheerful discharge of their ministry, and in tokens of Christ being well pleased with them.
[2.] It is pressed, for the avoidance of the contrary frame herein; namely, “with grief,” grieving or mourning. The sadness of the hearts of ministers of the gospel, upon the unprofitableness of the people under their ministry, or miscarriages of them, with respect unto church order and rule, is not easy to be expressed. With what sighing, what groaning, (as the word signifies,) what mourning, their accounts unto Christ are accompanied, he alone knows, and the last day will manifest. When it is thus, although they alone have the present burden and trouble of it, yet it is unprofitable for the people, both here and hereafter. It is, and will be so, in the discouragement of their guides, in the displeasure of Christ, and in all the severe consequents which will ensue thereon.
Of the close of the epistle, which now only remains, there are three parts:
1. The apostle’s request of the prayers of the Hebrews for himself, Hebrews 13:18-19;
2. His solemn benedictive prayer for them, Hebrews 13:20-21;
3. An account of the state of Timothy, with the usual salutation, Hebrews 13:22-25. The first of these is contained in
Hebrews 13:18-19 . Προσεύχεσθε περί ἡμῶν· πεποίθαμεν γὰρ ὅτι καλὴν συνείδησιν ἔχομεν , ἐν πᾶσι καλῶς θέλοντες ἀναστρέφεσθαι· περισσοτέρως δὲ παρακαλῶ τοῦτο ποιῆσαι , ἵνα τάχιον ἀποκατασταθῶ ὑμῖν .
Hebrews 13:18-19 . Pray for us: for we trust we have a good conscience, in all things willing to live honestly. But I beseech [you] the rather to do this, that I may be restored to you the sooner.
From these verses, and those that follow to the end, it is evident that the author of this epistle did not conceal himself from the Hebrews, neither was that the reason why his name was not prefixed unto it, as it is unto all his other epistles. For he plainly declares himself in all his circumstances, as one who was very well known unto them. But the true and only reason why he prefixed not his name and title unto this epistle, as unto all others, was because in them he dealt with the churches merely by virtue of his apostolical authority, and the revelation of the gospel which he had personally received from Jesus Christ; but dealing with these Hebrews, he lays his foundation in the authority of the scriptures of the Old Testament, which they acknowledged, and resolves all his arguments and exhortations thereinto. Hence he gave no title to the epistle, but immediately laid down the principle and authority which he would proceed upon, namely, the divine revelations of the Old Testament.
There are in the words,
1. A request made to the Hebrews for prayer;
2. The ground which gave him confidence therein, Hebrews 13:18;
3. A pressing of the same request with respect unto his present state and design, Hebrews 13:19.
1. There is his request for prayer: “Pray for us.” It is proposed unto them by the way of request, as is evident from the next words, “I beseech you the rather to do this.” Their duty it was always to pray for him; but to mind them of that duty, and to manifest what esteem he had of it, he makes it a request, as we ought mutually to do among ourselves. He speaks in the plural number, “Pray for us, for we;” yet is it himself alone that he intends, as is usual.
And this request of their prayers argues a confidence in their faith and mutual love, without which he would not have requested their prayers for him. And he grants that the prayers of the meanest saints may be useful unto the greatest apostle, both with respect unto his person, and the discharge of his office. Hence it was usual with the apostle to desire the prayers of the churches to whom he wrote, 2 Corinthians 1:11; Ephesians 6:19; Colossians 4:3; 2 Thessalonians 3:1. For in mutual prayer for each other consists one principal part of the communion of saints, wherein they are helpful to one another, in all times, places, and conditions. And he doth herein also manifest what esteem he had of them, whose prayers he thought would find acceptance with God on his behalf. And besides, it is the especial duty of the churches to pray for them who are eminently useful in the work of the ministry; which herein they are minded of.
2. He expresseth the ground of his confidence in this request, namely, that he was such an one, and did so walk as that they might engage for him without hesitation. “For,” saith he, “we trust.” And we may observe in the words.
(1.) The manner of his proposal of this ground of his confidence. “We trust,” We are persuaded that so it is with us: not as though there were any doubt or ambiguity in it, as it is ofttimes with us when we use that kind of expression; but he speaks of himself with modesty and humility, even in things whereof he had the highest assurance.
(2.) The thing itself is, that he had “a good conscience;” or, as he elsewhere expresseth it, “a conscience void of offense toward God and man. A sense thereof gives a due confidence both in our persons, and in our requests unto others for their prayers for us. So speaks the psalmist, “If I regard iniquity in my heart,” (which is inconsistent with a good conscience,) “God will not hear me,” Psalms 66:18. And on the other hand, “If our heart condemn us not,” (that is, if we have this good conscience,) “then have we confidence toward God, and whatsoever we ask, we receive of him,” 1 John 3:21-22. And as sincerity in the testimony of a good conscience gives us confidence before God in our own prayers, notwithstanding our many failings and infirmities, so it is requisite in our requests for the prayers of others. For it is the height of hypocrisy to desire others to pray for our deliverance from that which we willingly indulge ourselves in, or for such mercies as we cannot receive without foregoing that which we will not forsake. This therefore the apostle here testifies concerning himself, and that in opposition unto all the reproaches and false reports which they had heard concerning him.
The testimony of his having a good conscience consists in this, that he was “willing in all things to live honestly.” A will, resolution, and suitable endeavor, to live honestly in all things, is a fruit and evidence of a good conscience. Being willing, denotes readiness, resolution, and endeavor; and this extends to “all things;” that is, wherein conscience is concerned, or our whole duty towards God and men. The expression of “living honestly,” as it is commonly used, doth not reach the emphasis of the original. A beauty in conversation, or exact eminency therein, is intended. This was the design of the apostle in all things; and ought to he so of all ministers of the gospel, both for their own sakes, as unto what is in an especial manner required of them, as also that they may be examples unto the people.
3. In the 19th verse he is further earnest in his request, with respect unto his present circumstances, and his design of coining in person unto them. Some few things may be observed therein; as,
(1.) He had been with them formerly; as it is known that he had been partly at liberty, and partly in prison some good while, yea, for some years, at Jerusalem, and in other parts of Judea.
(2.) He desires to be restored unto them; that is, to come unto them again, so as that they might have the benefit of his ministry, and he the comfort of their faith and obedience.
(3.) He is earnest in this desire, and therefore the more urgent in requesting their prayers, that his desire might be accomplished. For,
(4.) He knew that the Lord Christ did dispense the affairs of his church much according to their prayers, unto his own glory and their great consolation. Yet,
(5.) It is uncertain whether ever this desire of his was accomplished or no; for this epistle was written after the close of the apostolical story in the Book of the Acts, and from thenceforward we have little certainty in matters of fact. For,
(6.) According unto our present apprehensions of duty, we may lawfully have earnest desires after, and pray for such things as shall not come to pass. The secret purposes of God are not the rule of our prayers.
Hebrews 13:20-21 . ῾Ο δὲ Θεὸς τῆς εἰρήνης , ὁ ἀναγαγὼν ἐκ νεκρῶν τὸν ποιμένα τῶν προβάτων τὸν μέγαν , ἐν αἵματι διαθήκης αἰωνίου , τὸν Κύριον ἡμῶν ᾿Ιησοῦν Χριστὸν , καταρτίσαι ὑμᾶς ἐν παντὶ ἔργῳ ἀγαθῷ , εἰς τὸ ποιῆσαι τὸ θέλημα αὐτοῦ , ποιῶν ἐν ὑμῖν τὸ εὐάρεστον ἐνώπιον αὐτοῦ , διὰ ᾿Ιησοῦ Χριστοῦ· ᾧ ἡ δόξα εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας τῶν αἰώνων . ᾿Αμήν . 
 VARIOUS READINGS. Χριστόν is now commonly omitted. Tischendorf also omits τῶν αἰώνων . ED.
Hebrews 13:20-21 . Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead that great shepherd of the sheep, our Lord Jesus Christ, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well- pleasing in his sight through Jesus Christ, to whom [be] glory for ever and ever. Amen.
Having desired their prayers for him, he adds thereunto his prayer for them, and therewithal gives a solemn close to the whole epistle. A glorious prayer it is, enclosing the whole mystery of divine grace, in its original, and the way of its communication by Jesus Christ. And he prays for the fruit and benefit to be applied unto them of all that he had before instructed them in; for the substance of the whole doctrinal part of the epistle is included in it. And the nature and form of the prayer itself,, with the expressions used in it, evidence its procedure from a spirit full of faith and love.
There are some things to be considered in this prayer, for the exposition of the words:
1. The title assigned unto God, suited unto the request to be made.
2. The work ascribed unto him, suitable unto that title.
3. The things prayed for.
4. A doxology, with a solemn closure of the whole.
1. The title assigned unto God, or the name by which he calls upon him, is, “The God of peace.” So is he frequently styled by our apostle, and by him Romans 15:33; Romans 16:20; Philippians 4:9; 1 Thessalonians 5:23. And he useth it only in a way of prayer, as shutting up all the instructions given the church in a prayer for a blessing from the God of peace. So also is he said to be the God of grace, mercy, and consolation; for he assumes names and titles to himself from his works, which are his alone, as well as from his essential attributes. And this is proper to him. For,
(1.) All things were brought into a state of disorder, confusion, and enmity, by sin. No peace was left in the creation.
(2.) There was no spring of peace left, no cause of it, but in the nature and will of God; which justifies this title.
(3.) He alone is the author of all peace, and that two ways:
[1.] He purposed, designed, and prepared it, in the eternal counsels of his will, Ephesians 1:8-10.
[2.] He is so in the communication of it, by Jesus Christ. So all peace is from him; with himself, in our own souls, between angels and men, Jews and Gentiles, all causes of enmity being taken away from the whole church.
And the apostle fixeth faith in prayer on this title of God, because he prays for those things which proceed from him peculiarly as the God of peace; such are, the glorious contrivance and accomplishment of our salvation by Jesus Christ and the blood of the covenant, with the communication of sanctifying grace unto the renovation of our natures unto new obedience, which are the matter of this prayer. These things are from God as he is the God of peace, who is the only author of it, and by them gives peace unto men. But he might have also herein an especial respect unto the present state of the Hebrews. For it is evident that they had been tossed, perplexed, and disquieted, with various doctrines and pleas about the law; and the observation of its institutions. Wherefore, having performed his part and duty, in the communication of the truth unto them, for the information of their judgments, he now, in the close of the whole, applies himself by prayer to the God of peace, that he, who alone is the author of it, who creates it where he pleaseth, would, through his instruction, give rest and peace unto their mind. For,
Obs. 1. When we make application unto God for any especial grace or mercy, it is our duty to direct and fix our faith on such names, titles, or properties of God, as whereunto that grace doth peculiarly relate, and from whence it doth immediately proceed. To this purpose precedents are multiplied in the Scripture. And,
Obs. 2. If this be the title of God, if this be his glory, that he is “the God of peace,” how excellent and glorious is that peace from whence he is so denominated! which is principally the peace which we have with himself by Jesus Christ.
Obs. 3. Because every thing that is evil unto mankind, in them all, amongst themselves, with reference unto things temporal and eternal, proceeding as it doth from our original loss of peace with God by sin, and the enmity which ensued thereon; peace, on the other side, is comprehensive of all that is good, of all sorts, here and hereafter; and God being styled “the God of peace,” declares him to be the only fountain and cause of all that is good unto us in every kind.
2. The second thing in the words is the work that is ascribed unto God, as the God of peace. And this is, that “he brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus Christ, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant.” Wherein we must consider,
(1.) The person who is the object of this work; who is described,
[1.] By his relation unto us, “Our Lord Jesus Christ;”
[2.] By his office, “That great shepherd of the sheep.”
(2.) The work itself towards him, “He brought him again from the dead.”
(3.) The way whereby this work was wrought; it was “through the blood of the everlasting covenant.”
(1.) The person who is the object of this work, is “Jesus Christ, our Lord.” This is he whom the apostle, after his long dispute, reduceth all unto, both as the object of the whole work of God’s grace, as in this place; and the only means of the communication of it unto us, as in the close of the prayer. And,
[1.] He expresseth him by his name, significant of his grace and office; and by his relation unto us, he is “our Lord.” And it was towards him, as the anointed Savior and our Lord, that the work mentioned was accomplished. For,
Obs. 4. All the work of God towards Jesus Christ respected him as the head of the church, as our Lord and Savior; and thence we have an interest in all the grace of it.
[2.] Again, he is described by his office, under which consideration he was the object of the work mentioned, “ that great shepherd of the sheep.” As such God brought him again from the dead. The expression in the original is emphatical, by a reduplication of the article, τὸν ποιμένα , τὸν μέγαν , which we cannot well express. And it is asserted,
1 st . That Christ is a shepherd; that is, the only shepherd.
2dly . That he is the great shepherd.
3dly . That he is not so to all, but the shepherd of the sheep.
1st . He doth not say he is the great shepherd, but “ that great shepherd;” namely, he that was promised of old, the object of the faith and hope of the church from the beginning, he who was looked for, prayed for, who was now come, and had saved his flock.
2dly . He is said to be “great” on many accounts:
(1st.) He is great in his person, above all angels and men, being the eternal Son of God;
(2dly.) Great in power, to preserve and save his flock;
(3dly.) Great in his undertaking, and the effectual accomplishment of it in the discharge of his office;
(4thly.) Great in his glory and exaltation, above the whole creation. He is every way incomparably great and glorious. See our discourse of the Glory of Christ, in his Person, Office, and Grace.  And,
 See Vol. I. of his miscellaneous works. Ed.
Obs. 5. The safety, security, and consolation of the church, much depend on this greatness of their shepherd.
3 dly . He is the “shepherd of the sheep.” They are his own. He was promised, and prophesied of, of old under the name of a shepherd, Isaiah 40:11; Ezekiel 34:23; Ezekiel 37:24. And that which is signified hereby is comprehensive of the whole office of Christ, as king, priest, and prophet of the church. For as a shepherd he doth feed, that is, rule and instruct it; and being that shepherd who was to lay down his life for the sheep, John 10:11, it hath respect unto his priestly office also, and the atonement he made for his church by his blood. All the elect are committed unto him of God, as sheep to a shepherd, to be redeemed, preserved, saved, by virtue of his office. This relation between Christ and the church is frequently mentioned in the Scripture, with the security and consolation which depend thereon. That which we are here taught is, that he died in the discharge of his office, as the “great shepherd of the sheep;” which expresseth both the excellency of his love and the certainty of the salvation of the elect. For,
He is not said to be a shepherd in general, but the “shepherd of the sheep.” He did not lay down his life, as a shepherd, for the whole herd of mankind, but for that flock of the elect which was given and committed to him by the Father, as he declares, John 10:11; John 10:14-16.
Obs. 6. On this relation of Christ unto the church doth it live and is preserved in the world. In particular, this little flock of sheep could not be maintained in the midst of so many wolves and other beasts of prey as this world is filled withal, were it not by the power and care of this great shepherd.
(2.) The work of God toward him is, that he “brought him again from the dead.” The God of peace is he who brought him again from the dead. Herein consisted his great acting towards the church, as he is the God of peace; and herein he laid the foundation of the communication of grace and peace unto us.
God, even the Father, is frequently said to raise Christ from the dead, because of his sovereign authority in the disposal of the whole work of redemption, which is everywhere ascribed unto him. And Christ is said to raise himself, or to take his life again when he was dead, because of the immediate efficiency of his divine person therein, John 10:18. But somewhat more is intended than that mere act of divine power whereby the human nature of Christ was quickened by a reunion of its essential parts, soul and body. And the word here used is peculiar, not signifying an act of raising, but of reducing or recovery out of a certain state and condition; that is, the state of the dead. Christ, as the great shepherd of the sheep, was brought into the state of death by the sentence of the law; and was thence led, recovered and restored, by the God of peace. Not a real efficiency of power, but a moral act of authority, is intended. The law being fulfilled and answered, the sheep being redeemed by the death of the shepherd, the God of peace, to evidence that peace was now perfectly made, by an act of sovereign authority brings him again into the state of life, in a complete deliverance from the charge of the law. See Psalms 16:10-11.
(3.) Hence he is said to do this “through the blood of the everlasting covenant.” “In the blood,” ἐν for διά , which is frequent. And we must see,
[1.] What “covenant” this is;
[2.] What was “the blood of this covenant;”
[3.] How “through it” the Lord Christ was brought again from the dead.
[1.] This covenant may be the eternal covenant between the Father and the Son about the redemption of the church, by his undertaking on its behalf. The nature hereof hath been fully declared in our Exercitations. But this covenant needed no confirmation or ratification by blood, as consisting only in the eternal counsels of Father and Son. Wherefore it is the covenant of grace, which is a transcript and effect of that covenant of redemption, which is intended. Hereof we have treated at large in our exposition of the 8th and 9th chapters. And this is called “everlasting,” as in opposition unto the covenant made at Sinai, which, as the apostle proves, was but for a time, and accordingly waxed old, and was removed; so because the effects of it are not temporary benefits, but everlasting mercies, grace and glory.
[2.] The blood of this covenant is the blood of Christ himself, so called in answer to the blood of the beasts, which was offered and sprinkled in the confirmation of the old covenant; whence it is by Moses called “the blood of the covenant,” Exodus 24:8; Hebrews 9:20. See that place, and the exposition. And it is called the blood of the covenant, because, as it was a sacrifice to God, it confirmed the covenant; and as it was to be sprinkled, it procured and communicated all the grace and mercy of the covenant, unto them who are taken into the bond of it. [3.] But the principal inquiry is, how God is said to bring Christ from the dead “through the blood of the covenant,” the shedding whereof was the means and the way of his entrance unto death. Now the mind of the Holy Ghost herein will appear in the ensuing considerations.
1 st . By the blood of Christ, as it was the blood of the covenant, the whole will of God, as unto what he intended in all the institutions and sacrifices of the law, was accomplished and fulfilled. See Hebrews 10:5-9. And hereby an end was put unto the old covenant, with all its services and promises.
2 dly . Hereby was atonement made for sin, the church was sanctified or dedicated to God, the law was fulfilled, the threatenings of death executed, eternal redemption obtained, the promises of the new covenant confirmed, and by one offering they who were sanctified are perfected for ever.
3dly . Hereon not only way was made for the dispensation of grace, but all grace, mercy, peace, and glory, were purchased for the church, and in the purpose of God were necessarily to ensue. Now the head and well-spring of the whole dispensation of grace, lies in the bringing of Christ again from the dead. That is the beginning of all grace to the church; the greatest and first instance of it, and the cause of all that doth ensue. The whole dispensation of grace, I say, began in, and depends on, the resurrection of Christ from the dead; which could not have been, had not the things before mentioned been effected and accomplished by the blood of the covenant. Without them he must have continued in the state and under the power of death. Had not the will of God been satisfied, atonement made for sin, the church sanctified, the law accomplished, and the threatenings satisfied, Christ could not have been brought again from the dead. It was therefore hereby that he was so, in that way was made for it unto the glory of God. The death of Christ, if he had not risen, would not have completed our redemption, we should have been “yet in our sins;” for evidence would have been given that atonement was not made. The bare resurrection of Christ, or the bringing him from the dead, would not have saved us; for so any other man may be raised by the power of God. But the bringing again of Christ from the dead, “through the blood of the everlasting covenant,” is that which gives assurance of the complete redemption and salvation of the church. Many expositors have filled this place with conjectures to no purpose, none of them so much as looking towards the mind of the Holy Ghost in the words. That which we learn from them is,
Obs. 7. That the bringing back of our Lord Jesus Christ, as the shepherd of the sheep, from the state of the dead, through the blood of the covenant, is the great pledge and assurance of peace with God, or the effecting of that peace which the God of peace had designed for the church.
Obs. 8. The reduction of Christ from the dead, by the God of peace, is the spring and foundation of all dispensations and communications of grace to the church, or all the effects of the atonement and purchase made by his blood. For he was so brought again, as the shepherd of the sheep, unto the exercise of his entire office towards the church. For hereon followed his exaltation, and the glorious exercise of his kingly power in its behalf, with all the benefits which ensue thereon, Acts 5:30-31, Romans 14:9, Philippians 2:8-11, Revelation 1:17-18; and the completing of his prophetical office, by sending of his Holy Spirit to abide always with the church, for its instruction, Acts 2:33; and the discharge of what remains of his priestly office, in his intercession, Hebrews 7:25-26, and his ministering in the sanctuary, to make the services of the church acceptable unto God, Hebrews 8:2; Revelation 8:3-4. These are the springs of the administration of all mercy and grace unto the church, and they all follow on his reduction from the dead as the shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the covenant.
Obs. 9. All legal sacrifices issued in blood and death; there was no recovery of any of them from that state. There was no solemn pledge of their success. But their weakness was supplied by their frequent repetition.
Obs. 10. There is, then, a blessed foundation laid of the communication of grace and mercy to the church, unto the eternal glory of God.
Hebrews 13:21 . The other verse contains the things which the apostle, with all this solemnity, prayeth for on the behalf of the Hebrews. And they are two:
1. That “God would perfect them in every good work to do his will.”
2. That “he would work in them that which is well-pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ.”
In this whole prayer we have the method of the dispensation of grace laid before us. For,
(1.) The original of it is in God himself, as he is “the God of peace;” that is, as in the eternal counsel of his will he had designed grace and peace to poor sinners, suitably unto his own goodness, wisdom, and grace.
(2.) The preparation of it, in a way suitable unto the exaltation of the glory of God, and the original means of its communication, is the mediation of Christ in his death and resurrection.
(3.) The nature of it, as unto one principal part, or our sanctification, is expressed under these two heads in this verse.
Again, it is evident that this communication of grace here prayed for consists in a real efficiency of it in us. It is here expressed by words denoting not only a certain efficacy, but a real actual efficiency. The pretense of some, that the eventual efficacy of divine grace depends on the first contingent compliance of our wills, which leaves it to be no more but persuasion or instruction, is irreconcilable unto this prayer of the apostle. It is not a sufficient proposal of the object, and a pressing of rational motives thereon, but a real efficiency of the things themselves, by the power of God through Christ, that the apostle prays for.
1. The first part of the prayer, the first thing prayed for us, is, “Perfection in every good work to do the will of God.” “Make you perfect,” or rather, “make you meet,” fit and able. ‘This is a thing which you in yourselves are no way meet, fit, prepared, able for; whatever may be supposed to be in you of light, power, liberty, yet it will not give you this meetness and ability.’It is not an absolute perfection that is intended, nor doth the word signify any such thing; but it is to bring the faculties of the mind into that order, so to dispose, prepare, and enable them, as that they may work accordingly.
And this is to be “in every good work; ” in, for, unto every good work, or duty of obedience. The whole of our obedience towards God, and duty towards man, consists in good works, Ephesians 2:10. And therefore the end of the assistance prayed for is, that they might do the will of God, which is the sole rule of our obedience. It is hence evident what is the grace that in these words the apostle prayeth for. In general, he designs the application of the grace of God through the mediation of Christ unto our sanctification. And this adapting of us to do the will of God in every good work, is by that habitual grace which is wrought in our souls. Hereby are they prepared, fitted, enabled, unto all duties of obedience. And whereas many, at least of the Hebrews, might justly be esteemed to have already received this grace, in their first conversion unto God, as all believers do, the daily increase of it in them, whereof it is capable, is that which on their behalf he prayeth for. For all this strengthening, thriving, and growing in grace, consists in the increase of this spiritual habit in us.
He lets therefore the Hebrews know, that in themselves they are unable to answer the will of God in the duties of obedience required of them; and therefore prays that they may have supplies of sanctifying grace enabling them thereunto. And he doth it after he hath in particular prescribed and enjoined sundry gospel duties unto them, in this and the foregoing chapter; and it may be with especial regard unto the casting out of all contentious disputes about the law, with a holy acquiescency in the doctrine of the gospel; which he therefore prays for from “the God of peace.”
2. But there is yet more required in us besides this habitual disposition and preparation for duties of obedience, according to the will of God; namely, the actual gracious performance of every such duty. For neither can we do this of ourselves, whatever furniture of habitual grace we may have received. This therefore he hath also respect unto: “Working in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ.” This is the way whereby we may be enabled effectually to do the will of God.
Our whole duty, in all the acts of it, according to his will, is “that which is well-pleasing unto him,” (so is it expressed, Romans 12:1; Romans 14:18; Ephesians 5:10; Philippians 4:18), that which is right in his eyes, before him, with respect unto the principle, matter, forms, and end of what is so done. This we are not sufficient for in ourselves, in any one instance, act, or duty.
Therefore he prayeth that God would do it, work it, effect it, in them; not by moral persuasion and instruction only, but by an effectual in-working, or working in them. See Philippians 2:13. The efficiency of actual grace in and unto every acceptable act or duty of obedience, cannot be more directly expressed. This the church prays for; this it expects and relies upon. Those who judge themselves to stand in no need of the actual efficiency of grace in and unto every duty of obedience, cannot honestly give their assent and consent unto the prayers of the church.
He prays that all may be granted unto them “through Jesus Christ.” This may be referred either to working or to acceptance. If it be so to the latter, the meaning is, that the best of our duties, wrought in us by the grace of God, are not accepted as they are ours, but upon the account of the merit and mediation of Christ: which is most true. But it is rather to be referred unto the former; showing that there is no communication of grace unto us from the God of peace, but in and by Jesus Christ, and by virtue of his mediation; and this the apostle presseth in a peculiar manner upon the Hebrews, who seem not as yet to be fully instructed in the things which belong unto his person, office, and grace.
3. The close of the words, and so of the epistle, is, an ascription of glory to Christ: “To whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” So 1Ti 1:17 ; 2 Timothy 4:18. So is it jointly to the Father and the Son, as mediator, Revelation 5:13. See Galatians 1:5. And wherein this assignation of glory to Christ doth consist is there fully declared. And whereas it contains divine adoration and worship, with the ascription of all glorious divine properties unto him, the object of it is his divine person, and the motive unto it is his work of mediation, as I have elsewhere at large declared. All grace is from him, and therefore all glory is to be ascribed to him.
As this is due, so it is to be given unto him “for ever and ever.” The expression of εἰς τοὺς αἰώνας τῶν αἰώνων , “in secula seculorum,” is taken from the Hebrew, עוֹלָם וָעֶד , Psalms 10:16; עַדאּהָעוֹלָם מִןאּהָעוֹלָם , Nehemiah 9:5; or לָעַד לְעוֹלָם , Psalms 148:6; “unto eternity,” “without intermission,” “without end.”
Hereunto is added the solemn note of assent and attestation, frequently used both in the Old and New Testament, as in this case, Romans 16:27: “So it is, so let it be, so it ought to be, it is true, it is right and meet that so it should be,” “Amen.”
Thus shall the whole dispensation of grace issue in the eternal glory of Christ. This the Father designed; this is the blessedness of the church to give unto him, and behold; and let every one who says not amen hereunto, be anathema Maranatha. This the apostle hath brought his discourse unto with these Hebrews, that laying aside all disputation about the law and expectations from it, all glory, the glory of all grace and mercy, is now, and eternally, to be ascribed to Jesus Christ alone. Of the nature of this glory, and the manner of its assignation to him, see my discourse of the Mystery of Godliness, where it is handled at large.  And unto Him doth the poor unworthy author of this Exposition desire, in all humility, to ascribe and give eternal praise and glory, for all the mercy, grace, guidance, and assistance, which he hath received from Him in his labor and endeavors therein. And if any thing, word, or expression, through weakness, ignorance and darkness, which he yet laboureth under, have passed from him that doth not tend unto His glory, he doth here utterly condemn it. And he humbly prays, that if, through His assistance, and the guidance of His Holy Spirit of light and truth, any thing have been spoken aright concerning Him, His office, His sacrifice, His grace, His whole mediation, any light or direction communicated unto the understanding of the mind of the Holy Ghost in this glorious scripture, He would make it useful and acceptable unto His church, here and elsewhere. And he doth also humbly acknowledge His power, goodness, and patience, in that, beyond all his expectations, He hath continued his life under many weaknesses, temptations, sorrows, tribulations, to bring this work unto its end. To Him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
 See Vol. 1 of his miscellaneous works. Ed.
This is the solemn close of the epistle. What follows are certain additional postscripts, which were usual with our apostle in his other epistles; and we shall briefly give an account of them.
Hebrews 13:22 . Παρακαλῶ δὲ ὑμᾶς , ἀδελφοὶ , ἀνέχεσθε τοῦ λόγου τῆς παρακλήσεως· καὶ γὰρ διὰ βραχέων ἐπέστειλα ὑμῖν .
Hebrews 13:22 . And I beseech you, brethren, suffer the word of exhortation; for I have written a letter unto you in few words.
The apostle knew that many of the Hebrews were not without great prejudices in the cause wherein he had been dealing with them; as also, that he had been necessitated to make use of some severe admonitions and reprehensions. Having therefore finished his discourse, he adds this word, both in his own justification as unto what he had written, and to caution them that they lost not the benefit of it through negligence or prejudice. And he gives this caution with great wisdom and tenderness,
1. In his kind compellation by the name of “brethren,” denoting,
(1.) His near relation unto them, in nature and grace;
(2.) His love unto them;
(3.) His common interest with them in the cause in hand: all suited to give an access unto his present exhortation.
See Hebrews 3:1, with the exposition.
2. In calling his discourse, or the subject-matter of his epistle, τὸν λόγον τῆς παρακλήσεως , “a word of exhortation,” or “of consolation;” for it is used to signify both, some- times the one, and sometimes the other, as hath been declared before by instances. Wherefore λόγος παρακλήσεως is the truth and doctrine of the gospel applied unto the edification of believers, whether by way of exhortation or consolation, the one of them constantly including the other. Most think that the apostle intends peculiarly the hortatory part of the epistle, in chapters 6,10,12,13; for therein are contained both prescriptions of difficult duties, and some severe admonitions, with respect whereunto he desires that they would “bear” or “suffer it,” as that which had some. appearance of being grievous or burdensome. But I see no just reason why the whole epistle may not be intended; for,
(1.) The nature of it in general is parenetical or hortatory; that is, a “word of exhortation,” as hath been often showed.
(2.) The whole epistle is intended in the next words, “For I have written a letter unto you in few words.”
(3.) There is in the doctrinal part of it that which was as hard to be borne by the Hebrews as any thing in those which are preceptive or hortatory. Wherefore, the whole of it being a “word of exhortation,” or a “consolatory exhortation,” he might use it with confidence, and they bear it with patience. And I would not exclude the notion of “consolation,” because that is the proper effect of the doctrine of the gospel, delivering men from bondage unto the ceremonies of the law; which is the design of the apostle in this whole epistle. See Acts 15:31.
Obs . And when ministers take care that the word which they deliver is a word tending unto the edification and consolation of the church, they rosy with confidence press the entertainment of it by the people, though it should contain things, by reason of their weakness or prejudices, some way grievous unto them.
3. In persuading them to “bear,” or “suffer” this word; that is, in the first place, to take heed that no prejudices, no inveterate opinions, no apprehension of severity in its admonitions and threatenings, should provoke them against it, render them impatient under it, and so cause them to lose the benefit of it. But there is more intended, namely, that they should bear and receive it as a word of exhortation, so as to improve it unto their edification. A necessary caution this is for these Hebrews, and indeed for all others unto whom the word is preached and applied with wisdom and faithfulness; for neither Satan nor the corruptions of men’s own hearts will be wanting to suggest unto them such exceptions and prejudices against it as may render it useless.
4. He adds the reason of his present caution, “For I have written a letter unto you in few words.” There are two things in the words warranting his caution:
(1.) That out of his love and care towards them he had written or sent this epistle to them; on the account whereof they ought to bear with him and it.
(2.) That he had given them no more trouble than was necessary, in that he had “written in a few words.”
Some inquiry is made why the apostle should affirm that he wrote this epistle “briefly,” or “in few words,” seeing it is of a considerable length, one of the longest he ever wrote. A few words will satisfy this inquiry. For considering the importance of the cause wherein he was engaged; the necessity that was on him to unfold the whole design and mystery of the covenant and institutions of the law, with the office of Christ; the great contests that were amongst the Hebrews about these things; and the danger of their eternal ruin, through a misapprehension of them; all that he hath written may well be esteemed but a “few words,” and such as whereof none could have been spared. He hath in this matter written διὰ βραχέων , or given us a brief compendium, as the words signify, of the doctrine of the law and the gospel; which they ought to take in good part.
Hebrews 13:23 . Γινώσκετε τὸν ἀδελφὸν Τιμόθεον ἀπολελυμένον , μεθ᾿ οὗ ἐὰν τάχιον ἔρχηται ὄψομαι ὑμᾶς .
Hebrews 13:23 . Know ye that [our] brother Timothy is set at liberty; with whom, if he come shortly, I will see you. 
 EXPOSITION. The reference to Timothy is so much after the manner of Paul, and in such harmony with his other allusions to him, that many found on this verse a proof that the epistle was written by Paul. So reason Lardner, Stuart, and others. Tholuck takes an opposite view. It has been argued that the phrase, “I will see you,” is too peremptory in its tone to have been written by Paul while yet a prisoner, and uncertain of release, as we may gather from verse 19; and if ἀπολελυμένον mean “set at liberty,” there is no other evidence that Timothy was ever in prison, and the apostle never speaks of him as his companion in bonds. These objections, resting chiefly upon premises of a negative character, hardly outweigh the evidence derived from the Pauline complexion of the reference. ED.
Who this Timothy was, what was his relation unto Paul, how he loved him, how he employed him, and honored him, joining him with himself in the salutation prefixed unto some of his epistles, with what care and diligence he wrote unto him with reference unto his office of an evangelist, is known out of his writings. This Timothy was his perpetual companion in all his travels, labors, and sufferings, “serving him as a son serveth his father,” unless when he designed and sent him unto any especial work for the church. And being with him in Judea, he was well known unto them also; as were his worth and usefulness. He seems not to have gone to Rome with Paul, when he was sent thither a prisoner, but probably followed him not long after. And there, as it is most likely, being taken notice of, either as an associate of the apostle’s, or for preaching the gospel, he was cast into prison. Hereof the Hebrews had heard, and were no doubt concerned in it, and affected with it. He was at this present dismissed out of prison; whereof the apostle gives notice unto the Hebrews, as a matter wherein he knew they would rejoice. He writes them the good news of the release of Timothy. He doth not seem to have been present with the apostle at the despatch of this epistle, for he knew not his mind about his going into Judea directly; only, he apprehended that he had a mind and resolution so to do. And hereon he acquaints them with his own resolution to give them a visit; which that he might do he had before desired their prayers for him. However, he seems to intimate that, if Timothy, whose company he desired in his travels, could not come speedily, he knew not whether his work would permit him to do so or no. What was the event of this resolution, God only knows.
Hebrews 13:24 . ᾿Ασπάσασθε πάντας τούς ἡγουμένους ὑμῶν καὶ πάντας τοὺς ἁγίους . ᾿Ασπάζονται ὑμᾶς οἱ ἀπὸ τῆς ᾿Ιταλίας .
Hebrews 13:24 . Salute all them that have the rule over you, and all the saints. They of Italy salute you. 
 EXPOSITION. Winer interprets the expression, οἱ ἀπὸ τῆς ᾿Ιταλίας , as equivalent to οἱ ἐν τῇ ᾿Ιταλίᾳ , “they in Italy.” Lardner, Hug, and Stuart, derive an argument for the Pauline authorship of the epistle from this expression, as Paul writing from Rome, in the name of all the Christians of Italy, might very naturally give this salutation. It has been thought that if he was in prison at Rome, he could not have had any opportunity of ascertaining the desire of the brethren throughout Italy to be included in this expression of Christian friendship to the believing Hebrews; and that the analogy sometimes urged of 1 Corinthians 16:19 will not really hold. The objection, however, proceeds upon the ground, which is quite untenable, that in every instance in which he conveyed such salutations from other brethren in his epistles, he required to be formally empowered to do so. If persons are specially named as transmitting through the apostle these friendly greetings, this might have been necessary, but it is reasonable to allow a somewhat wider import in the case of the more general salutations. When he writes, Romans 16:16, “All the churches of Christ salute you,” (for Tischendorf, along with Griesbach, Scholz, and Lachmann, inserts πᾶσαι in the clause,) he might simply intimate his knowledge of the fraternal love which, in the various congregations at Corinth and its ports, or wherever he had been, he had heard expressed towards the Christians to whom the epistle in which the salutation occurred was addressed. ED.
This is given in charge unto them to whom the epistle was sent and committed. For although it was written for the use of the whole church, yet the messengers by whom it was carried, delivered and committed it, according to the apostle’s direction, unto some of the brethren; by whom it was to be presented and communicated unto the church. These he speaks unto peculiarly in this postcript, giving them in charge to salute both their rulers and all the rest of the saints, or members of the church, in his name. To salute in the name of another, is to .represent his kindness and affection unto them. This the apostle desires, for the preservation and continuation of entire love between them.
Who these rulers were whom they are enjoined to salute, hath been fully declared on Hebrews 13:17; and all the rest of the members of the church are called “the saints,” as is usual with our apostle. Such rulers and such members did constitute blessed churches.
He adds, to complete this duty of communion in mutual salutation, the performance of it by those that were with him, as well as by himself: “They of Italy salute you.” They did it by him, or he did it unto the whole church by them. Hence it is taken for granted that Paul was in Italy at the writing of this epistle. But it is not unquestionably proved by the words. For οἱ ἀπὸ τῆς ᾿Ιταλίας may as well be, “those who were come to him out of Italy,” as “those that were with him in Italy.” But in Italy there were then many Christians, both of Jews and Gentiles. Some of these, no doubt, were continually with the apostle; and so knowing his design of sending a letter to the Hebrews, desired to be remembered unto them; it being probable that many of them were their own countrymen, and well known unto them.
Hebrews 13:25 . ῾Η χάρις μετὰ πάντων ὑμῶν . ᾿Αμήν .
Hebrews 13:25 . Grace [be] with you all. Amen.
This was the constant close of all his epistles. This he wrote with his own hand, and would have it esteemed an assured token whereby an epistle might be known to be his, 2 Thessalonians 3:17-18. He varieth sometimes in his expressions, but this is the substance of all his subscriptions, “Grace be with you all.” And by “grace” he intends the whole good-will of God by Jesus Christ, and all the blessed effects of it, for whose communication unto them he prays herein.
The subscription in our books is, Πρὸς ῾Εζραίους ἐγράφη ἀπὸ τῆς ᾿Ιταλίας διὰ Τιμοθέου , “Written to the Hebrews from Italy by Timothy.” This is partly uncertain, as that it was written from Italy; and partly most certainly untrue, as that it was sent by Timothy, as expressly contrary unto what the apostle speaks concerning him immediately before. But these subscriptions have been sufficiently proved by many to be spurious, being the additions of some unskilful transcribers in after ages. 
 In regard to this subscription, it is commonly overlooked that it varies in different Mss. In illustration it may be mentioned, that while D has no subscription, c has Πρὸς ῾Εβραίους , A adds ἐγράφη ἀπὸ ῾Ρώμης , and K appends διὰ Τιμοθέου . ED.
Τῷ Θεῷ δόξα .
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Owen, John. "Commentary on Hebrews 13". "Owen's Exposition of Hebrews". https://www.studylight.org/
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