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THERE are three general parts of this chapter;
First, A description of the office and duties of a high priest, Hebrews 5:1-4.
Secondly, The application of this general description unto the person and priesthood of Jesus Christ in particular, Hebrews 5:5-10.
Thirdly, An occasional diversion into a reproof of and expostulation with the Hebrews, for and about their backwardness in learning the mysteries of the gospel, begun in this, and carried on in the beginning of the next chapter, Hebrews 5:11-14.
In the First part, the general description of a high priest is given:
1. From his original; he is “taken from among men.”
2. From the nature of his office; he is “ordained for men in things pertaining to God.”
3. From the especial end of it; to “offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins,” Hebrews 5:1.
4. From the qualification of his person for the discharge of his office; for he must be one that “can have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way:” whereunto is subjoined the ground of that qualification; for “he himself also is compassed with infirmity,” Hebrews 5:2.
5. From the continual duty arising from his office and personal qualification for it, in respect of others and himself; for “by reason hereof he ought, as for the people, so also for himself, to offer for sins,” Hebrews 5:3.
6. From his call to his office: which is,
(1.) Asserted to be from God, “And no man taketh this honor to himself, but he that is called of God;”
(2.) Exemplified in the instance of Aaron’s, “As was Aaron,” Hebrews 5:4.
Secondly, The ἀπόδοσις , or “application” of this description unto the person of Jesus Christ (which is the second part of the chapter), is not to show an exact conformity thereunto, as though all things should be the same, and even or equal, in the high priest which he had described and him whom he would now represent unto them. This would have been contrary to the design of the apostle. For the description he hath given us of a high priest is of him, or such a one as the Hebrews had under the law; and his purpose was to show them how much more excellent a priest he was of whom he treated. There must, therefore, of necessity be sundry differences between them. Wherefore, in the application of this description of a legal high priest unto the person and office of Christ, three things (as we shall show afterwards in particular) the apostle aimeth at:
1. To demonstrate that there was nothing essentially requisite unto the constituting of any one to be a high priest, or in the discharge of that office, but it was found in and agrees unto the Lord Jesus Christ;
2. Whatever was of weakness or infirmity in the high priest of old, on the account of his infirm and frail condition, that Jesus Christ was free from;
3. That he had in this office several pre-eminences and advantages which the old high priest was not partaker of or sharer in: which things will in our progress be explained.
Hence the application made by the apostle of the precedent description is not to be expected such as should exactly correspond with it in all particulars. Wherefore,
1. By a ὕστερον πρότερον , he insisteth first, in the application, on the last instance of his description, namely, the call of a high priest. And this as to the person of Christ is expressed,
(1.) Negatively, “He glorified not himself to be made a priest:”
(2.) Positively, it was of God; which he proves by a double testimony, one from Psalms 2:7, the other from Psalms 110:4-6.
2. On the discharge of his office whereunto he was so called of God:
which he describes,
(1.) From the season of it; “it was in the days of his flesh:”
(2.) The manner of its performance; “he offered up prayers and supplications, with strong crying and tears:
(3.) The general issue of it; he “was heard in that he feared,” Hebrews 5:7.
3. He proceeds by the anticipation of an objection, and therein the declaration of a singular pre-eminence that he had above all other priests, with the love and condescension with which the discharge of his office was accompanied; together with the great benefit which ensued thereon: “Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered.” Hebrews 5:8.
4. The glorious end of his priesthood, manifesting the incomparable excellency of it above that of Aaron, is expressed Hebrews 5:9. All issuing,
5. In a summary description of his call and office, as he intends afterwards to enlarge upon them, Hebrews 5:10.
The third part of the chapter contains a diversion unto a reproof of and expostulation with the Hebrews, about the things concerning which he intended to treat with them: wherein is expressed,
1. The occasion; and that,
(1.) On the part of the things which he treated about, not absolutely, but with respect unto them, “Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered;”
(2.) On their part, “Seeing that ye are dull of hearing,” Hebrews 11:2. This fault of theirs, occasioning their reproof, is aggravated,
(1.) From the means and advantages to the contrary which they had enjoyed, Hebrews 5:12;
(2.) By a particular elegant description of the nature of that weakness, evil, and defect which he blamed in them, Hebrews 5:12-13;
(3.) By a declaration of the contrary virtue, the want whereof in them he complains of, Hebrews 5:14.
This is the substance of the discourses of this chapter, considered apart by themselves. We must also inquire into their relation unto those foregoing, and the design of the apostle in them, which is twofold; for,
First, They have respect unto his general purpose and aim. And herein they contain an entrance into a full and particular description of the sacerdotal office of Christ, with the excellency of it, and the benefits which thereby redound unto the church. This was the principal intention of the apostle in the writing of this epistle; for besides the excellency of the doctrine hereof in itself, and the inestimable benefits which the whole church receiveth thereby, it was peculiarly for many reasons necessary for the Hebrews, as hath been showed. Wherefore in the first chapter he lays down a description of the person of Christ, which, under the new testament, is vested with all those sacred offices in and over the church of God which were typically exercised by others under the old. Of these, in the following chapters he more particularly treats of his kingly and prophetical; comparing him therein with Moses and Joshua, showing in sundry instances his pre-eminence above them. He had also by the way interserted several things concerning his sacerdotal office, with a general description whereof, and declaration of the advantage of the church thereby, he closeth the foregoing chapter.
In all these things it was the purpose of the apostle not to handle them absolutely, but with respect unto that exercise of them which, by God’s appointment, was in use in the church of the Hebrews under the old testament; for that the nature of his treaty with them did require. And herein he effected two things, both apposite unto his principal end; for,
1. He declares what it was in all those institutions which God intended to instruct them in, seeing they were all “shadows of good things to come.” So he lets them know that whatever esteem they had of them, and however they rested in them, they were not appointed for their own sakes, but only for a time, to foresignify what was now, in the person and mediation of Christ, actually and really exhibited unto them.
2. He makes it evident how exceedingly the way and worship of God which they were now called unto, and made partakers of under the gospel, did excel those which before they were intrusted with; whence the conclusion was easy and unavoidable, unto the necessity of their stead-. fastness in the profession of the gospel, the principal thing aimed at in the whole.
On these grounds, the apostle undertaketh a comparison between the priesthood of Aaron and his successors and that of Jesus Christ, which was prefigured thereby. And this he doth with respect unto both the ends mentioned; for, first, he shows them how they were of old instructed in the nature and use of that priesthood which, according to the promise of God, was to be introduced and erected in the church in the person of his Son. Hence he lays down sundry things which they knew to belong unto the priesthood of old, whence they might learn somewhat, yea much, of the nature of this now exhibited, seeing they were instituted on purpose to declare it, although they did it but obscurely. And then also he makes known the excellency of this priesthood of Christ above that of old, as the substance excels the shadow, and the permanent thing represented, the obscure and fading representations of it. Unto the handling of these things an entrance is here made, which, with sundry occasional diversions, is pursued to the end of the 10th chapter.
Secondly, In particular, the present discourse of this chapter hath relation unto what immediately precedes in the close of the foregoing; for having therein proposed to their consideration the priestly office of Christ, and given a glorious description of it in general, with respect unto his person and exaltation, he shows how greatly this conduces to the advantage and’ consolation of the church, as may be seen in the text, and our exposition of it. To confirm what be had so proposed, and to strengthen our faith in expectation of the benefits expressed, he enters upon a particular description of that office as exercised by Christ; and in this respect the ensuing discourse renders the reasons and gives the grounds of what he had immediately before laid down and declared.
Πᾶς γὰρ ἀρχιερεὺς ἐξ ἀνθρώπων λαμβανόμενος , ὑπὲρ ἀνθρώπων καθίσταται τὰ τρὸς τὸν Θεὸν , ἵνα προσφέρῃ δῶρά τε καὶ θυσίας ὑπὲρ ἁμαρτιῶν .
᾿Εξ ἀνθρώπων . Syr., דְּמֵן בְּגַי נָשָׁא “who is of” (or “from amongst”) “the sons of men.” ῾Υπὲρ ἀνθρώπων καθίσταται . Syr. לָף בְּנַי נָשָׁא קָאֵם “stands for men;” that is, in their stead. τὰ πρὸς τὸν Θεόν . Syr, אִילֵין דְּדַאלָהָא אִנֵין , “over the things which are of God,” or which belong to him; not so properly, as we shall see. The Arabic renders τὰ πρὸς τὸν Θεόν ,” in the things that are offered unto God;” a good sense of the words. And the Ethiopic is, “appointed for men with” (or “before”) “God;’ that is, to do for them what is to be done with God. Vulg. Lat., “in iis quae sunt ad Deum,” “in the things appertaining unto God,” or which are to be done with him. So Arias, “ea quae ad Deum,” to the same purpose. Beza, “in iis quae sunt apud Deum peragenda,” “in the things that are to be performed towards God;” more properly than ours and the Rhemists, “in things pertaining to God,” for so do things innumerable, on one account or other, that are not here intended. Δῶρα . Syr., קיּרְבָּנא , “oblations,” “offerings;” a general name for all sacrifices.
Πᾶς γὰρ ἀρχιερεύς , that is, כָּל כֹּהֵן הַגָּדוֹל , “even chief” or “great priest.” Or as the Syriac, כֻּל רַב כּוּמָרֵא “prince” or “chief of the priests.” The first mention of a high priest is Leviticus 21:10, הַגָּדוֹל מֵאֶחָין הַכֹּהֵן “the priest that is great among his brethren.” LXX., ὁ ἱερεὺς ὁ μέγας ἀπὸ τῶν ἀδελφῶν αὐτοῦ . Jun., “sacerdos qui maximus est fratrum suorum.” All the males of the family of Aaron were equal, and brethren, as to the priesthood; but there was one who was the head and prince of the rest, whose office was not distinct from theirs, but in the discharge of it, and preparation for it there were many things peculiarly appropriated unto him. And these things are distinctly appointed and enumerated in several places. The whole office was firstly vested in him, the remainder of the priests being as it were his present assistants, and a nursery for a future succession. The whole nature of the type was preserved in him alone. But as in one case our apostle tells us of these high priests themselves, that by the law they “were many,” that is, succession one after another, “because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death,” Hebrews 7:23, (one single high priest had been sufficient to have represented the priesthood of Christ, but because God would have that done constantly during the continuance of that church-state, and every individual person of them died. in his season, they were to be multiplied by succession;) so because of their weakness, and the multiplied carnal services which they had to attend unto, no one man was able to discharge the whole office, there were others therefore added unto the high priest for the time being, as his assistants, which were so far also types of Christ as they were partakers of his office. But because the office was principally collated on and vested in the high priest, and because many important parts of the duty of it were appropriated unto him; as also, because the glorious vestments peculiar to the office, made “for glory and for beauty,” to represent the excellency and holiness of the person of Christ, were to be worn by none but him; he alone is singled out as the principal representative of the Lord Christ in this office.
And the high priest was a single person, there was but one at one time, the better to type out the office of Christ. It is true in the gospel there is mention τῶν ἀρχιερέων , of the “high priests” that then were, Matthew 2:4; Matthew 16:21, which we render “chief priests.” So Sceva, the father of the vagabond exorcists, is said to be ἀρχιερεύς , Acts 19:14. But these were only such as were ἐκ γένους ἀρχιερατικοῦ , Acts 4:6, of the stock and near kindred of him who was at present high priest, or of that family wherein at present the high priesthood was; for out of them in an ordinary course a successor was to be taken. It may be, also, that those who were the heads or chiefs of the several orders or courses of the priests were then so called. But absolutely by the law the high priest was but one at one time.
And it is of the high priest according to the law of Moses that the apostle speaks. Grotius thinks otherwise:
“Non tantum legem hic respicit; sed et morem ante legem, cum ant primogeniti familiarum, aut a populis electi reges, inirent sacerdotium;”
“He respects not only the law, but the manner before the law, when the firstborn of the families, or kings chosen by the people, took and exercised the priesthood.” But it is of a high priest distinctly concerning whom the apostle speaks; and that there were any such among the people of God, either by natural descent or the consent of many, before the law, is not true. And this supposition is contrary to the design of the apostle, who treats with the Hebrews about the privileges and priesthood which they enjoyed by virtue of the law of Moses. So he says expressly, Hebrews 7:11, “If perfection were by the Levitical priesthood.” That is it whereof he speaks. And verse 28, “The law maketh men high priests.” He discourseth of the priests appointed by the law, that is, of Moses, and of them only.
Some expositors of the Roman church, as our Rhemists, take occasion to assert the necessity of a Christian priesthood to offer sacrifices to God, as also to dispose of all things wherein the worship of God is concerned, and to reprove kings and princes if they interpose aught therein, it being a matter wherewith they have not any thing to do. But they cannot really imagine that the apostle had the least intention to teach any such thing in this place; and therefore the most sober interpreters amongst them do confine their discourses unto the Levitical priesthood. Yea, indeed, the purpose of the apostle is to prove that all priesthood properly so called, and all proper sacrifices to be offered up by virtue of that office, were issued in the priesthood and sacrifice of Christ, seeing the sole use and end of them were to represent and prefigure these in the church. And to deny them now to be passed away, or to plead the continuance of any other proper priesthood and sacrifice, is to deny that Jesus is come in the flesh; which is “that spirit of antichrist,” 1 John 4:3.
᾿Εξ ἀνθρώπων λαμβανόμενος , “taken from among men.” This expression is not part of the subject of the proposition, or descriptive merely of that which is spoken of, as if the whole should be, “every high priest taken from among men;” in which way and sense they are restrictive of the subject spoken of, as containing a limitation in them, and so intimate that it is thus with every high priest who is taken from amongst men., though it may be otherwise with others who are not so. But this is one of the things which is attributed unto every high priest, every one that is so absolutely; he who is so is to be “taken from among men.” And “ex hominibus assumptus” is as much as “ex hominibus assumitur,” is taken from amongst men; and the whole sense may be supplied by a copulative interposed before the next words, “is taken from amongst men, and is ordained.” This is, then, the first thing that belongs unto a high priest, and which here is ascribed unto him, “he is taken from amongst men.” And two things are here considerable:
1. That he is from amongst men; and,
2. That he is taken from amongst them.
1. He is ἐξ ἀνθρώπων , and herein two things are included:
(1.) That he is “naturae humanae particeps.” He is, and must be, partaker in common of human nature with the rest of mankind, or he is not, on many reasons, meet for the discharge of this office. Neither the divine nature nor angelical is capable of the exercise of it for men; and this is principally intended.
(2.) That antecedently unto his assumption unto this office he was among the number of common men, as having nothing in his nature to prefer him above them. So was it with Aaron; he was a common man amongst his brethren, yea, a mean man in bondage, before his call to office. The first of these declares what every high priest is and ought to be; the latter, what the first legal high priest actually was.
I showed before that in this description of the office of a high priest, and the application of it unto Jesus Christ, those things which are essential thereunto, and without which it could not be duly executed, are found in him, and that in a far more perfect and excellent manner than in the priests of the law; but those things which, although they were found necessarily in all that were vested with this office, yet belonged not to the office itself, nor the execution of it, but arose from the persons themselves and their imperfections, they had no place in him at all. So is it here. It was essential to the office itself that he should be partaker of human nature; and that it was so with the Lord Christ our apostle signally declares, with the reason of it, Hebrews 2:14: but it was not so that he should be absolutely in the common state of all other men, antecedently to his call to office; for so the apostle declares that he was not, but he was the Son, the Son of God, Hebrews 5:8. So “the Son was consecrated,” that is, a priest, “forevermore,” Hebrews 7:28. For he was born into this world king, priest, and prophet unto his church.
2. Λαμβανόμενος , “assumptus,” or “is taken,” is separated from them. Being made a high priest, he is no more of the same rank and quality with them.
῾Υπὲρ ἀνθρώπων καθίσταται , τὰ πρὸς τὸν Θεόν , “is ordained for men. ” ῾Υπὲρ is sometimes “vice,” or “loco,” “in the stead,” John 10:11; John 10:15; John 13:38; sometimes “pro,” only as it denotes the final cause, as to do a thing for the good of men, 2 Timothy 2:10. And both these senses may have place here; for where the first intention is, the latter is always included. He that doth any thing in the stead of another, doth it always for his good. And the high priest might be so far said to stand and act in the stead of other men, as he appeared in their behalf, represented their persons, pleaded their cause, and confessed their sins, Leviticus 16:21.
But ‘in their behalf,’or ‘for their good and advantage, to perform what on their part is with God to be performed,’is evidently intended in this place.
Καθίσταται τὰ πρὸς τὸν Θεόν . Some suppose that because καθίσταται is, as they say, “verbum medium,” it may in this place have an active signification; and then the sense of it would be, that he might “appoint,” “ordain,” or “order the things of God.” But as it is used most frequently in a neuter or a passive sense, so in this place it can be no otherwise. So the apostle explains himself, Hebrews 8:3, Πᾶς ἀρχιερεὺς εἰς τὸ προσφέρειν δῶρά τε καὶ ζυσίας καθίσταται , “Every high priest is ordained to offer gifts and sacrifices;” which place expoundeth this. And two things are intended in the word:
1. God’s designation and appointment;
2. Actual consecration according to the order of the law. For so it was in the case of Aaron.
1. God gave command that he should be set apart to the office of the priesthood. “Take Aaron thy brother, saith God to Moses, מִתּוֹךְ בּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל , “from amongst the children of Israel” (that is, ἐξ ἀνθρώπων , “from among men”) “that he may minister unto me in the priest’s office,” Exodus 28:1. This was the foundation of his call, separation, and function.
2. He was actually consecrated unto his office by sundry sacrifices, described at large, Exodus 29:0. So was he ordained τὰ πρὸς τὸν Θεόν . Now this latter part of his ordination belonged unto the weakness and imperfection of that priesthood, that he could not be consecrated without the sacrifice of other things. But the Lord Christ, being both priest and sacrifice himself, he needed no such ordination, nor was capable thereof. His ordination, therefore, consisted merely in divine designation and appointment, as we shall see. And this difference there was to be between them who were made high priests by the law, and which had infirmity, and him who was made by the word of the oath of God, who is the Son, Hebrews 7:28.
Τὰ πρὸς τὸν Θεόν . The expression is elliptical and sacred; but what is intended in it is sufficiently manifest, namely, the things that were to be done with God, or towards God, in his worship, to answer the duties and ends of the office of the priesthood, that is, to do the things whereby God might be appeased, atoned, reconciled, pacified, and his anger turned away. See Hebrews 2:17.
῞Ινα προσφέρῃ δῶρά τε καὶ θυσίας ὑπέρ ἁμαρτιῶν , “that he may offer,” וַיּקְרֵב the word compriseth the whole sacerdotal performance from first to last, in bringing, slaying, and burning the sacrifice, according to the law; of which see Leviticus 1-5 and our former Exercitations concerning the sacrifices of the Jews. The object of this sacerdotal action is δῶρα καὶ ζυσίαι . Interpreters are much divided about the application of these words unto the ancient sacrifices. Some think they answer מנְחוֹת and עוֹלוֹת , any “offering” in common, and “whole burnt-offerings;” some שְׁלָמים and עוֹלֹת , “peace-offerings” and “burnt-offerings;” some חַטָּאת and אָשְׁם , the “sin” and “trespass-offering.” The most general opinion is, that by “gifts” all offerings of things inanimate are intended, as meats, drinks, oils, first-fruits, meal, and the like; and by “sacrifices,” the offerings of all creatures that were slain, as lambs, goats, doves, whose blood was poured on the altar. And this difference the words would lead us unto, the latter signifying directly the offering of things killed or slain. But our Savior seems to comprise all offerings whatever under the name or “gifts” Matthew 5:23. And if a distinction be here to be supposed, I should think that by “gifts” all “freewill offerings” might be intended; and by “sacrifices,” those that were determined, as to occasions, times, and seasons, by the law. But I rather judge that the apostle useth these two words in general to express all sorts of sacrifices for sin whatever; and therefore that expression, ὑπὲρ ἁμαρτιῶν , “for sins,” may refer to δῶρα , “gifts,” as well as to θυσίας , “sacrifices.”
Hebrews 5:1 . For every high priest, taken from amongst men, is ordained for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins.
What is the relation of these words unto the discourse of the apostle, both in general and particular, hath been declared before. I shall pursue that only which is particular and immediate. Having therefore proposed the priesthood of Christ as a matter of great advantage and comfort unto believers, he engageth into the confirmation thereof, by declaring the nature of that office, making application of what he observes therein unto the Lord Christ, as our high priest. In this verse we have, as was said, a general description of a high priest, as his office was constituted and consummated by the law. For,
1. he is described from his original. He is one “taken from among men,” from amongst those for whom he is to be a priest, that so he may be one partaker of the same nature with them, Exodus 28:1. He was not to bean angel, whose nature was incapable of those compassionate impressions which are required unto a due discharge of this office. Besides, the administrations of an angel amongst sinners would have been attended with dread and terror, and have taken away that spiritual boldness and confidence which a high priest is to encourage men unto. Moreover, there would not have been hereby any representation of that union between the Lord Christ and us which was indispensably necessary unto our high priest, who was to be himself both priest and sacrifice. Wherefore a high priest was to be “taken from among men,” and so was our Lord Christ, as hath been at large declared on Hebrews 2:10-16. And we are taught that,
Obs . 1. Christ’s participation of our nature, as necessary unto him for the bearing and discharge of the office of a high priest on our behalf, is a great ground of consolation unto believers, a manifest evidence that he is and will be tender and compassionate towards them. The reader may consult what hath been discoursed to this purpose on Hebrews 2:10-11, etc.
2. He is described from the nature of his office in general, he is “ordained for men in things pertaining to God.” There are things to be done with God on the behalf of men as sinners, and with respect unto sin, as is declared in the close of the verse. Hence arose the necessity of priests, as we have showed elsewhere. Had there been no sin, no atonement to be made with God for sin, every one in his own person should have done that which appertained unto God, or what he had to do with God. For God required nothing of any man but what he might do for himself. But now, all men being sinners, God will not immediately be treated withal by them; and besides, there is that now to be done for them which in their own persons they cannot perform. It was therefore upon the account of the interposition of Jesus Christ, with respect unto his future priesthood, that any one was ever admitted to treat with God about an atonement for sin; and this was the ground of the typical priesthood of old. Those priests were “ordained for men in things pertaining to God.”
Obs . 2. It was the entrance of sin that made the office of the priesthood necessary. This hath been abundantly confirmed elsewhere.
Obs . 3. It was of infinite grace that such an appointment was made. Without it all holy intercourse between God and man must have ceased; for neither,
1. were the persons of sinners meet to approach unto God, nor,
2. was any service which they could perform, or were instructed how to perform, suited unto the great end which man was now to look after, namely, peace with God.
For the persons of all men being defiled, and obnoxious unto the curse of the law, how should they appear in the presence of the righteous and holy God? Isaiah 33:14; Micah 6:6-7. It may be it will be said, ‘That these priests themselves, of whom the apostle treateth in the first place, were also sinners, and yet they were appointed for men in things appertaining unto God; so that sinners may appear in such matters before the Lord.’I answer, It is true, they were so. And therefore our apostle says that they were to offer for their own sins as well as for the sins of the people, verse 3; but then they did none of them officiate in that office merely in their own names and on their own account, but as they were types and representatives of him who had no sin, and whose office gave virtue and efficacy unto theirs. Again, men in their own persons had nothing to offer unto God but their moral duties, which the law of their creation and the covenant of works required of them. Now these, as is known, for many reasons were no way meet or able to make atonement for sin, the great work now to be done with God, and without which every thing else that can be done by sinners is of no consideration. God therefore appointing a new service for this end, namely, that of sacrifices, appointed also a new way, with performance by a priest in the name and behalf of others. And a most gracious appointment it was, as that on which all blessed intercourse with God and all hopes of acceptance with him do solely depend. Though the occasion was grievous, the relief is glorious.
Obs . 4. The priest is described by the especial discharge of his duty or exercise of his office; which is his “offering both gifts and sacrifices for sins.” This is the proper and principal work of a priest, as we have at large declared in our Exercitations. Priests and sacrifices are so related as that they cannot be separated. Take away the one, and you destroy the other. And these sacrifices here are “for sin;” that is, offered unto God to make atonement, propitiation, and reconciliation for sin.
Obs . 5. Where there is no proper propitiatory sacrifice there is no proper priest. Every priest is to “offer sacrifices for sin;” that is, to make atonement. And therefore,
Obs . 6. Jesus Christ alone is the high priest of his people; for he alone could offer a sacrifice for our sins to make atonement. This our apostle designs to prove, and doth it accordingly, in this and the ensuing chapters.
Obs . 7. It was a great privilege which the church enjoyed of old, in the representation which they had, by God’s appointment, of the priesthood and sacrifice of Christ in their own typical priests and sacrifices. In themselves they were things low and carnal, such as could by no means expiate their sins: that is a work not to be done by the blood of bulls and goats. An expectation of that issue and effect by the mere virtue of such sacrifices, is the highest affront to the nature, rule, holiness, and righteousness of God. But this was their glory and excellency, that they typed out and represented that which should really accomplish the great and mighty work of taking up the controversy between God and man about sin.
Obs . 8. Much more glorious is our privilege under the gospel, since our Lord Jesus hath taken upon him, and actually discharged, this part of his office, in offering an absolutely perfect and complete sacrifice for sin. Here is the foundation laid of all our Peace and happiness. And this is now plainly proposed unto us, and not taught by types or spoken in parables. Their teachings of old were obscure, and therefore many missed of the mind of God in them. Hence some thought that they must trust to their sacrifices for their righteousness and pardon. Of these, some took up with them, and rested in them to their ruin. Others, more galled with their convictions, thought of other ways, and how they might outdo what God required, seeing they could not trust unto what he did so require, Micah 6:6-7. But now all things are clearly revealed and proposed unto us; for Jesus Christ in the gospel is “evidently crucified before our eyes,” Galatians 3:1. Our way is made plain, so that “wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein,” Isaiah 35:8. The veil being removed, “we all with open face behold as in a glass the glory of the Lord,” 2 Corinthians 3:18. The sum of all is,
Obs. 9. What is to be done with God on the account of sin, that it may be expiated and pardoned, and that the people of God who have sinned may be accepted with him and blessed, is all actually done for them by Jesus Christ, their high priest, in the sacrifice for sin which he offered on their behalf. He was ordained τὰ πρὸς τὸν Θεόν , to do all things with God that were to be done for us; namely, that we might be pardoned, sanctified, and saved. This he undertook when he took his office upon him. His wisdom, faithfulness, and mercy, will not allow us to suppose that he hath left any thing undone that belonged thereunto. If any thing be omitted, as good all were so: for none besides himself in heaven or earth could do aught in this matter. He hath therefore faithfully, mercifully, fully done all that was to be done with God on our behalf. Particularly, he hath offered that great sacrifice which was promised, expected, represented, from the foundation of the world, as the only means of reconciliation and peace between God and man. So saith the text he was to do: he was to offer sacrifice for sin. How he did it, and what he effected thereby, must be declared in our progress. For the present it may suffice, that there is no more to be done with God about sin, as to atonement, propitiation, and pardon. There needs no more sacrifice for it, rune masses, no merits, no works of our own.
Two things the apostle hath proposed unto himself, which in this and the ensuing verses he doth yet further pursue.
1. A description of a high priest according to the law.
2. The evincing,
(1.) That whatever was useful or excellent in such a high priest was to be found in a more eminent manner in Jesus Christ, the only real and proper high priest of the church; as also,
(2.) That whatever was weak and infirm in such a priest, necessarily attending his frail and sinful condition, which either eclipsed the glory or weakened the efficacy of the office as by him discharged, had no place in him at all.
For whereas the affections and infirmities of our human nature are of two sorts,
(1.) Such as arise from the essence and constitution of it, and so are naturally and absolutely necessary unto all that are partakers thereof as created;
(2.) Such as came occasionally on it by the entrance of sin, which adhere to all that are partakers of our nature as corrupted; the former sort were necessary unto him that should be a high priest, and that not only unto his being so, as is the participation of our nature in general, but also as to such a qualification of him as is useful and encouraging unto them for whose good he doth exercise and discharge his office; but the latter sort are such as that although they did not evacuate the office in their discharge of it who were obnoxious unto them, as to the proportion of their interest therein, yet was it an impeachment of its perfection, and absolutely hindered it from being able to attain the utmost end of the priesthood. Wherefore the first sort of these affections, such as are compassion, love, condescension, care, pity, were not only in Christ, our high priest, but also, as graciously prepared, did belong unto his holy qualification for the effectual and encouraging discharge of his office. The latter sort, as death natural, sickness, distempers of mind, producing personal sins inevitably, with other frailties, as they were found in the high priest according to the law, and belonged unto the imperfection of that priesthood; so being either sinful or penal, with respect unto the individual person in whom they were, they had no place in Jesus Christ, the Son of God. To understand, therefore, aright the comparison here made between the high priest under the law and Jesus Christ, or the application of it as spoken concerning a high priest by the law, unto him, we must observe that the apostle designs the two things mentioned in the second particular before laid down:
1. That all real, necessary, useful conditions and qualifications of a high priest, as required in him by the law, were all of them found in Jesus Christ as our high priest, whereby he did answer and fulfill the representation and prefigurations that were made of him under the old testament.
2. That whatever did adhere necessarily unto the persons of the high priests of old as they were sinful men, partakers of our nature as depraved or corrupted, was not to be sought for nor to be found in him. And unto these there is added, as a necessary exurgency of both,
3. That sundry things, wherein the peculiar eminency, advancement, and perfection of this office doth consist, were so peculiar unto him, as that they neither were nor could be represented by the high priest made so by the law.
Wherefore it is not an exact parallel or complete resemblance between the legal high priest and Christ, the Son of God, which the apostle designeth, but such a comparison as wherein, there being an agreement in things substantial with respect unto a certain end, yet the differences are great and many; which only can take place where one of the comparates is indeed on many accounts incomparably more excellent than the other. To this purpose is the observation of Chrysostom on the place:
Τέως ου῏ν ἅ κοινά ἐστι τίθησι πρῶτα· καὶ τότε δείκνυσιν ὅτι ὑπερέχει· ἡ γὰρ κατὰ σύγκρισιν ὑπεροχὴ οὕτω . .... ὅταν ἐν μὲν τοῖς κοινωνῇ , ἐν δὲ τοῖς ὑπερέχῃ· εἰ δὲ μὴ οὐκ ἐτι κατὰ σὐγκρισιν .
“First” he sets down the things that are common to both, then declares wherein he” (that is, Christ) “excelleth; for so an excellency is set out by comparison, when in some things there is an equality, in others an excellency on one side; and if it be otherwise there can be no comparison.”
The words of the second verse are,
Hebrews 5:2 . Μετριοπαθεῖν δυνάμενος τοῖς ἀγνοοῦσι καὶ πλανωμένοις ¸ ἐπεὶ καὶ αὐτὸς περίκειται ἀσθένειαν .
Μετρισπαθεῖν δυνάμενος . Vulg. Lat., “qui condolere possit,” “that can grieve with.” Rhem., “that can have compassion.” Arias, “mensurate pati potens,” “that is able to bear moderately.” Syr., וִאֵינָא מֶשְׁכַּה דְּנַמֵךְ נַפְשֵׁהּ וְנֵחַשׁ עַם , “and who can let down” (or “humble himself”) “his soul, and suffer with,” or condescend to suffer with. Arab., “who can spare and forgive.” The Ethiopic translation, referring this wholly to the high priest under the law, by way of opposition, not comparison, reads it, “who cannot relieve them who err under their hands,” or by their conduct. Eras., “qui compati possit,” “who can suffer together with,” or have compassion on. Beza, “qui quantum saris est possit miserari vicem ignorantium;” that is, “who can sufficiently pity and have compassion on the condition,” etc. There is not only a variety of expression used, but various senses also are intended by these interpreters, as we shall see in the examination of them. Ours, “who can have compassion on;” and in the margin, “reasonably bear with.”
Τοῖς ἀγνοοῦσι καὶ πλανωμένοις , “ignorantibus et errantibus.” Bez., “aberrantibus;” whence is ours, “out of the way.” One “out of the way” is properly “aberrans.” Rhem., “and do err.” Arab., “who deal foolishly and err.”
Περίκειται ἀσθένειαν . Syr., לְבִישׁ , is “clothed,” compassed with infirmity, as a man is with his clothing that is about him and always cleaving to him.
Hebrews 5:2 . Who can have compassion on [ is able mercifully to bear with ] the ignorant, and those that wander from the way, seeing that he himself also is compassed with infirmity.
The discourse begun in the preceding verse is here continued, and all things spoken in it are regulated by the first words of it, “Every high priest;”
‘Every high priest is one who can have compassion.’And the same construction and seine is carried on in the next verse.
There are three things in the words:
1. A great and necessary qualification or endowment of a high priest; he is, he was to be, one who is “able to have compassion.”
2. The peculiar object of his office acts, proceeding from and suited unto that qualification; which is, “those who are ignorant, and do wander from the way.”
3. A special reason, rendering this qualification necessary unto him, or the means whereby it is ingenerated in him; “he himself is compassed with infirmity:” which things must be particularly inquired into.
1. Μετριοπαθεῖν δυνάμενος . Δύναμαι doth first and properly signify natural ability, a power for the effecting of any thing. And it is used concerning God and man, according to their distinct powers and abilities; the one original and absolutely infinite; the other derived, dependent, and variously limited. This is the first and proper signification of the word, which is so known as that it needs no confirmation by instances. Secondly, It signifies a moral power, with respect unto the bounds and limits of our duty. So, “Illud possumus quod jure possumus,” “That we can do which we can do lawfully.” Men can do many things naturally that they cannot do morally, that is, justly; and they do so every day. 1 Corinthians 10:21, Οὺ δύνασθε ποτήριον Κυρίου πίνειν καὶ ποτήριον δαιμονίων , “Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of devils;” ‘ye cannot do it righteously, ye ought not to do it.’ 2 Corinthians 13:8, Οὐ γὰρ δυνάμεθά τι κατὰ τῆς ἀληθείας , “We can do nothing against the truth, but for it.” So, then, it expresseth a power commensurate unto our duty, and exerted in the discharge of it, Genesis 39:9. Thirdly, Δυνάμενος , “potens,” is as much as ἱκανός , “idoneus,” one that is meetly qualified with dispositions and inclinations suited unto his work, or that which is affirmed of him. This sense of the word we have opened on Hebrews 2:17-18; Hebrews 4:15. And this sense, which is here intended, may be conceived two ways, or it includes two things:
(1.) The denial of an incapacity for what is affirmed: He is not of such a nature, of such a condition, or so qualified, as that he should be unable that is, unmeet and unfit for this work.
(2.) An assertion of a positive inclination, meetness, readiness, and ability for it: Who is able, hath nothing in nature or state to hinder him, is disposed unto it, and ready for it.
Μετρισπαθεῖν . This word is nowhere used in the New Testament but in this place only; and, as most suppose, it is here used in a sense new and peculiar. Hence have interpreters so variously rendered this word, as we before observed. Nor are expositors less divided about its sense, though the differences about it are not great nor of importance, seeing all ascribe a sound and useful meaning unto it. In other writers it signifies constantly to “moderate affections.” Μετριοπαθής is “modicè,” or “moderatè affectus; qui modum tenet in animi perturbationibus;” “one who is moderate in his affections; who exceeds not due measure in perturbations of mind.” And μετριοπάθεια is rendered by Cicero, “Modus naturalis in omni perturbatione;” that is, in the consideration of such things as are apt to disturb the mind and affections, especially anger, to observe a mean, not to be moved above or beyond due measure. So μετριοπαθέω is “moderate ferre,” to “bear any thing,” especially provocations unto anger, “moderately,” without any great commotion of affections, so as to be stirred up to wrath, severity, and displeasure. So Arias, “mensurate ” (better “ moderate”) “pati potens.” An example hereof we may take in Moses. He was μετριοπαθής in a high and excellent manner; whence is that character given of him by the Holy Ghost, Numbers 12:3, “Now the man Moses was עָנָו מְאֹד ( πραῦvς σφόδρα ), “very meek above all men.” It is spoken of him with respect unto his quiet and patient bearing of exasperating provocations, when he was opposed and reproached by Miriam and Aaron. He was μετριοπαθής ; but as the best in the best of men is but weak and imperfect, so God in his wisdom hath ordered things that the failings of the best should be in their best, or that wherein they did most excel; that no man should glory in himself, but that “he that glorieth should glory in the Lord.” Thus Abraham and Peter failed in their faith, wherein they were so eminent. And the failure afterwards of Moses was in this meekness or moderate bearing with provocations. He was not able in all things μετριοπαθεῖν , but, upon the provocation of the people, “spoke unadvisedly” and in wrath, saying, “Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock?” Numbers 20:10. This privilege is reserved in every case for Christ alone; he can always bear “quantum satis est,” so much as shall assuredly prevent any evil consequent whatever.
If the word be used in this sense, then respect is had to what is of provocation and exasperation in those who are “ignorant and out of the way.” ‘The high priest is one who is fit and able to bear moderately and quietly with the failings, miscarriages, and sins of those for whom he executes his office; not breaking out into any anger or excess of indignation against them by reason of their infirmities.’And this, as applied unto Jesus Christ, is a matter of the highest encouragement and consolation unto believers. Were there not an absolute sufficiency of this disposition in him, and that as unto all occurrences, he must needs cast us all off in displeasure.
Erasmus expresseth it by “qui placabilis esse possit,” one “who may be appeased,” who is ready to be pleased again when he is angry or provoked. But the apostle doth not teach us herein how the high priest may be appeased when he is angry, but how remote he is, or ought to be, from being so on any occasion.
The Vulg. Lat., as we saw, reads, “qui condolere possit;” which is the same with δυνάμενος συμπαθῆσαι , Hebrews 4:15, “can be touched with a feeling.” And it is not improbable but that μετριοπαθεῖν may be used here in the same sense with συμπαθῆσαι , Hebrews 4:15. But then it may be questioned whether “condoleo,” “to grieve with,” be as extensive and significant as “compatior;” which also it may, seeing the proper signification of “doleo” is to have a sense of pain. And thus no more should be intended than what we have already opened on those other places, What is said belongs to the description of the nature of a high priest as he is merciful, and of his disposition unto pity and compassion, with his readiness thereon to relieve and succor them that are tempted.
But I cannot judge that the apostle useth this word merely as it were for change, without a design to intimate something further and peculiar therein. Hence is that translation of Beza, “qui quantum satis est miserari possit vicem,” “Who can meetly and sufficiently pity the condition of the ignorant.” By μέτριος , in this composition, the apostle intends the just and due measure of a disposition unto compassion. Not that he sets bounds unto it with respect unto any excess, as if he had said, ‘He hath no more compassion or condolency than becomes him, he shall observe a measure therein, and not exceed it;’which, although it be true, yet is not the intimation of it in this place unto his purpose. But he is one that doth not come short herein, who will not fail in any instance, who hath a sufficient measure of it to answer the condition and necessities of all with whom he hath to do. And this doth not infer a new sense, distinct from that last before mentioned, but only further explains it, according to the intention of the apostle in the peculiar use of this word.
I see no reason to confine myself unto either of these senses precisely, but do rather think that the apostle on purpose made use of this word to include them both. For, Suppose the object of this qualification of the high priest, in them that are ignorant and do wander out of the way, be their ignorance and wanderings, that is, their sins, and those considered as containing a provocation of himself, as every sin is attended with provocation; then δυνάμενος μετριοπαθεῖν is “qui potest moderate ferre,” “who is able to bear with them with that due moderation of mind and affections,” as not to have any vehement commotion of the one or the other against them: for if he should be liable unto such impressions provoked to call them “rebels as did Moses; and to he would be to say, as in the prophet, “I will feed you no more; let that that dieth die,” Zechariah 11:9. But he is able to bear with them patiently and meekly, so as to continue the faithful discharge of his office towards them and for them. This, as we observed, Moses was not able always to do, as he also complains, Numbers 11:12, “Have I conceived all this people? have I begotten them, that thou shouldest say unto me, Carry them in thy bosom, as a nursing father beareth the sucking child?” Yet this is required in a high priest, and that he should no more cast off poor sinners for their ignorance and wanderings than a nursing father should cast away a sucking child for its crying or frowardness; which whoso is ready to do is very unfit for that duty. So our apostle, in his imitation of Jesus Christ, affirms that in the church he was
“gentle among them, even as a nurse cherisheth her children,” 1 Thessalonians 2:7;
not easy to be provoked, not ready to take offense or cast off the care of him. So it is said of God, Acts 13:18, that for forty years ἐτροποφόρησε , “he bare with the manners of the people in the wilderness;” or as some read it, ἐτροφοφόρησε , “he bare” or “fed them, as a nurse feedeth her child.” Thus ought it to be with a high priest, and thus is it with Jesus Christ. He is able, with all meekness and gentleness, with patience and moderation, to bear with the infirmities, sins, and provocations of his people, even as a nurse or a nursing father beareth with the weakness and frowardness of a poor infant.
Again; suppose the immediate object of this qualification of the high priest to be the sins, temptations, and infirmities of his people, as they are grievous, troublesome, and dangerous unto themselves; then this δυνάμενος μετριοπαθεῖν signifies his nature and disposition as meet, prepared, and inclined, so to pity and commiserate, and consequently relieve in the way of his office, as shall be sufficient on all occasions. He is one that wants no part nor degree of a compassionate frame of heart towards them.
Both these the word signifies as diversely applied; and both of them, if I mistake not, are intended by the apostle; and for this end, that they might be both included, did he make use of this singular word. At least, I am not able to embrace either of these senses unto the exclusion of the other. A high priest, therefore, is one who can quietly bear with the weaknesses and sinful provocations of them that are ignorant and wander out of the way, as also commiserate or pity them unto such a measure and degree as never to be wanting unto their help and assistance; such a person as is אֶלאּדָּל משְׂכִּיל , Psalms 41:2, one that is so “wise and understanding” in thestate and condition of the poor as duly to relieve them.
2. The compassion described, accompanied with meek and patient bearing, is exercised towards the “ignorant and them that are out of the way.” These words may be taken two ways; first, as distinctive; secondly, as descriptive of the object of this compassion. In the first way the sense of them is, ‘Whereas there are amongst the people of God some, or many, that are ignorant and out of the way, the compassion of the high priest is to be extended unto them; yea, this qualification doth respect them chiefly: so that they need not be discouraged, but boldly make use of his help and assistance in every time of distress.’ “The ignorant and them that are out of the way;” that is, those among the people who are so. In the latter way, all the people of God are intended. There are, indeed, degrees in these things, some being more affected with them than others; for there are degrees in the infirmities and sins of believers. And those who are most obnoxious unto them are hereby encouraged to expect relief by the high priest. Yet in general this is the condition of all the people of God, they fall more or less under these qualifications. And because they are so, so obnoxious unto ignorance and wanderings; because actually in sundry things they are ignorant and do err from the right way; and because they know this in some measure of themselves, and are therefore apt to be cast down and discouraged, the Holy Ghost here proposeth this qualification of a high priest for their relief, as that which is required in him, and necessary unto him for that end. And as such, he had peculiarly to do with the people in his dealing with God on their behalf, both in his oblations and intercessions. So it is said of our Savior, the great high priest, that he “made reconciliation for the sins of the people,” and “intercession for the transgressors.” And this is the proper sense of the words. It is the whole people of God who are thus described, as they lie under the eye and care of their high priest. But because, also, it is their duty to make application unto him for relief, which they will not do without a sense of their want, it is required, moreover, in this description, that they be burdened with an apprehension of the guilt and danger that are in these things, those who are sensible of their ignorance and wanderings.
Τοῖς ἀγνοοῦσι , “to them that are ignorant.” Not the mere affection of the mind or ignorance itself, but the consequences and effects of it in actual sins, are principally intended: ‘To such as are obnoxious to sinning, to such as sin, through the ignorance and darkness of their minds.’There was under the law a sacrifice provided for them who sinned בִשְׁגָגָה , through “ignorance” or “error,” Leviticus 4:0. For whereas, in the first three chapters, Moses had declared the institution and nature of all those sacrifices in general whereby the justification and sanctification of the church was typically wrought and represented, with the obligation that thence was upon them to walk in new obedience and holiness; he supposeth yet, notwithstanding what was done, that there would be sins yet remaining among the people, which, if they had no relief for or against, would prove their ruin. As our apostle, in answer thereunto, having declared the free justification of sinners through the obedience and blood of Christ, Romans 4:5, with their sanctification flowing from the efficacy of his life and death, Romans 6:0, yet adds that there will be a remaining principle of sin in them, bringing forth fruits and effects answerable unto its nature, Romans 7:0, which he declares how we are relieved against by Jesus Christ, Romans 8:0; so was it in the institution of these sacrifices, whose order and nature is in this chapter [Leviticus 4:0 ] unfolded. For, as was said, after the declaration of the sacrifices which concerned the justification and sanctification of the church in general, Moses distributes the following sins of the people into two sorts; into those which were committed בשגָגָה by “ignorance,” unadvisedly, or in error; and those which were committed בְּיָד רָמָה , with a “high hand,” or “presumptuously.” For those of the first sort there were sacrifices allowed; but those who were guilty of the latter were to be cut off: Numbers 15:27-28; Numbers 15:30,
“If any soul, sin through ignorance, then he shall bring a she goat of the first year for a sin-offering. And the priest, shall make an atonement for the soul that sinneth ignorantly, when he sinneth by ignorance before the LORD, to make an atonement for him; and it shall be forgiven him. But the soul that doeth ought presumptuously” (with an high hand),...... “the same reproacheth the Lord; and that soul shall be cut off from among his people.”
And it is so also under the gospel. For after we profess an interest in the sacrifice of Christ unto our justification and sanctification, there are sins that men may fall into “presumptuously,” and “with an high hand,” for which there is no relief:
“For if we sin wilfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries,” Hebrews 10:26-27; Hebrews 10:26-27.
All other sins whatever come within the rank and order of them which are committed בִשְׁגָגָה , by “ignorance” or error of mind. Of these there is no man that liveth and is not guilty, Ecc 7:20 ; 1 Samuel 2:2. Yea, they are so multiplied in us or upon us as no man living can know or understand them, Psalms 19:12. By sins of ignorance, then, are not understood only those which were “ex ignorantia juris,” or when men sinned against the law because they knew, it not; doing what it forbade, as not knowing that it was forbidden; and omitting what was commanded, as not knowing that it was commanded. This kind of ignorance Abimelech pleaded in the case of his taking Sarah, the wife of Abraham, in that he knew her not to be a married woman; which plea, as to some part of his guilt, God admits of, Genesis 20:4-6. And this ignorance was that which preserved the case of our apostle, in his blasphemy and persecution, from being remediless, and his sin from being a sin of presumption, or with a high hand, 1 Timothy 1:12-13. But this sort of sins only is not intended, although we see by these instances how great and heinous provocations may be of this kind. But those are in this case, and in opposition unto presumptuous sins, reckoned unto sins of ignorance, when the mind or practical understanding, being corrupted or entangled by the power of sin and its advantageous circumstances, doth not attend unto its duty, or the rule of all its actions; whence actual sin doth ensue. And this is the principal cause and spring of all the sins of our lives, as I have elsewhere declared, treating of the power of indwelling sin.  Those, therefore, who are “ignorant” in this place, are such as who, through the inadvertency of their minds, or want of a due and diligent attendance unto the rule of all their actions, do fall into sin as well as those who do so through a mere ignorance of their duty. He adds, καὶ πλανωμένοις , “to them that wander out of the way.” The reader may see what we have spoken concerning this word on Hebrews 3:10. Our sinning is often thus expressed, Psalms 119:176, “I have gone astray like a perishing sheep.” Isaiah 53:6, “We like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way.” We have erred, or wandered astray from the way of God, and turned unto our own ways. “Ye were as sheep going astray,” 1 Peter 2:25. But we must observe, that there is a twofold erring or wandering expressed by this word in this epistle. The one is in heart: ᾿Αεὶ πλανῶνται τῇ καρδίᾳ , “They always err in their heart.” The other is in our ways, going out of them; which is here intended. The former is the heart’s dislike of the ways of God, and voluntary relinquishment of them thereon. This answers to the presumptuous sinning before mentioned, and is no object of compassion either in God or our High Priest; for concerning them who did so, “God sware in his wrath that they should not enter into his rest.” But there may be a wandering in men’s ways, when yet their hearts are upright with God. So it is said with Asa, that “his heart was perfect all his days,” 2 Chronicles 15:17; yet his great wanderings from the ways of God are recorded, 1 Corinthians 16:7-10; 1 Corinthians 16:12. There is therefore included in this word a seduction by temptation into some course of wandering for a season from the ways of God. Who then are these of οἱ πλανώμενοι ? Even those who by the power of their temptations have been seduced and turned from the straight paths of holy obedience, and have wandered in some crooked paths of their own.
 See volume 6, p. 153 of the author’s works.
And in these two words doth the apostle comprise all sorts of sinners whatever, with all sorts of sins, and not merely those which are commonly esteemed of infirmity or ignorance; for he intends all those sins which the high priest was to confess, sacrifice, and intercede for, on the behalf of the people. And this was, “all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins,” Leviticus 16:21. It is true, as the law was the instrument of the Jewish polity, there was no sacrifice appointed for some sins, if precisely known and legally proved by witnesses; because the sinners were to be punished capitally, for the preservation of public order and peace. And God would not allow an instance of accepting a sacrifice where the offender was to suffer; which would have overthrown the principal notion of sacrifices, wherein the guilt of the offerer was, as to punishment, transferred unto the beast to be offered. But otherwise, without respect unto civil rule and legal proof, all sorts of sins were to be expiated by sacrifices. And they are here by our apostle reduced unto two heads, whence two sorts of sinners are denominated:
(1.) Such as men fall into by the neglect and failure of their minds in attending unto their duty; which is their sinful ignorance.
(2.) Such as men are seduced unto some continuance in through the power of their temptation, and that against their light and knowledge. Such are ignorant or wanderers out of the way.
All sorts, therefore, of sins and sinners are comprised in these expressions. And with respect unto them it is required of a high priest,
(1.) That he should not take the provocation of them so high or immoderately as to neglect them or cast them off on their account.
(2.) That he should have such pity and compassion towards them as is needful to move him to act for their relief and deliverance. And this the high priest of old was prompted unto,
3. ᾿Επεὶ καὶ αὐτὸς περίκειται ἀσθένειαν . ᾿Επεί , “quoniam,” “seeing it is so;” καὶ αὐτὸς , “that even he himself.” His own state and condition will mind him of his duty in this matter. Περίκειται ἀσθένειαν . This is more than if he had said that he was ἀσθενής , “weak and infirm:” ‘He is beset and compassed about on every hand with infirmity.’ Περικειμένην ἔχων ἀσθένειαν , as is the meaning of the phrase, ‘having infirmity round about him,’attended with it in all that he sets himself unto. Now this ἀσθένεια
(1.) N atural.
(1.) There is an infirmity which is inseparable from our human nature. Such are the weaknesses of its condition, with all the dolorous and afflictive affections in doing or suffering that attend it. And this our Lord Jesus Christ himself was compassed withal; whence he was “a man of sorrow, and acquainted with grief,” as hath been declared. Had it been otherwise he could not have been such a merciful high priest as we stood in need of; nor, indeed, any priest at all, for he would not have had any thing of his own to offer, if he had not had that nature from which in this life that sort of infirmity is inseparable, Matthew 26:41.
(2.) There is a moral infirmity, consisting in an inclination unto sin and weakness as to obedience. ῎Οντων ἡμῶν ἀσθενῶν , Romans 5:6, “When we were yet infirm (without strength),” is the same with ῎Οντων ἡμῶν ἁμαρτωλῶν , verse 8, “while we were yet sinners;” for our weakness was such as was the cause of our sin. See 1 Corinthians 8:7. And the words, both substantive, adjective, and verb, are frequently used in the New Testament to express bodily weakness by sickness and infirmities of every kind. Nothing hinders but that we may take it here in its most comprehensive signification, for infirmities of all sorts, natural, moral, and occasional. For the first sort do necessarily attend the condition of our human nature, and are requisite unto him that would discharge aright the whole office of a priest. And the following verse, affirming that “for this cause” it was necessary for him “to offer sacrifice for himself,” declares directly that his moral or sinful infirmities are also included. He himself was subject to sin, as the rest of the people. Whence there were peculiar sacrifices appointed for the anointed priest to offer for himself and his own sin. And for the last, or infirmities in bodily distempers unto sickness and death, it is a necessary consequent of the former. Wherefore, as these words have respect unto them that go before, or yield a reason why the high priest is such a one as “can have compassion on the ignorant,” they express the infirmity of nature which inclined him thereunto from a sense of his own weakness and suffering. As they respect what ensues, verse 3, they intend his moral infirmities, or sinful infirmities, with their consequences; from whence it was necessary that he should offer sacrifice for himself. And in the latter sense the things intended belong peculiarly to the high priest according to the law, and not to Christ.
And this obviateth an objection that may be raised from the words For it may be said,
‘If this be so, why is it mentioned in this place as an advantage for the inducing of the high priest unto a due measure of compassion, or to equanimity and forbearance? For if this were not in Christ, he may be thought to come short in his compassion of the legal high priest, as not having this motive unto it and incentive of it.’
Ans. (1.) That natural infirmity whereof our Lord Christ had full experience, is every way sufficient unto this purpose; and this alone was that which qualified the legal high priest with due compassion. His moral infirmity was not any advantage unto him, so as to help his compassion towards the people; which was, as all other graces, weakened thereby. It is therefore mentioned by the apostle only as the reason why he was appointed to offer sacrifice for himself, which Christ was not to do. And what advantage soever may be made of a sense of moral weakness and proneness unto sin, yet is it in itself an evil, which weakens the duty that it leads unto; nor where this is can we expect any other discharge of duty but what proceeds from him who is liable to sin and miscarriage therein. Now, the Lord Christ being absolutely free from this kind of infirmity, yet made sensible of the one by the other, doth in a most perfect manner perform all that is needful to be done on our behalf.
(2.) The apostle treats not of the nature of the priesthood of Christ absolutely, but with respect unto the legal high priests, whom he exalts him above. It was necessary, therefore, that their state should be represented, that it might appear as well wherein he excelled them as wherein there was an agreement between them. And this he did, among other things, in that he was not obnoxious unto any moral infirmity, as they were. From the whole we may observe,
Obs. 1. Compassion and forbearance, with meekness, in those from whom we expect help and relief, are the great motive and encouragement unto faith, affiance, and expectation of them.
It is unto this end that the apostle makes mention of this qualification or endowment of a high priest, with respect unto its application to Jesus Christ. He would thereby encourage us to come unto him, and to expect all that assistance which is necessary to relieve us in all our spiritual distresses, and to give us acceptance with God. No man will expect any good or kindness from one whom he looks upon as severe, incompassionate, and ready to lay hold on occasions of anger or wrath. When God himself saw it necessary to exercise severity, and give frequent instances of his displeasure, for the preservation of his worship in holiness and order among that stubborn generation in the wilderness, they spake unto Moses, saying, “Behold, we die, we perish, we all perish. Whosoever cometh any thing near unto the tabernacle of the LORD shall die: shall we be consumed with dying?” Numbers 17:12-13.
“Behold, the sword hath killed some of us; and behold, the earth hath swallowed some of us; and behold, some of us are dead with the pestilence,”
as the Chaldee Targum expresseth it. Most apprehend this to be a sinful repining against the righteous judgments of God, wherewith they were consumed for their sins. I rather judge it an expression of that bondage, legal apprehension of the terror of the Lord and his holiness, which they were then kept under, finding “the commandment which was ordained to life” to become unto them, by reason of sin, “unto death,” Romans 7:9-10. And therefore that last expostulation, “Shall we be consumed with dying?” is a deprecation of wrath: as Psalms 85:5, “Wilt thou be angry with us for ever?” and Lamentations 5:22, “Wilt thou utterly reject us?”
But evident it is, that want of a clear insight into God’s compassion and forbearance is full of terror and discouragement. And he who framed unto himself a false notion of Christ was thereby utterly discouraged from diligence in his service:
“I knew thee, that thou art an hard man,” or an austere, severe man; “and I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth,” Matthew 25:24-25; Luke 19:22.
His undue apprehensions of Christ (the proper effect of unbelief) ruined him forever. Wherefore God himself doth not, in his dealings with us, more properly or more fully set out any pro-petty of his nature than he doth his compassion, long-suffering, and forbearance. And as he proposeth them unto us for our encouragement, so he declares his approbation of our faith in them. He delighteth in them that “hope in his mercy,” Psalms 33:18. Hence, when he solemnly declared his nature by his name to the full, that we might know and fear him, he doth it by an enumeration of those properties which may convince us of his compassionateness and forbearance, and not till the close of all makes any mention of his severity, as that which he will not exercise towards any but such as by whom his compassion is despised, Exodus 34:6-7. So he affirms that “fury is not in him,” Isaiah 27:4. Although we may apprehend that he is angry and furious, ready to lay hold of all occasions to punish and destroy, yet is it not so towards them who desire sincerely to “lay hold of him strongly,” and to “make peace with him” by Jesus Christ, Isaiah 27:5. Elihu supposed that Job had such apprehensions of God: “Thou hast said, Behold, he findeth occasions against me, he counteth me for his enemy. He putteth my feet in the stocks, he marketh all my paths,” Job 33:10-11. And, indeed, in his agony he had said little less, Job 14:16-17. But it is not so; for if God should so mark iniquities, who could stand? Psalms 130:3. Wherefore the great recompense that God gives to sinners from first to last is from his compassion and forbearance. And as for our Lord Jesus Christ, as mediator, we have evinced that all things were so ordered about him as that he might be filled with tenderness, compassion, and forbearance towards sinners. And as this we stand in need of, so it is the greatest encouragement that we can be made partakers of. Consider us either as to our sins or sufferings, and it will appear that we cannot maintain a life of faith without a due apprehension of it.
Obs. 2. Wherefore, secondly, we live, the life of our souls is principally maintained, upon this compassionateness of our high priest; namely, that he is able to bear with us in our provocations, and to pity us in our weaknesses and distresses.
To this purpose is the promise concerning him, Isaiah 40:11. There are three things that are apt to give great provocations unto them that are concerned in us:
1. Frequency in offending;
2. Greatness of offenses;
3. Instability in promises and engagements.
These are things apt to give provocations beyond what ordinary moderation and meekness can bear withal, especially where they are accompanied with a disregard of the greatest love and kindness. And all these are found in believers, some in one, and some in another, and in some all. For,
1. There is in us all a frequency of provocation, as Psalms 19:12. They are beyond our numbering or understanding. What believer is there that doth not constantly admire how the Lord Christ hath patiently borne with him in the frequency of his daily failings? that he hath carried it towards him without such provocations unto anger as to lay him out of his care?
2. Some of them are overtaken with great offenses, as was the case of Peter; and there is not one of them but, on one account or other, hath reason to make use of the prayer of the psalmist, “Be merciful unto my sin, for it is great.” And great sins are attended with great provocations. That our souls have not died under them, that we have not been rejected of God utterly for them, it is from this holy qualification of our high priest, that he is able sufficiently to bear with all things that are required in the discharge of his office. Were it not so, he would, on one occasion or another wherein now we admire his lenity and forbearance, have “sworn in his wrath that we should not enter into his rest.”
3. Instability in promises and engagements, especially as breaking forth into frequent instances, is a matter of great provocation. This is that which God complains of in Israel, as wherewith he was almost wearied, Hosea 6:4. And herein also do we try, and exercise the forbearance of our high priest. There is not a day wherein we answer and make good the engagements of our own hearts, either in matter or manner, as to our walking before him in the constant exercise of faith and love. And that we are yet accepted with him, it is that δύναται μετριοπαθεῖν , he can bear with us in all patience and moderation.
Again; our ignorances and wanderings are our sufferings, as well as our sins. Sin is the principal affliction, the principal suffering of believers; yea, all other things are light unto them in comparison hereof. This is that which they continually groan under, and cry out to be delivered from. Herein our high priest is able so to pity us as undoubtedly to relieve us; but this hath been already insisted on.
Obs. 3. Though every sin hath in it the whole nature of sin, rendering the sinner obnoxious unto the curse of the law, yet as there are several kinds of sins, so there are several degrees of sin, some being accompanied with a greater guilt than others.
The Papists have a distinction of sins into mortal and venial, which is the foundation of one moiety of their superstition. Some sins, they say, are such as in their own nature deserve death eternal; so that there is no deliverance from the guilt of them without actual contrition and repentance. But some are so slight and small as that they are easily expiated by an observance of some outward rites of the church; however, they endanger no man’s eternal salvation, whether they repent of them or no. The worst is but a turn in purgatory, or the charge of a pardon. Because this distinction is rejected by Protestants, they accuse them of teaching that all sins are equal. But this they do untruly. That distinction, I confess, might be allowed with respect unto offenses against the law of old, as it was the rule of the Jewish polity. For some of them, as murder and adultery, were to be punished capitally without mercy; which therefore were mortal unto the offenders. Others were civilly as well as typically expiated by sacrifice, and so were venial in the constitution of the law; that is, such as were pardoned of course, by attending to some instituted observances. But with respect unto God, every sin is a transgression of the law; and the “wages” or reward “of it is death,” Romans 6:23. And the curse of the whole law was directed against everyone who did not every thing required in it, or failed in any one point of obedience, Deuteronomy 27:26, Galatians 3:10. And “whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all,” James 2:10.
But there are degrees of sin, and degrees of guilt in sinning; as,
1. There is a distinction of sins with respect unto the persons that commit them. But this distinction ariseth from the event, and not from the nature of the sin itself intended. As suppose the same sin committed by an unregenerate person, and by one that is regenerate: unto the latter it shall be pardoned; unto the former, continuing so, it shall never be pardoned. But whence is this difference? Is it that the sin is less in the one than in the other? Nay, being supposed of the same kind, commonly it hath more aggravating circumstances in the regenerate than in the unregenerate. Is it because God is less displeased with sin in some than in others? Nay, God is equally displeased with equal sins, in whomsoever they are found; if there be any difference, he is more displeased with them in believers than in others. But the difference ariseth merely from the event. Regenerate persons will, through the grace of God, certainly use the means of faith and repentance for the obtaining of pardon, which the other will not; and if they are assisted also so to do, even they in like manner shall obtain forgiveness. No man, therefore, can take a relief against the guilt of sin from his state and condition, which may be an aggravation, but can be no alleviation of it.
2. There are degrees of sin amongst men unregenerate, who live in a course of sin all their days. We see it is so, and it ever was so in the world. And sometimes here, but certainly hereafter, God deals with them, not only according to their state of sin, and their course of sin, but according to the degrees and aggravations of sin in great variety. All do not sin equally; nor shall all be equally punished.
3. In the sins of believers there are different degrees, both in divers and in the same persons. And although they shall be all pardoned, yet have they different effects; with respect,
(1.) Unto peace of conscience;
(2.) Sense of the love of God;
(3.) Growth in grace and holiness;
(4.) Usefulness or scandal in the church or the world;
(5.) Temporal afflictions; and,
(6.) A quiet or troublesome departure out of this world; but in all a reserve is still to be made for the sovereignty of God and his grace.
Obs. 4. Our ignorance is both our calamity, our sin, and an occasion of many sins unto us.
Having declared that the high priest was first to offer sacrifices for the sins of men, and then that he was to be compassionate towards them, both in their sins and sorrows, the first instance which the apostle gives of those who are concerned herein is of “them that are ignorant.” They stand in need both of sacrifice and compassion. And ignorance in spiritual things is twofold:
1. Original, subjective, and universal. This is that whereby men have “their understandings darkened,” and are “alienated from the life of God,” Ephesians 4:18; the ignorance that is in men unregenerate, not savingly enlightened, consisting in the want or defect of a principle of heavenly or spiritual light in their minds; which I have elsewhere at large described. But it is not this sort of persons nor this sort of ignorance which is here intended.
2. There is an ignorance which is objective and partial, when the light and knowledge that is in us is but weak and infirm, extending itself unto some objects, and affecting the mind with darkness and disorder in the apprehension of them also. And this also may be considered two ways:
(1.) Absolutely; and so the best, and the most wise, and the most knowing are ignorant, and to be esteemed among them that are so; for the best “know but in part, and prophesy but in part,” and “see darkly, as in a glass,” 1Co 13:9 ; 1 Corinthians 13:12. Yea, “how little a portion is it that we know of God!” We “cannot by searching find out the Almighty to perfection;” “such knowledge is too wonderful for us.” Yea, we “know nothing perfectly,” neither concerning God nor ourselves. If we know him so as to believe him, fear him, and obey him, it is all that is promised us in this life, all that we can attain unto. Wherefore let the best of us,
[1.] Take care that we be not puffed up, or fall into any vain elation of mind upon the conceit of our knowledge. Alas! how many things are there to be seen, to be known in God, that we know nothing of; and nothing do we know as we ought or as it shall be known.
[2.] Endeavor, in the constant use of all means, to grow in the knowledge of God and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The more we learn here, the more we shall see there is to be learned.
[3.] Long for the time, or rather that eternity, wherein all these shades shall flee away, all darkness be removed from our minds, all veils and clouds taken away from about the divine being and glory; when “we shall see him as he is,” with “open face,” and “know even as we are known:” which is the eternal life and blessedness of our souls.
[4.] Know that on the account of the ignorance that is yet in the best, yea, that was in the most holy saint that ever was on the earth, they all stand in need of the compassion of our high priest, to bear with them, pity and relieve them.
(2.) This second sort of ignorance may be considered comparatively. So among believers some are more chargeable with this evil than others, and are more obnoxious unto trouble from it. And these we may distinguish into four sorts:
[1.] Such as are young and tender, either in years or in the work of grace upon their souls. These the apostle calls “babes,” and “children,” that have need to be nourished with milk, and not to have their minds overcharged with things too high and hard for them. And concerning this sort many things are spoken graciously and tenderly in the Scripture.
[2.] Such as, through the weakness of their natural capacities, are slow in learning, and are never able to attain unto any great measure of sound knowledge and judgment; although we often see many notable natural defects in the minds of them that are sincere to be abundantly compensated by the “light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” shining plentifully upon them and in them.
[3.] Such as are so disposed of by the providence of God, in their outward concerns in this world, as that they enjoy not the means of knowledge and growth therein, at least in so full and effectual a manner as others do. Hereby are they kept low in their light and spiritual apprehensions of things, and are thereby obnoxious to manifold errors and mistakes. And of these, partly through the blindness of them who in many places take upon themselves to be the only teachers and guides of the disciples of Christ, partly through some sloth of their own in not providing as they ought for their own edification, there is a great number in the world.
[4.] Such as by reason of some corrupt affections, spiritual sloth, and worldly occasions, perpetually diverting their minds, are dull and slow in learning the mysteries of the gospel, and thrive but little in light or knowledge under an enjoyment of the most effectual means of them. These our apostle complains of, and reproves in particular, verses 11-13. And this sort of comparative ignorance is attended with the greatest guilt of any; the reasons whereof are obvious. But yet unto all these sorts doth our high priest extend his compassion, and they are all of them here intended. And he is compassionate toward us under our ignorance,
1. As it is our calamity or trouble; for so it is, and as such he pities us in it and under it. Who is not sensible of the inconveniencies and perplexities that he is continually cast into by the remainders of darkness and ignorance in him? who is not sensible how much his love and his obedience are weakened by them? who doth not pant after fuller discoveries and more clear and stable conceptions of the glorious mystery of God in Christ? Yea, there is nothing on the account whereof believers do more groan for deliverance from their present state, than that they may be freed from all remainders of darkness and ignorance, and so be brought into a clear and intimate acquaintance with the in-created glories of God, and all the holy emanations of light and truth from them. Herein, then, our merciful high priest exerciseth compassion towards us, and leads us on, if we are not slothfully wanting unto ourselves, with fresh discoveries of divine light and truth; which, although they are not absolutely satisfactory to the soul, nor do utterly take away its thirst after the all-fullness of the eternal Fountain of them, yet do they hold our souls in life, and give a constant increase unto our light towards the perfect day.
2. That this ignorance also is our sin, as being our gradual falling short of the knowledge of the glory of God required in us, and the occasion of manifold failings and sins in our course, most of our wanderings being from some kind of defect in the conducting light of our minds, are things known and confessed. And with respect hereunto, namely, that efficacious influence which our ignorance hath into our frequent surprisals into sin, it is principally that we have relief from the compassion of our high priest.
Obs. 5. Sin is a wandering from the way. See on Hebrews 3:10.
Obs. 6. No sort of sinners is excluded from an interest in the care and love of our compassionate high priest, but only those who exclude themselves by their unbelief. Our apostle useth these two expressions to comprise all sorts of sinners, as they did under the law, unless they were such presumptuous sinners as had no relief provided for them in the institutions thereof. Of this nature is final unbelief alone under the gospel; therefore on all others our high priest is able to have compassion, and will especially exercise it towards poor, dark, ignorant wanderers. And I would not forbear to manage from hence some encouragements unto believing, as also to declare the aggravations of unbelief, but that these discourses must not be drawn out unto a greater length. Wherefore I shall only add on this verse,
Obs. 7. It is well for us, and enough for us, that the Lord Christ was encompassed with the sinless infirmities of our nature.
Obs. 8. God can teach a sanctified use of sinful infirmities, as he did in and unto the priests under the law.
In the third verse the apostle illustrates what he had asserted concerning the high priest, as to his being “compassed with infirmity,” from a necessary consequent thereof: he was to offer sacrifices for his own sins. Before, he had declared in general that the end of his office was to “offer gifts and sacrifices to God,” that is, for the sins of the people; but proceeding in his description of him, he mentions his own frailty, infirmity, and obnoxiousness unto sin. And this he did, that he might give an account of those known institutions of the law wherein he was appointed to offer sacrifices for his own sins also.
Hebrews 5:3 . Καὶ διὰ ταύτην ὀφείλει , καθὼς περὶ τοῦ λαοῦ , οὕτω καὶ περὶ ἑαυτοῦ , προσφέρειν ὑπὲρ ἁμαρτιῶν .
For διὰ ταύτην one manuscript has δι ᾿αὐτήν , that is, ἀσθένειαν , “because of which infirmity.” Vulg. Lat., “propterea debet;” “wherefore,” or “for which cause he ought.” Or, as we, “and by reason hereof.” Syr., “so also for himself to offer for his own sins.”
Hebrews 5:3 . And by reason hereof he ought, as for the people, so also for himself to offer for sins.
Καὶ διὰ ταύτην : that is, say some, for διὰ τοῦτο , the feminine put for the neuter, by a Hebraism. Hence it is rendered by some “propterea.” But ταύτνη plainly and immediately refers unto ἀσθένειαν , “propter hanc,” or “istam infimitatem.” Had the high priest under the law been ἀναμάρτητος , without any sin, or sinful infirmity, as the Lord Christ was, he should have had nothing to do but to offer sacrifice for the sins of the people. But it was otherwise with him, seeing he himself also, as well they, was encompassed with sinful infirmities.
᾿Οφείλει , “he ought.” He ought to offer for his own sins, and that on a double account, whereinto this duty or necessity is resolved:
1. The nature of the things themselves, or the condition wherein he was. For seeing he was infirm and obnoxious unto sin, and seeing he did, as other men, sin actually in many things, he must have been ruined by his office if he might not have offered sacrifice for himself. It was indispensably necessary that sacrifices should be offered for him and his sin, and yet this no other could do for him; he ought therefore to do it himself.
2. The command of God. He ought so to do, because God had so appointed and ordained that he should. To this purpose there are sundry express legal institutions, as we shall see immediately.
Καθὼς περὶ τοῦ λαοῦ , “in like manner as for the people;” that is, either the whole people collectively, or all the people distributively, as their occasions did require. In the first way the great anniversary sacrifice which he celebrated in his own person for the whole body of the people is principally intended, Leviticus 16:16; Leviticus 16:24. Add hereunto the daily sacrifice belonging unto the constant service of the temple, which is therefore used synecdochically for the whole worship thereof, Daniel 8:11-12, for herein also was the whole church equally concerned. In the latter way, it respects all those occasional sacrifices, whether for sin or trespasses, or in free-will offerings, which were continually to be offered, and that by the priests alone.
Οὕτω καὶ περὶ ἑαυτοῦ , “so for himself;” in like manner, on the same grounds and for the same reasons that he offered for the people. He had a common interest with them in the daily sacrifice, which was the public worship of the whole church; and therein he offered sacrifice for himself also, together and with the people. But besides this there were three sorts of offerings that were peculiar unto him, wherein he offered for himself distinctly or separately:
1. The solemn offering that ensued immediately on his inauguration:
Leviticus 9:2, “And he said unto Aaron, Take thee a young calf for as in offering, and a ram for a burnt-offering, without blemish, and offer them before the Lord.” This was for himself, as it is expressed, Leviticus 9:8, “Aaron therefore went unto the altar, and slew the calf, which was the sin-offering for himself.” After this he offered distinctly for the people “a kid of the goats for a sin-offering,” Leviticus 9:3; Leviticus 9:15. And this was for an expiation of former sins, expressing the sanctification and holiness that ought to be in them that draw nigh unto God.
2. There was an occasional offering or sacrifice which he was to offer distinctly for himself, upon the breach of any of God’s commandments by ignorance, or any actual sin: Leviticus 4:3, “If the priest theft is anointed do sin according to the sin of the people” (that is, in like manner as any of the people do sin), “then let him bring, for his sin which he hath sinned, a young bullock without blemish unto the Lord for a sin-offering.” After which there is a sacrifice appointed of the like nature, and in like manner to be observed,
(1.) For the sin of the whole people, Leviticus 4:13; and then
(2.) For the sin of any individual person, Leviticus 4:27.
And hereby the constant application that we are, on all actual sins, to make unto the blood of Christ for pardon and purification was prefigured.
3. There was enjoined him another solemn offering, on the annual feast, or day of expiation, which he was to begin the solemn service of that great day withal: Leviticus 16:3, “Aaron shall thus come into the holy place with a young bullock for a sin-offering, and a ram for a burnt-offering.” Leviticus 16:11, “And Aaron shall bring the bullock of the sin-offering, which is for. himself, and shall make an atonement for himself, and for his house, and shall kill the bullock of the sin-offering which is for himself.” After this, he offers also on the same day, for the sins of the people, Leviticus 16:15; a bullock for himself, and a goat for the people. And this solemn sacrifice respecting all sins and sorts of them, known and unknown, great and small, in general and particular, represents our solemn application unto Christ for pardon and sanctification; which as to the sense of them may be frequently renewed. The Jews affirm that the high priest used at his offering this sacrifice the ensuing prayer: אנה השם עויתי פשעתי חטאתי לפניך אני וביתי ובני אהרן עם קדושך אנא השם כפר נא לעונות ולפשעי ולחטאי שעויתי ושפשעתי ושחטאתי לפניך אני וביתי ובני אהרן עם קדושך ככתב בתורת משה עבדך כי ביום הזה יכפר עליכם לטהר אתכם מכל חטאתיכם לפניִה
“I beseech thee, O Lord, I have done perversely, have transgressed, I have sinned before thee; I and my house, and the children of Aaron, and thy holy people. I beseech thee, O Lord, be propitious unto, or pardon, I beseech thee, the iniquities, transgressions, and sins, wherein I have done amiss, transgressed, and sinned before thee, I and my house, and the sons of Aaron, and thy holy people; according as it is written in the law of Moses thy servant., that in this day thou wouldst pardon and purify us from all our sins.” Mishnaioth, Tract. Jom. Perek.
4. And all these several sorts of sacrifices for himself were, all of them, as our apostle here speaks, ὑπὲρ ἁμαρτιῶν , “for sins.” And this was necessary, because he was encompassed with infirmities and obnoxious unto sin, and so stood in no less need of expiation and atonement than the people.
Expositors generally agree that this is peculiar unto the high priest according to the law, the Lord Christ being neither intended nor included in this expression; for we have showed that, in this comparison, the things compared being on some accounts infinitely distant, there may be that in the one which nothing in the other answers unto. And that the Lord Christ is not intended in this expression appears,
1. The necessity of this offering for himself by the high priest arose from two causes, as was declared:
(1.) From his moral infirmity and weakness; that is, unto obedience, and obnoxiousness to sin.
(2.) From God’s command and appointment; he had commanded and appointed that he should offer sacrifice for himself. But in neither of these had our Lord Christ any concern; for neither had he any such infirmities, nor did God ordain or require that he should offer sacrifice for himself.
2. Actually Christ had no sin of his own to offer for, nor was it possible that he should; for he was made like unto us, “yet without sin.” And the offering of the priest here intended was of the same kind with that which was for the people. Both were for actual sins of the same kind; one for his own, the other for the people’s.
3. It is expressly said, that the Lord Christ “ needed not, as they to offer first for his own sins, and then for the people’s; ” and that because he was in himself “holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners,” Hebrews 7:26-27. This, therefore, belonged unto the weakness and imperfection of the legal high priest.
Two expositors of late have been otherwise minded. The first is Crellius or Schlichtingius, who says that the infirmities and evils that Christ was obnoxious unto, are here, by a catachresis, called “sins;” and for them he offered for himself. The other is Grotius, who speaks to the same purpose:
“Cum hoc generaliter de omni sacerdote dicitur, sequitur Christum quoque obtulisse pro se ὑπὲρ ἁμαρτιῶν , i.e., ut a doloribus illis qui peccatorum poenae esse solent, et occasione peccatorum nostrorum ipsi infiigebantur, posset liberari;” “Whereas this is spoken generally of every priest, it follows that Christ also offered for himself for sins; that is, that he might be freed from those pains which are wont to be punishments of sins, and which, on the occasion of our sins, were inflicted on him.”
It is well enough known what dogma or opinion is intimated in these expressions. But I answer,
1. This assertion is not universal and absolute concerning every high priest, but every high priest that was “under the law,” who was appointed to be a type of Christ, so far as was possible by reason of his infirmities.
2. It is not without danger, to say that “Christ offered for himself ὑπὲρ ἁμαρτιῶν .” He “knew no sin,” he “did no sin,” and therefore could not offer a sin-offering for himself. His “offering himself to God for us.” “making his soul an offering for sin,” our sins, his being “made sin for us,” to make “atonement” or “reconciliation” for our sins, is fully declared; but this offering for himself, especially for sin, is nowhere taught nor intimated.
3. If he be intended here, then must he offer for himself, as the high priest did of old; this the letter of the text enforceth. But the high priest of old was to offer distinctly and separately, “first for himself, and then for the people.” So the words require it in this place, by the notes of comparison and distinction, κάθως and οὕτω , “as for the people, so” (or “in like manner”) “for himself.” Therefore if the Lord Christ be intended, he must offer two distinct sacrifices, one for himself, another for us. Now, whereas this he needed not to do, nor did, nor could do, it is undeniably manifest that he hath no concern in this expression.
There remaineth one difficulty only to be removed, which may arise from the consideration of this discourse. For it the high priest of old, notwithstanding his own sins, could first offer for himself and then for the people, and so make expiation for all sin, what necessity was there that our high priest should be absolutely free from all sin, as our apostle declares that he was, and that it was necessary he should be, Hebrews 7:26-27; for it seems he might first have offered for his own sin, and then for ours?
Ans. 1. It is one thing to expiate sin typically, another to do it really; one thing to do it in representation, by virtue of somewhat else, another to do it effectually by itself. The first might be done by them that were sinners, the latter could not.
2. On that supposal it would have been indispensably necessary that our high priest must have offered many sacrifices. Once he must have offered for himself, wherein we should have had no concern; and then he must again have offered himself for us. Hence, whereas he had nothing to offer but himself, he must have died and been offered more than once; which lay under all manner of impossibilities.
3. That a real atonement might be made for sin, it was required that our nature, which was to suffer and to be offered, should be united unto the divine nature in the person of the Son of God; but this it could not be had it not been absolutely sinless and holy. Some observations ensue.
The order of God’s institution, with respect unto the sacrificing of the high priest for himself and the people, is observable; and this was, that he should first offer for himself, and then for them. This order was constant, and is especially observable in the great anniversary sacrifice for atonement on the day of expiation, Leviticus 16:0. Now the reason of this was,
1. Typical, that having first received pardon and purification for himself, he might the better prefigure and represent the spotless holiness of our high priest in his offering of himself for us.
2. Moral, to declare how careful they ought to be of their own sins who deal about the sins of others. And we may observe that,
Obs. 1. The absolute holiness and spotless innocency of the Lord Christ in his offering of himself had a signal influence into the efficacy of his sacrifice, and is a great encouragement unto our faith and consolation.
This our apostle informs us to have been necessary, Hebrews 7:26, τοιοῦτος γὰρ ἡμῖν ἔπρεπεν ἀρχιερεύς , “It was meet” (convenient, necessary, for and unto us) “that we should have such an high priest as was holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners.” No other sort of high priest could have done what was to be done for us. Had he had any sin of his own he could never have taken all sin from us. From hence it was that what he did was so acceptable with God, and that what he suffered was justly imputed unto us, seeing there was no cause in himself why he should suffer at all. This, therefore, is frequently mentioned and insisted on where his sacrifice is declared: 2 Corinthians 5:21,
“He made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” He was “made sin for us” when he was made a “sacrifice for sin,” when “his soul was made an offering for sin.” Hereon depends our being “made the righteousness of God in him,” or righteous before God through him; but not on this as absolutely considered, but as “he was made sin who knew no sin,” who was absolutely innocent and holy. So the apostle. Peter, mentioning the redemption which we have by his blood, which was in the sacrifice of himself, says it was “as of a lamb without blemish and without spot,” 1 Peter 1:19. And treating again of the same matter, he adds, “Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth,” 1 Peter 2:22. So Romans 8:3. And we may see herein,
1. Pure, unmixed love and grace. He had not the least concern in what he did or suffered herein for himself. This was “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,” that being “rich, for our sakes he became poor.” All that he did was from sovereign love and grace. And will he not pursue the same love unto the end?
2. The efficacy and merit of his oblation, that was animated by the life and quintessence of obedience. There were in it the highest sufferings and the most absolute innocency, knit together by an act of most inexpressible obedience.
3. The perfection of the example that is set before us, 1 Peter 2:21-22. And from hence we may also observe, that,
Obs. 2. Whosoever dealeth with God or man about the sins of others, should look well, in the first place, unto his own. The high priest was to take care about, and “first to offer for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people.” And they who follow not this method will miscarry in their work. It is the greatest evidence of hypocrisy, for men to be severe toward the sins of others and careless about their own. There are four ways whereby some may act with respect unto the sins of others, and not one of them wherein they can discharge their duty aright, if in the same kind they take not care of themselves in the first place.
1. It is the duty of some to endeavor the conversion of others from a state of sin. As this belongs to parents and governors in their place, so is it the chief work of ministers, and principal end of the ministry. So the Lord Christ determines it in his mission of Paul: “I send thee to the Gentiles, to open their eyes, to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and an inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me,” Acts 26:17-18. shall he apply himself hereunto, how shall he be useful herein, who was never made partaker of this mercy himself? How can they press that on others which they neither know what it is, nor whether it be or no, any otherwise than as blind men know there are colors? By such persons are the souls of men ruined, who undertake the dispensation of the gospel unto them for their conversion unto God, knowing nothing of it themselves.
2. It is our duty to keep those in whom we are concerned as much as in us lieth from sinning, or from actual sin. “These things I write unto you,” saith the apostle, “that ye sin not.” 1 John 2:1. With what. confidence, with what conscience, can we endeavor this toward others, if we do not first take the highest care herein of ourselves? Some that should watch over others are open and profligate sinners themselves. The preaching, exhortations, and reproofs of such persons do but render them the more contemptible; and on many accounts tend to the hardening of those whom they pretend to instruct. And where men “regard iniquity in their hearts,” although there be no notoriety in their transgressions, yet they will grow languid and careless in their watch over others; and if they keep up the outward form of it, it will be a great means of hardening themselves in their own sin.
3. To direct and assist others in the obtaining pardon for sin is also the duty of some. And this they may do two ways:
(1.) By directing them in their application unto God by Jesus Christ for grace and mercy;
(2.) By earnest supplications with them and for them. And what will they do, what can they do in these things sincerely for others, who make not use of them for themselves? look on this as one of the greatest blessings of the ministry, that we have that enjoined us to do with respect unto others which may sanctify and save their souls; and God hath so ordered things that we neither can nor will diligently attend unto any thing of that kind towards others concerning which we do not first endeavor to have its effect upon ourselves.
4. To administer consolation under sinning, or surprisals with sin, unto such as God would have to be comforted, is another duty of the like kind. And how shall this be done by such as were never cast down for sin themselves, nor ever spiritually comforted of God? It behoves us, therefore, in all things wherein we may deal with others about sin, to take care of ourselves in the first place, that “our consciences be purged from dead works,” that in all we do we may “serve the living God.”
Obs. 3. No dignity of person or place, no duty, no merit, can deliver sinners from standing in need of a sacrifice for sin. The high priest, being a sinner, was to “offer for himself.”
Obs. 4. It was a part of the darkness and bondage of the church under the old testament, that their high priests had need to offer sacrifices for themselves and their own sins. This they did in the view of the people; who might fear lest he could not fully expiate their sins who had many of his own, and was therefore necessitated in the first place to take care of himself. It is a relief to sinners, that the word of reconciliation is administered unto them, and the sacrifice of Christ proposed, by men subject unto the like infirmities with themselves; for there is a testimony therein, how that they also may find acceptance with God, seeing he deals with them by those who are sinners also. But these are not the persons who procure the remission, or have made the atonement which they declare. Were it so, who could with any confidence acquiesce therein? But this is the holy way of God: Those who are sinners declare the atonement which was made by him who had no sin.
The foregoing verses declare the personal qualifications of a high priest. But these alone are not sufficient actually to invest any one with that office; it is required, moreover, that he be lawfully called thereunto. The former make him meet for it, and this gives him his right unto it. And in the application of the whole unto Jesus Christ, this is first insisted on, Hebrews 5:5.
Hebrews 5:4 . Καὶ οὐχ ἑαυτῷ τις λαμβάνει τὴν τιμὴν , ἀλλὰ ὁ καλούμενος ὑπὸ τοῦ Θεοῦ , καθάπερ καὶ ὁ ᾿Ααρών . 
 The article before καλούμενος is omitted by Griesbach, SchoIz, Lachmann, Tischendorf, and most other modern critics. Ed.
Hebrews 5:4 . And no man taketh this honor unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron.
There is no difficulty in the rendering of these words, and consequently very little difference among translators. The Syr. and Vulg. Lat. read “honor” absolutely, without taking notice of the article τήν , which is here emphatical, “ this honor;” the honor of the priesthood. And for “himself,” the Syriac reads, “to his own soul;” by an idiom of speech peculiar to the eastern languages.
The words may be taken as a negative universal proposition, with a particular exception subjoined. “No man taketh this honor to himself but” only “he who is called.” He that is called taketh this honor to himself, or he that hath right so to do, namely, to possess and exercise the office of a high priest. Or they may be resolved into two disjunctive propositions: the one universally negative, without exception or limitation, “No man taketh this honor unto himself;” the other particularly affirmative, “He that is called of God,” he doth so, or he receiveth this honor. Thus there is an opposition expressed between a man’s taking this honor unto himself and his receiving of it on the call of God. Or we may yet more plainly express the meaning of the apostle. Having laid down the qualifications necessary unto him who was to be a high priest, he declares what is required for his actual investiture with this office. And this he expresseth,
1. Negatively he is not to assume this honor to himself:
2. Positively, he is to be called of God; which he exemplifies in the instance of Aaron, “as was Aaron.”
Οὐχ ἑαυτῷ λαμβάνει , “any one doth not take;” that is, no man doth. And λαμβάνω is not here simply “sumo,” “to take;” but “assumo,” “to take upon,” to take to him: or as it sometimes signifies, “prehendo, corripio,” “unduly to take,” by laying hold of any thing. “No man taketh,” that is, according to the law, according to divine institution. It was not the law that men should so do. Men might do otherwise, and did do otherwise, both as to the office and exercise of the priesthood. So did king Uzziah as to the exercise of it, 2 Chronicles 26:16. And at the time of the writing of this epistle, as also for many years before, there had been no lawful order or call observed in those who possessed the office of the high priesthood among the Jews. Some invaded it themselves, and some were intruded into it by foreign power. And both Chrysostom and OEcumenius suppose that our apostle in this place doth reflect on that disorder. His principal intention is plainly to declare how things ought to be, by the law and constitution of God. “No man doth;” that is, no man, ought so to do, for it is contrary to the law and the order appointed of God in his church. See Numbers 18:0. God’s institution in the Scripture is so far the sacred rule of all things to be done in his worship, that whatever is not done by virtue thereof, and in conformity thereunto, is esteemed as not done, or not at all done to him. But, Τὴν τιμήν . This is the object of the act prohibited: “The honor;” ‘this honor whereof we treat.’ Τιμή here intends either the office itself or the dignity of it. The office itself may be called “honor,” because it is honorable. So also is the word used, Hebrews 3:3. ‘No man taketh this honourable office upon him of his own head, of himself, without warrant, call, and authority from God.’If only the dignity of the office be intended, then it is, ‘No man arrogateth so much to himself, so sets up or advanceth himself, as to set himself out for an high priest.’I judge the office itself is first intended, yet not absolutely, but as it was honorable, such as men would naturally desire and intrude themselves into, had not God set bounds to their ambition by his law. So did Korah; for which he was first rebuked and afterwards destroyed, Numbers 16:9-10, etc. And this office was exceeding honorable, on a twofold account:
1. From the nature of it: wherein there was,
(1.) An especial separation unto God, Exodus 28:0;
(2.) An especial appropinquation or drawing nigh unto him, Leviticus 16:0;
(3.) The discharge of all peculiar divine services. These things made the office honorable, a high honor unto them that were duly vested with it. For what greater honor can a mortal creature be made partaker of, than to be peculiarly nigh unto God?
2. Because God required that honor should be given both unto the office and person vested with it. For this end partly was he to be adorned with garments made “for beauty and for glory,” and had power given him to rule in the house of God, 1 Samuel 2:30. But even in general, it is a great honor, on any account, to be made nigh unto God.
᾿Αλλὰ ὁ καλοῦμενος , “but he that is called of God.” The called one of God, he hath, he receiveth, he is made partaker of the honor of this office. He is the high priest whom God calls. And this call of God is the designation of a man unto an office or employment. He doth, as it were, look on a person among others, and calls him out to himself, as Exodus 28:1. It compriseth also the end of the call, in the collation of right, power, and trust, whatever is necessary unto the due exercise of that whereunto any one is called; for God’s will and pleasure is the supreme rule of all order and duty. And this call is here exemplified in the instance of Aaron: “even as was Aaron.”
Καθάπερ καὶ ὁ ᾿Ααρών , “even as Aaron,” “in like manner as Aaron.” And the note of similitude is regulated either by the word “called,” or by the subject of the instance, “Aaron.” If by the former, no more is intended but that he must have a call of God, as Aaron had. The comparison proceeds no farther but unto the general nature of a call. A call he must have, but the especial nature of that call is not declared. But if the note of comparison be regulated by the instance of Aaron, then the especial manner and nature of the call intended is limited and determined: ‘He must be called of God as was Aaron;’that is, immediately and in an extraordinary way. And this is the sense of the words and place.
It may be objected, ‘If this be so, then all the high priests who succeeded Aaron in the Judaical church are here excluded from a right entrance into their office; for they were not immediately called of God unto their office, as Aaron was, but succeeded one another by virtue of the law or constitution, which was only an ordinary call.’Ans. It doth not exclude them from a right entrance into their office, but it doth from being considered in this place. They had that call to their office which God had appointed, and which was a sufficient warranty unto them in the discharge of it. But our apostle disputes here about the erection of a new priesthood, such as was that of Christ. Herein no ordinary call, no law-constitution, no succession, could take place, or contribute any thing thereunto. The nature of such a work excludes all these considerations. And he who first enters on such a priesthood, not before erected nor constituted, he must have such a call of God thereunto. So had Aaron at the first erection of a typical priesthood in the church of Israel. He had his call by an immediate word of command from God, singling him out from among his brethren to be set apart unto that office, Exodus 28:1. And although in other things which belonged unto the administration of their office, the Lord Christ is compared to the high priests in general, executing their office according to the law, wherein they were types of him, yet as unto his entrance into his office upon the call of God, he is compared with Aaron only.
This being the proper design of the words, the things disputed by expositors and others from this place, about the necessity of an ordinary outward call to the office of the priesthood, and, by analogy, unto the ministry of the gospel, though true in themselves, are foreign unto the intention of this place; for the apostle treats only of the first erection of a priesthood in the persons of Aaron and Christ, whereunto an extraordinary call was necessary. And if none might take on him the office of the ministry but he that is called of God as was Aaron, no man alive could do so at this day.
Again, the note of similitude expresseth an agreement in an extraordinary call, but not in the manner of it and its special kind. This is asserted, that the one and the other had an immediate call from God, but no more. But as unto the especial kind and nature of this immediate call, that of Christ was incomparably more excellent and glorious than that of Aaron. This will be manifest in the next verses, where it is expressed and declared. In the meantime we shall consider the call of Aaron, as our apostle doth the ministry of Moses, Hebrews 3:0, declaring wherein indeed it was excellent, that so the real honor of the call of Christ above it may appear:
1. He was “called of God,” by a word of command for his separation unto the office of the priesthood: Exodus 28:1,
“Take thou unto thee Aaron thy brother, and his sons with him, that he may minister unto me in the priest’s office.”
His sons were also mentioned, because provision was herein made for succession. This made his call extraordinary, he was “called of God.” But,
(1.) This command was not given by a word from God immediately unto himself. God doth not say unto him, ‘Thou art my priest; this day have I called thee.’But it is Moses to whom the command is given, and with whom the execution of it is intrusted. So that,
(2.) He is in his call put as it were in the power of another; that is, of Moses. To him God says, “Take unto thee Aaron thy brother;” ‘Be thou unto him in the room of God, and act towards him in my name.’
2. This command or call of God was expressed in his actual separation unto his office, which consisted in two things:
(1.) His being arrayed by God’s appointment with glorious garments, Exodus 28:2. And they are affirmed to be contrived on purpose “for beauty and for glory.” But herein also a double weakness is included or supposed:
[1.] That he stood in need of an outward robe to adorn him, because of his own weakness and infirmities, which God would as it were hide and cover, in his worship, under those garments.
[2.] That indeed they were all of them but typical of things far more glorious in our high priest, namely, that abundant fullness of the graces of the Spirit, which being poured on him rendered him “fairer than the children of men.” It was therefore a part of the glory of Christ, that in the discharge of his office he stood in no need of outward ornaments, all things being supplied by the absolute perfection of his own personal dignity and holiness.
(2.) His actual consecration ensued hereon; which consisted in two things:
[1.] His unction with the holy consecrated oil.
[2.] In the solemn sacrifice which was offered in his name and for him, Exodus 29:0. And there was much order and glory in the solemnity of his consecration.
But yet still these things had their weakness and imperfection. For,
(1.) He had nothing of his own to offer at his consecration, but he was consecrated with the blood of a bullock and a ram.
(2.) Another offered for him, and that for his sins. And this was the call of Aaron, his call of God; and that which God vindicated, setting a notable mark upon it, when it was seditiously questioned by Korah, Numbers 16:3; Numbers 17:10. And all these things were necessary unto Aaron, because God in his person erected a new order of priesthood, wherein he was to be confirmed by an extraordinary call thereunto. And this is that, and not an ordinary call, which the call of Christ is compared unto and preferred above. After this all the successors of Aaron had a sufficient call to their office, but not of the same kind with that of Aaron himself. For the office itself was established to continue by virtue of God’s institution. And there was a law of succession established, by which they were admitted into it, whereof I have treated elsewhere. But it is the personal call of Aaron which is here intended.
Obs. 1. It is an act of sovereignty in God to call whom he pleaseth unto his work and especial service, and eminently so when it is unto any place of honor and dignity in his house.
The once of the priesthood among the Jews was the highest and most honorable that was among them, at the first plantation of the church. And an eminent privilege it was, not only unto the person of him who was first called, but with respect also unto his whole posterity; for they, and they only, were to be priests unto God. Who would not think, now, but that God would call Moses to this dignity, and so secure also the honor of his posterity after him? But he takes another course, and calls Aaron and his family, leaving Moses and his children after him in the ordinary rank and employment of Levites. And the sovereignty of God is evident herein,
1. Because every call is accompanied with choice and distinction. Some one is called out from among others. So was it in the call of Aaron, Exodus 28:1, “Take unto thee Aaron, from among the children of Israel.” By a mere act of sovereign pleasure God chose him out from among the many thousands of his brethren. And this sovereign choice God insisteth on to express the favor and kindness that is in any call of his, 1 Samuel 2:27-28. And herewith he reproacheth the sins and ingratitude of men, upbraiding them with his sovereign kindness, Numbers 16:9-10.
2. Because antecedent unto their call there is nothing of merit in any to be so called, nor of ability in the most for the work whereunto they are called. Under the new testament none was ever called to greater dignity, higher honor, or more eminent employment, than the apostle Paul. And what antecedaneous merit was there in him unto his vocation? Christ takes him in the midst of his madness, rage, persecution, and blasphemy, turns his heart unto himself, and calls him to be his apostle, witness, and great instrument for the conversion of the souls of men, bearing forth his name to the ends of the earth. And this we know that himself mentions on all occasions as an effect of sovereign grace, wisdom, and mercy. What merit was there, what previous disposition unto their work, in a few fishermen about the lake of Tiberias or sea of Galilee, that our Lord Jesus Christ should call them to be his apostles, disposing them into that state and condition wherein they “sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel?” So was it ever with all that God called in an extraordinary manner. See Exodus 4:10-11; Jeremiah 1:6; Amos 7:14-15. In his ordinary calls there is the same sovereignty, though somewhat otherwise exercised.
For in such a call there are three things:
1. A providential designation of a person to such an office, work, or employment. When any office in the house of God, suppose that of the ministry, is fixed and established, the first thing that God doth in the call of any one thereunto, is the providential disposition of the circumstances of his life, directing his thoughts and designs toward such an end. And were not the office of the ministry in some places accompanied with many secular advantages, yea, provisions for the lusts and luxuries of men that are foreign unto it, this entrance into a call from God thereunto, by a mere disposal of men’s concerns and circumstances, so as to design the ministry in the course of their lives, would be eminent and perspicuous. But whilst multitudes of persons, out of various corrupt ends, crowd themselves into the entrances of this office, the secret workings of the providence of God towards the disposal of them whom he really designs unto his work herein are greatly clouded and obscured.
2. It is part of this call of God, when he blesseth, succeedeth, and prospereth the endeavors of men to prepare themselves with those previous dispositions and qualifications which are necessary unto the actual call and susception of this office. And hereof also there are three parts:
(1.) An inclination of their hearts, in compliance with his designation of them unto their office. Where this is not effected, but men proceed according as they are stimulated by outward impressions or considerations, God is not as yet at all in this work.
(2.) An especial blessing of their endeavors for the due improvement of their natural faculties and abilities in study and learning, for the necessary aids and instruments of knowledge and wisdom.
(3.) The communication of peculiar gifts unto them, rendering them meet and able unto the discharge of the duty of their office; which, in an ordinary call, is indispensably required as previous to an actual separation unto the office itself.
3. He ordereth things so, as that a person whom he will employ in the service of his house shall have an outward call, according unto rule, for his admission thereinto.
And in all these things God acts according to his own sovereign will and pleasure. And many things might hence be educed and insisted on. As,
1. That we should have an awful reverence of, and a holy readiness to comply with the call of God; not to run away from it, or the work called unto, as did Jonah 1:0; nor to be weary of it, because of difficulty and opposition which we meet withal in the discharge of our duty, as it sundry times was ready to befall Jeremiah 15:10; Jeremiah 20:7-9; much less desert or give it over on any earthly account whatever, seeing that he who sets his hand to this plough, and takes it back again, is unworthy of the kingdom of heaven, and it is certain that he who deserts his calling on worldly accounts, first took it up on no other.
2. That we should not envy nor repine at one another, whatever God is pleased to call any unto.
3. That we engage into no work wherein the name of God is concerned without his call; which gives a second observation, namely, that,
Obs. 2. The highest excellency and utmost necessity of any work to be done for God in this world, will not warrant our undertaking of it or engaging in it, unless we are called thereunto. Yea,
Obs. 3. The more excellent any work of God is, the more express ought our call unto it to be.
Both these observations will be so fixed and confirmed in the consideration of the instance given us in the next verse, as that there is no occasion here to insist upon them.
Obs. 4. It is a great dignity and honor, to be duly called unto any work, service, or office, in the house of God.
The description of a high priest according to the law, with respect,
1. Unto his nature;
2. His employment, Hebrews 5:1;
3. His qualification, Hebrews 5:2;
4. His especial duty, with regard
(1.) to himself
(2.) to others, Hebrews 5:3;
5. His call, in the instance of him who was the first of the order, Hebrews 5:4, being completed, an application of the whole is in this verse entered upon unto our Lord Jesus Christ.
And this is done in all the particulars wherein there was or could be an agreement or correspondency between them and him with respect unto this office. And it was necessary to be thus declared by the apostle, unto the end designed by him, for two reasons:
1. Because the original institution of those priests and their office was to teach and represent the Lord Christ and his; which was his main intention to manifest and prove. Now this they could not do unless there were some analogy and likeness between them; neither could it be apprehended or understood for what end and purpose they were designed, and did so long continue in the church.
2. That the Hebrews might be satisfied that their ministry and service in the house of God was now come to an end, and the whole use whereunto they were designed accomplished. For by this respect and relation that was between them, it was evident that he was now actually exhibited, and had done the whole work which they were appointed to prefigure and represent. It was therefore impossible that there should be any further use of them in the service of God; yea, their continuance therein would contradict and utterly overthrow the end of their institution. For it would declare that they had a use and efficacy unto spiritual ends of their own, without respect unto him and his work whom they did represent; which is to overthrow the faith of both churches, that under the old testament and that under the new. Wherefore a full discovery of the proportion between them, and relation of the one unto the other, was necessary, to evince that their continuance was useless, yea, pernicious. But on the other side, it could not be but that those high priests had many imperfections and weaknesses inseparable from their persons in the administration of their office, which could represent nothing nor receive any accomplishment in our Lord Jesus Christ. For if any thing in him had answered thereunto, he could not have been such a high priest as did become us, or as we stood in need of. Such was it that they were subject to death, and therefore were necessarily many, succeeding one another in a long series, according to a certain genealogy: “They truly were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death: but this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood,” or a priesthood that passeth not from one to another, Hebrews 7:23-24. Herein, therefore, there was a dissimilitude between them, because of their being obnoxious unto death; whence it was inevitable that they must be many, one succeeding to another. But Jesus Christ was to be one high priest only, and that always the same.
Again, they were all of them personally sinners, and that both as men and as high priests; whence they might and did miscarry and sin, even in the administration of their office. Wherefore it was needful that they should offer sacrifice for their own sins also, as hath been declared. Now, as nothing could be represented hereby in Jesus Christ, “who knew no sin,” “did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth,” nor could he therefore offer sacrifice for himself; so these things do cast some darkness and obscurity on those instances wherein they did represent him. Wherefore our apostle steers a straight course between all these difficulties: for, First, He manifests and proves that the legal high priests were indeed types of Jesus Christ in his office, and did bear forth a resemblance of him therein; as also, that they were appointed of God for that very end and purpose. Secondly, He shows what were their qualifications and properties; which he distinguisheth into two sorts:
1. Such as belonged essentially, or were required necessarily, unto the office itself, and its regular discharge.
2. Such as were unavoidable consequents or concomitants of their personal weakness or infirmity. This latter sort, in this application of their description unto Christ and his office, as prefigured thereby, he discards and lays aside, as things which, though necessary unto them from their frail and sinful condition, yet had no respect unto Christ, nor accomplishment in him. And as for the former, he declares in the discourse immediately ensuing how they were found in Christ, as exercising this office, in a far more eminent manner than in them. This is the design of the discourse in the second part of the chapter, which we are now entering on. Only, whereas in the description of a high priest in general, he begins with his nature, qualifications, work, and duty, closing and issuing it in his call; in his application of the whole unto the Lord Christ, he taketh up that first which he had lastly mentioned, namely, the call of a high priest, and proceedeth unto the others in an order absolutely retrograde.
Hebrews 5:5 . Οὕτω καὶ ὁ Χριστὸς οὐχ ἑαυτὸν ἐδόξασε γενηθῆναι ἀρχιερέα , ἀλλ ᾿ὁ λαλήσας πρὸς αὐτόν· Υἱός μου ει῏ σὺ , ἐγὼ σήμερον γεγέννηκά σε .
Hebrews 5:5 . So also Christ glorified not himself to be made an high priest; but he that said unto him, Thou art my Son, to-day have I begotten thee.
Οὕτω καί , “so also, “and so, or “in like manner;” a note τῆς ἀποδόσεως , of the application of things before spoken unto the subject principally intended. A respect may be herein unto all the instances in the preceding discourse: ‘As it was with the legal high priest in all the things necessary unto that office, so in like manner was it with Christ;’which he now designeth to manifest. Or the intention of this expression may be restrained to the last expressed instance, of a call to office: ‘As they were called of God, so, or in like manner, was Christ also;’which he immediately declares. And this is first regarded, though respect may be had unto it in all the particular instances of analogy and similitude which ensue.
On this note of inference there ensueth a double proposition on the same supposition. The supposition that they both are resolved into is, that “Christ is an high priest.” Hereon the first proposition, with respect unto his call and entrance on that office, is negative, “He glorified not himself to be made an high priest.” The other is positive or affirmative, “But he that said unto him, Thou art my Son;” that is, he glorified him so to be, or he made him so. ῾Ο Χριστός , “Christ,” the subject spoken of; that is, the promised Messiah, the anointed one. The apostle in this epistle calls him occasionally by all signal names, as “the Son,” Hebrews 1:2; Hebrews 1:8; the “Son of God,” Hebrews 4:14; the “Word of God,” Hebrews 4:12; “Jesus,” Hebrews 2:9; “Christ,” Hebrews 3:6; “Christ Jesus,” Hebrews 3:1. Here he useth the name of Christ as peculiarly suited unto his present occasion; for he had designed to prove that the promised Messiah, the hope and expectation of the fathers,, was to be the high priest for ever over the house of God. Therefore he calls him by that name whereby he was known from the beginning, and which signified his unction unto his office, the anointed one. He was to be כֹּהֵן הַמָשִׁיחַ , the “anointed priest;” that is, “Christ.”
The subject spoken of being stated or described by his name, the supposition of his being a high priest takes place. This the apostle had before taught and proved, Hebrews 2:17; Hebrews 3:1; Hebrews 4:14. But you, considering the constitution of the law, and the way of any one’s entering on that office, a difficult inquiry yet remained, namely, how he came so to be. Had he been of the tribe of Levi, and of the family of Aaron, he might have been a priest., he would have been so, and have been so acknowledged by all. But how he should become so, who was a stranger to that family, who “sprang of the tribe of Judah, concerning which Moses spake nothing of the priesthood,” might be highly questioned. Fully and satisfactorily to resolve this doubt, and therein to take in the whole difficulty whence it arose, the apostle in the preceding verse lays down a concession in a universal maxim, that none who had not a right thereunto, by virtue of an antecedent law or constitution, which Christ had not, as not being of the tribe of Levi, could be a priest, without an immediate call from God, such as Aaron had. By and on this rule he offers the right of the Lord Christ unto this office to trial; and therein acknowledgeth that if he were not extraordinarily called of God thereunto he could be no high priest. To this purpose he declares,
First, Negatively, that “he glorified not himself to be made an high priest.” Outward call by men, or a constitution by virtue of any ordinance of the law he had none. Seeing therefore he is a priest, or if so he be, he must be made so by God, or by himself. But as for himself, neither did he take this honor to himself, nor was it possible that so he should do; for the whole office, and the benefit of his discharge of it, depended on a covenant or compact between him and his Father. Upon the undertaking of it, also, he was to receive many promises from the Father, and was to do his will and work; as we have elsewhere declared and fully proved. It was therefore impossible that he should make himself a high priest.
The Socinians do but vainly raise a cavil against the deity of Christ from this place. They say, ‘If he were God, why did another glorify him in any kind, why did he not glorify himself?’And the Jews on all occasions make the same exception. There were, indeed, some force in the objection against us, if we believed or professed that the Lord Christ were God only; but our doctrine concerning his person is that which is declared by our apostle, Philippians 2:6-7,
“Being in the form of God, he thought it not robbery to be equal with God; but he made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men.”
Wherefore there is no more weight in this cavil than there would be in another, namely, if one, unto those testimonies, that “all things were made by him,” and that he “in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth,” should ask, ‘How could this be, seeing he was a man, born in the fullness of time?’But this objection, for the substance of it, was raised by the Jews of old, and fully answered by himself. For whereas they objected unto him that he, being not fifty years old, could not have seen Abraham, as he pretended, who was dead near two thousand years before, he replied,
“Before Abraham was, I am,” John 8:58. If he had no other nature than that wherein they thought he was not fifty years old (being indeed little more than thirty), he could not have known Abraham, nor Abraham him. As, therefore, if he had been man only, he could not have been before Abraham, so had he been God only, another could not have glorified him to be a priest. But he was man also; and these words are spoken not with respect unto his divine nature, but his human.
Again; as it was impossible he should, so it is plain that he did not glorify himself to be a high priest, or take this dignity and honor to himself by his own will and authority. And this may be evidenced by a brief rehearsal of the divine acts necessary to the making of him a high priest; all which I have handled at large in the previous Exercitations. And they were of two sorts:
1. Authoritative, and wholly without him;
2. Perfective, whereunto his own concurrence was required. Of the first sort were,
(1.) His eternal designation unto this office.
(2.) His mission unto the discharge of it.
(3.) His unction with the Spirit for its due discharge.
(4.) The constitution of the law of his priesthood, which consisted of two parts; the first prescribing what he should do, what he should undergo, what he should offer, or what should be the duties of his office; the other declaring, appointing, promising what should be attained, effected, and accomplished thereby.
(5.) The committing and giving a people unto him, for whose sake and on whose account he was to bear, execute, and discharge this holy office. And all these, whereby he was authoritatively vested with his office, were sovereign acts of the will and wisdom of the Father, as I have elsewhere proved. By these was he called and glorified to be a high priest. Again, there were some acts perfective of his call, or such as gave it its complement; and these were wrought in him and by him, neither could they be otherwise: but yet by them did he not make himself a high priest, but only complied with the will and authority of the Father. Thus, when Aaron was called of God to his office, the law for its constitution being made and given, the person designed and called out by name, his pontifical garments put on, and the anointing holy oil poured on him, a sacrifice was to be offered, to complete and perfect his consecration. But because of his imperfection, whence it was necessary that he should come to his office by degrees and the actings of others about him, he could not himself offer the sacrifice for himself. He only laid his hand on the head of it, to manifest his concernment therein, but it was Moses that offered it unto God, Exodus 29:10-12. Thus it could not be with respect unto Jesus Christ, nor did he need any other sacrifice than his own for his consecration, seeing it was necessary unto the legal high priests on the account of their personal sins and infirmities. But although he was perfectly and completely constituted a high priest, by those acts of God the Father before mentioned, yet his solemn consecration and dedication, not to his office, but to’the actual discharge of it, were effected by acts of his own, in his preparation for and actual offering up of himself a sacrifice, once for all. And so he was perfected and consecrated in and by his own blood. Wherefore he did not glorify himself to be made a high priest, but that was an act and effect of the will and authority of God.
It remains only, as unto this first clause, that we inquire how it is said that “Christ glorified not himself,” as unto the end mentioned. Was there an addition of glory or honor made unto him thereby? Especially may this be reasonably inquired, if we consider what befell him, what he did, and what he suffered, in the discharge of this office; nay, doth not the Scripture everywhere declare this as an act of the highest condescension in him, as Philippians 2:6-9, Hebrews 2:10? How, therefore, can he be said not to glorify himself herein? Let those answer this inquiry who deny his divine nature and being. They will find themselves in the same condition as the Pharisees were when our Savior posed them with a question to the same purpose; namely, how David came to call Christ his Lord, who was to be his son so long after. Unto us these things are clear and evident. For although, if we consider the divine nature and person of Christ, it was an infinite condescension in him to take our nature, and therein to execute the office of a priest for us; yet with respect unto the nature assumed, the office itself was an honor and dignity unto him, on the accounts to be afterwards insisted on.
Secondly, In the affirmative proposition the way whereby Christ came unto his office is declared, or by what authority he was appointed a high priest: ᾿Αλλ᾿ ὁ λαλήσας πρὸς αὐτόν , “But he that said unto him.” There is an ellipsis in the words, which must be supplied to complete the anti-thesis: “But he glorified him,” or “he made him to be an high priest, who said unto him, Υἱός μου ει῏ σὺ , ἐγὼ σήμερον γεγέννηκά σε .” It is not easily apprehended how the apostle confirmeth the priesthood of Christ, or his call to office, by these words (they are twice used elsewhere by himself to other ends, Hebrews 1:5, Acts 13:33); for these words do originally signify the eternal relation that is between the Father and the Son, with their mutual love therein. To this purpose are they applied, Hebrews 1:5. And because this was manifested in and by the resurrection of Christ from the dead, when and wherein he was “declared to be the Son of God with power,” Romans 1:4, this testimony is applied thereunto, Acts 13:33.
For the direct intention and the full meaning of the words, the reader may consult our exposition on Hebrews 1:5, where they are handled at large. But how they are produced by our apostle here, as a confirmation of the priesthood of Christ, is an inquiry that is not without its difficulties; and seeing expositors are variously divided about it, their apprehensions must necessarily be inquired into and examined.
First, Those of the Socinian way, as Crellius and Schlichtingius, affirm that these words are constitutive of the priesthood of Christ; and that they were spoken to him after his resurrection. Hence they suppose two things will ensue:
1. That the Lord Christ was not a priest, at least no complete priest, until after his resurrection; for not until then was it said unto him, “Thou art my Son.”
2. That his priestly and kingly offices are the same; for his exaltation in his kingly power is principally intended in these words. But these things are fond and impious. For if the Lord Christ were not a priest until after his resurrection, then he was not so in the offering of himself to God, in his death and blood-shedding; which to say is to offer violence to the common sense of all Christians, the whole institution of the types of old, the analogy of faith, and express testimonies of Scripture in particular, as hath been evinced in our Exercitations. It expressly contradicts the apostle in this very place, or would make him contradict himself; for after this he affirms that as a priest he offered unto God “in the days of his flesh,” verse 7. They say, therefore, that he had some kind of initiation into his office by death, but he was not completely a priest until after his resurrection. The meaning whereof is, that he was not a complete priest until he had completely finished and discharged the principal work which belonged unto that office! I say, therefore,
1. That this distinction, of the Lord Christ being first an incomplete priest, and then afterwards made so completely, is foreign to the Scripture, a vain imagination of bold men, and inconsistent with his holy perfection, who was at once made so by the oath of God.
2. It is destructive of all the instructive parts of the type; for Aaron neither did nor could offer any sacrifice to God until he was completely consecrated unto his office. Nor is any thing in the law more severely prohibited, than that anyone should draw nigh to God in offering sacrifice that was not completely a priest.
3. Thus to interpret the testimony urged by the apostle,’is completely to disappoint his purpose and intention in it. For he designs by it to prove that Christ, in the offering which he made in the days of his flesh, did not glorify himself to be made a priest, but was made so by him who said unto him, “Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee.” And if this was not said unto him until after his resurrection, then in his offering of himself before, he glorified himself to be a priest, for he was not yet made so of God the Father.
4. The vanity of confounding the kingly and priestly offices of Christ hath been sufficiently detected in our Exercitations.
Secondly, Others say that the confirmation of the priesthood of Christ in these words, is taken from the ancient usage before the law, whereby the priesthood was annexed unto the primogeniture. Wherefore God declaring the Lord Christ to be his only-begotten Son, the first-born, lord and heir of the whole creation, did thereby also declare him to be the high priest. And this exposition is embraced by sundry learned men, whose conjecture herein I cannot comply withal. For,
1. The foundation of it is very questionable, if not unquestionably false; namely, concerning the priesthood of the firstborn before the law. This, indeed, is the opinion of the Jews, and is so reported by Jerome, Epist. ad Evagr.; but the matter is not clear in the Scripture. Abel was not the first- born, nor Abraham either; yet they both offered sacrifice to God.
2. This would include an express contradiction unto the scope of the apostle. For his design is to prove that Christ was a priest after the order of Melchisedec, called of God, and raised up extraordinarily, in a way peculiar and not common to any other. But on this supposition, he should be a priest after the order of the first-born. For what belonged unto Christ as the first-born, see our exposition on Hebrews 1:3.
Thirdly, Some judge that although the apostle recites expressly only these words, “Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee,” yet he directs us thereby to the whole passage in the psalm whereof these words are a part, Hebrews 5:7-8,
“I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee. Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.”
Here seems to be an express constitution, such as the apostle refers unto. For if we would know when or how God the Father glorified Christ to be a high priest, it was in that decree of his which is declared, Psalms 2:7. It was before established in heaven, and then declared in prophecy. And moreover, there is added an especial mention of the discharge of one part of his office as a priest, in these words, “Ask of me;” wherein authority is given him to make intercession with God. And this exposition, whereof, as far as I can find, Junius was the author, I shall not oppose; only for two reasons I cannot readily assent unto it. For, 1. It seems not probable that the apostle, in the quotation of a testimony, should omit that which was directly to his purpose, and produce those words only which alone were not so.
2. The asking here enjoined, is not his sacerdotal intercession, but only an expression denoting the dependence of Christ, as king, on God the Father for the subduing of his enemies.
Fourthly, Some conceive that the apostle intends not a testimony of the constitution of Christ in his office of priesthood, but only to give an account of the person by whom he was called thereunto: ‘He made not himself a high priest; but was made so by him from whom he had all his honor and glory as mediator, and that because be was his Son, and in his word declared so to be.’But the testimony given unto his priesthood is brought in in the next verse. Nor do I see any more than one exception which this exposition is liable unto, but which those that follow it have taken no notice of. And this is, that the manner of the introduction of the next testimony, “As he also saith in another place,” doth evidence that they are both produced and urged to the same purpose, for the confirmation of the same assertion. But withal I answer thereunto by concession, that indeed they are both here of the same importance, and used to the same purpose. For these words in this place, “Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec,” are considered as spoken to him by God the Father, even as the former were. This, therefore, is the design of the apostle in the introduction of this testimony; for the clearing whereof we may observe:
1. That it is not the priesthood of Christ, but his call thereunto, which in this place the apostle asserts, as was before declared.
2. As to this, he intends to show only that it was God the Father from whom he had all his mediatory power, as king, priest, and prophet to his church.
3. This is evidently proved by this testimony, in that therein God declares him to be his Son, and his acceptance thereby of him in the discharge of the work committed unto him. For this solemn declaration of his relation unto God the Father in his eternal sonship, and his approbation of him, doth prove that he undertook nothing, performed nothing, but what he had appointed, designed, and authorized him unto. And that he had so designed him unto this office is more particularly declared in the ensuing testimony.
Obs. 1. The office of the high priesthood over the church of God was an honor and glory to Jesus Christ.
It was so unto his human nature, even as it was united unto the divine; for it was capable of glory, of degrees of glory, and an augmentation in glory, John 17:1, 1 Peter 1:21. And the Lord Christ had a twofold glory upon him in the bearing and discharging of this office:
1. The glory that was upon him, or of the work itself;
2. The glory that was proposed unto him, in the effects of it.
1. There was a glory upon him in his work, from the nature of the work itself. So it was prophesied of him, Zechariah 6:13, “He shall build the temple of the LORD, and he shall bear the glory.” All the glory of the house of God shall be on him, Isaiah 22:24. And it was a glory unto him, because the work itself was great and glorious It was no less than the healing of the breach made between God and the whole creation by the first apostasy. Sin had put variance between God and all his creatures, Genesis in, Romans 8:20. No way was left, but that God must be perpetually dishonored, or all creatures everlastingly cursed. And hereby there seemed to be a kind of defeatment of God’s first design, to glorify himself in the making of all things; for to this purpose he made them all “exceeding good,” Genesis 1:31. And his glory depended not so much upon their being, as their being good; that is, their beauty, and order, and subjection to himself. But this was now lost as to all the creation, but only a part and portion of the angels, who sinned not. But yet the apostasy of those who were partakers of the same nature, privileges, and advantages with them, made it manifest what they also in their natural state and condition were obnoxious unto. How great, how glorious a work must it needs be, to put a stop unto this entrance of confusion; to lay hold on the perishing creation, running headlong into eternal ruin, and to preserve it, or some portion of it, some first-fruits of it, unto God from destruction! Must not this be a work equal unto, if not exceeding, the first forming of all things? Certainly it is a glorious and honorable thing unto him that shall undertake and accomplish this great and glorious work. What is said with respect unto one particular in it, may be applied unto the whole. When the sealed book containing the state of the church and the world was represented unto John, it is said that there was “no man in heaven, nor in earth, neither under the earth, that was able to open the book, neither to look thereon,” Revelation 5:3. Whereon the apostle wept that none was found worthy to engage in that work. But when the Lord Christ, “the lion of the tribe of Judah,” appeared to do it, and prevailed therein, Revelation 5:5, all the host of heaven, all the saints of God, joined together in ascribing glory and honor unto him, Revelation 5:6-14. The work was great and honorable, and therefore on the account of it doth that harmonious ascription of glory and honor unto him ensue. How much more must the whole work be esteemed such, whereof that book contained only a small portion! Herein, then, was the Lord Jesus Christ exceedingly glorious in his priestly office, because in the discharge of it he was the only means and way of the recovery and advancement of the glory of God; the greatness of which work no heart can conceive nor tongue express.
2. It appears from the effects and consequents of the discharge of his office, or the glory proposed unto him. And that,
(1.) On the part of them for whom he did discharge it. And these were all the elect of God. He himself looked on this as a part of the glory set before him, that he should be a captain of salvation unto them, and bring them unto the eternal enjoyment of God in immortal glory. And a double honor ariseth hence unto Jesus Christ:
[1.] Initial, the love, thankfulness, and worship of the church in all ages, in this world. See Revelation 1:5-6. This is a glory wherein he is delighted, that all his saints, in all parts of the world, do severally, and in their assemblies, with all humility, love, and thankfulness, worship, adore, bless, praise, and glorify him, as the author and finisher of their recovery unto God, and eternal salvation. Every day do they come about his throne, cleave unto him, and live in the admiration of his love and power.
[2.] This glory will be full at the latter day, and so hold unto all eternity, when all his saints, from the beginning of the world unto the end thereof, shall be gathered unto him, and abide with him, adoring him as their head, and shouting for joy when they behold his glory.
(2.) On his own part. There is a peculiar honor and glory given him of God, as a consequent of his discharge of this office, and on the account thereof, 1 Peter 1:21; Philippians 2:9-10; Ephesians 1:20-23: whereof see our exposition on Hebrews 1:2.
(3.) That glory wherein God will be exalted unto all eternity in the praise of his grace, the end of all his holy purposes towards his church, Ephesians 1:6, doth ensue and depend hereon. For these and the like reasons it was that our blessed Savior, knowing how unable we are in this world to comprehend his glory, as also how great a part of our blessedness doth consist in the knowledge of it, makes that great request for us, that, after we are preserved in, delivered from, and carried through our course in this world, as a principal part of our rest and reward, we may be with him where he is, to behold his glory which is given him of his Father, John 17:24. And our present delight in this glory and honor of Christ, is a great evidence of our love of him and faith in him.
Obs. 2. Relation and love are the fountain and cause of God’s committing all authority in and over the church to Jesus Christ.
By this expression of relation and love, “Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee,” doth the apostle prove that God called him to be the high priest of the church. To the same purpose himself  speaketh, John 3:35, “The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand.” In his constitution and declaration to be the great and only prophet of the church, God did it by an expression of his relation and love to him:
 Or rather, John the Baptist. Ed.
“This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him,” Matthew 17:5.
And this also was the foundation of his kingly office. Hebrews 1:2, “He hath spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things;” he who was his Son, and because he was his Son. God would give this glory and honor unto none but unto his only Son; which to prove is the design of our apostle in the first chapter of this epistle. And this his relation unto God manifested itself in that he did in the discharge of his office; for saith the evangelist,
“We beheld his glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth,” John 1:14.
Now, first, the relation intended is that one single eternal relation of his being the “Son of God,” the “only-begotten of the Father,” through the divine ineffable communication of his nature with him, or unto him. And hence the faith hereof is the foundation of the church; for when Peter made that confession of it, in opposition unto all false conceptions of others concerning his person, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God,” he answers, “Upon this rock I will build my church,” Matthew 16:16; Matthew 16:18. And why doth the Lord Christ build his church on the profession of this article of our faith concerning his person? It is because we declare our faith therein that God would not commit all power in and over the church, and the work of mediation in its behalf, unto any but him who stood in that relation to him, of his only-begotten Son. And hereby, as God declares the greatness of this work, which none could effect but his Son, he who is God with himself, and that none other should partake with him in this glory; so he directs us to the worship and honor of him as his Son: for it is the will of God that “all men should honor the Son, even as they honor the Father,” John 5:23. And those who put in themselves, their wills and authorities, as the pope; or bring in others into the honor of this work, as saints and angels; do rise up in direct opposition to the design of the will and wisdom of God. They must first give some one the relation of an only Son to God, before they ought to ascribe any thing of this great work or the honor of it unto him. Secondly, The love intended is twofold:
1. The natural and eternal love of the Father unto the Son, and his delight in him, as participant of the same nature with himself. This is expressed, Proverbs 8:30-31; which place hath been explained and vindicated before.
2. His actual love towards him on the account of his infinite condescension and grace in undertaking this work, wherein his glory was so deeply concerned. See Philippians 2:6-11. And this love hath a peculiar influence into the collation of that glory and honor on Christ which God bestowed on him. And in these things, which must not be here enlarged on, doth lie the blessed, sure, stable foundation of the church, and of our salvation, by the mediation of Christ.
The next verse gives us a further confirmation of the call of Christ unto his office, by another testimony, taken from Psalms 110:4. And much time, with diligence, would be needful to the explanation hereof, but that this is not its proper place. For that the whole psalm was prophetical of Jesus Christ I have proved before, and vindicated it from the exceptions of the Jews, both in our Exercitations and expositions on the first chapter. The subject-matter also spoken of, or the priesthood of Melchisedec, with the order thereof, the apostle expressly resumes and handles at large, Hebrews 7:0, where it must be considered. There is, therefore, only one concernment of these words here to be inquired into; and this is, how far or wherein they do give testimony unto the assertion of the apostle, that Christ did not glorify himself to be made a high priest, but that he was designed thereunto of God, even the Father.
Hebrews 5:6 . Καθὼς καὶ ἐν ἑτέρῳ λέγει· Σὺ ἱερεὺς εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα κατὰ τὴν ἀξιν Μελχισεδέκ .
Hebrews 5:6 . As he saith in another [ psalm ], Thou [ art ] priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.
There are two things in these words:
First, The manner of the introduction of a new testimony;
Secondly, The testimony itself.
The First, “As he saith in another.” And therein we may consider,
1. The connection unto and compliance with that foregoing: ‘In the same manner as he had said in Psalms 2:0, “Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee,” so he speaks “in another place” to the same purpose.’So great and important a truth had need of solid confirmation.
2. The author of the testimony, or he that spake the words of it: Λέγει , “He saith.” And this may be taken two ways;
(1.) With respect unto the delivery of the words;
(2.) With respect unto the subject-matter of them, or the thing signified in them.
(1.) In the first way, he that speaks may be
[1.] David. He who was the penman of the second psalm was so also of this hundred and tenth. As, therefore, the words foregoing, as to the declaration of them, were his, so were these also. As he said in that place, so he saith in this. Or,
[2.] The Holy Spirit himself, who in both places spake in and by David: “Saying in David,” Hebrews 4:7.
(2.) But the thing spoken and signified is principally here intended. And λέγει , “he saith,” referreth immediately to God the Father himself. That which the apostle designed to prove, is that Christ was called and constituted a high priest by the authority of God the Father. And this was done by his immediate speaking unto him. The Holy Ghost, by the mouth of David, speaks these things to us. But he doth only therein declare what the Father said unto the Son; and that was it whereby the apostle’s intention was proved and confirmed. “He saith.” This was that which God said unto him. And this is recorded ἐν ἑτέρῳ , “in another;” that is, τόπῳ , “place,” or rather ψαλμῷ , “in another psalm,” that is, Psalms 110:4.
Secondly, The testimony itself is expressed, or the words of the Father unto the Son, whereby the apostle’s assertion is confirmed: Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.” It was sufficient for the apostle at present to produce these words only; but he will elsewhere make use of the manner how they were uttered, namely, by and with the oath of God, as it is declared in the psalm, “The LORD hath sworn, and will not repent, thou art a priest,” etc. And these words of verse 4 do indissolubly depend on the first verse: “The LORD said unto my Lord;” that is, God the Father said unto the Son, with respect unto his incarnation and mediation, as I have proved elsewhere. And this word, “Thou art,” is “verbum constitutivum,” a “constituting word,” wherein the priesthood of Christ was founded. And it may be considered,
1. As declarative of God’s eternal decree, with the covenant between the Father and Son, whereby he was designed unto this office; whereof we have treated expressly and at large in the previous Exercitations.
2. As demonstrative of his mission, or his actual sending to the discharge of his office. These words are the symbol and solemn sign of God’s conferring that honor upon him, which gave him his instalment. There is included in them a supposition that God would prepare body for him, wherein he might exercise his priesthood, and which he might offer up unto him. On the whole, it is undeniable from this testimony, that God called and appointed him to be a priest; which was to be proved.
Thus Christ was “called of God, as was Aaron;” that is, immediately, and in an extraordinary manner; which was necessary in the first erection of that office in his person. But yet, as to the especial manner of his call, it was every way more excellent and glorious than that of Aaron. What his call was, and what were the weaknesses and imperfections of it, were before declared. But the call of Christ,
1. Had no need of any outward ceremony to express it, yea, it had a glory in it which no ceremony could express.
2. It consisted in the words of God spoken immediately to himself, and not to any others concerning him; only they are reported unto the church in the two psalms mentioned.
3. The words spoken are present, effective, constituting, authoritative words, and not merely declarative of what God would have done. By these words was he called and made a priest.
4. They are expressive of infinite love to and acquiescency in the person of Christ as a high priest. “Thou art my Son; THOU art a priest for ever.”
5. They were spoken and pronounced with the solemnity of an oath, “The LORD hath sworn;” whereof elsewhere. He was not, therefore, only called of God, as was Aaron, but also in a peculiar way, far more eminently and gloriously. We may hence observe,
Obs . That in all things wherein God hath to do with mankind Jesus Christ should have an absolute pre-eminence.
It was necessary that of old some things should be made use of to represent and prefigure him. And it is necessary now that some things should be made use of to reveal and exhibit him unto us. And these things must, as they are appointments of God, effects of his wisdom, and out of their respect unto him, be precious and excellent. But yet in and through them all it is his own person, and what he doth therein, that hath the pre- eminence. And this is so on a twofold account:
1. Because in the representation which they made of him there was an imperfection, by reason of their own nature, so that they could not perfectly represent him. So Aaron was called in an extraordinary manner, to prefigure his call ‘unto his priesthood; but that call of his was accompanied with much weakness and perfection, as hath been declared. It belonged unto the pre-eminence of Christ, that there should be something, yea, very much, in his call absolutely peculiar.
2. The principal dignity of all these things depended on their respect and relation unto him; which exalts him infinitely above them. And so also is it with all the means of grace, whereby at present he is exhibited, and the benefits of his mediation communicated unto us.
In this verse two instances of the qualifications of a high priest are accommodated unto our Lord Jesus Christ, and that in the retrograde order before proposed. For the last thing expressed concerning a high priest according to the law was, that he was “compassed with infirmity,” Hebrews 5:3.
And this, in the First place, is applied unto Christ; for it was so with him when he entered upon the discharge of his office. And therein the apostle gives a double demonstration:
1. From the time and season wherein he did execute his office; it was “in the days of his flesh.” So openly do they contradict the Scripture who contend that he entered not directly on his priestly office until these days of his flesh were finished and ended. Now, in the days of his flesh he was compassed with infirmities, and that because he was in the flesh.
2. From the manner of his deportment in this discharge of his office, he did it with “cries and tears.” And these also are from the infirmity of our nature.
Secondly, The acting of the high priest, as so qualified, in the discharge of his office, is accommodated unto him. For a high priest was appointed
ιπνα προσφέρῃ δῶρά τε καὶ θυσίας ὑπὲρ ἁμαρτιῶν , verse 1; “that he might offer gifts and sacrifices for sins.” So it is here affirmed of our Savior that he also “offered” to God; which is expressive of a sacerdotal act, as shall be declared. And this is further described,
1. By an especial adjunct of the sacrifice he offered, namely, “prayers and tears;”
2. By the immediate object of them, and his sacrifice which they accompanied, “Him that was able to save him from death;”
3. By the effect and issue of the whole, “He was heard in that which he feared.”
Hebrews 5:7 . ῝Ος ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις τῆς σαρκός αὐτοῦ δεήσεις τε καὶ ἱκετηρίας πρὸς τὸν δυνάμενον σώζειν αὐτὸν ἐκ θανάτου , μετὰ κραυγῆς ἰσχυρᾶς καὶ δακρύων προσενέγκας , καὶ εἰσακουσθεὶς ἀπὸ τῆς εὐλαβείας . ᾿Εν ταῖς ἡμέραις τῆς σαρκὸς αὐτοῦ . Syr., “also when he was clothed with flesh.” Arab., “in the days of his humanity.” Μετὰ κραυγῆς ἱσχυρᾶς . Syr., “with a vehement outcry.” ᾿Απὸ τῆς εὐλαβεῖας . This is wholly omitted in the Syriae; only in the next verse mention of is introduced, as חֶלְתָּא , “fear,” or “dread:” which is evidently transferred from this place, the interpreter, it seems, not understanding the meaning of it in its present construction. 
 EXPOSITION. Chrys., Phot., Theophyl., Vulg., Luther, Calov, Olshausen, Bleek, and some others, understand εὐλάβ . in the sense of “fear of God;” Jesus was heard on account of his piety. The Peschito, Itala, Ambrose, Calvin, Beza, Grotius, Gerhard, Cappellus, Limborch, Carpzor, Bengei, Morus, Storr, Kuinoel, Paulus, De Wette, Tholuck, and a whole host of critics besides, render εὐλάβ . by fear, anxiety; which signification has been vindicated on philological grounds by Casaubon, Wetstein, and Krebs. Ebrard proceeds to argue, that though the prayer of Christ was to be saved from death, it was not unheard, inasmuch as he was divested of the fear of death. Others understand the fear to be simply that horror of soul under which he was” exceeding sorrowful.” Ed.
Hebrews 5:7 . Who in the days of his flesh offered up prayers and supplications, with a strong cry [or vehement outcry ] and tears, unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard [or delivered ] from [ his ] fear.
The person here spoken of is expressed by the relative ὅς , “who;” that is, ὁ χριστός , mentioned Hebrews 5:5, to whose priesthood thenceforward testimony is given. “Who,” that is Christ, not absolutely, but as a high priest.
The First thing mentioned of him is an intimation of the infirmity wherewith he was attended in the discharge of his office, by a description of the time and season wherein he was exercised in it; it was ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις τῆς σαρκὸς αὐτοῦ , “in the days of his flesh.” That these infirmities were in themselves perfectly sinless, and absolutely necessary unto him in this office, was before declared. And we may here inquire,
1. What is meant by the “flesh” of Christ?
2. What were “the days of his flesh?”
1. The “flesh” of Christ, or wherein he was, is in the Scripture taken two ways:
(1.) Naturally, by a synecdoche, for his whole human nature: John 1:14, “The Word was made flesh.” 1 Timothy 3:16, “God was manifest in the flesh.” Romans 9:5, “Of whom was Christ according to the flesh.” Hebrews 2:14, “ He partook of flesh and blood.” 1 Peter 3:18; Romans 1:3. See our exposition of Hebrews 2:9-14. In this flesh, or in the flesh in this sense, as to the substance of it, Christ still continues. The body wherein he suffered and rose from the dead was altered, upon his resurrection and ascension, as to its qualities, but not as to its substance; it consisted still of “flesh and bones,” Luke 24:39. And the same spirit which, when he died, he resigned into the hands of God, was returned unto him again when he was “quickened by the Spirit,” 1 Peter 3:18; when God showed him again “the path of life,” according to his promise, Psalms 16:11. This flesh he carried entire with him into heaven, where it still continueth, though inwardly and outwardly exalted and glorified beyond our apprehension, Acts 1:11; and in this flesh shall he come again unto judgment, Acts 1:11; Acts 3:21; Acts 17:31; Revelation 1:7: for the union of this flesh with the divine nature in the person of the Son of God, is eternally indissoluble. And they overthrow the foundation of faith, who fancy the Lord Christ to have any other body in heaven than what he had on the earth; as they also do who make him to have such flesh as they can eat every day. It is not, therefore, the flesh of Christ in this sense, as absolutely considered, which is here intended; for the days of this flesh abide always, they shall never expire to eternity.
(2.) “Flesh,” as applied unto Christ, signifies the frailties, weaknesses, and infirmities of our nature; or our nature as it is weak and infirm during this mortal life. So is the word often used: Psalms 78:39, “He remembereth כִּיאּבָשָׂר חֵמָּה ,” “that they are but flesh;” that is, poor, weak, mortal, frail creatures. Psalms 65:2, “Unto thee shall all flesh come;” poor, helpless, creatures standing in need of aid and assistance. So “flesh and blood” is taken for that principle of corruption, which must be done away before we enter into heaven, 1 Corinthians 15:50. And this is that which is meant by the flesh of Christ in this place, human nature not yet glorified, with all its infirmities, wherein he was exposed unto hunger, thirst, weariness, labor, sorrow, grief, fear, pain, wounding, death itself. Hereby doth the apostle express what he had before laid down in the person of the high priest according to the law, he was “compassed with infirmity.”
2. What were “the days of his flesh” intended? It is evident that in general his whole course and walk in this world may be comprised herein. From his cradle to the grave he bare all the infirmities of our nature, with all the dolorous and grievous effects of them. Hence all his days he was אִישׁ מַכְאֹבוֹת וִידוּעַ חֹלִי , Isaiah 53:3; “a man of sorrows,” filled with them, never free from them; and familiarly “acquainted wi th grief, as a companion that never departed from him. But yet respect is not had here unto this whole space of time, only the subject-matter treated of is limited unto that season; it fell out neither before nor after, but in and during the days of his flesh. But the season peculiarly intended is the close of those days, in his last suffering, when all his sorrows, trials, and temptations came unto a head. The sole design of the expression is to show that when he offered up his sacrifice he was encompassed with infirmities; which hath an especial influence into our faith and consolation.
Secondly, An account is given of what he did in those days of his flesh, as a high priest, being called of God unto that office. And this in general was his acting as a priest, wherein many things are to be considered:
1. The act of his oblation, in that word προσενέγκας . Προσφέρω is “accedo,” “appropinquo,” or “accedere facio,” when applied unto things in common use, or unto persons in the common occasions of life. So doth קָרַב signify in the Hebrew. But when it doth so, the LXX. constantly render it by ἐγγίζω and προσεγγίζω ; that is, “to draw near.” But when it is applied to things sacred, they render it by προσφέρω ; that is, “offero,” or “to offer.” And although this word is sometimes used in the New Testament in the common sense before mentioned, yet it alone, and no other, is made use of to express an access with gifts and sacrifices, or offerings, to the altar. See Matthew 2:11; Matthew 5:23-24; Matthew 8:4; Mark 1:44; Luke 5:14. כְּיאּיַקְרִיב קָרְבָּן , Leviticus 1:2; that is, προσφέρῃ δῶρον , “offer a gift;’that is, at the altar. And in this epistle it constantly expresseth a sacerdotal act, Hebrews 5:1; Hebrews 5:3; Hebrews 8:3-4; Hebrews 9:7; Hebrews 9:9; Hebrews 9:14; Hebrews 9:25; Hebrews 9:28; Hebrews 10:1-2; Hebrews 10:8; Hebrews 10:11-12; Hebrews 11:4; Hebrews 11:17. And προσφορά is a “sacred oblation,” or a “sacrifice,” Hebrews 10:5; Hebrews 10:8; Hebrews 10:10; Hebrews 10:14; Hebrews 10:18. Nor is the word otherwise used in this epistle. And the end why we observe it, is to manifest that it is a priestly, sacerdotal offering that is here intended. He offered as a priest.
2. The matter of his offering is expressed by δεήσεις καὶ ἱκετηρίας “prayers and supplications.” Both these words have the same general signification. And they also agree in this, that they respect an especial kind of prayer, which is for the averting or turning away of impendent evils, or such as are deserved and justly feared. For whereas all sorts of prayers may be referred unto two heads,
(1.) Such as are petitory, for the impetration of that which is good;
(2.) Such as are deprecatory, for the keeping off or turning away that which is evil; the latter sort only are here intended. Δεήσεις are everywhere “preces deprecatoriae;” and we render it “supplications,” 1 Timothy 2:1. And “supplicationes” are the same with “supplicia,” which signifies both “punishments,” and “prayers” for the averting of them; as in the Hebrew, חַטָּאת is both “sin” and a “sacrifice” for the expiation of it. ῾Ιχετηρία is nowhere used in the Scripture but in this place only. In other authors it originally signifies “a bough, or olive-branch, wrapped about with wool or bays,” or something of the like nature; which they carried in their hands, and lifted up, who were supplicants unto others for the obtaining of peace from them, or to avert their displeasure. Hence is the phrase of “velamenta pretendere,” to hold forth such covered branches. So Liv. de Bell. Punic. lib. 24. cap. 30.:
“Ramos oleae ac velamenta alia supplicum porrigentes, orare, ut reciperent sese;”
“Holding forth olive branches, and other covered tokens used by supplicants, they prayed that they might be received into grace and favor.”
And Virgil, of his AEneas, to Evander, AEn. lib. 8:127:
“Optime Grajugenûm, cui me fortuna precari, Et vittâ comptos voluit pretendere ramos.”
And Herodian calls them ἱκετηρίας , “branches of supplication.” Hence the word came to denote a supplicatory prayer; the same with ἱκέτευμα . And it is in this sense usually joined with δεήσεις , as here by our apostle. So Isoc. de Pace, cap. xlvi.: Πολλὰς ἱκετηρίας καὶ δεήσεις ποιούμενοι , “Using many deprecatory entreaties and supplications.” So constantly the heathen called those prayers which they made solemnly to their gods, for the averting of impendent evils, “supplicia,” and “supplicationes.” Liv. lib. 10. cap. 23:
“Eo anno prodigia multa fuerunt: quorum averruncandorum causâ supplicationes in biduum senatus decrevit;” that is, “Irae deûm averruncandae,”
as he speaks lib. 8. cap. 6: to turn away the wrath of their gods. And such a kind of prayer is that whose form is given in Cato de re Rustic. cap. 14:
“Mars pater, te precor, quaesoque, ut calamitates intemperiasque prohibessis, defendas, averrunces.”
Hesychius explains ἱκετηρία by παράκλησις , a word of a much larger signification; but ἱκετηρία , a word of the same original and force, by καθαρτήρια , λυτήρια , “expiations and purgations,” from guilt deserving punishment. ῾Ικετηρία , Gloss. Vet., “Oratio, precatio supplicum;” “the prayer of suppliants.” The word being used only in this place in the Scripture, it was not unnecessary to inquire after the signification of it in other authors. It is a humble supplication for peace, or deprecation of evil, with the turning away of anger. And this sense singularly suits the scope of the place; for respect is had in it to the sufferings of Christ, and the fear which befell him in the apprehension of them as they were penal, as we shall see afterwards.
But it must also be here further observed, that however this word might be used to express the naked supplication of some men in distress unto others, yet whenever it is used in heathen authors, with respect unto their gods, it is always accompanied with expiatory sacrifices, or was the peculiar name of those prayers and supplications which they made with those sacrifices. And I have showed before that the solemn expiatory sacrifice of the high priest among the Jews was accompanied with deprecatory supplications; a form whereof, according to the apprehensions of their masters, I gave out of the Mishna. And so he was appointed, in the great sacrifice of expiation, to confess over the head of the scape-goat
“all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins,” Leviticus 16:21;
which he did not without prayers for the expiation of them, and deliverance from the curse of the law due to them. And they are not the mere supplications of our blessed Savior that are here intended, but as they accompanied and were a necessary adjunct of the offering up of himself, his soul and body, a real propitiatory sacrifice to God. And therefore, wherever our apostle elsewhere speaks of the “offering” of Christ, he calls it the “offering of himself,” or of his “body,” Ephesians 5:2, Hebrews 9:14; Hebrews 9:25; Hebrews 9:28; Hebrews 10:10. Here, therefore, he expresseth the whole sacrifice of Christ by the “prayers and supplications” wherewith it was accompanied; and therefore makes use of that word which peculiarly denotes such supplications. And he describes the sacrifice or offering of Christ by this adjunct for the reasons ensuing:
1. To evince what he before declared, that in the days of his flesh, when he offered up himself unto God, he was encompassed with the weakness of our nature, which made prayers and supplications needful for him, as at all seasons, so especially in straits and distresses, when he cried from “the lion’s mouth,” and “the horns of the unicorns,” Psalms 22:21. He was in earnest, and pressed to the utmost in the work that was before him. And this expression is used,
2. That we might seriously consider how great a work it was to expiate sin. As it was not to be done without suffering, so a mere and bare suffering would not effect it. Not only death, and that a bloody death, was required thereunto, but such as was to be accompanied with “prayers and supplications,” that it might be effectual unto the end designed, and that he who suffered it might not be overborne in his undertaking. The “redemption of souls was precious,” and must have ceased for ever, had not every thing been set on work which is acceptable and prevalent with God. And,
3. To show that the Lord Christ had now made this business his own. He had taken the whole work and the whole debt of sin upon himself. He was now, therefore, to manage it, as if be alone were the person concerned. And this rendered his prayers and supplications necessary in and unto his sacrifice. And,
4. That we might be instructed how to make use of and plead his sacrifice in our stead. If it was not, if it could not be, offered by him but with prayers and supplications, and those for the averting of divine wrath, and making peace with God, we may not think to be interested therein whilst under the power of lazy and slothful unbelief. Let him that would go to Christ, consider well how Christ went to God for him; which is yet further declared,
Thirdly, In the manner of his offering these prayers and supplications unto God, whereby he offered up himself also unto him. He did it μετὰ κραυγῆς ἰσχυρᾶς καὶ δακρύων , “with strong crying” (or “a strong cry”) “and tears.” Chrysostom on the place observes, that the story makes no mention of these thugs. And, indeed, of his tears in particular it doth not; which from this place alone we know to have accompanied his sacerdotal prayers. But his “strong crying” is expressly related. To acquaint ourselves fully with what is intended herein, we may consider,
1. How it was expressed in prophecy;
2. How it is related in the story;
3. How reposed here by our apostle:
1. In prophecy the supplications here intended are called his “roaring:”
Psalms 22:1-3, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from דִּבְרֵי שַׁאֲתִי ,” “the words of my roaring?” “Rugitus,” the proper cry of a lion, is κραυγὴ ἰσχυρά , “clamor validus,” “a strong and vehement outcry.” And it is used to express such a vehemency in supplications as cannot be compressed or confined, but will ordinarily break out into a loud expression of itself; at least such an intension of mind and affection as cannot be outwardly expressed without fervent outcries. Psalms 32:3, “When I kept silence,” that is, whilst he was under his perplexities from the guilt of sin, before he came off to a full and clear acknowledgment of it as verse 5, “my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long.” The vehemency of his complainings consumed his natural strength. So Job 3:24, “My sighing cometh before I eat, ויּתְּכוּ בַמַּיִם שַׁאֲגֹתָי ,” “and my roarings are poured out like waters,” namely, that break out of any place with great noise and abundance. So is a sense of extreme pressures and distresses signified: “I have roared by rein of the disquietness of my heart,” Psalms 28:8. This is κραυγὴ ἰσχυρά , “a strong cry.” And if we well consider his prayer, as recorded Psalms 22:0, especially from verse 9 to verse 21, we shall find that every word almost, and sentence, hath in it the spirit of roaring and a strong cry, however it were uttered. For it is not merely the outward noise, but the inward earnest intension and engagement of heart and soul, with the greatness and depth of the occasion of them, that is principally intended.
2. We may consider the same matter as related in story by the evangelists. The prayers intended are those which he offered to God during his passion, both in the garden and on the cross. The first are declared Luke 22:44, “And being in an agony, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was as drops of blood falling on the earth.” The inward frame is here declared, which our apostle shadows out by the external expressions and signs of it, in “strong cries and tears.” ᾿Εν ἀγωνίᾳ γενόμενος , “constitutus in agonia.” He was in, under the power of, wholly pressed by “an agony;” that is, a strong and vehement conflict of mind, in and about things dreadful and terrible. ᾿Αγωνία is φόβος διαπτώσεως , saith Nemes. de Natur. Hom.; “a dread of utter ruin.” “Timor extrinsecus advenientis mall,” Aquin.; “a dread of evil to come upon us from without.” It signifies, “ita vehementi discriminis objecti metu angi ut quodam-modo exanimis et attonitus sis,” saith Maldonat on Matthew 26:37. He prayed ἐκτενέστερον , “with more vehement intension of mind, spirit, and body.” For the word denotes not a degree of the acting of grace in Christ, as some have imagined, but the highest degree of earnestness in the actings of his mind, soul, and body; another token of that wonderful conflict wherein he was engaged, which no heart can conceive nor tongue express. This produced that preternatural sweat wherein θρόμβοι αἵματος , “thick drops of blood” ran from him to the ground. Concerning this he says, כּמַּיִם נִשְׁפַכְתִּי , Psalms 22:15, “I am poured out like water;” that is, ‘my blood is so, by an emanation from all parts of my body, descending to the ground.’And they consult not the honor of Jesus Christ, but the maintenance of their own false suppositions, who assign any ordinary cause of this agony, with these consequents of it, or such as other men may have experience of. And this way go many of the expositors of the Roman church. So à Lapid. in loc.:
“Nota secundo hunc Christi angorem lacrymas et sudorem sanguineum, testem infirmitatis a Christo assumptae, provenisse ex vivaci imaginatione, fiagellationis, coronationis, mortis dolorumque omnium quos mox subiturus erat; inde enim naturaliter manabat eorundem horror et angor.”
He would place the whole cause of this agony in those previous fancies, imaginations, or apprehensions, which he had of those corporeal sufferings which were to come upon him. Where, then, is the glory of his spiritual strength and fortitude? where the beauty of the example which herein he set before us? His outward sufferings were indeed grievous; but yet, considered merely as such, they were, as to mere sense of pain, beneath what sundry of his martyrs have been called to undergo for his name’s sake. And yet we know that many, yea, through the power of his grace in them, the most of them who have so suffered for him in all ages, have cheerfully, joyfully, and without the least consternation of spirit, undergone the exquisite tortures whereby they have given up themselves unto death for him. And shall we imagine that the Son of God, who had advantages for his supportment and consolation infinitely above what they had any interest in, should be given up to this dreadful, trembling conflict, wherein his whole nature was almost dissolved, out of a mere apprehension of those corporeal sufferings which were coming on him? Was it the forethought of them only, and that as such, which dispelled the present sense of divine love and satisfaction from the indissoluble union of his person, that they should not influence his mind with refreshments and consolation? God forbid we should have such mean thoughts of what he was, of what he did, of what he suffered. There were other causes of these things, as we shall see immediately.
Again; on the cross itself it is said, ᾿᾿Ανεβόησε φωνῇ μεγάλῃ , Matthew 27:46; that is plainly, “He prayed μετὰ κραυγῆς ἱσχυρᾶς , ” He cried with a great outcry,” or “loud voice,” with a “strong cry.” This was the manner of the sacerdotal prayers of Christ which concerned his oblation, or the offering himself as a sacrifice, as is reported in the evangelist. The other part of his sacerdotal prayer, which expressed his intercession on a supposition of his oblation, he performed and offered with all calmness, quietness, and sedateness of mind, with all assurance and joyful glory, as if he were actually already in heaven; as we may see, John 17:0. But it was otherwise with him when he was to offer himself a sin-offering in our stead. If, therefore, we do compare the 22d psalm, as applied and explained by the evangelists and our apostle, with the 17th of John, we shall find a double mediatory or sacerdotal prayer of our Savior in behalf of the whole church. The first was that which accompanied his oblation, or the offering of himself an expiatory sacrifice for sin. And this having respect unto the justice of God, the curse of the law, and the punishment due to sin, was made in an agony, distress, and conflict, with wrestlings, expressed by cries, tears, and most vehement intensions of soul. The other, which though in order of time antecedent, yet in order of nature was built on the former, and a supposition of the work perfected therein, as is evident, John 17:11, represents his intercession in heaven. The first was μετὰ κραυγῆς ἰσχυρᾶς καὶ δακρύων , the other μετὰ πεποιθήσεως καὶ πληροφορίας .
3. These are the things which are thus expressed by our apostle, “He offered up prayers and supplications, with strong cries and tears.” Such was the frame of his soul, such was his prayer and deportment in his sacrifice of himself. His tears, indeed, are not expressly mentioned in the story, but weeping was one of those infirmities of our nature which he was subject unto: John 11:35, “Jesus wept.” He expressed his sorrow thereby. And being now in the greatest distress, conflict, and sorrow, which reached unto the soul, until that was “sorrowful unto death,” as we may well judge that in his dealing with God he poured out tears with his prayers, so it is here directly mentioned. So did he here “offer up himself through the eternal Spirit.”
Fourthly, The object of this offering of Christ, he to whom he offered up prayers and supplications, is expressed and described. And this was ὀ δυνάμενος σώζειν αὐτὸν ἐκ θανάτου , “he that was able to save him from death,” that had power so to do. It is God who is intended, whom the apostle describes by this periphrasis, for the reasons that shall be mentioned. He calls him neither God, nor the Father of Christ, although the Lord Jesus, in the prayers intended, calls upon him by both these names. So in the garden he calls him Father: “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me,” Matthew 26:39. And on the cross he called him God: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me,” Matthew 27:46; and “Father” again, in the resignation of his life and soul into his hands, Luke 23:46. But in the reporting of these things our apostle waiveth these expressions, and only describeth God as “Him who was able to save him from death.” Now this he doth to manifest the consideration that the Lord Christ at that time had of God, of death, and of the causes, consequents, and effects of it. For his design is, to declare what was the reason of the frame of the soul of Christ in his suffering and offering before described, and what were the causes thereof.
In general, God is proposed as the object of the actings of Christ’s soul in this offering of himself, as he who had all power in his hand to order all his present concernments: “To him who was able.” Ability or power is either natural or moral. Natural power is strength and active efficiency; in God omnipotency. Moral power is right and authority; in God absolute sovereignty. And the Lord Christ had respect unto the ability or power of God in both these senses: in the first, as that which he relied upon for deliverance; in the latter, as that which he submitted himself unto. The former was the object of his faith, namely, that God, by the greatness of his power, could support and deliver him in and under his trial. The latter was the object of his fear, as to the dreadful work which he had undertaken Now, because our apostle is upon the description of that frame of heart, and those actings of soul, wherewith our high priest offered himself for us unto God, which was with “prayers and supplications,” accompanied with “strong cries and tears,” I shall consider from these words three things, considering the power or ability of God principally in the latter way:
1. What were the general causes of the state and condition wherein the Lord Christ is here described by our apostle, and of the actings ascribed unto him therein.
2. What were the immediate effects of the sufferings of the Lord Christ in and upon his own soul.
3. What limitations are to be assigned unto them.
From all which it will appear why and wherefore he offered up his prayers and supplications unto him who was able to save him from death; wherein a fear of it is included, on the account of the righteous authority of God, as well as a faith of deliverance from it, on the account of his omnipotent power.
1. The general causes of his state and condition, with his actings therein, were included in that consideration and prospect which he then had of God, death, and himself, or the effects of death upon him.
(1.) He considered God at that instant as the supreme rector and judge of all, the author of the law and the avenger of it, who had power of life and death, as the one was to be destroyed and the other inflicted, according to the curse and sentence of the law. Under this notion he now considered God, and that as actually putting the law in execution, having power and authority to give up unto the sting of it, or to save from it. God represented himself unto him first as armed and attended with infinite holiness, righteousness, and severity, as one that would not pass by sin nor acquit the guilty; and then as accompanied with supreme or sovereign authority over him, the law, life, and death. And it is of great importance under what notion we consider God when we make our approaches unto him. The whole frame of our souls, as to fear or confidence, will be regulated thereby.
(2.) He considered death not naturally, as a separation of soul and body; nor yet merely as a painful separation of them, such as was that death which in particular he was to undergo; but he looked on it as the curse of the law due to sin, inflicted by God as a just and righteous judge. Hence, in and under it, he himself is said to be “made a curse,” Galatians 3:13. This curse was now coming on him, as the sponsor or surety of the new covenant. For although he considered himself, and the effects of things upon himself, yet he offered up these prayers as our sponsor, that the work of mediation which he had undertaken might have a good and blessed issue.
From hence may we take a view of that frame of soul which our Lord Jesus Christ was in when he offered up prayers and supplications, with strong cries and tears, considering God as him who had authority over the law, and the sentence of it that was to be inflicted on him. Some have thought, that upon the confidence of the indissolubleness of his person, and the actual assurance which they suppose he had always of the love of God, his sufferings could have no effect of fear, sorrow, trouble, or perplexity on his soul, but only what respected the natural enduring of pain and shame, which he was exposed unto. But the Scripture gives us another account of these things. It informs us, that “he began to be afraid, and sore amazed;” that “his soul was heavy, and sorrowful unto death;” that he was “in an agony,” and afterwards cried out, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” under a sense of divine dereliction.
There was, indeed, a mighty acting of love in God toward us, in the giving of his Son to death for us, as to his gracious ends and purposes thereby to be accomplished; and his so doing is constantly in the Scripture reckoned on the score of love. And there was always in him a great love to the person of his Son, and an ineffable complacency in the obedience of Christ, especially that which he exercised in his suffering; but yet the curse and punishment which he underwent was an effect of vindictive justice, and as such did he look upon it and conflict with it. I shall not enter into the debates of those expressions which have been controverted about the sufferings of Christ, as whether he underwent the death of the soul, the second death, the pains of hell. For it would cause a prolix digression to show distinctly what is essential unto these things, or purely penal in them, which alone he was subject unto; and what necessarily follows a state and condition of personal sin and guilt in them who undergo them, which he was absolutely free from. But this alone I shall say, which I have proved elsewhere, whatever was due to us from the justice of God and sentence of the law, that he underwent and suffered. This, then, was the cause in general of the state and condition of Christ here described, and of his actings therein, here expressed.
2. In the second place, the effects of his sufferings in himself, or his sufferings themselves, on this account, may be reduced in general unto these two heads:
(1.) His dereliction. He was under a suspension of the comforting influences of his relation unto God. His relation unto God, as his God and Father, was the fountain of all his comforts and joys, The sense hereof was now suspended. Hence was that part of his cry, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” The supporting influences of this relation were continued, but the comforting influences of it were suspended. See Psalms 22:1-3, etc. And from hence he was filled with heaviness and sorrow. This the evangelists fully express. He says of himself, that “his soul was exceeding sorrowful, even unto death,” Matthew 26:38; which expressions are emphatical, and declare a sorrow that is absolutely inexpressible. And this sorrow was the effect of his penal desertion; for sorrow is that which was the life of the curse of the law. So when God declared the nature of that curse unto Adam and Eve, he tells them that he will give them “sorrow,” and “multiply their sorrow,” Genesis 3:16-17. With this sorrow was Christ now filled, which put him on those strong cries and tears for relief. And this dereliction was possible, and proceeded from hence, in that all communications from the divine nature unto the human, beyond subsistence, were voluntary.
(2.) He had an intimate sense of the wrath and displeasure of God against the sin that was then imputed unto him. All our sins were then caused, by an act of divine and supreme authority, “to meet on him,” or “the LORD laid on him the iniquity of us all,” Isaiah 53:6. Even all our guilt was imputed unto him, or none of the punishment due unto our sins could have been justly inflicted on him. In this state of things, in that great hour, and wonderful transaction of divine wisdom, grace, and righteousness, whereon the glory of God, the recovery of fallen man, with the utter condemnation of Satan, depended, God was pleased for a while, as it were, to hold the scales of justice in aequilibrio, that the turning of them might be more conspicuous, eminent, and glorious. In the one scale, as it were, there was the weight of the first sin and apostasy from God, with all the consequents of it, covered with the sentence and curse of the law, with the exigence of vindictive justice, a weight that all the angels of heaven could not stand under one moment. In the other were the obedience, holiness, righteousness, and penal sufferings, of the Son of God, all having weight and worth given unto them by the dignity and worth of his divine person. Infinite justice kept these things for a season, as it were, at a poise, until the Son of God, by his prayers, tears, and supplications, prevailed unto a glorious success, in the delivery of himself and us.
3. Wherefore, as to the limitation of the effects of Christ’s sufferings in and upon himself, we may conclude, in general,
(1.) That they were such only as are consistent with absolute purity, holiness, and freedom from the least appearance of sin;
(2.) Not such as did in the least impeach the glorious union of his natures in the same person;
(3.) Nor such as took off from the dignity of his obedience and merit of his suffering, but were all necessary thereunto: but then,
(4.) As he underwent whatever is or can be grievous, dolorous, afflictive, and penal, in the wrath of God, and sentence of the law executed; so these things really wrought in him sorrow, amazement, anguish, fear, dread, with the like penal effects of the pains of hell; from whence it was that he “offered up prayers and supplications, with strong cries and tears, unto him that was able to save him from death,” the event whereof is described in the last clause of the verse.
Καὶ εἰσακουσθεὶς ἀπὸ τῆς εὐλαβείας , “and was heard in that which he feared.” To be heard in Scripture signifies two things:
1. To be accepted in our request, though the thing requested be not granted unto us. “God will hear me,” is as much as, ‘God will accept of me, is pleased with my supplication,’ Psalms 55:17; Psalms 22:21.
2. To be answered in our request. To be heard, is to be delivered. So is this expressed, Psalms 22:25. In the first way there is no doubt but that the Father always heard the Son, John 11:42, always in all things accepted him, and was well pleased in him; but our inquiry is here, how far the Lord Christ was heard in the latter way, so heard as to be delivered from what he prayed against.
Concerning this observe, that the prayers of Christ in this matter were of two sorts:
1. Hypothetical or conditional; such was that prayer for the passing of the cup from him, Luke 22:42, “Father, if thou wilt, remove this cup from me.” And this prayer was nothing but what was absolutely necessary unto the verity of human nature in that state and condition. Christ could not have been a man and not have had an extreme aversation to the things that were coming upon him. Nor had it been otherwise with him, could he properly have been said to suffer; for nothing is suffering, nor can be penal unto us, but what is grievous unto our nature, and what it is abhorrent of. This acting of the inclination of nature, both in his mind, will, and affections, which in him were purely holy, our Savior expresseth in that conditional prayer. And in this prayer he was thus answered, his mind was fortified against the dread and terror of nature, so as to come unto a perfect composure in the will of God: “Nevertheless, not my will, but thine, be done.” He was heard herein so far as he desired to be heard; for although he could not but desire deliverance from the whole, as he was a man, yet he desired it not absolutely, as he was wholly subjected to the will of God.
2. Absolute. The chief and principal supplications which he offered up to him who was able to save him from death were absolute; and’in them he was absolutely heard and delivered. For upon the presentation of death unto him, as attended with the wrath and curse of God, he had deep and dreadful apprehensions of it; and how unable the human nature was to undergo it, and prevail against it, if not mightily supported and carried through by the power of God. In this condition it was part of his obedience, it was his duty, to pray that he might be delivered from the absolute prevalency of it, that he might not be cast in his trial, that he might not be confounded nor condemned. This he hoped, trusted, and believed; and therefore prayed absolutely for it, Isaiah 1:7-8. And herein he was heard absolutely; for so it is said, “He was heard ἀπὸ τῆς ευλαβείας .”
The word here used is in a singular construction of speech, and is itself of various significations. Sometimes it is used for a religious reverence, but such as hath fear joined with it; that is, the fear of evil. Frequently it signifies fear itself, but such a fear as is accompanied with a reverential care and holy circumspection. The word itself is but once more used in the New Testament, and that by our apostle, Hebrews 12:28, where we well render it, “godly fear.” Εὐλαβής , the adjective, is used three times, Luke 2:25, Acts 2:5; Acts 8:2; everywhere denoting a religious fear. Hebrews 11:7, we render the verb, εὐλαβηθείς , by “moved with fear;” that is, a reverence of God mixed with a dreadful apprehension of an approaching judgment. And the use of the preposition ἀπὸ added to εἰσακουσθείς is also singular, “auditus ex metu,” “heard from his fear.” Therefore is this passage variously interpreted by all sorts of expositors. Some read it, “He was heard because of his reverence.” And in the exposition hereof they are again divided. Some take “reverence” actively, for the reverence he had of God; that is, his reverential obedience: “He was heard because of his reverence,” or reverential obedience unto God. Some would have the reverence intended to relate to God, the reverential respect that God had unto him; God heard him, from that holy respect and regard which he had of him. But these things are fond, and suit not the design of the place; neither the coherence of the words, nor their construction, nor their signification, nor the scope of the apostle, will bear this sense. Others render it, “pro metu;” “from fear,” or “out of fear.” And this also is two ways interpreted:
1. Because “heard from fear” is somewhat a harsh expression, they explain “auditus” by “liberatus,” “delivered from fear;” and this is not improper. So Grotius: “Cure mortem vehementer perhorresceret,...... in hoc exauditus fuit utab isto metu liberaretur.” In this sense fear internal and subjective is intended. God relieved him against his fear, removing it and taking it away, by strengthening and comforting of him. Others by “fear” intend the thing feared; which sense our translators follow, and are therefore plentifully reviled and railed at by the Rhemists: “He was heard;” that is, delivered from the things which he feared as coming upon him. And for the vindication of this sense and exposition, there is so much already offered by many learned expositors as that I see not what can be added thereunto, and I shall not unnecessarily enlarge myself. And the opposition that is made hereunto is managed rather with clamours and outcries, than Scripture reasons or testimonies. Suppose the object of the fear of Christ here to have been what he was delivered from, and then it must be his fainting, sinking, and perishing under the wrath of God, in the work he had undertaken; yet,
1. The same thing is expressed elsewhere unto a higher degree and more emphatically; as where in this state he is said λυπεῖσθαι καὶ ἀδημονεῖν , and ἐκθαμβεῖσθαι , Matthew 26:37, Mark 14:33, to be “sorrowful,” “perplexed,” and “amazed.”
2. All this argues no more but that the Lord Christ underwent an exercise in the opposition that was made unto his faith, and the mighty conflict he had with that opposition. That his faith and trust in God were either overthrown or weakened by them, they prove not, nor do any plead them unto that purpose. And to deny that the soul of Christ was engaged in an ineffable conflict with the wrath of God in the curse of the law, that his faith and trust in God were pressed and tried to the utmost by the opposition made unto them, by fear, dread, and a terrible apprehension of divine displeasure due to our sins, is to renounce the benefit of his passion and turn the whole of it into a show, fit to be represented by pictures and images, or acted over in ludicrous scenes, as it is by the Papists.
It remains that we consider the observations which these words afford us for our instruction, wherein also their sense and importance will be further explained. And the first thing that offers itself unto us is, that,
Obs. 1. The Lord Jesus Christ himself had a time of infirmity in this world.
A season he had wherein he was beset and “compassed with infirmities.” So it was with him “in the days of his flesh.” It is true, his infirmities were all sinless, but all troublesome and grievous. By them was he exposed unto all sorts of temptations and sufferings; which are the two springs of all that is evil and dolorous unto our nature. And thus it was with him, not for a few days, or a short season only, but during his whole course in this world. This the story of the gospel gives us an account of, and the instance of his “offering up prayers with strong cries and tears,” puts out of all question. These things were real, and not acted to make an appearance or representation of them. And hereof himself expresseth his sense: Psalms 22:6-7, “I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people. All that see me, laugh me to scorn.” So verses 14, 15. How can the infirmities of our nature, and a sense of them, be more emphatically expressed? So Psalms 69:20,
“Reproach hath broken my heart; and I am full of heaviness: and I looked for some to take pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none.”
Psalms 40:12, “Innumerable evils have compassed me about.” He had not only our infirmities, but he felt them, and was deeply sensible both of them and of the evils and troubles which through them he was exposed unto. Hence is that description of him, Isaiah 53:3.
Two things are herein by us duly to be considered:
First, That it was out of infinite condescension and love unto our souls that the Lord Christ took on himself this condition, Philippians 2:6-8. This state was neither natural nor necessary unto him upon his own account. In himself he was “in the form of God, and thought it not robbery to be equal with God;” but this mind was in him, that for our sakes he would take on himself all these infirmities of our nature, and through them expose himself unto evils innumerable. It was voluntary love, and not defect or necessity of nature, which brought him into this condition.
Secondly, As he had other ends herein, for these things were indispensably required unto the discharge of his sacerdotal office, so he designed to set us an example, that we should not faint under our infirmities and sufferings on their account, Heb 12:2-3 , 1 Peter 4:1. And God knows such an example we stood in need of, both as a pattern to conform ourselves unto under our infirmities, and to encourage us in the expectation of a good issue unto our present deplorable condition.
Let us not, then, think strange, if we have our season of weakness and infirmity in this world, whereby we are exposed unto temptation and suffering. Apt we are, indeed, to complain hereof; the whole nation of professors is full of complaints; one is in want, straits, and poverty; another in pain, under sickness, and variety of troubles; some are in distress for their relations, some from and by them; some are persecuted, some are tempted, some pressed with private, some with public concerns; some are sick, and some are weak, and some are “fallen asleep.” And these things are apt to make us faint, to despond, and be weary. I know not how others bear up their hearts and spirits. For my part, I have much ado to keep from continual longing after the embraces of the dust and shades of the grave, as a curtain drawn over the rest in another world. In the meantime, every momentary gourd that interposeth between the vehemency of wind and sun, or our frail, fainting natures and spirits, is too much valued by us.
But what would we have? Do we consider who, and what, and where we are, when we think strange of these things? These are the days of our flesh, wherein these things are due to us, and unavoidable. “Man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward,” Job 5:7, necessarily and abundantly. All complaints, and all contrivances whereby we endeavor to extricate ourselves from those innumerable evils which attend our weak, frail, infirm condition, will be altogether vain. And if any, through the flatteries of youth, and health, and strength, and wealth, with other satisfactions of their affections, are not sensible of these things, they are but in a pleasant dream, which will quickly pass away.
Our only relief in this condition is a due regard unto our great example, and what he did, how he behaved himself in the days of his flesh, when he had more difficulties and miseries to conflict with than we all. And in him we may do well to consider three things:
1. His patience, unconquerable and unmovable in all things that befell him in the days of his flesh.
“He did not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street,” Isaiah 42:2.
Whatever befell him, he bore it quietly and patiently. Being buffeted, he threatened not; being reviled, he reviled not again. “As a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth.”
2. His trust in God. By this testimony, that it is said of him, “I will put nay trust in God,” doth our apostle prove that he had the same nature with us, subject to the same weakness and infirmities, Hebrews 2:13. And this we are taught thereby, that there is no management of our human nature, as now beset with infirmities, but by a constant trust in God. The whole life of Christ therein was a life of submission, trust, and dependence on God; so that when he came to his last suffering, his enemies fixed on that to reproach him withal, as knowing how constant he was in the profession thereof, Psalms 22:8, Matthew 27:43.
3. His earnest, fervent prayers and supplications, which are here expressed by our apostle, and accommodated unto the days of his flesh. Other instances of his holy, gracious deportment of himself, in that condition wherein he set us an example, might be insisted on, but these may give us an entrance into the whole of our duty. Patience, faith, and prayer, will carry us comfortably and safely through the whole course of our frail and infirm lives in this world.
Obs. 2. A life of glory may ensue after a life of infirmity.
“If,” saith our apostle, “in this life only we have hope, we are of all men most miserable.” For besides that we are obnoxious to the same common infirmities within and calamities without with all other men, there is, and ever will be, a peculiar sort of distress that they are exposed unto who “will live godly in Christ Jesus.” But there is nothing can befall us but what may issue in eternal glory. We see that it hath done so with Jesus Christ. His season of infirmity is issued in eternal glory; and nothing but unbelief and sin can hinder ours from doing so also.
Obs. 3. The Lord Christ is no more now in a state of weakness and temptation; the days of his flesh are past and gone.
As such the apostle here makes mention of them, and the Scripture signally in sundry places takes notice of it. This account he gives of himself, Revelation 1:18, “I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore.” The state of infirmity and weakness, wherein he was obnoxious unto death, is now past; he now lives for evermore. “Henceforth he dieth no more, death hath no more power over him;” nor anything else that can reach the least trouble unto him. With his death ended the days of his flesh. His revival, or return unto life, was into absolute, eternal, unchangeable glory. And this advancement is expressed by his “sitting at the right hand of the Majesty on high;” which we have before declared. He is therefore now no more, on any account, obnoxious,
1. Unto the law, the sentence, or curse of it. As he was “made of a woman, he was “made under the law; and so he continued all the days of his flesh. Therein did he fulfill all the righteousness it required, and answered the whole penalty for sin that it exacted. But with the days of his flesh ended the right of the law towards him, either as to require obedience of him or exact suffering from him: hence, a little before his expiration on the cross, he said concerning it, “It is finished.” And hereon doth our freedom from the curse of the law depend. The law can claim no more dominion over a believer than it can over Christ himself. He lives now out of the reach of all the power of the law, to plead his own obedience unto it, satisfaction of it, and triumph over it, in the behalf of them that believe on him. Nor,
2. Unto temptations. These were his constant attendants and companions during the days of his flesh. What they were, and of what sorts, we have in part before discoursed. He is now freed from them and above them; yet not so but that they have left a compassionate sense upon his holy soul of the straits and distresses which his disciples and servants are daily brought into by them, which is the spring and foundation of the relief he communicates unto them. Nor,
3. Unto troubles, persecutions, or sufferings of any kind. He is not so in his own person. He is far above, out of the reach of all his enemies; above them in power, in glory, in authority and rule. There is none of them but he can crush at his pleasure, and “dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” He is, indeed, still hated as much as ever, maligned as much as in the days of his flesh, and exposed unto the utmost power of hell and the world in all his concerns on the earth. But he laughs all his enemies to scorn, he hath them in derision; and, in the midst of their wise counsels and mighty designs, disposes of them and all their undertakings unto his ends and purposes, not their own. He is pleased, indeed, as yet, to suffer and to be persecuted in his saints and servants; but that is from a gracious condescension, by virtue of a spiritual union, not from any necessity of state or condition. And some may hence learn how to fear him, as others may and do to put their trust in him.
Obs. 4. The Lord Christ filled up every season with duty, with the proper duty of it.
The days of his flesh were the only season wherein he could “offer” to God; and he missed it not, he did so accordingly. Some would not have Christ offer himself until he came to heaven. But then the season of offering was past. Christ was to use no strong cries and tears in heaven, which yet were necessary concomitants of his oblation. It is true, in his glorified state, he continually represents in heaven the offering that he made of himself on the earth, in an effectual application of it unto the advantage of the elect; but the offering itself was in the days of his flesh. This was the only season for that duty; for therein only was he meet unto this work, and had provision for it. Then was his body capable of pain, his soul of sorrow, his nature of dissolution; all which were necessary unto this duty. Then was he in a condition wherein faith, and trust, and prayers, and tears, were as necessary unto himself as unto his offering. This was his season, and he missed it not. Neither did he so on any other occasion during the days of his flesh, especially those of his public ministry; wherein we ought to make him our example.
Obs. 5. The Lord Christ, in his offering up himself for us, labored and travailed in soul to bring the work unto a good and holy issue.
A hard labor it was, and as such it is here expressed. He went through it with fears, sorrows, tears, outcries, prayers, and humble supplications. This is called עֲמַל נַפְשׁוֹ , the pressing, wearying, laborious “travail of his soul,” Isaiah 53:11. He labored, was straitened and pained, to bring forth this glorious birth. And we may take a little prospect of this travail of the soul of Christ as it is represented unto us.
1. All the holy, natural affections of his soul were filled, taken up, and extended to the utmost capacity, in acting and suffering. The travail of our souls lies much in the engagement and actings of our affections. Who is there who hath been acquainted with great fears, great sorrows, great desires, great and ardent love, who knows it not? All and every one of these had now their sails filled in Christ, and that about the highest, noblest, and most glorious objects that they are capable of. The sorrows of his holy mother, Luke 2:35; the danger of his disciples, Zechariah 13:7; the scandal of the cross, the shame of his suffering, Hebrews 12:2; the ruin of his people according to the flesh for their sin, Luke 23:28-30; with sundry other the like objects and considerations, filled and exercised all his natural affections. This put his soul into travail, and had an influence into the conflict wherein he was engaged.
2. All his graces, the gracious qualifications of his mind and affections, were in a like manner in the height of their exercise. Both those whose immediate object was God himself, and those which respected the church, were all of them excited, drawn forth, and engaged: as,
(1.) Faith and trust in God. These himself expresseth in his greatest trial, as those which he betook himself unto, Isaiah 1:7-8; Psalms 22:9-10; Hebrews 2:13. These graces in him were now tried to the utmost. All their strength, all their efficacy, was exercised and proved; for he was to give in them an instance of an excellency in faith, rising up above the instance of the provocation that was in the unbelief of our first parents, whereby they fell off from God. There is no object about which faith can be exercised, no duty which it worketh in and by, but what it was now applied unto, and in, by Jesus Christ.
(2.) Love to mankind. As this in his divine nature was the peculiar spring of that infinite condescension whereby he took our nature on him, for the work of mediation, Philippians 2:6-8; so it wrought mightily and effectually in his human nature, in the whole course of his obedience, but especially in the offering of himself unto God for us. Hence where there is mention made of his “giving himself for us,” which was in the sacrifice of himself, commonly the cause of it is expressed to have been his love: ‘The Son of God “loved me, and gave himself for me,”’ Galatians 2:20; “Christ loved the church, and gave himself for it,” Ephesians 5:25-26; “He loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood,” Revelation 1:5. With this love his soul now travailed, and labored to bring forth the blessed fruits of it. The workings of this love in the heart of Christ, during the trial insisted on, whereby he balanced the sorrow and distress of his sufferings, no heart can conceive nor tongue express.
(3.) Zeal for the glory of God. Zeal is the height of careful, solicitous love. The love of Christ was great to the souls of men; but the life of it lay in his love to God, and zeal for his glory. This he now labored in, namely, that God might be glorified in the salvation of the elect. This was committed unto him, and concerning this he took care that it might not miscarry.
(4.) He was now in the highest exercise of obedience unto God, and that in such a peculiar manner as before he had no occasion for. It is observed as the height of his condescension, that he was “obedient unto death, the death of the cross,” Philippians 2:8. This was the highest instance of obedience that God ever had from a creature, because performed by him who was God also. And if the obedience of Abraham was so acceptable to God, and was so celebrated, when he was ready to offer up his son, how glorious was that of the Son of God, who actually offered up himself, and that in such a way and manner as Isaac was not capable of being offered! And there was an eminent specialty in this part of his obedience; hence, Hebrews 5:8, it is said that “he learned obedience by the things which he suffered;” which we shall speak to afterwards. And in the exercise of this obedience, that it might be full, acceptable, meritorious, every way answering the terms of the covenant between God and him about the redemption of mankind, he labored and travailed in soul. And by this his obedience was a compensation made for the disobedience of Adam, Romans 5:19. So did he travail in the exercise of grace.
3. He did so also with respect unto that confluence of calamities, distresses, pains, and miseries, which was upon his whole nature. And that in these consisted no small part of his trials, wherein he underwent and suffered the utmost which human nature is capable to undergo, is evident from the description given of his dolorous sufferings both in prophecy, Psalms 22:0, Isaiah 53:0, and in the story of what befell him in the evangelists. In that death of the body which he underwent, in the means and manner of it, much of the curse of the law was executed. Hence our apostle proves that he was “made a curse for us,” from that of Moses, “Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree,” Galatians 3:13, Deuteronomy 21:22-23. For that ignominy of being hanged on a tree was peculiarly appointed to represent the execution of the curse of the law on Jesus Christ, “who his own self bare our sins on the tree,” 1 Peter 2:24. And herein lies no small mystery of the wisdom of God. He would have a resemblance, among them who suffered under the sentence of the law, of the suffering of Christ; but in the whole law there was no appointment that any one should be put to death by being hanged; but whereas God foreknew that at the time of the suffering of Christ the nation would be under the power of the Romans, and that the sentence of death would be inflicted after their manner, which was by being nailed unto and hanged on a cross, he ordered, for a prefiguration thereof, that some great transgressors, as blasphemers and open idolaters, after they were stoned, should be hanged upon a tree, to make a declaration of the curse of the law inflicted on them. Hence it is peculiarly said of such a one, “He that is hanged on the tree is the curse of God;” because God did therein represent the suffering of Him who underwent the whole curse of the law for us. And in this manner of his death there were sundry things concurring:
(1.) A natural sign of his readiness to embrace all sinners that should come unto him, his arms being, as it were, stretched out to receive them, Isaiah 45:22; Isaiah 65:1.
(2.) A moral token of his condition, being left as one rejected of all between heaven and earth for a season; but in himself interposing between heaven and earth, the justice of God and sins of men, to make reconciliation and peace, Ephesians 2:16-17.
(3.) The accomplishment of sundry types; as,
[1.] Of that of him who was hanged on a tree, as cursed of the Lord, Deuteronomy 21:22.
[2.] Of the brazen serpent which was lifted up in the wilderness, John 3:14; with respect whereunto he says, that when he is “lifted up” he would “draw all men unto him,” John 12:32.
[3.] Of the wave-offering, which was moved, shaken, and turned several ways; to declare that the Lord Christ, in his offering of himself, should have respect unto all parts of the world, and all sorts of men, Exodus 29:26. And in all the concerns of this death, all the means of it, especially as it was an effect of the curse of the law, or penal, immediately from God himself, (for “he that is hanged” on a tree “is accursed of God,”) did he labor and travail in the work that lay before him.
4. The conflict he had with Satan and all the powers of darkness was another part of his travail. This was the hour of men, and power of darkness, Luke 22:53, the time when the prince of this world came, John 14:0, to try the utmost of his skill, interest, horror, rage, and power, for his destruction. Then were all infernal principalities and powers engaged in a conflict with him, Colossians 2:14-15. Whatever malice, poison, darkness, dread, may be infused into diabolical suggestions, or be mixed with external representations of things to the sight, or imagination, he was now contending with. And herein he labored for that victory and success which, in the issue, he did obtain, Colossians 2:13-15; Hebrews 2:14; 1 John 3:8.
5. His inward conflict, in the “making his soul an offering for sin,” in his apprehensions, and undergoing of the wrath of God due unto sin, hath been already spoken unto, so far as is necessary unto our present purpose. 6. In and during all these things there was in his eye continually that unspeakable glory that was set before him, of being the repairer of the breaches of the creation, the recoverer of mankind, the captain of salvation unto all that obey him, the destruction of Satan, with his kingdom of sin and darkness; and in all, the great restorer of divine glow, to the eternal praise of God. Whilst all these things were in the height of their transaction, is it any wonder if the Lord Christ labored and travailed in soul, according to the description here given of him?
Obs. 6. The Lord Christ, in the time of his offering and suffering, considering God, with whom he had to do, as the sovereign Lord of life and death, as the supreme Rector and Judge of all, casts himself before him, with most fervent prayers for deliverance from the sentence of death and the curse of the law.
This gives the true account of the deportment of our Savior in his trial, here described. There are two great mistakes about the sufferings of Christ and the condition of his soul therein. Some place him in that security, in that sense and enjoyment of divine love, that they leave neither room nor reason for the fears, cries, and wrestlings here mentioned; indeed, so as that there should be nothing real in all this transaction, but rather that all things were done for ostentation and show. For if the Lord Christ was always in a full comprehension of divine love, and that in the light of the beatific vision, what can these conflicts and complaints signify? Others grant that he was in real distress and anguish; but they say it was merely on the account of those outward sufferings which were coming on him; which, as we observed before, is an intolerable impeachment of his holy fortitude and constancy of mind. For the like outward things have been undergone by others without any tokens of such consternation of spirit. Wherefore, to discern aright the true frame of the spirit of Christ, with the intension of his cries and supplications (the things before insisted on), are duly to be considered,
1. How great a matter it was to make peace with God for sinners, to make atonement and reconciliation for sin. This is the life and spirit of our religion, the center wherein all the lines of it do meet, Philippians 3:8-10; 1 Corinthians 2:2; Galatians 6:14. And those by whom a due and constant consideration of it is neglected, are strangers unto the animating spirit of that religion which they outwardly profess; and therefore Satan doth employ all his artifices to divert the minds of men from a due meditation hereon, and the exercise of faith about it. Much of the devotion of the Romanists is taken up in dumb shows and painted representations of the sufferings of Christ. But as many of their scenical fancies are childishly ridiculous, and unworthy of men who have the least apprehension of the greatness and holiness of God, or that he is a spirit, and will be worshipped in spirit and in truth; so they are none of them of any other use but to draw off the mind, not only from a spiritual contemplation of the excellency of the offering of Christ, and the glorious effects thereof, but also from the rational comprehension of the truth of the doctrine concerning what he did and suffered. For he that is instructed in and by the taking, shutting up, and setting forth of a crucifix, with painted thorns, and nails, and blood, with Jews, and thieves, and I know not what other company, about it, is obliged to believe that he hath, if not all, yet the principal part at least, of the obedience of Christ in his suffering represented unto him. And by this means is his mind taken off from inquiring into the great transactions between God and the soul of Christ, about the finishing of sin, and the bringing in of everlasting righteousness; without which those other things, which by carnal means they represent unto the carnal minds and imaginations of men, are of no value or use. On the other hand, the Socinians please themselves, and deceive others, with a vain imagination that there was no such work to be done now with God as we have declared. If we may believe them, there was no atonement to be made for sin, no expiatory sacrifice to be offered, no peace thereby to be made with God, no compensation to his justice, by answering the sentence and curse of the law due to sin. But certainly if this sort of men had not an unparalleled mixture of confidence and dexterity, they could not find out evasions unto so many express divine testimonies as lie directly opposite to their fond imagination, unto any tolerable satisfaction in their own minds; or suppose that any men can with patience bear the account they must give of the agony, prayers, cries, tears, fears, wrestlings, and travail, of the soul of Christ, on this supposition. But we may pass them over at present, as express “enemies of the cross of Christ;” that is, of that cross whereby he made peace with God for sinners, as Ephesians 2:14-16. Others there are who by no means approve of any diligent inquiry into these mysteries. The whole business and duty of ministers and others is, in their mind, to be conversant in and about morality. As for this fountain and spring of grace, this basis of eternal glory; this evidence and demonstration of divine wisdom, holiness, righteousness, and love; this great discovery of the purity of the law and vileness of sin; this first, great, principal subject of the gospel, and motive of faith and obedience; this root and cause of all peace with God, all sincere and incorrupted love towards him, of all joy and consolation from him, they think it scarcely deserves a place in the objects of their contemplation, and are ready to guess that what men write and talk about it is but phrases, canting, and fanatical. But such as are admitted into the fellowship of the sufferings of Christ will not so easily part with their immortal interest and concern herein. Yea, I fear not to say, that he is likely to be the best, the most humble, the most holy and fruitful Christian, who is most sedulous and diligent in spiritual inquiries into this great mystery of the reconciliation of God unto sinners by the blood of the cross, and in the exercise of faith about it. Nor is there any such powerful means of preserving the soul in a constant abhorrency of sin, and watchfulness against it, as a due apprehension of what it cost to make atonement for it. And we may also learn hence,
2. That a sight and sense of the wrath of God due unto sin will be full of dread and terror for the souls of men, and will put them to a great conflict, with wrestling, for deliverance. We find how it was with the Lord Christ in that condition; and such a view of the wrath of God all men will be brought unto sooner or later. There is a view to be had of it in the curse of the law for the present; there will be a more terrible expression of it in the execution of that curse at the last day; and no way is there to obtain a deliverance from the distress and misery wherewith this prospect of wrath due to sin is attended, but by obtaining a spiritual view of it in the cross of Christ, and acquiescing by faith in that atonement.
Obs. 7. In all the pressures that were on the Lord Jesus Christ, in all the distresses he had to conflict withal in his suffering, his faith for deliverance and success was firm and unconquerable. This was the ground he stood upon in all his prayers and supplications.
Obs. 8. The success of our Lord Jesus Christ, in his trials, as our head and surety, is a pledge and assurance of success unto us in all our spiritual conflicts.
The things discoursed in the foregoing verse seem to have an inconsistency with the account given us concerning the person of Jesus Christ at the entrance of this epistle. For he is therein declared to be the Son of God, and that in such a glorious manner as to be deservedly exalted above all the angels in heaven. He is so said to be the Son of God, as to be “the brightness of the Father’s glory, and the express image of his person,” even partaker of the same nature with him; God, by whom the heavens were made, and the foundations of the earth were laid, Hebrews 1:8-10. Here he is represented in a low, distressed condition, humbly, as it were, begging for his life, and pleading with “strong cries and tears” before him who was able to deliver him. These things might seem unto the Hebrews to have some kind of repugnancy unto one another. And, indeed, they are a, “stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense,” unto many at this day; they are not able to reconcile them in their carnal minds and reasonings. Wherefore, since it is by all acknowledged that he was truly and really in the low, distressed condition here described, they will not allow that he was the Son of God in the way declared by the apostle, but invent other reasons of their own for which he should be so termed. Their pleas and pretences we have discussed elsewhere. The aim of the apostle in this place is, not to repel the objections of unbelievers, but to instruct the faith of them who do believe in the truth and reason of these things. For he doth not only manifest that they were all possible, upon the account of his participation of flesh and blood, who was in himself the eternal Son of God; but also that the whole of the humiliation and distress thereon ascribed unto him was necessary, with respect unto the office which he had undertaken to discharge, and the work which was committed unto him. And this he doth in the next ensuing and following verses.
Hebrews 5:8 . Καίπερ ὥν Υἱὸς , ἔμαθεν ἀφ᾿ ὧν ἔπαθε τὴν ὑπακοήν .
I observed before that the Syriac translation hath transpond some words in these two verses, and thus reads this latter of them, And although he were a Son, from the fear and sufferings which he underwent he learned obedience.” That concerning “fear” is traduced out of the foregoing verse, where it is omitted. Some copies of the Vulgar read, “ et quidem cum esset Filius Dei,” as do our old English translations, restoring it before its connection, as also in other places. The Rhemists only, “and truly, whereas he was the Son;” no other translation acknowledgeth the addition of” God.” Arias, “existens Filius:” which some other translations add some epithet unto, to express the emphasis; “a faithful Son,” Ethiop.; a Son always,” Arab. 
 TRANSLATION. Υἱός . The word becomes definite from its connection and well-known application; as in Matthew 12:41-42, “men of Nineveh,” and “a queen translation, and thereby gives the precise
Hebrews 5:8 . Although he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by [or from ] the things which he suffered.
Καίπερ , “quamvis,” “tametsi,” “although;” an adversative, with a concession. An exception may be supposed unto what was before delivered, namely, ‘If he were “a Son,” how came he so to pray and cry, so to stand in need of help and relief? This is here tacitly inserted. Saith the apostle, ‘Although he were so, yet these other things were necessary.’And this gives us a connection of the words unto those foregoing. But according to the apostle’s usual way of reasoning in this epistle, there is also a prospect in this word towards the necessity and advantage of his being brought into the condition described; which in our translation is supplied by the addition of “yet.”
Υἱὸς ὤν , “he were a Son,” “and yet being a Son;” that is, such a Son as we have described, or “that Son of God.”’It was no great nor singular thing for a son or child of God by adoption to be chastised, to suffer, and thereby to be instructed unto obedience. He therefore speaks not of him as a son on any common account, or such as any mere creature can claim interest in. But he was “God’s own Son,” Romans 8:3; the “only begotten of the Father,” John 1:14; who was himself also “in the form of God,” Philippians 2:6. That he should do the thing here spoken of, is great and marvelous. Therefore is it said that he did thus, “although he were a Son.” Two things are included herein, namely, in the introduction of Christ in this place under the title of the “Son:”
1. The necessity of doing what is here ascribed unto him, with respect unto the end aimed at. And this is more fully declared in the next verse. The things that were in themselves necessary unto the great end of the glory of God in the salvation of the elect, were not to be waived by Christ, “although he were the Son.”
2. His love, that he would submit to this condition for our sake. On his own account no such thing was required of him, or any way needful unto him; but for our sakes (such was his love) he would do it, “although he were a Son.”
Besides, whereas the apostle is comparing the Lord Christ, as a high priest, with Aaron and those of his order, he intimates a double advantage which he had above them:
1. That he was a Son, whereas they were servants only; as he had before expressed the same difference in comparing him with Moses, Hebrews 3:4-6.
2. That he learned obedience by what he suffered; which few of them did, none of them in the same way and manner with him.
῎Εμαθεν ἀφ᾿ ὧν ἔπαθε , τὴν ὑπακοήν . As to the manner of the expression or phraseology, ἀφ᾿ ὧν seems to be put for ἐξ ὧν , “by,” “out of,” “from,” the things. And, moreover, there is an ellipsis, or a metaptosis in the words, being put for ἔμαθεν ἀπ᾿ ἐκείνων ἃ ἓπαθε : and so we express the sense in our translation. Also, the paranomasia which is in them, ἔμαθεν ἀφ᾿ ὧν ἔπαθε , is observed by all. And there is some correspondence in the whole unto that common ancient saying, Τὰ παθήματα μαθήματα . 
 See the speech of Croesus, Herodot. 1:207. Ed.
Three things we are to inquire into:
1. What is the obedience which is here intended.
2. How Christ is said to learn it.
3. By what means he did so.
1. ῾Υπακοή is “an obediential attendance unto the commands of another;” “a due consideration of, a ready compliance with authoritative commands:” for the word cometh from that which signifieth “to hearken,” or “hear.” Hence, to “hearken” or “hear,” is frequently in the Scripture used for to obey; and to “refuse to hear,” is to be stubborn and disobedient: because obedience respects the commands of another, which we receive and become acquainted withal by hearing; and a readiness with diligence therein, is the great means to bring us unto obedience. ῾Υπακοή , therefore, is” an obediential compliance with the commands of another,” when we hear, and thereby know them.
This obedience in Christ was twofold:
(1.) General, in the whole course of his holy life in this world; every thing he did was not only materially holy, but formally obediential. He did all things because it was the will and law of God that so he should do. And this obedience to God was the life and beauty of the holiness of Christ himself; yea, obedience unto God in any creature is the formal reason constituting any act or duty to be good or holy. Where that consideration is excluded, whatever the matter of any work or duty may be, it is neither holy nor accepted with God. Wherefore the whole course of the life of Christ was a course of obedience unto God; whereon he so often professed that he kept the commands and did the will of him that sent him, thereby “fulfilling all righteousness.” But yet this is not the obedience here peculiarly intended, although no part of it can be absolutely excluded from the present consideration; for whereas this obedience hath respect unto suffering, he “learned it from the things which he suffered,” his whole life was a life of suffering. One way or other he suffered in all that he did, at least when and whilst he did it. His state in this world was a state of humiliation and exinanition; which things have suffering in their nature. His outward condition in the world was mean, low, and contemptible; from which sufferings are inseparable. And he was in all things continually exposed unto temptations, and all sorts of oppositions, from Satan and the world; this also added to his sufferings.
(2.) But yet, moreover, there was a peculiar obedience of Christ, which is intended here in an especial manner. This was his obedience in dying, and in all things that tended immediately thereunto. “He became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross;” for this commandment had he of his Father, that he should lay down his life, and therefore he did it in a way of obedience. And this especial obedience to the command of God for suffering and dying the apostle here respects. With regard hereunto he said of old,
“Lo, I come: in the volume of thy book it is written of me, I delight to do thy will, O my God,” Psalms 40:7-8;
which was in the offering up of himself a sacrifice for us, as our apostle declares, Hebrews 10:9-10. And concerning the things which befell him herein, he says, “he was not rebellious,” but “gave his back to the smiters, and his cheeks to them that plucked off the hair,” Isaiah 50:5-6.
2. Concerning this obedience, it is said that ἔμαθε , he “learned” it. Μανθάνω is to learn as a disciple, with a humble, willing subjection unto, and a ready reception of the instructions given. But of the Lord Christ it is said here, “he learned obedience,” not that he learned to obey; which will give us light into the meaning of the whole. For, to learn obedience may have a threefold sense:
(1.) To learn it materially, by coming to know that to be our duty, to be required of us, which before we knew not, or at least did not consider as we ought So speaks the psalmist, “Before I was afflicted I went astray; but now have I learned thy commandments.” God by his chastisements, and under them, taught him the duties he required of him, and what diligent attendance unto them was necessary for him. But thus our Lord Jesus learned not obedience, nor could so do; for he knew beforehand all that he was to do, or undergo, what was proposed unto him, what was to come upon him, in the discharge of his office and performance of the work he had undertaken. And the law of the whole of it was in his heart; no command of God was new to him, nor ever forgotten by him.
(2.) To learn it formally; that is, to be guided, instructed, directed, helped, in the acts and acting of the obedience required of him. This is properly to learn to obey; so is it with us, who are rude and unskilful in holy obedience, and are by supplies of light and grace gradually instructed in the knowledge and practice of it. This wisdom do we learn, partly by the word, partly by afflictions, as God is pleased to make them effectual. But thus the Lord Christ neither did nor could learn obedience. He had a fullness of grace always in him and with him, inclining, directing, guiding, and enabling him unto all acts of obedience that were required of him. Being full of grace, truth, and wisdom, he was never at a loss for what he had to do, nor wanted any thing of a perfect readiness of will or mind for its performance. Wherefore,
(3.) He can be said to learn obedience only on the account of having an experience of it in its exercise. So a man knoweth the taste and savor of meat by eating it; as our Savior is said to “taste of death,” or to experience what was in it, by undergoing of it. And it was one especial kind of obedience that is here intended, as was declared before, namely, a submission to undergo great, hard, and terrible things, accompanied with patience and quiet endurance under them, and faith for deliverance from them. This he could have no experience of, but by suffering the things he was to undergo, and the exercise of the graces mentioned therein. Thus learned he obedience, or experienced in himself what difficulty it is attended withal, especially in cases like his own. And this way of his learning obedience it is that is so useful unto us, and so full of consolation. For if he had only known obedience, though never so perfectly, in the notion of it, what relief could have accrued unto us thereby? how could it have been a spring of pity or compassion towards us? But now, whereas he himself took in his own person a full experience of the nature of that especial obedience which is yielded to God in a suffering condition, what difficulty it is attended withal, what opposition is made unto it, how great an exercise of grace is required in it, he is constantly ready to give us relief, as the matter doth require.
3. The way or means of his learning obedience is lastly expressed: ᾿Αφ᾿ ὧν ἔ῎παθε , “From the things which he suffered.” It is a usual saying, Παθήματα , μαθήματα , “ Sufferings” (or “corrections “) are instructions.” And we cannot exclude from hence any thing that Christ suffered, from first to last, in the days of his flesh. He suffered in his whole course, and that in great variety, as hath been showed elsewhere. And he had experience of obedience from them all, in the sense declared. But seeing the apostle treats concerning him as a high priest, and with especial respect to the offering himself unto God, the suffering of death, and those things which immediately led thereunto, are principally intended:
“He became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross,” Philippians 2:8.
Now we may be said to learn from sufferings objectively and occasionally. In their own nature and formally they are not instructive. All things that outwardly come upon us are ἐκ τῶν μέσων , and may be abused, or improved unto a good end. But in them that believe, they give a necessity and especial occasion unto the exercise of those graces wherein our obedience in that season doth consist. So from them, or by them, did the Lord Christ himself learn obedience; for by reason of them he had occasion to exercise those graces of humility, self-denial, meekness, patience, faith, which were habitually resident in his holy nature, but were not capable of the peculiar exercise intended but by reason of his sufferings. But, moreover, there was still somewhat peculiar in that obedience which the Son of God is said to learn from his own sufferings, namely, what it is for a sinless person to suffer for sinners, “the just for the unjust.” The obedience herein was peculiar unto him, nor do we know, nor can we have an experience of the ways and paths of it.
The Lord Christ, undertaking the work of our redemption, was not on the account of the dignity of his person to be spared in any thing that was necessary thereunto. He was enabled by it to undertake and perform his work; but he was not for it spared any part of it. It is all one for that; “although he were a Son,” he must now “learn obedience.” And this we have sufficiently cleared on the former verse. And we may hence observe, that,
Obs. 1. Infinite love prevailed with the Son of God to lay aside the privilege of his infinite dignity, that he might suffer for us and our redemption.
“Although he were a Son, yet he learned,” etc.
1. The name of “Son” carrieth with it infinite dignity, as our apostle proves at large, Hebrews 1:3-4, etc. The Son; that is, “the Son of the living God,” Matthew 16:16; “the only-begotten of the Father,” John 1:14; he who “in the beginning was with God, and was God,” John 1:1-2. For as he was “God’s own Son,” Romans 8:3; he was “in the form of God, equal with him,” Philippians 2:5-6; one with him, John 10:30. So that infinite glory and dignity were inseparable from him. And so long as he would make use of this privilege, it was impossible he should be exposed to the least suffering, nor could the whole creation divest him of the least appurtenance of it. But,
2. He voluntarily laid aside the consideration, advantage, and exercise of it, that he might suffer for us. This our apostle fully expresseth, Philippians 2:5-8,
“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”
Concerning which we must observe, That the Son of God could not absolutely and really part with his eternal glory. Whatever he did, he was the Son of God, and God still. Neither by any thing he did, nor any thing he suffered, nor any condition he underwent, did he really forego, nor was it possible he should so do, any thing of his divine glory. He was no less God when he died than when he was “declared to be the Son of God with power, by the resurrection from the dead.” But he is said to “empty himself” of his divine glory,
1. With respect unto the infinite condescension of his person;
2. With respect unto the manifestations of it in this world:
1. Of his condescension, when he forewent the privilege of his eternal glory, the apostle observes sundry degrees.
(1.) In his taking of our nature on him. He “took on him the form of a servant;” and therein “made himself of no reputation,” that is, comparatively unto the glory which he had “in the form of God,” wherein he was “equal with God,” that is, the Father. Hence “the Word was made flesh,” John 1:14; or, “God was manifest in the flesh,” 1 Timothy 3:16. This was an infinite, unspeakable, unconceivable condescension of the Son of God, namely, to take our nature into union with himself; whereby he who was God, like unto the Father in all things, “the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person,” became a man like unto us in all things, sin only excepted.
(2.) In his so becoming a man as to take on him “the form of a servant. ” He did not immediately take the nature he had assumed into glory; but he first became a “servant” in it, a servant to God, to do his will, and that in the most difficult service that ever God had to do in this world.
(3.) In that in this service he “made himself of no reputation. ” The work, indeed, he undertook, was great and honorable, as we have before declared; but the way and manner whereby he did accomplish it was such as exposed him unto scorn, reproach, and contempt in the world, Isaiah 53:1-2; Psalms 22:6-7.
(4.) In that in this work he “became obedient unto death.” Had he staid at the former degrees, his condescension had been for ever to be admired and adored; this only remains to be added, that he should die, and that penally and painfully. And this also he submitted unto. The Prince, the Author, the God of life, became obedient unto death! which also,
(5.) Hath an aggravation added to it, it was “the death of the cross, ” a shameful, ignominious, cursed death. In all these things did he lay aside the privilege of his infinite dignity; all this he did “although he were a Son.”
2. As to manifestation. He did, as it were, hide and eclipse unto the world all the glory of his divine person, under the veil of flesh which he had taken on him. Hence at the close of this dispensation, when he was finishing the work committed to him, he prays, John 17:5, “O Father, glorify thou me with that glory which I had with thee before the world was;” ‘Let that glory which was necessarily hid and eclipsed in my debasement, wherein I have been made low for the suffering of death, now shine forth again conspicuously.’Now the reason why the Son of God did thus forego the privilege and dignity of his glory, was his infinite love.
“Forasmuch as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same,” Hebrews 2:14.
The reason why he condescended unto this condition, was, that he might redeem and save the children which God gave unto him; and this out of his own unspeakable love towards them, Galatians 2:20; Revelation 1:5; Philippians 2:5. This was that which engaged him into, and carried him through his great undertakings.
And here we may, as it were,
1. Lose ourselves in a holy admiration of this infinite love of Christ. Our apostle prays for the Ephesians, that they
“might be able to comprehend with all saints, what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge,” Ephesians 3:18-19; Ephesians 3:18-19.
This, it seems, is the work, the design, the endeavor of “all saints,” namely, to come to an acquaintance with, or to live in the contemplation of the love of Christ. The dimensions here assigned unto it are only to let us know, that, which way soever we exercise our thoughts about it, there is still a suitable object for them. It wants nothing that may be a proper object for that prospect which a soul may take of it in the way of believing; and he so prays for the knowledge of it, as that he lets us know that absolutely it is incomprehensible, it “passeth knowledge.” Then do we in our measure know the love of Christ, when we know that it passeth knowledge, when we comprehend so much of it, as to find we cannot comprehend it; and thereby we have the benefit and consolation of what we do not conceive, as well as of what we do. For as contemplation is an act of faith with respect unto our measure of comprehension, so is admiration with respect unto what exceeds it. And what way soever faith acts itself on Christ, it will bring in advantage and refreshment to the soul. And we are never nearer Christ than when we find ourselves lost in a holy amazement at his unspeakable love. And, indeed, his love herein, that “although he were a Son,” the eternal Son of God, yet he would condescend unto the condition before described for our deliverance and salvation, is that which fills the souls of believers with admiration, not only in this world, but unto eternity. And,
2. Here we may, as it were, find ourselves. The due consideration of this love of Christ is that alone which will satisfy our souls and consciences with the grounds of the acceptance of such poor unworthy sinners as we are in the presence of the holy God. For what will not this love and the effects of it prevail for? what can stand in the way of it? or what can hinder it from accomplishing whatever it is designed unto?
Obs. 2. In his sufferings, and notwithstanding them all, the Lord Christ was the “Son” still, the Son of God.
He was so both as to real relation and as to suitable affection. He had in them all the state of a Son and the love of a Son. It is true, during the time of his suffering, a common eye, an eye of sense and reason, could see no appearance of this sonship of Christ. His outward circumstances were all of them such as rather eclipsed than manifested his glory, Isaiah 53:2-3. This was that which the world being offended at, stumbled and fell; for he was unto them “a stone of stumbling, and rock of offense,” Romans 9:33. The meanness of his condition, the poverty of his life, and shame of his death, proved an offense both to Jews and Gentiles. How could such a one be thought to be the Son of God? Besides, God himself so dealt with him, as flesh and blood would not conceive him to deal with his only Son. For he laid his curse upon him, as it is written, “Cursed is he that is hanged on a tree.” And in all this state of things, he speaks of himself as one made so much beneath the condition of glory which was due to the Son of God, as that he was lower than any sort of men; whence he complains,
“I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people,” Psalms 22:6.
Yet, during all this, he was still the Son of God, and suffered as the Son of God. Hence it is said, that “God spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all,” that is, to suffering and death, Romans 8:32. He “sent his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh,” and “condemned sin in the flesh,” verse 3. It is true, he suffered only in his human nature, which alone was capable thereof; but HE suffered who was the Son of God, and as he was the Son of God, or God could not have “redeemed the church with his own blood,” Acts 20:28. In all that he underwent neither was the union of his natures dissolved, nor the love of the Father unto him as his own Son in the least impeached.
Obs. 3. A practical experience of obedience to God in some cases will cost us dear.
We cannot learn it but through the suffering of those things which will assuredly befall us on the account thereof. So was it with the Lord Christ. I intend not here the difficulties we meet withal in mortifying the internal lusts and corruptions of nature; for these had no place in the example here proposed unto us. Those only are respected which do, or will, or may, come upon us from without. And it is an especial kind of obedience also, namely, that which holds some conformity to the obedience of Christ, that is intended. Wherefore,
1. It must be singular; it must have somewhat in it that may, in a special manner, turn the eyes of others towards it. A common course of obedience, clothed with a common passant profession, may escape at an easy rate in the world. There seems to be somewhat singular denoted in that expression, “He that will live godly in Christ Jesus,” 2 Timothy 3:12. To live in Christ Jesus, is to live and walk in the profession of the gospel, to be a professing branch in Christ, John 15:2. But of these there are two sorts; some that “live godly in him,” some branches that bring forth fruit, that is, in an eminent and singular manner. Every branch in the true vine hath that whereby he is distinguished from brambles and thorns; and every one that lives in the profession of the gospel hath somewhat that differenceth him from the world, and the ways of it; but there is a peculiar, a singular fruit-bearing in Christ, an especial “living godly in him,” which will turn an observation upon itself. So our apostle says, that they “were made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men,” by the especial ministry which was committed unto them, 1 Corinthians 4:9.
2. It is required that this obedience be universal. If there be an allowance in any one instance where there is a compliance with the world, or other enemies of our obedience, the trouble of it will be much abated. For men,
‘by indulging any crooked steps to themselves, do compound for outward peace, and ofttimes thus obtain their aims, though greatly to their spiritual disadvantage. But the gospel obedience which we inquire into, is such as universally agrees in conformity with Christ in all things. And this will cost us dear. Sufferings will attend it. “They that live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” For this kind of obedience will be observed in the world. It cannot escape observation, because it is singular; and it provokes the world, because it is universal, and will admit of no compliance with it. And where the world is first awaked, and then enraged, trouble and suffering of one kind or another will ensue. If it do not bite and tear, it will bark and rage. And Satan will see enough to make such his especial mark, as to all the opposition and actings of enmity which he puts forth against any in this world. Yea, and God himself ofttimes delighteth to give a trial unto eminent graces, where he endows any with them. For he gives them not for the peculiar advantage of them on whom they are bestowed only, but that he himself may have a revenue of glory from their exercise.
Obs. 4. Sufferings undergone according to the will of God are highly instructive.
Even Christ himself learned by the things which he suffered; and much more may we do so, who have so much more to learn. God designs our sufferings to this end, and to this end he blesseth them. And this hath frequently been the issue of God’s dealing with men; those who have suffered most, who have been most afflicted, most chastised, have been the most humble, most holy, fruitful, and wise among them; and he that learneth such things, profiteth well under his instruction.
Obs. 5. In all these things, both as to suffering, and learning or profiting thereby, we have a great example in our Lord Jesus Christ.
As such is he proposed unto us in all his course of obedience, especially in his sufferings, 1 Peter 2:21; for he would leave nothing undone which was any way needful, that his great work of sanctifying and saving his church to the utmost might be perfect.
Obs. 6. The love of God towards any, the relation of any unto God, hinders not but that they may undergo great sufferings and trials.
The Lord Christ did so, “although he were a Son.” And this instance irrefragably confirms our position. For the love of God to Jesus Christ was singular and supereminent; he doth not love any with a love so much as of the same kind. The relation also of Christ unto God was singular; none ever standing in the same relation unto him, he being his only-begotten Son. And yet his sufferings and trials were singular also. No sorrows, no pains, no distresses of soul and body, no sufferings like his. And in the whole course of the Scripture we may observe, that the nearer any have been unto God, the greater have been their trims. For,
1. There is not in such trials and exercises anything that is absolutely evil, but they are all such as may be rendered good, useful, yea, honorable and glorious, to the sufferers, from God’s conduct in them and the end of them.
2. The love of God, and the gracious emanations of it, can and do abundantly compensate the temporary evils which any do undergo according to his will.
3. The glory of God, which is the end designed unto, and which shall infallibly ensue upon all the sufferings of the people of God, and that so much the greater as any of them, on any account, are nearer than others unto him, is such a good unto them which suffer, as that their sufferings neither are, nor are esteemed by them to be evil.
The words and design of this verse have so great a coincidence with those of Hebrews 2:10, that we shall the less need to insist upon them. Something only must be spoken to clear the context. The apostle having declared the sufferings of Christ as our high priest, in his offering of himself, with the necessity thereof, proceeded to declare both what was effected thereby, and what was the especial design of God therein. And this in general was, that the Lord Christ, considering our lost condition, might be every way fitted to be a “perfect cause of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him.” There are, therefore, two things in the words, both which God aimed at and accomplished in the sufferings of Christ:
1. On his own part, that he might be “made perfect;” not absolutely, but with respect unto the administration of his office in the behalf of sinners.
2. With respect unto believers, that he might be unto them an “author of eternal salvation.” Unto both these ends the sufferings of Christ were necessary, and designed of God.
Hebrews 5:9 . Καὶ τελειωθεὶς ἐγένετο τοῖς ὑπακούουσιν αὐτῷ πᾶσιν αἴτιος σωτηρίας αἰωνίου .
Τελειωθείς , “perfectus,” “consummatus,” “consecratus;” “perfect,” “consummated,” “fully consecrated.” Syriac, וְהָכַנָא אֶתְגַמַּר , “and so being made perfect, “perfectus redditus,” as Erasmus. Εγένετο , ‘“factus est,” “fuit;” “he became.” Τοῖς ὑπακούουσιν αὐτῷ . Vulg., “sibi obtemperantibus.” So Arias, Eras., Syr. And Beza, “qui ipsi auscultans,” keeping to the word; which in all the three languages, Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, signifies originally “to hearken,” “to hear, to attend unto, with a design to learn and obey.” Αἴτιος . Syr., עֶלְתָא , causa, so most. Beza, “auctor;” whom we follow, “the author.” Σωτηρίας αἰωνίου , “salutis aeternae.” Syr, דְּחַיֵּא דַּלְעָלַם “of life,” or lives which are eternal.” One learned grammarian hath translated αἴτιος , by “causa efficiens et exhibens.” Ethiop., “the rewarder with life eternal, and the redeemer of the world.”
Τελειωθείς , “being perfected,” “consummated,” “fully consecrated;” for the word is sacred, and expresseth sacred consecration. As to the sense of it in this place, with respect unto the verses foregoing, it answers directly unto its use, Hebrews 2:10, διὰ παθημάτων τελειῶσαι , “to perfect by sufferings;” only that it is used actively, with respect unto God the Father, “It became him to make perfect the Captain of our salvation.” Here it is used passively, with respect unto the effect of that act of God on the person of Christ, who by his suffering was “perfected.” The signification of this word, and the constant use of it in this epistle, the reader may find at large in our exposition on Hebrews 2:10. The sum is, that it signifies to dedicate, to consecrate, to sanctify and set apart, and that by some kind of suffering or other. So the legal high priests were consecrated by the suffering and death of the beasts that were offered in sacrifice at their consecration, Exodus 29:0. But it belonged unto the perfection of the priesthood of Christ to be consecrated in and by his own sufferings. I shall therefore only remove out of the way the corrupt exposition given us of this word by Schlichtingius:
“Ista, seu consummatio Christi opponitur diebus carnis ejus: tum enim cum Christus infirmus esset, et ipse alieno auxilio indigeret, non potuerat aliis perfectum in omnibus auxilium ferre. Sed postquam consammatus est, id est, postquam immortalitatem, seu naturam incorruptibilem, supremamque in coelo et terra potestatem est adeptus, sicut nihil illi desit amplius; seu postquam est adeo penitus consecratus, et plenè in sacerdotem inauguratus (quemadmodum aliqui hanc vocem explicaudam putant), factus est causa salutis aeternse; nempe causa perfectissima. Nam et in diebus carnis suae erat causa salutis aeternae; sed consummatus, factus est causa perfectissima. Tunc causa erat nostrae salutis tanquam Dei maximus legatus et apostolus; nunc tanquam summus pontifex et rex noster coelestis a Deo constitutus.”
There is also another expositor, who, although he grants that the τελείωσις here mentioned hath respect unto the מִלֻּאִים , or “sacrifices at the consecration of priests, which was antecedent unto their right of offering any thing in their own persons, yet so far complies with this interpretation as to understand, I know not what, “inauguration into a Melchisedecian priesthood, which consisted in a power of blessing after his resurrection;” and so, in the application of the word unto Christ, falls into a contradiction unto his own exposition of it, making it consist in his exaltation and endowment with power. But there is nothing sound in these discourses. For,
1. There is no opposition between this consecration of Christ and the days of his flesh; for it was effected in and by his sufferings, which were only in the days of his flesh. And we have given the reason before, and that taken from the perfection of his person and his office, why he was himself consecrated for ever in and by that sacrifice which he offered for us; for neither could he often offer himself, and it was destructive of his whole office to have been consecrated by the offering of any other.
2. There is too much boldness in that expression, that Christ could not perfectly help others in the days of his flesh. For, set aside the consideration of his divine nature, wherein he wrought whatever the Father wrought (which this sort of men will not admit), he had declared openly that “all power,” “all things,” were given into his hand, Matthew 11:28; “power over all flesh,” John 17:0, which surely extended unto an ability of relieving all them that were committed to him of God. It is true, he had not as yet absolutely perfected all the means of our salvation; but he was furnished with a fullness of power in their accomplishment, according to the method and order appointed of God unto them.
3. It is not said, that after he was consecrated, or perfected, or made immortal, as though these things were of the same importance; for he was consecrated in and by his sufferings, as is expressly affirmed, Hebrews 2:10, which were antecedent unto and issued in his death.
4. That the Lord Christ was not constituted and consecrated a high priest before his entrance into heaven, is a direct contradiction unto the whole design of the apostle in this place. His purpose is, as hath been evidenced, and is acknowledged by all, to compare the Lord Christ as a high priest with the priests according to the law; and therein he shows his pre- eminence above them. Among the things which to this purpose he makes mention of, are his sufferings, verses 7,8. Now if he suffered not when he was a priest, and as he was so, nothing could be less to his purpose. But whereas he principally designed to magnify the priestly office of Christ, or his person in the exercise of it, on the account of mercy and compassion, verse 2, he proves his excellency unto that end from his sufferings as he was a priest; whence in the future discharge of his office he is inclined to give out merciful assistance unto them that suffer.
5. The pretended distinction, that Christ in the days of his flesh was indeed the cause of salvation, but afterwards a most perfect cause of salvation, is unscriptural. The Lord Christ, in every condition, was the most perfect cause of salvation, although he performed some acts and works belonging thereunto in one estate, and some in another, according as the nature of the works themselves to be performed unto that end did require: for some things that were necessary unto our perfect salvation could not be accomplished but in a state of humiliation; and some, on the other hand, depended on his exaltation.
6. What is affirmed concerning Christ’s being the prophet of the church, and apostle of God, in the days of his flesh, but of his being a king and priest afterwards, is another invention of this sort of men. He was always equally the king, priest, and prophet of the church, though he exercises these offices and the several acts or duties of them variously, according as the nature of them doth require.
Τελειωθείς , then, is, “consecrated,” “dedicated, “consummated” sacredly. And it was necessary that Christ should be so, both from the nature of his office and work, which he was sacredly and solemnly to be set apart unto; and to answer the types of the Aaronical priesthood, which were so consecrated and set apart. And in this consecration of the Lord Christ unto his office of the priesthood, and his offering of sacrifice by virtue thereof, we may consider,
1. The sovereign disposing cause;
2. The formal cause constitutive of it;
3. The external means.
1. For the first, it was God, even the Father. He by his sovereign authority disposed, designed, called, and separated the Lord Christ unto his office; which we have spoken unto once, and must again consider it on the verse following.
2. The formal cause of it was his own will, obedientially giving up himself unto the authority and will of the Father, and that out of love unto and delight in the work itself, Psalms 40:6-8. And in especial did he thereby dedicate, separate, and consecrate himself unto the principal work and duty of his office, or the offering of a sacrifice, John 17:19.
3. The external means were his own sufferings, especially in the offering of himself. This alone hath any difficulty attending it, how the Lord Christ can be said to be consecrated by his own sufferings in his offering, when his offering was an act of that office which he was consecrated unto. But I answer, that seeing an external means of the consecration of Christ was necessary, it could be no other but only his own sufferings in the offering of himself. For,
(1.) It was impossible for him, unworthy of him, and beneath both the dignity of his person and excellency of his office, with the very nature of it, that he should be consecrated by any other sacrifice, as of beasts and the like, as were the priests of old. To suppose the suffering and offering of beasts to be useful to this purpose, is repugnant to the whole design of God, and destructive of the office of Christ itself, as is manifest.
(2.) He could not consecrate himself by an antecedent offering of himself; for he could not die often, nor suffer often, nor indeed had any need, or could righteously on the part of God have so done. It was therefore indispensably necessary that he should be consecrated, dedicated, and perfected himself, in and by the sacrifice that he offered for us, and the suffering wherewith it was accompanied. But withal, this was only the external means of his consecration; concerning which we may observe two things:
(1.) That as to the main or substance of his office, he was consecrated by his sufferings only in a way of evidence and manifestation. Really he was so by the acts of God his Father and himself before mentioned; only hereby he was openly declared to be the high priest of the church.
(2.) There were some acts and duties of his sacerdotal office yet remaining to be performed, which he could not orderly engage into until he had suffered, because they supposed and depended on the efficacy of his suffering. These he was now made meet and fit for, and consequently unto the complete discharge of the whole course of his office.
Being thus consecrated, ἐγένετο , “he was made,” “he became,” or “he was” only. Nothing was now wanting unto the great end aimed at in all these things, which is expressed in the next place.
Αἴτιος σωτηρίας αἱωνίου . Where his consecration is before mentioned, Hebrews 2:10, he is said to become ἀρχηγὸς σωτηρίας , a “captain of salvation.” And it is affirmed of him with respect unto his actual conduct of believers unto salvation, by the plentiful and powerful administration of his word and Spirit. supplying them with all fruits of grace and truth needful unto that end. Somewhat more is here intended. Αἴτιος is both “a cause in general,” and “he who is in any kind the cause of another thing.” And sometimes an “efficient cause,” and sometimes a “meritorious cause” is expressed thereby. In the first sense it is used by Isocrates ad. Phileb.: Θεοὺς τῶν ἀγαθῶν ἡμῖν αἰτίους ὅντας , “The gods are the author” (or “causes”) “of good things unto us;” that is, they bestow them on or work them in us. And Aristotle, de Mundo, useth a phrase of speech not unlike this: ῾Η ἐν οὐρανῷ δύναμις συμπασιν αἴτιος γίνεται σωτηρίας , “The power that is in heaven is the cause of safety to all things.” And sometimes it is taken for a meritorious or procuring cause, or him by whom any thing is procured; though most frequently in other authors he who is guilty or deserves evil is intended thereby. So he: Οὔκ ἐγὼ αἴτιος εἷμι ἀλλὰ ζεὺς καὶ μοῖρα . So αἴτιος is expounded by Eustathius, ὑπεύθυνος καὶ κολάσεως ἄξιος ; but it is of the mine importance with reject unto what is good. The apostle, therefore, hath in this word respect unto all the ways and means whereby the Lord Christ either procured salvation for us or doth actually bestow it upon us.
And here also it will be necessary, for the further clearing of the importance of this word, to examine the endeavor of the forementioned expositor to corrupt the sense of it:
“Est vero,” saith he, “perfectissima salutis cause, quia peffectissima ratione salutem affert; nihil illi deest, nec ad vires, ac facultatem, nec ad studium et voluntatem salutis nostrae perficiendae. Nam et poenas peccatorum omnes a nobis potentia suâ arcet, et vitam aetemam largitur; spiritus nostros in manus suas suscipit; succurrit nobis in affiictionibus et opem promptè fert ne in fide succumbamus, inque poenas peccatis debits ea ratione incidamus.”
This, indeed, is “the voice of Jacob,” but “the hands” of this doctrine “are the hands of Esau.” For whilst by these words, for the most part true, we have a description given us how and on what account the Lord Jesus Christ, as our high priest, is the author and cause of our salvation, that which is indeed the principal reason hereof, and without which the other consideration would not be effectual, is omitted and excluded. For in the room of his satisfaction and expiation of sin by the propitiatory sacrifice of himself we are supplied with a keeping off, or driving from us, the punishment due unto our sins. But this kind of delivery from the punishment of sin by Christ is unscriptural, both name and thing. The tree way was that whereby he delivereth us from the curse and penalty of the law, so saving us from “the wrath to come.” And this was by his “bearing our sins in his own body on the tree;” by being “made sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in him.” See 2 Corinthians 5:21, Romans 8:3, Galatians 3:13, 1 Peter 2:24, Isaiah 53:6-8. The other things mentioned by this author Christ doth indeed, in carrying on the work of our salvation, and many other things of the like nature which he mentioneth not; all which are here included, but all with respect unto that foundation which was laid in his satisfactory oblation, which is by him here excluded.
We may therefore consider the Lord Christ as the “author of eternal salvation,” either with respect unto his own acts and works, whereby he wrought it or procured it; or with respect unto the effects of them, whereby it is actually communicated unto us: or we may consider him as the meritorious, procuring, purchasing, or as the efficient cause of our salvation. And in both respects the Lord Christ is said to be the author of our salvation, as the word doth signify him who is the cause of any thing in either kind. And where he is said to be the author of our salvation, nothing is to be excluded whereby he is so. In the first way, as the meritorious cause of our salvation, he is the author of it two ways:
1. By his oblation;
2. By his intercession.
Both these belong unto the means whereby he procures our salvation. And these, in the first place, are respected, because the apostle treats immediately of our salvation as arising from the priestly office of Christ. And,
1. In his oblation, which was the offering of himself as an expiatory sacrifice for our sins, accompanied with the highest acts of obedience, and the supplications mentioned, verse 7, two things may be considered unto this end:
(1.) The satisfaction he made therein for sins, with the expiation of our guilt; which is the foundation of our salvation, without which it was impossible we should be partakers of it.
(2.) The merit of his obedience therein, by which, according to the tenor of the covenant between God and him, he purchased and procured this salvation for us, Hebrews 9:14. On these two accounts was he in his oblation the author or cause of our salvation.
2. He is so also on the account of his intercession; for this is the name of that way whereby, with respect unto God, he makes effectual unto us what in his oblation he had purchased and procured, Hebrews 7:25-27. And this he doth as the meritorious cause thereof.
But secondly, he is also the efficient cause of our salvation; inasmuch as he doth by his Spirit, his grace, and his glorious power, actually communicate it unto us and collate it upon us. And this he doth in sundry instances, the principal whereof may be named:
1. He teacheth us the way of salvation, and leads us into it; which Socinus fondly imagined to be the only reason why he is called our Savior.
2. He makes us meet for it, and saves us from the power of sin, quickening, enlightening, and sanctifying of us, through the administration of his Spirit and grace.
3. He preserves and secures it unto us, in the assistance, deliverance, and victory he gives us against all oppositions, temptations, dangers, and troubles.
4. He both gives an entrance into it and assurance of it, in our justification and peace with God.
5. He will actually, by his glorious power, bestow upon us immortal life and glory, or give us the full possession of this salvation. In all these respects, with those many other streams of grace which flow from them, is the Lord Christ said to be the “author of our salvation.”
This salvation is said to be “eternal;” whereof see our exposition on Hebrews 2:3. So the redemption purchased by this offering of Christ is said to be “eternal,” Hebrews 9:12. And it is called so absolutely, comparatively, and emphatically.
1. Absolutely; it is eternal, endless, unchangeable, and permanent. We are made for an eternal duration. By sin we had made ourselves obnoxious to eternal damnation. If the salvation procured for us were not eternal, it would not be perfect, nor suited unto our condition.
2. It is also said to be eternal in comparison with and in opposition unto that or those temporal deliverances, or salvations, which the people under the law were made partakers of by the interposition of their legal priests and their sacrifices. For there were temporary punishments, and excisions by death, threatened unto divers transgressions of the law, as it was the administration of a temporal covenant unto that people. From these they might be freed by the ministry of their priests and carnal atonements. But those who were delivered from those penalties, and saved from the sentence of the law, were not thereby absolutely secured of deliverance from the curse annexed unto the moral law as a covenant of works. Their salvation, therefore, was not eternal And perhaps, also, respect may be had unto the deliverance of the people of old out of bondage, with their introduction into the land of Canaan, which was a temporary salvation only. But this is so absolutely; and,
3. Emphatically. It takes off indeed all temporal punishments as effects of the curse of the law. It gives temporal deliverance from fear and bondage by reason thereof. It supplies us with mercy, grace, and peace with God in this world. But all these things issuing in eternal blessedness, that being the end of them, being all bestowed on us in a tendency thereunto, the whole is emphatically called “eternal.”
Lastly, There is a limitation of the subject of this salvation, unto whom the Lord Christ is the cause and author of it; it is to “all them that obey him,” τοῖς ὑπακούουσιν αὐτῷ πᾶσιν . The expression is emphatical. To all and every one of them that obey him; not any one of them shall be excepted from a share and interest in this salvation; nor shall any one of any other sort be admitted thereunto. He is “the author of eternal salvation” only unto “them that obey him;” whether there be any other author of salvation to those who neither know him nor obey him, they may do well to inquire who suppose that such may be saved. A certain number, then, they are, and not all men universally, unto whom he is the author of salvation. And as these elsewhere are described by the antecedent cause hereof, namely, their election, and being given unto Christ by the Father; so here they are so by the effects of it in themselves, they are such as “obey him.” ῾Υπακούω is “to obey upon hearing,” “dicto obedire;” originally it signifies only “to hearken” or “hear,” but with a readiness, or subjection of mind unto what is heard, to do accordingly.
Hence it is faith in the first place that is intended in this obedience. For it is that which, in order unto our participation of Christ, first “cometh by hearing,” Romans 10:17; and that partly because the object of it, which is the promise, is proposed outwardly unto it in the word, where we hear of it and hear it; and partly because the preaching of the word, which we receive by hearing, is the only ordinary means of ingenerating faith in our souls. Hence to believe is expressed by ὑπακοὑειν , “to hear” so as to answer the ends of what is proposed unto us. The ensuing subjecting our souls unto Christ, in the keeping of his commands, is “the obedience of faith.” We may now draw some observations from the words, for our further instruction: as,
Obs. 1. All that befell the Lord Christ, all that he did and suffered, was necessary to this end, that he might be the cause of eternal salvation to believers.
Being “consecrated,” or “perfected,” he became so; and what belonged unto that consecration we have declared. This was that which he was of God designed unto. And the disposal of all things concerning him to this end was the fruit of infinite wisdom, goodness, and righteousness. No more was required of him, that he might be the author of eternal salvation unto believers, but what was absolutely necessary thereunto; nor was there an abatement made of any thing that was so necessary. Some have said, that “one drop of the blood of Christ was sufficient for the salvation of the whole world.” And some have made use of that saying, pretending that the overplus of his satisfaction and merit is committed to their disposal; which they manage to their advantage. But the truth is, every drop of his blood, that is, all he did and all he suffered, for matter and manner, in substance and circumstance, was in dispensably necessary unto this end. For God did not afflict his only Son willingly, or without cause in any thing, and his whole obedience was afflictive. He did not die nor suffer δωρεάν , Galatians 2:21, without an antecedent cause and reason. And nothing was wanting that was requisite hereunto. Some suppose that Christ was and is the author of salvation unto us only by showing, teaching, declaring the will of God, and the way of faith and obedience, whereby we may be saved. But why, then, was he consecrated in the way before described? why did it “become God to make him perfect through sufferings?” why was he “bruised and put to grief ?” for what cause was he reduced unto the state and condition described in the verse foregoing? Certainly such men have low thoughts of sin and its guilt, of the law and its curse, of the holiness and righteousness of God, of his love to Jesus Christ, yea, and of his wisdom, who suppose that the salvation of sinners could be attained without the price and merit of all that he did and suffered, or that God would have so dealt with his only Son, might it any otherwise have been attained. I might show in particular from the Scripture, how every thing that Christ did and suffered was not only useful, but necessary also, to this purpose, allowing the wisdom and righteousness of God to give the standard and measure of what is so; but I must not too far digress And hence it is evident,
1. How great a matter it is to have sinners made partakers of eternal redemption;
2. How great, how infinite was that wisdom, that love and grace, which contrived it and brought it about;
3. How great and terrible will be the ruin of them by whom this salvation is despised, when tendered according to the gospel, etc.
Obs. 2. The Lord Christ was consecrated himself in and by the sacrifice that he offered for us, and what he suffered in so doing. This belonged to the perfection both of his office and his offering. He had none to offer for him but himself, and he had nothing to offer but himself.
Obs. 3. The Lord Christ alone is the only principal cause of our eternal salvation, and that in every kind. There are many instrumental causes of it in sundry kinds. So is faith; so are the word and all the ordinances of the gospel; they are instrumental, helping, furthering causes of salvation, but all in subordination unto Christ, who is the principal, and who alone gives use and efficacy unto all others. How he is so, by his oblation and intercession, by his Spirit and grace, in his ruling and teaching, offices and power, is the chief work of the ministry to declare. God hath appointed that in all things he should have the preeminence. There are both internal and external means of salvation that he hath appointed, whereby he communicates unto us the virtue and benefit of his mediation. These it is our duty to make use of according to his appointment; so that we expect no relief or help from them, but only by them. So much as they have of Christ in them, so much as they convey of Christ unto us, of so much use they are, and no more. Not only, therefore, to set up any thing in competition against him, as the works of the law, or in conjunction with him, as the Papists do their penances, and pilgrimages, and pardons, and purgatory, is pernicious and ruinous unto the souls of men; but also, to expect any assistance by, or acceptance in, such acts of religion or worship as he hath not appointed, and therefore doth not fill up with his grace, nor communicate from his own fullness by it, is the highest folly imaginable. This, therefore, is the great wisdom of faith, to esteem of Christ and to rest upon him as that which he is indeed, namely, the only author of salvation unto them that believe. For,
Obs. 4. Salvation is confined to believers; and those who look for salvation by Christ, must secure it unto themselves by faith and obedience. It is Christ alone who is the cause of our salvation; but he will save none but those that obey him. He came to save sinners, but not such as choose to continue in their sins; though the gospel be full of love, of grace, of mercy, and pardon, yet herein the sentence of it is peremptory and decretory: “He that believeth not shall be damned.”
In the 10th verse the apostle returns unto the improvement of the testimony given unto the priesthood of Christ taken from Psalms 110:0. And hereby he makes way unto another necessary digression, without which he could not profitably pursue the instruction which he intended [for] the Hebrews from that testimony, as we shall see in the following verses. He had drawn forth nothing out of that testimony of the psalmist, but only that the Lord Christ was a priest; and when he had done this in general, which was necessary for him to do, he declares his sacerdotal actings which he was enabled unto by virtue of that office: for a priest he must be who so “offered” unto God as he did. But he had yet a further and peculiar intention in the production of that testimony. And this was, not only to prove him to be a priest in general, and so to have right to perform all sacerdotal offices and duties in behalf of the people, which he did accordingly, verses 7-9, but withal to declare the especial nature and pre- eminence of his priesthood, as typed or shadowed out by the priesthood of Melchisedec. The demonstration and declaration whereof is that which he now designs. But so soon as he hath laid down his general assertion, in this verse, considering the greatness of the matter he had in hand, as also the difficulty of understanding it aright which he should find among the Hebrews, he diverts unto a preparatory digression, wherein he continues the remainder of this and the whole ensuing chapter, resuming his purpose here proposed in the beginning of the seventh chapter.
Hebrews 5:10 . Προσαγορευθεὶς ὑπὸ τοῦ Θεοῦ ἀρχιερεὺς κατὰ τὴν τάξιν Μελχισεδέκ . 
Hebrews 5:10 . Called of God an high priest after the order of Melchisedec.
 TRANSLATIONS. Προσαγ . Declared of God. Craik. Having been named of God. Conybeare and Howson. Genannt. De Wette. Craik justly remarks, “The term ought to be distinguished from καλούμενος , verse 4. It literally signifies ‘addressed,’and refers to the form of the declaration in Psalms 110:0.” ED.
Προσαγορευθείς , “called.” He refers unto the testimony produced, verse 6. And it is here manifest who it is that is intended in those words, “As he saith in another place, Thou art a priest.” That is, God said so; for he was προσαγορευθεὶς ὑπὸ τοῦ Θεοῦ , dictus, cognominatus, נִקְרָא ; “called,” “pronounced.” “Salutatus,” as “salutare aliquem regem,” is to pronounce him so. And we may inquire into the reason of this peculiar expression. He had before declared that the Lord Christ, the Son of God, was “a priest after the order of Melchisedec.” Now there may be more supposed herein than is indeed intended. When we say that Phinehas, and Eli, and Zadok, were high priests of the order of Aaron, we intend that they had the very same priesthood that Aaron had. But that is not the meaning of the expression in this place and matter. The priesthood of Christ and of Melchisedec were not the same; for that of Christ is such as no mere man could possibly sustain or exercise: only these two priesthoods, as expressed in the Scripture, had an especial agreement in sundry things, the particulars whereof the apostle enumerates and explains, Hebrews 7:0. For on the account of sundry things that were singular in the person of Melchisedec (either absolutely, or as his story is related in the Scripture, which is the rule of our comprehension of sacred things), and suited to prefigure or shadow out the Lord Christ in his priesthood, above what was in Aaron or his office, he is said to be made “a priest after the order of Melchisedec,” or according to the things spoken of. Melchisedec. He is not said to be a priest of the order, but עלאּדִּבְרָתִי , κατὰ τάξιν , according to the things spoken of Melchisedec, as a priest; after the manner of what is related concerning him. And this, in my judgment, is the reason of the use of this word προσαγορευθείς in this place; for it doth not signify a call to office, that is κλητός constantly, but it is the denomination of him who is so called, for some certain reason. ‘Because,’ saith the apostle, ‘of the especial resemblance that was between what Melchisedec was and what Christ was to be, God called his priesthood Melchisedecian; whereon I must necessarily declare wherein that resemblance did consist:’which he doth afterwards. So was his priesthood surnamed from his type, and not Aaronical.
“Called of God,” ἀρχιερεὺς . Verse 6, he renders the Hebrew כֹהֵן by ἱερεὺς only, “a priest.” And it signifies no more. For where the high priest in a note of distinction is intended, they call him כֹהֵן הַגַּדוֹל , the “great” or “high priest;” “sacerdos magnus,” “summus;” “pontifex,” “pontifex summus” But the whole nature, right, and privilege of the office, belonged unto any one as a priest. Every high priest was a priest absolutely; but every priest was not a high priest also. Aaron and his sons were together separated unto the same office of the priesthood, Exodus 28:1; but some duties in the execution of the office were peculiarly reserved unto him who was chief and singular. And because he who was singular had thus sundry pre-eminences above other priests, and also that the discharge of some duties, and offering of some sacrifices, as that of the great atonement, were committed unto him alone, which were peculiarly typical of the sacerdotal actions of Christ; as he is called ἱερεύς , a “priest” absolutely, as being invested in the real office of the priesthood, so is he termed by our apostle, the “chief” or “high priest,” not because there were any other in or of the same order with himself, but because all the pre- eminences of the priesthood were in him alone, and he really answered what was typed out by the singular actings of the Aaronical high priest.
He was thus “called an high priest κατὰ τὴν τάξιν Μελχισεδέκ ,” “according to the order of Melchisedec.” This is not a limitation of his priesthood to a certain order, but a reference unto that priesthood whereby his was most eminently prefigured. And there are two things intended herein by the apostle. First, A concession that he was not a high priest according unto the constitution, law, and order of the Aaronical priesthood. And this he doth not only grant here, but elsewhere positively asserts, Hebrews 8:4; yea, and proves at large that it was impossible he should be so, and that if he had been so, his priesthood would not have been of advantage unto the church, Hebrews 7:11-14, etc. He was neither called as they were, nor came to his office as they did, nor was confirmed in it by the same means, nor had right unto it by the law, nor was his work the same with theirs. Secondly, That there was a priesthood antecedent unto and diverse from that of Aaron, appointed of God to represent the way and manner how he would call the Lord Christ unto his office, as also the nature of his person in the discharge there of, in what is affirmed and what is concealed concerning him who singly and alone was vested with that office; that is, Melchisedec. Look in what manner and by what means he became a priest; by the same, with other peculiar excellencies and pre eminencies added thereunto, was Christ also called, so as that he may be said, and is termed of God, a priest after his order or manner of appointment. For as he, without ceremony, without sacrifice, without visible consecration, without “the law of a carnal commandment,” was constituted a high priest, so was Christ also, by the immediate word of the Father, saying unto him, “Thou art my Son, a priest for every” or “after the power of an endless life.” And in this sense is he called “a priest after the order of Melchisedec.”
I have elsewhere evinced the corruption of the Targum on Psalms 110:4, whence these words are taken; also the malice of some of the late Jewish masters, who would have Melchisedec to be there called כֹהֵן , a “priest” improperly, as David’s sons were said to be כֹהַנִים , that is, “princes.” So the Targum, “Thou art a great prince.” But the expression here used by the psalmist is taken directly from Genesis 14:18, וְהוּא כֹהֵן לְאֶל עֶלְיוֹן , “And he was a priest of” (or “unto”) “the most high God.” Here none of the Jews themselves are so profligate as to pretend that a prince is intended, a prince to the most high God! It is nothing, therefore, but that obstinacy which is the effect of their unbelief, which casts them on the shift of this evasion. Some observations do ensue:
Obs. 1. God was pleased to put a signal honor upon the person and office of Melchisedec, that in them there should be an early and excellent representation made of the person and priesthood of Jesus Christ.
I am not here to inquire who this Melchisedec was, nor wherein the nature of his priesthood did consist. I shall do it elsewhere. Here he is reflected on as an eminent type of Christ in his office. And in how many particulars the resemblance between them did consist, our apostle doth afterwards declare. In the meantime we may observe, in general,
1. That all the real honor which God did unto any persons under the old testament, it was in order unto the prefiguring of Christ, “that in all things he might have the pre-eminence.” Other reason of the great exaltation of Melchisedec in the church, even above Abraham, the father of the faithful, there was none.
2. He was the only type of the person of Christ that ever was in the world. Others were types of the Lord Christ in the execution of his office, but none but he were ever types of his person. For being introduced “without father, without mother, having neither beginning of days nor end of life,” he was “made like unto the Son of God,” and represented his person, which none other did.
3. He was the first personal type of Christ in the world. After him there were others; as Isaac and Aaron, Joshua, David, and Solomon; but he was the first, and therefore the most eminent.
4. He was a type of Christ in these two great offices of a king and a priest; which none but he ever was,
5. The circumstances of his name, and the place of his reign, whence he was a “king of righteousness and peace,” do most gloriously represent the whole effect of the mediation of Christ; all which may be spoken to afterwards. Now the exaltation of any one in the like kind is a mere act of sovereign grace in God. He might so honor whom he pleased. Hence is Melchisedec introduced without the consideration of any circumstances of prerogative on his own part whatever, that all his dignity might be owned to be of God’s sovereign pleasure. God, therefore, having referred all to Christ, it is our wisdom to do likewise.
Obs. 2. As the Lord Christ received all his honor, as mediator, from God the Father, so the ground and measure of our giving glory and honor unto him as such depend on the revelation and declaration of it unto us, He was termed, called, and declared of God “an high priest after the order of Melchisedec.” He made him so, which was his honor; he declared him to be so: whence we ought to give all honor unto him. But this hath been spoken unto elsewhere.
And from the respect that these words have unto the precedent verse, we may observe, that,
Obs. 3. It is an evidence and testimony that the Lord Christ was able to be, and is “the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him,” because he is “a priest after the order of Melchisedec;” that is, his priesthood is eternal.
In the 11th verse the apostle enters upon his designed digression. And first he expresseth the occasion and reason of it, taken from the subject or matter which in this place it was necessary for him to insist upon, and the condition, with the former carriage, or rather miscarriage, of them unto whom he spake. Hence he evidenceth the necessity of his digression, which consists in such awakening admonitions as they then and we now stand in need of, when we are to be excited unto a due attendance unto spiritual and mysterious truths.
Hebrews 5:11 . Περὶ οὗ πολὺς ἡμῖν ὁ λόγος καὶ δυσερμήνευτος λέγειν , ἐπεὶ νωθροὶ γεγόνατε ταῖς ἀκοαῖς .
Περὶ οὗ , “de quo,” “of whom.” The Syriac, עֲלַוְהִי דֵּין עַל הָנָא מַלְכִיזֶדֶק ; “of whom, even of the same Melchisedec :” which no other translation followeth. Πολὺς ἡμῖν ὁ λόγος . Vulg., “grandis nobis sermo.” Rhem., “of whom we have great speech;” improperly, and unintelligibly. Arias, “multus nobis sermo,” “we have much to say.” Eras., “multa nobis forent dicenda,” “many things should be spoken by us:” intimating as if they were pretermitted; namely, what might have been spoken. Beza, “multa nobis aunt dicenda,” “we have many things to say” Syriac, סגִּיאָא הִי לַן מֶלְּתָא לְמִאמְרָהּ , “multa forent verba facienda.” Translat. Polyglot., “we might use many words.” Tremel., “multus est nobis sermo quem eloquamur;” we have much discourse that we may utter” or “speak:” properly, “we have many words to be spoken.” Καὶ δυσερμήνευτος λέγειν . Vulg. Lat., “et interpretabilis ad dicendum.” Valla corrected this translation. Erasmus first suspected that it was originally in the translation, “ininterpretabilis;” which, although a barbarous word, yet evidently intends the sense of the original. Hence it is rendered by the Rhemists, “inexplicable to utter;” which expresseth neither the Latin nor the original. The expositors who follow that translation contend, (whilst the word doth signify negatively, “that cannot be interpreted;” or affirmatively, “that needs interpretation;”) with wonderful varify, as Erasmus manifests, if the word have any signification, it is, “that which is easy to be interpreted,” contrary to the original. Arias, “difficilis interpretatio dicere.” Eras., “difficilia explicatu,” “things hard to be explained.” So Beza. Ours, “hard to be uttered; “difficult to be expounded in speaking. Syr., לַמְפַשָׁקוּתָהּ וְעַסְקָא “et labor ad exponendum;” or, as Tremel., “et occupatio ad exponendum illud;” “and it is hard labor to expound it,” a laborious work. “Of whom we have many things to say, and those difficult to be expounded. “ ᾿Επεὶ νωθροὶ γεγόνατε . Vulg., “quoniam imbecilli facti estis;” “because ye are become weak,” improperly. Arias, “segnes,” “slothful.” So Erasmus and Beza. “Dull.” Syr, כְּרַיְהֵא , “infirm,” “weak.” Ταῖς ἀκοαῖς . Vulg. Lat., “ad audiendum,” “weak to hear.” Arias, “auribus.” So Erasmus and Beza. But ἀκοή signifies the faculty of hearing and the act of hearing, as well as the instrument of it. “Dull of hearing.” 
 TRANSLATION. Γεγόν . implies a course of declension, which our author sufficiently brings out by his translation. Conyheare and Howson render it more emphatically, “since ye have grown dull in understanding.” Ed.
Hebrews 5:11 . Concerning whom we have many things to speak, and difficult to be explained, seeing you are become slothful in hearing [or dull of hearing ].
There are four things combined in this verse in the way of a summary of the discourse that is to ensue:
1. The subject whereof he would treat; “concerning whom.”
2. The manner how he would treat concerning it; he had “many things to say.”
3. The nature of those things, not so much absolutely in themselves as out of respect unto the Hebrews; they were “difficult to be explained” and understood.
4. The reason hereof, namely, because “they were become dull in hearing.” “Concerning whom;” that is, Melchisedec, not Christ; and so the “Syriac” translation expresseth it. But he intends not to treat of him absolutely, neither of his person nor his office. These were things now past, and to search curiously into them was not for the edification of the church. And the apostle had no design to trouble the minds of believers with things unnecessary or curious. And it had not been amiss if this had been well considered by them who have laden us with so many needless speculations about his person and office; and some of them directly opposite to the scope and design of the apostle. But the purpose of the apostle is, to treat of him so far and wherein he was a type of Christ, and as such is represented in the story concerning him. Hence some render περὶ οὗ , by “de qua re,” “of which matter;” that is, the similitude and conformity between Melchisedec and Christ, which was a great, necessary, and instructive truth. Πολὺς ἡμῖν ὁ λόγος , “we have much to say;” many things to speak or treat of. But not the multitude of the things only which he had to speak, but the weight and importance also of them is intended in this expression. So the “grandis sermo” of the Vulgar, intends not loftiness of speech, but the weight of the things spoken of. And when the apostle comes to insist particularly on the things here intended, they appear rather to be mysterious and important than many. However, I deny not but that the apostle intimates that there were sundry, yea many things of that importance to be declared and insisted on, on this occasion.
Some translations, as we have seen, supply the words by “forent,” some by “sunt.” The former seems to have apprehended that the apostle intended wholly to forbear treating on this subject, and that because it was so deep and mysterious, that, considering their condition, it would not be profitable unto them, nor for their edification. Wherefore he lets them know, that although he could treat of many things concerning Melchisedec, and such as were necessary to be declared, yet, because of their incapacity to receive them, he would forbear. And sundry interpreters do so apprehend his mind. But this is no way consistent with his express undertaking to declare all those things unto them, Hebrews 7:0. Wherefore he only declares in general, that he hath many weighty mysteries to instruct them in, but would not immediately engage in that work, until he had spoken that unto them which was needful to prepare them unto a due attention. And his ensuing discourses, before he returns unto this subject again, are not reasons why he will totally intermit the handling of them, but a due admonition unto them for precedent negligences, whereby they might be excited to prepare themselves in a due manner for the receiving of what he had to declare.
The nature of the things treated of, with respect unto the capacity of the Hebrews, is nextly declared: Λόγος δυσερμήνευτος λέγειν . How variously these words are rendered we have seen before. It may be the things which Paul himself here calls δυσερμήνευτα , are those which Peter intends in his epistle, calling them δυσνόητα , 2 Peter 3:16, “things hard to be understood;” which is the same with what our apostle here intends. The phrase, δυσερμήνευτος λέγειν , is somewhat unusual, and the sense of it not easy to be expressed to the full in our language. Λέγειν seems to be for ἐν τῷ λέγειν , “in dicendo,” “in the speaking” or uttering of it: or, when it is spoken and uttered, it is “hard to be interpreted,” that is, to be understood. For the interpretation intended is not that of the apostle in speaking, but that which is made in the understanding of them that hear it. For he that hears a thing uttered, and considers it, makes the interpretation of it unto himself, as Jerome observes, Epist. ad Evagr. The apostle doth not, therefore, intimate,
1. That it would be any hard or difficult matter unto him to declare all things concerning the conformity between Melchisedec and Christ, which were necessary to be known unto the edification of the church; for what he had by revelation and inspiration (as he had all that he wrote as a part of the church’s canon, or rule of faith and obedience) was no matter of difficulty in him to find out and express. It is true, that being called to be an apostle in an especial manner, not having conversed with the Lord Christ in the flesh, he was in vision taken up into heaven, and there heard immediately from him ἄῤῥητα ῥήματα ἃ οὐκ ἐξὸν ἀνθρώπῳ λαλῆσαι , 2 Corinthians 12:4, “unspeakable words, that were not possible” (or “lawful”) “for a man to utter.” The things and manner of Christ’s speech unto him were accompanied with such a glory as human nature unperfected cannot bear. But these things belonged unto his own particular confirmation in his office and work, and not to the edification of the church in general. For what he received by revelation unto that end he freely and fully declared, Acts 20:20; Acts 20:27. Nor,
2. That his manner of the declaration of it would be obscure and hard to be understood; as some have blasphemously accused his writings of obscurity and intricacy. Nor can any pretense be taken hence against the clearness and perspicuity of the Scriptures in the declaration of divine truths and revelations. For it is of things themselves, and not of the manner of their declaration, that he speaks, as also doth Peter in the place before mentioned.
Two things, therefore, are intended by the apostle in this expression:
1. That, in what he had to speak on this subject, there were some things in their own nature sublime and mysterious. In divine revelations there are great differences in the matter of them. For the manner of their declaration in the Scripture, they thus far agree, that every thing is declared absolutely as it ought to be, with respect unto the end of the Scripture; that is, the glory of God and the edification of the church. But among the things themselves revealed there is great difference. Some of them are nearer and more exposed unto our understandings and capacities; others of them are more sublime and mysterious, and more exceed our comprehension. And such are the things intended by the apostle. Wherefore,
2. He doth not speak of these things only with respect unto their own nature, but unto our understandings, which are weak and imperfect. It is a difficult matter for us in any tolerable measure to comprehend divine mysteries, when plainly propounded unto us. But yet neither are these things spoken positively in this place with respect merely unto the understanding of them to whom they are delivered, but with respect unto a peculiar indisposition in the minds of some, hindering them in the discharge of their duty. This the apostle chargeth in particular upon these Hebrews in this verse; and then aggravation their fault, from its causes, nature, circumstances, and consequences, in those that follow to the end of this chapter and the midst of the next. And when he hath hereby prepared them to a more diligent attention, he returns to declare the things themselves which he here intends. And the Romanists do very weakly shield themselves from the force of an argument which ariseth up of its own accord against the great foundation of their superstition, from the nature of the apostle’s discourse in this epistle. For whereas he professedly treateth of the priesthood and sacrifice of Christ in all their concerns, and in their whole use in the church of God, whence is it that he makes no mention in the least, nor gives the least intimation of their priesthood, mass, and sacrifice of it; by which alone, if you will believe them, the other things are communicated and made effectual to the church? I do not mention now what (God assisting) I shall prove afterwards, namely, that he declares those things which are utterly inconsistent with them, and destructive of them; but we only inquire at present whence it should come to pass that in this discourse, which, if the things they pretend are true, is neither complete, nor useful, nor scarcely intelligible without them, he should make no mention of them at all? ‘This,’say our Rhemists on this place, ‘was because the mass was too great mystery for St. Paul to acquaint these Hebrews withal; and therefore he here intimates that he would not acquaint them with it, or impart the doctrine of it unto them.’It seems, therefore, that the mass is a greater mystery than the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, or any thing that concerned his own personal priesthood! This seems to be a supposition of a competent boldness, wherein it is much if they should believe themselves. Besides, whereas the mass is one of the sacraments of the church, continually to be celebrated among the faithful, whence is it that the apostle should dread to speak of the nature of that unto them which they were made partakers of, and which they were exercised in every day, if it were then known, or in use in the church? They would make Christianity a very strange religion, wherein it should be a thing dangerous and unlawful to instruct men in their duty. But, as we have proved before, the things here intended by the apostle are all of them resumed and handled by him in the ensuing chapters; which makes it sufficiently evident that their mass and priesthood were none of them.
Lastly, The reason of the foregoing assertion is added, “Seeing ye are slothful,” “slow,” or “dull in hearing.” Νωθροί . This word is nowhere used in the New Testament but here and Hebrews 6:12, where we render it “slothful.” Νωθρός est, “qui non facile potest ὠθεῖσθαι ;” “one that is not easily stirred or moved, heavy, slothful, inactive, dull,” opposed to him that is diligent in his business; as Proverbs 22:29. Ταῖς ἀκοαῖς . ᾿Ακοή is used both for the “ear,” the “faculty of hearing,” the “act of hearing,” and “things heard.” Wherefore “slothful in hearing,” whereby the apostle declares the fault of these Hebrews, is a metaphorical expression. ‘You are,’saith he, ‘in hearing of the word, like slothful persons, who do no work, accomplish no endeavours, attain no good end, because of their earthly, dull, inactive constitutions and inclinations.’The conditions and qualities of such persons Solomon paints to the life, Proverbs 12:27; Proverbs 18:9; Proverbs 19:24; Proverbs 21:25; Proverbs 22:13; Proverbs 24:30-34; Proverbs 26:13-15. He abounds in the reproof of it, as being one of the most pernicious vices that our nature is subject unto. And in the reproach that Christ will cast upon unfaithful ministers at the last day, there is nothing greater than that they were “slothful,”
Matthew 25:26. Unto such persons, therefore, the apostle compares these Hebrews, not absolutely, but as to this one duty of hearing. The gospel, as preached, he calls λόγον τῆς ἀκοῆς , “the word of hearing,” Hebrews 4:2; the word that is communicated unto men by hearing, which they so receive, Romans 10:17; which ought to be heard and diligently attended unto. This duty the Scripture expresseth by προσέχειν , Acts 16:14; which is “diligently to hearken and attend, so as to cleave unto the things heard.” A neglect hereof the apostle chargeth the Hebrews withal. ‘You stir not up,’saith he, ‘the faculties of your souls, your minds and understandings, to conceive aright and comprehend the things that are spoken unto you; you attend not unto them according to their importance and your concernment in them; you treasure not them up in your hearts, consciences, and memories, but let them slip out, and forget them:’for the apostle intends all faults and negligences that concur unto unprofitable hearing. It is not natural imbecility of mind that he blames in them; nor such weakness of understanding as they might be obnoxious unto for want of improvement by education; nor a want of learning and subtilty to search into things deep and difficult: for these, although they are all defects and hinderances in hearing, yet are they not crimes. But it is a moral negligence and inadvertency, a want of the discharge of their duty according to their ability in attending unto the means of their instruction, that he chargeth them withal. The natural dulness of our minds in receiving spiritual things is, it may be, included; but it is our depraved affections, casting us on a neglect of our duty, that is condemned. And there are sundry things wherein we are hereby instructed; as,
Obs. 1. There are revealed in the Scripture sundry deep and mysterious truths, which require a peculiar diligence in our attendance unto their declaration, that we may rightly understand them or receive them in a due manner. To evince this proposition, I shall lay down and confirm the ensuing observations:
1. There are some things or truths revealed in the Scripture which have a peculiar remark put upon them, as those which are deep and mysterious. 1 Timothy 3:16; Eph 5:32 ; 1 Corinthians 2:6-8; 1 Corinthians 15:51; Ephesians 3:4-5.
2. The doctrines concerning these things are not dark and obscure, but clear, evident, and perspicuous. We may safely grant that what is not clearly delivered in the Scripture is of no indispensable necessity to be known and believed. And there are reasons innumerable why God would not leave any important truth under an obscure revelation. And none pretend they are so but those who first reject the things revealed; then all things spoken of them seem dark and obscure unto them. There are two practices about these things that are equally pernicious:
(1.) A pretense of things mysterious, that are not clearly revealed. This the apostle calls a curious prying or “intruding into things which we have not seen;” which who so do are “vainly puffed up by their fleshly mind,” Colossians 2:18; and which he cautioneth us against, Romans 12:3. The mysteries that are clearly revealed in the Scripture, as to the doctrine of them, are sufficient to exercise the utmost of our sober inquiries and humble speculations. To create heavenly mysteries, like the pretended Areopagite, in our own imaginations, to squeeze them out of single letters, words, or expressions, like the cabbalistical Jews, into vent our own fancies for mysteries, or to cover plain and sober truths with raw and uncouth terms, that they may put on the vizard of being mysterious, is to forsake the word, and to give up ourselves to the conduct of our own imaginations.
(2.) A neglect and contempt of clear, open revelations, because the things revealed are mysterious. And as this is the foundation of the most outrageous errors that at this day infest Christian religion, as in the Socinians and others, so it is that poison which secretly influenceth many amongst ourselves to an open contempt of the most important truths of the gospel. They will not, indeed, declare them to be false; but they judge it meet that they should be let alone where they are, as things not by us to be understood.
3. The depths and mystery of the things intended lie in themselves and their own nature. They are effects of divine wisdom, yea, the greatest which ever God will either work or declare. Hence the doctrine of them is called his “wisdom,” 1 Corinthians 2:7; his “manifold wisdom,” Ephesians 3:10; as having put the most eminent characters of infinite wisdom upon them. We can see other things by the light of the sun better than we can see the sun itself; not because the sun is less visible and discernible in itself, but because our visive faculty is too weak to bear its resplendent light. So is it with these mysterious things: they are great, glorious, true, evident in themselves; but our understandings are weak, and unable fully to comprehend them.
4. The principal of these mysteries concern the person, offices, and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. So as to his person, it is declared by our apostle, 1 Timothy 3:16; as to his work and office, Philippians 2:7-11; and as to his grace, Ephesians 3:8-11. And therefore,
5. Of all things which we are to learn in the dispensation of the word, these are we with most diligence to attend unto, Philippians 3:8-10; Philippians 3:8-10, as those wherein the glory of God and our own obedience are most concerned. Some suppose that we should wholly content ourselves with the plain lessons of morality, without any further diligent inquiry into these mysteries; which is at once to reject, if not the whole, yet the principal part of the gospel, and that without which what remains will not be available. Sad indeed would be the condition of the church of God, if preachers and hearers should agree in the neglect and contempt of the mysteries of the gospel. These, I say, are the things which our utmost diligence, in reading, hearing, and meditating on the word, in prayer and holy supplications for light and wisdom, that we may know them, and grow in the knowledge of them, is indispensably required of us.
Obs. 2. It is necessary for the ministers of the gospel sometimes to insist on the most abstruse and difficult truths, that are revealed for our edification.
The apostle doth not only insist upon the sacerdotal office of Christ, the nature and exercise of it in his own person, but he judgeth it necessary to explain the mystical prefiguration of it in the priesthood of Melchisedec. Why might not that have been omitted, seeing he expressly acknowledgeth that the things concerning it were hard and difficult in the sense before explained, and the doctrine which he proposed in general might be declared and taught without it? Is not this a needless curiosity, and such as tended rather to the amusing and perplexing of his disciples than their edification?
‘No,’saith he; ‘there may be curiosity in the manner, but there can be none in the matter, when we declare and expound only what is revealed in the Scripture. It was not in vain that the Holy Ghost recorded these things concerning the person and office of Melchisedec. The faith and obedience of the church are concerned in the due understanding of them; and therefore this explanation is not to be neglected.’Wherefore, to clear and direct our duty in this matter, we may consider,
1. That it ought to be the design of every faithful minister, in the course of his ministry, to withhold nothing from those committed unto his charge that belongs unto their edification, as do all things that are written in the Scripture, but to declare unto them “the whole counsel of God,” so far as he himself hath attained, Acts 20:20; Acts 20:27. To give times and seasons unto especial truths, doctrines, expositions, is committed unto his own prudence by Him by whom he is made an “overseer, to feed the church of God;” but his design in general is, to “keep back nothing that is profitable,” as is the sense of all the Scripture, even in its most abstruse and difficult passages, 2 Timothy 3:16.
2. That his duty is, as much as in him lieth, to carry on his hearers unto perfection, Hebrews 6:1: for the ministry itself being given to the church “for the perfecting of the saints,” Ephesians 4:12-13, or the bringing of them all “unto a perfect man” in Christ Jesus, every one who is faithful in that office ought to make it his design and work. And hereunto doth their growth in light and knowledge, and that of the most mysterious truths, in an especial manner belong. And whereas some, through the blessing of God on their holy diligence and endeavors, do thrive and grow in light and knowledge above others, they are not to be clogged in their progress, by being bound up always unto their lines and measures who, it may be, are retarded through their own sloth and negligence. This we shall have afterwards occasion to speak unto. But,
3. Whereas the greatest part of our congregations, it may be, frequently are such as stand in need of milk, and are not skillful as yet in the word of righteousness, it is our duty also to insist on those plainer truths which are suited unto their edification.
4. Those who are called by the state of their flocks to engage sometimes in the exposition of abstruse and mysterious passages of Scripture, may do well to observe the ensuing rules, all which may be evidently gathered from the way and manner of our apostle’s treating concerning Melchisedec and his office:
(1.) That their interpretations be openly and evidently conformable to the analogy of faith. To search after new opinions in, or to found new or peculiar doctrines on, abstruse and mystical passages of Scripture, is a pestilent curiosity.
(2.) That the exposition of them be necessary from present circumstances, which are principally two:
[1.] That the things contained in them do belong unto some important truth, which is plainly declared for the substance of it in other places, although from them it may receive light and illustration. Thus our apostle doth not designedly, and on set purpose for its own sake, choose out that abstruse and mysterious passage about Melchisedec; but whereas he was engaged in the declaration of the priesthood of Christ, he taketh in the consideration thereof, as that which did belong thereunto, and which would add light and argument to the truth he had in hand. And herein consists the greatest wisdom in the treating of such places, namely, when we can reduce them to that proper head and seat of doctrine in other places whereunto they do belong, which is our sure guide in their interpretation. To choose out such places for our subjects to speak on separately, and to make them the sole basis of our discourse, may have somewhat of an unwarrantable curiosity.
[2.] When they offer themselves in the course of our work or ministry, where God gives light into the sense of the Holy Ghost in them, they are not to be waived, as we would be esteemed faithful in our work
(3.) Always to remember that what is so abstrusely expressed is so on purpose, for the exercise, as of our faith, humility, and subjection of mind unto the authority of the Holy Ghost speaking in the Scripture, so of our diligence and dependence on him for instruction; which calls for an especial frame of spirit in the work we undertake.
(4.) That the difficulty and necessity of treating concerning such things be intimated unto them who are to be instructed, that so they may be prepared to attend with diligence, and judge with sobriety of what is delivered. So deals our apostle with the Hebrews on this occasion in this place. Under a due observation of these rules, it will be necessary sometimes for ministers of the gospel to insist on the most abstruse and difficult truths that are revealed in the Scripture, and that because their doing so is necessary unto the edification of the church.
Obs. 3. There is a glorious light and evidence in all divine truths, but by reason of our darkness and weakness, we are not always able to comprehend them. Our want of that acquaintance with them which it is our duty to have, and which is needful unto our edification, is from ourselves alone, and for the most part from our sinful neglect of what is required thereunto.
Obs. 4. Many who receive the word at first with some readiness, do yet afterwards make but slow progress either in knowledge or grace. This the apostle here chargeth on the Hebrews; which we must further afterwards consider.
Obs. 5. It is men’s slothfulness in hearing that is the sole cause of their not improving the means of grace, or not thriving under the dispensation of the word; or, all our miscarriages, with respect unto the gospel, are to be resolved into our own sloth, negligence, and depraved affections. For it is not any one particular vice, fault, or miscarriage in hearing, that the apostle intendeth and reproveth; but the want in general of such an attendance to the word as to be edified thereby, proceeding from corrupt affections and neglect of duty. And whereas this is a sin of so perilous a nature as to deprive us of all benefit by the gospel, it will be necessary to give a summary account of the duty of hearing the word in a due manner, so as to discover those defects and faults which constitute this sloth that we are thus warned of. Unto hearing, therefore, as intended and enjoined in the gospel, belong all things required on our part to make the word useful, and to give it its proper effect upon our souls: “Faith cometh by hearing,” Romans 10:17. Whatever is required of us that we may believe and obey the word, it belongs in general to this duty of hearing; and from a neglect of any thing material thereunto we are denominated νωθροὶ ταῖς ἀκοαῖς , and do contract the guilt of the vice hero reproved. Three things in this sense do concur to the duty intended:
1. What is preparatory thereunto;
2. Actual hearing, or attendance on the word preached;
3. What is afterwards required to render our hearing useful and effectual. Which I shall speak unto in one or two instances under each head:
1. We may consider what is necessary hereunto in way of preparation, that we be not slothful hearers. There is a preparation due unto the right sanctification of the name of God in any obedience in general, which I do not now intend, and I have spoken unto it elsewhere. Prayer, meditation, and a due reverence and regard to the authority and especial presence of God, with faith exercised on his promises, are necessary hereunto. These things, therefore, I here suppose, and shall only give one or two instances of what peculiarly respects the duty of hearing, peculiarly in way of preparation:
(1.) Scarce any sort of persons fall under such fatal miscarriages in this great concernment of souls, as those whose hearts are inordinately influenced by the love, business, and cares of this world; for besides that the matter of them, which, being earthly, is diametrically opposite unto that of the word, which is heavenly, doth alienate and keep the mind at a distance from the proposals and reasonings of it, there are so many secret colourable pretences whereby these things will insinuate themselves into the thoughts and affections so disposed, as that there is no contending against them where they are habitually fixed. Wherefore the Scripture doth not draw up so heavy a charge against any one cause or occasion of unprofitable hearing as it doth against these cares and love of the world. Where men are over diligent in and about these things, they do but certainly deceive themselves, if on any supposition they judge that they are not slothful in hearing. Either before, or under, or after this duty, they will discover themselves to have been predominant. “Covetousness,” the apostle tells us, “is idolatry,” Colossians 3:5. And the covetous hearts of men do never worship the idol of this world with so much solemnity and devotion as when they set it up in the ordinances of God, as under the preaching of the word; for then they actually erect it in the room of God himself. Nay, they do it with a contempt of God, as flattering him with their outward appearance, which he despiseth, and giving up their inward affections to their endeared idol. And this is done not only when the thoughts and affections of men are actually engaged and exercised about earthly things during the dispensation of the word, but when their minds, through a love unto them and fullness of them,, are previously indisposed unto that frame and temper which the nature of this duty doth require. Unless, therefore, these cares and businesses of the world are effectually cast out, and our hearts are duly exonerated of them, we shall be νωθροὶ ταῖς ἀκοαῖς , and fall under the guilt of the sin here reproved.
(2.) Antecedent unto hearing, and in way of preparation for it, there is required in us a desire after the word “that we may grow thereby,” 1 Peter 2:2. The end which we propose unto ourselves in hearing hath a great influence into the regulation of the whole duty. Some hear to satisfy their convictions; some, their curiosity and inquiry after notions; some, to please themselves; some, out of custom; some, for company; and many know not why, or for no end at all. It is no wonder if such persons be slothful in and unprofitable under hearing. Wherefore, in order unto a right discharge of this duty, it is required of us that we consider what is our condition or stature in Christ; how short we come of that measure in faith, knowledge, light, and love, which we ought and hope to attain unto. To supply us with this growth and increase, the preaching of the word is appointed of God as food for our souls; and we shall never receive it aright unless we desire it and long for it to this end and purpose. When we know our weakness, imbecility, and manifold defects, and come to the word to obtain supplies of strength suited unto our condition, we are in the way of thriving under it. And as for them who have not this desire and appetite, who understand not a suitableness between the word and their spiritual condition, answerable to that of food to his natural state who is hungry and desires growth and strength, they will be “dull in hearing,” as to all the blessed and beneficial ends of it.
(3.) It is required of us to free our minds, what lies in us, from being prepossessed with such corrupt affections as are apt to repel the word, and deny it an entrance into our hearts. “Intus existens prohibet alienum;” when the mind is filled with things of another nature, there is no room whereinto the seed of the word may have admission. And these things are of two sorts:
[1.] Corrupt lusts or sins indulged. The ejection of these is enjoined us, James 1:21, “Lay apart all filthiness, and superfluity of naughtiness, andreceive with meekness the ingrafted word.”
If the one be not done, the other will not. If “filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness” be not cast away and thrust from us, the word will not be “received,” at least not with “meekness.” We must put away πᾶσαν ῥμπαρίαν , “all filthiness.” ῾Ρυπαρία , “sorties,” belongs first to the body, as ῥύπος ; doth, 1 Peter 3:21. And from the ἀπόθεσις ῥύπου there mentioned, the “doing away the filth of the body” by the washing of water, is this ἀποθέμενοι πᾶσαν ῥυπαρίαν : which, as applied unto the mind, answers unto the spiritual part of baptism, in the cleansing of the soul from spiritual filth and corruption. See Isaiah 4:4. Καὶ περισσείαν κακίας , “and the superfluity of naughtiness.” ‘It should seem that some “naughtiness” may remain, only the “superfluity” of it must be cast away.’ No; but “all naughtiness” in the mind is as a superfluous humor in the body, which corrupts and destroys it. It is the corrupting, depraving power and efficacy of prevailing lusts in the mind which is intended; and this is to be “laid apart,” if we intend to receive τὸν ἔμφυτον λόγον , “the ingrafted (implanted) word;” that is, the word of the gospel, which was not designed of God to be “written in tables of stone, but in the fleshy tables of our hearts,” 2 Corinthians 3:3. Hence is that great promise of taking away the heart of stone, figured by the tables of stone wherein the law was written, and giving a heart of flesh, wherein the word of the gospel should be written and ingrafted. See this text further interpreted, 1 Peter 2:1-2. He, therefore, that comes with his mind filled and prepossessed with noisome lusts, as they are all, will be dull and slothful in hearing, seeing his heart will be sure to wander after its idols. For men’s minds, filled with their lusts, are like Ezekiel’s chambers of imagery, which were full of all manner of representations, “pourtrayed upon the wall;” which way soever they turned their eyes they had idolatrous objects to entertain them, Hebrews 8:10; Hebrews 8:12. Such pictures do the corrupt imaginations of sensual, earthly persons fill their minds withal, that every thought has an object ready for its entertainment, effectually diverting the soul from the entertainment of the ingrafted word. Without this we may receive it as a notional word, as a truth in our understandings, but we cannot receive it as an implanted word in our hearts to save our souls.
[2.] Cares and businesses of the world having prepossessed the mind, produce in it the same indisposition in hearing. God himself giveth this reason why a professing people profited not by the dispensation of the word, namely, because “their hearts went after their covetousness,” Ezekiel 33:31. The prophet preached, and the people sat diligentlybefore him as his hearers; but their minds being prepossessed with the love of the world, the word was unto them as wind, and of no use. Partly it was kept out by the exercise of their minds about other things; and what was received was quickly choked, which is the proper effect of the cares of the world, Matthew 13:22.
2. In the act or duty of hearing itself, there are sundry things required of them who would not incur the guilt of the crime reproved; as,
(1.) A due reverence of the word for its own sake. Spiritual reverence is our humble, religious respect of any thing upon the account of its authority and holiness. So is it due unto every thing that God hath put his name upon, and to nothing else. Whereas, therefore, God hath “magnified his word above all his name,” Psalms 138:2, or every other ordinance whereby he reveals himself unto us, it is thereunto due in an especial manner. So is this duty expressed in the instance of 1 Thessalonians 2:13:
“When ye received the word of God, which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but (as it is in truth) the word of God, which effectually worketh in you that believe.”
The apostle commendeth their receiving of the word when preached unto them, from the manner of their attention unto it, with that respect and reverence which was due unto its relation to God; which also had a great influence unto its efficacy on them. ‘Ye have received λόγος ἀκοῆς παρ᾿ ἡμῶν τοῦ Θεοῦ , “verbum auditus;” דְּבַראּשמַע , word of hearing.’
Because preaching and hearing were the constant way that God had appointed for the communication and receiving of the gospel, the word itself was so denominated. To despise them, therefore, is for really to despise the gospel. And this word they are said to receive παρ᾿ ἡμῶν , “of us;” that is, as instruments of its promulgation and declaration. On this account he sometimes calls it “our word,” and “our gospel;” ‘that word and gospel of God which we have preached;’as it is added, Θεοῦ , “of God;” not concerning God, but whereof God is the author, and which he hath appointed to be so preached and dispensed in his own name, 2 Corinthians 5:18-19. This, therefore, they attended unto, “not as the word of men,” but, according to the truth, “as the word of God.” The opposition may be either to the original of the word, or unto the dispensation of it. If unto the original, then the sense is, ‘Not as unto a word that was devised or invented by men;’as Peter declares that in the preaching of the gospel “they did not follow cunningly-devised fables,” 2 Peter 1:16. Yet this seems not here to be intended, though it may be included. But the opposition is unto the administrators or preachers of it; as if he had said, ‘In your attention to the word, you did not consider it merely as dispensed by us, but ascended in your minds to Him whose word originally it is, by whom it was appointed, and in whose name it was preached unto you.’ And this gives us the just nature of that reverence which is required of us in hearing, namely, a humble respect unto the authority and holiness of the word, impressed upon it by Him whose word it is.
It may be objected, ‘That this reverence is due only to the word as written, which is purely and wholly the word of God; but not unto it as preached by men, wherein there is, and must needs be, a mixture of human infirmities.’ Hence some have been charged with arrogancy for expressing those words of the apostle’s in their prayers, ‘That the word preached by them might be received, “not as the word of men, but, as it is in truth, the word of God.”’
Ans. [1.] It is true, “we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of men,” 2 Corinthians 4:7. The ministry whereby the word is conveyed unto us is but a “vessel;” and ministers are but “earthen vessels,” frail, weak, brittle, and it may be sometimes defiled. But. still, in and by them the word of God is a “treasure,” a heavenly treasure, enriching our souls.
[2.] We may consider how far the word, as preached, is the pure word of God; and so, having his name upon it, is the object of our reverence. And,
1st. It is his originally; it proceeds from him, and not from the invention of men, as was showed before.
2dly. It is his word materially. The same things are preached that are declared in the Scripture, only they are explained and accommodated unto our understanding and use; which is needful for us.
3dly. The preaching of it is the ordinance of God, which his name is upon, in the same kind as on his word; and therein an especial reverence and respect unto the name and authority of God is due thereunto.
4thly. By virtue of this institution of God, the word preached, which is in itself only materially the word of God, becomes formally so; for it is the application of the word of God unto our souls, by virtue of his command and appointment.
Wherefore there is the same reverence due to God in the word as preached, as in the word as written; and a peculiar advantage attends it beyond reading of the word, because God hath himself ordained it for our benefit.
It may be further objected, ‘That we find by experience that the preachers of it will sometimes immix their own infirmities, and it may be mistakes in judgment, with their preaching of the word; and this must needs abate of the regard which is proposed as our duty.’
Ans. [1.] God hath been pleased to ordain that the word should be dispensed unto us by weak, sinful men like ourselves; whence it unavoidably follows that they may, and probably sometimes will, mix some of their infirmities with their work. To except, therefore, against this disposition of things, is to except against the wisdom of God, and that especial order which he hath designed unto his own glory, 2 Corinthians 4:7.
[2.] In a pipe which conveys water into a house there may be such a flaw as will sometimes give an entrance unto some dust or earth to immix itself with the water; will you therefore reject the water itself, and say, that if you may not have it just as it riseth in the fountain you will not regard it, when you live far from the fountain itself, and can have no water but such as is conveyed in pipes liable to such flaws and defects? Your business is to separate the defilement and use the water, unless you intend to perish with thirst.
[3.] That such a thing may fall out, and that it doth ever so, gives us an opportunity of exercising sundry graces, and for the performance of sundry duties, whereby it turns to our advantage. For,
1st. Here lies the proper exercise of our spiritual understanding in the gospel, whereby we are enabled to “try all things, and hold fast that which is good.” To this end our apostle requires that we should “have senses exercised to try” (or “discern”) “both good and evil.” Hereby, according to our duty, we separate the chaff from the wheat; and no small exercise of grace and spiritual light, to the great improvement of them, doth consist herein.
2dly . Tenderness towards men in the infirmities which we discern in their work, proceeding either from weakness or temptation.
3dly. The consideration hereof ought to keep us in a constant dependence on and prayer unto the Lord Christ for the communication of his Spirit unto us, to “lead us,” according to his promise, “into all truth;” which is the great reserve he hath given us in this matter. And hence follows,
(2.) An immediate subjection of soul and conscience unto whatever is delivered in the dispensation of the word. A readiness hereunto Cornelius declared when he was to hear Peter preach: Acts 10:33, “Now are we all here present, to hear all things that are commanded thee of God;” that is, so to hear as to give up our souls in obedience unto the word, because of the authority of God, whose word it is. And when we are not in this frame we shall be unprofitable hearers; for the immediate end of our hearing is practice. And the Scripture doth so fully testify hereunto, that in sundry places it positively declares that no kind of hearing, whatever appearance of zeal or diligence it may be accompanied withal, which doth not issue in practical obedience, is in the least to be esteemed of. But I intend not at present this practice, which is in order of nature consequential unto the hearing of the word, but that practical subjection of the soul and conscience to the word which alone will make way for it. For even that practice or obedience which proceeds not from hence is faulty and corrupt, as having certainly a false foundation or a wrong end. Herein, then, lies the great wisdom of faith in hearing, namely, in delivering up the soul and conscience unto the commanding authority of God in the word, Romans 6:17. And hereunto, among other things, it is required,
[1.] That the heart hath no approved reserve for any lust or corruption, whose life it would save from the sword of the word;
[2.] That it be afraid of no duty on the account of the difficulties and dangers with which it may be attended: for where these things are, the heart will close itself against the influences of God’s authority in his word.
[3.] A diligent watchfulness against distractions and diversions, especially such as are growing to be habitual from temptations and sloth. This is much spoken unto by others, and therefore is here dismissed without further consideration. And where we are negligent in these things, or any of them, we shall be found “dull in hearing.”
3. There are duties also belonging hereunto which are consequential unto actual hearing; whose discharge is required to free us from the guilt of the evil reproved; as,
(1.) A due examination of what is new or doubtful in the things delivered unto us. When the gospel itself was first preached, and so was new unto them to whom it was delivered, the Bereans are commended for examining what was delivered unto them by the Scriptures which they had before received, Acts 17:11. And in case of things doubtful is the command given us, to “try all things, and to hold fast that which is good,” 1 Thessalonians 5:21; as also to “try the spirits,” 1 John 4:1, or what is taught under pretense of any spiritual gift whatever. Not that any thing is spoken to encourage that cavilling humor which so abounds in some as that they will be excepting and disputing against every thing that is delivered in the dispensation of the word, if not absolutely suited to their sentiments and conceptions, or because they think they could otherwise, and it may be better, have expressed what they have heard; which kind of persons well may be reckoned amongst the worst sort of unprofitable hearers, and such as are most remote from subjecting their consciences unto the authority of God in his word, as they ought. We may therefore give some rules in this matter; as,
[1.] Some things there are which are such fundamental principles of our profession, that they ought to be so far from being exposed unto a doubting examination, that they are part of that rule whereby all other doctrines are to be tried and examined, as those also by whom they are taught, 2 John 1:9-11. And,
[2.] Other doctrines also there are, so evidently deduced from the Scripture, and so manifest in their own light, carrying the open conviction of their truth along with them, as that they ought not at any time to be made the matter of a doubtful trial. Only what is delivered concerning them may be compared with the Scriptures, to their further illustration and confirmation.
[3.] Neither ought what is delivered by any faithful, approved minister of the gospel, whose way, and course, and doctrine, and zeal for the truth, have been known, be lightly called into question; nor, without manifest evidence of some failing or mistake, be made the matter of “doubtful disputations.” For whereas every man is obnoxious unto error, and some we have found, after a long course of their profession of the truth, to fall actually into such as are perilous to the souls of men, it not pernicious, it is not meet that any thing which they teach should, on just occasion, be exempt from a sober trial and examination; so whereas such ministers of the gospel as those mentioned have the word of truth committed unto them by Christ himself, and his promise of direction in the discharge of their duty, whilst they behave themselves as his stewards and dispensers of the mysteries of God, what they declare in his name is not lightly to be solicited with every needless scruple. Wherefore this duty, which in some cases and seasons is of so great importance, may in other cases and at other seasons be less necessary; yea, a pretense of it may be greatly abused to the ruin of all profitable hearing. When errors and false teachers abound, and when, by our best attendance unto the rule, we cannot avoid the hearing of them sometimes; or when things new, uncouth, or carrying an appearance of an opposition to the analogy of faith, or those doctrines of the gospel wherein we have been instructed and settled, are imposed on us; it is necessary we should stand upon our guard, and bring what is taught unto a due examination. But where there is a settled approved ministry, and the things delivered evidence in a good manner their own consonancy unto the Scripture and analogy of faith, a disposition and inclination, under pretense of trying and examining what is delivered, to except against it and dispute about it, is the bane of all profitable hearing.
(2.) Let us be sure to learn what we are learning. The apostle complains of some who are “ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth,” 2 Timothy 3:7. Of this sort are many still amongst us. And hence it is that, after they have been long under the means of instruction in sound truth and knowledge, they are ready to hearken after and greedily embrace any fancy that is contrary thereunto. The reason hereof is, because they did not learn what they were so long in learning. To learn any truth as we ought, is to learn it in its proper principles, true nature, and peculiar use; to learn it in the respect it hath unto, and the place it holds in the system of gospel truths; so to learn it as to get an experience of its usefulness and necessity unto a life of holy obedience. Unless we thus learn what we hear, in its compass and circumstances, it will not prove an “ingrafted word” unto us, and we shall lose the things which we seem to have wrought. Our duty herein may be reduced unto heads:
[1.] That we learn doctrinally what respect every truth hath unto Christ, the center of them all.
[2.] Practically what influence they have into our obedience and holiness,
[3.] A diligent heedfulness to retain the thing which we have heard is also required hereunto. But this hath been sufficiently spoken unto, Hebrews 2:1, where it is expressly enjoined us. The like also may be said concerning meditation and holy conference; whereof see Hebrews 3:12.
[4.] A diligent care to avoid partiality in obedience unto what we hear. All men, it is hoped, design to obey in some things, most in most things, but few in all. God blamed the priests of old that they were “partial in the law,”
Malachi 2:9. Either they taught not men the whole law, and therein the whole of their duty, but reserved such things from them as, if known and practiced, might turn to their own disadvantage; for they had learned in those days to “eat up,” and so to live on, “the sin of the people,” Hosea 4:8: or they taught them according as they knew they would be pleased to hear, therein accepting their persons, as the words seem to import. And for this God says he would make them “contemptible and base before all the people.” It shall be no otherwise with them who are partial in their obedience. Such are persons who will do as much as consists in their own judgment with their interests, societies, inclinations, and the liberty they have fancied unto themselves. For we are fallen into such days wherein some professors do judge it a great freedom and liberty to be exempted from obedience unto sundry commands of Christ, and those such as they cannot but know to be so. Alas for the pride and folly of the heart of man! to serve sin, to serve vanity and unbelief, which are the things alone that keep us off from a universal compliance with all the commands of the gospel, and submission unto all the institutions of Christ, shall be accounted liberty and freedom, when it is a part of the vilest bondage in the world. What are such persons afraid of? Is it that they shall engage themselves too far in a way towards heaven, so as that they cannot retreat when they would? Is it that they shall have too many helps against their corruptions and temptations, and for the furtherance of their faith and obedience? Or is it lest they should give over themselves wholly to Christ, and not be at liberty, when a better master comes, to lay a claim to a share in him? How great is the misery of such poor souls! This is the generation of perishing professors in our days. Out of them proceed Quakers, worldlings, and at last scoffers. This is the field wherein all apostasy visibly grows. Those that are openly profane cannot apostatize or fall away. What should they fall from? Christ is pleased to secure his churches in some good measure, so as that we have not frequent instances in them of this fatal miscarriage; but from among the number of professors who will walk at large, and are partial in their obedience, we have multitudes of examples continually. Let not such persons think they shall profit under the dispensation of the word; for they will at last be found to have been “slothful in hearing,” and that in one of the worst instances of that sin.
Where there is a neglect of these things, which are all necessary and required unto profitable hearing, it cannot be but that men will be νωθροὶ ταῖς ἀκοαῖς , and fall deservedly under the rebuke here given by the apostle unto the Hebrews, as we see multitudes to do every day. And whereas all this proceedeth from the sinful and wilful carelessness of men about their own eternal concernments, it is evident that all want of a due progress and improvement under the means of grace must be resolved into their own sloth and depraved affections.
Obs. 6. It is a grievous matter to the dispensers of the gospel, to find their hearers unapt to learn and thrive under their ministry, through their negligence and sloth. The apostle complaineth of it here as that which was a cause of sorrow and trouble unto him. And so is it unto all faithful ministers whose lot it is to have such hearers As for others, who are themselves negligent or slothful in their own work, it cannot be but that they will be regardless of the state of their flock.
The three ensuing verses, as they all treat of the same matter with that foregoing, so they have all the same design in themselves, and cannot be severed in their exposition. The reasons of the reproof entered on in the 11th verse are here expressed, and the crime reproved is laden with sundry aggravations. And these aggravations are taken from such circumstances of the persons, and such consequents and effects of their fault, as make it evident that the reproof given was both just and necessary.
Hebrews 5:12-14 . Καὶ γὰρ ὀφείλοντες εἷναι διδάσκαλοι διὰ τὸν χρόνον , πάλιν χρείαν ἔχετε τοῦ διδάσκειν ὑμᾶς , τίνα τὰ στοιχεῖα τῆς ἀρχῆς τῶν λογίων τοῦ Θεοῦ , καὶ γεγόνατε χρείαν ἔχοντες γάλακτος , καὶ οὐ στερεᾶς τροφῆς . Πᾶς γὰρ ὁ μετέχων γάλακτος , ἄπειρος λόγου δικαιοσύνης· νήπιος γάρ ἐστι . Τελείων δέ ἐστιν ἡ στερεὰ τροφή , τῶν διὰ τὴν ἑξιν τὰ αἰσθητήρια γεγυμνασμένα ἐχόντων πρὸς διάκρισιν καλοῦ τε καὶ κακοῦ .
Καὶ γὰρ ἀφείλοντες εἷναι , “etenim debentes esse,” Arias; “etenim cum deberetis esse,” Vulg.; “etenim cure debeatis,” Eras.; “ vos enim quos oportuit,” Beza. All to the same purpose. “For when you ought,” or rather, “for when as you ought to be.” הּיָּבִין חֲוַֹיְתוּן גֵּיר , Syr., “debitores estis enim.” The word denotes a debt of any kind, in things real or moral; whatever is due from us, or justly required of us, is so expressed. Διδάσκαλοι . Vulg. Lat., Rhem., “magistri,” “masters.” Eras., Bez., “doctores.” Syr., מלְפָנֵא , “teachers,” instructors of others. Διὰ τὸν χρόνον . Vulg. Lat., “propter tempus.” Rhem., “for your time;” supplying “your” needlessly. “Pro temporis ratione,” Bez., Eras.; “considering the time.” “For the time,” is proper in our language. The Syriac paraphraseth this expression, מֶטוּל דְּזַבְנָא לְכוּן בִּיוּלְפָנָא , “seing you have had time in,”or “under institution,” discipline, instruction, doctrine; ‘for the time wherein you have been taught and instructed.’ Arab., “for the length of the time;” which is intended, but not expressed. One of late, “jamdudam,” “ now long ago;” ‘you have been so long since taught, that you might have been teachers long ago;” Πάλιν , “rursum.” Syr., הָשָׁא דֵּין תּוּב , “ but now again.” “Contra,” “on the other side;” ‘whereas you ought to have been teachers, on the other side.’
Χρείαν ἔχετε , “indigetis,” Vulg.; “you need,” Rhem.; “opus habetis,” “opus est ut;” “you have need,” “you stand in need,” it is necessary.
Τοῦ διδάσκειν ὑμᾶς , “ut vos doceamini,” “that you should be taught;” in the passive voice. Syr., דְּתִאלְפוּן , “that you should learn.” Properly, “to teach you;” ‘that I should, that we should, that one should teach you.’
Τίνα τὰ στοιχεῖα τῆς ἀρχῆς τῶν λογίων τοῦ Θεοῦ . Vulg. Lat., “quae sint elementa exordii sermonum Dei.” Rhem., “what be the elements of the beginning of the words of God;” improperly and obscurely. Syr., מֶלָּוְהִי וַּאלָהָא אִילֵין אֵנֵין כְתִיבָתָא קַדְמְיָתָא דְּרִישׁ , “the very first writings of the beginning of the words of God;” supposing στοιχεῖα to intend the letters of the alphabet. “Quae sint elementa initii eloquiorum Dei,” Eras., Beza; that is,”oraculorum.” Λόγια θέσφατα . Ours, “which be the first principles of the oracles of God;” ‘which are the fundamental principles of divine revelation.’
Πᾶς γὰρ ὁ μετέχων γάλακτος . “Qui lactis est particeps,” Vulg. Lat. Rhem., “that is partaker of milk.” “Cui cum lacte res est,” Bez. Which we render, “that useth milk;’that is, for his food: as Syr., דְּמֵאכוּלְתֵהּ חַלְבַּא הוּ , “whose food is milk;” who, as we speak, liveth on milk.
῎Απειρος λόγου δικαιοσύνης . “Expers est sermonis justitiae,” Vulg. Rhem., “is unskilful of the word of justice.” “Rudis est;” is “unskilful in,” or rather, “hath no experience of the word of righteousness.” The Syriae somewhat otherwise, לָא מַפֵס בְּמֶלְּתָא דְּכִאנוּתָא ; “is not taught,” persuaded, instructed, “in the word of righteousness.”
Νήπιος γάρ ἐστι . “Parvulus enim est,” Vulg.; “for he is a little one.” Rhem., “a child.” “Infans enim est.” Syr., דְּשַׁבְיָא הוּ , “he is unskilful,” “unexperienced.” “For he is a babe.”
Τελείων . “Perfectorum,” Vulg.; “the perfect.” “Adultorum,’Eras., Beza. “Those of full age.” Syr., דּגְמִירֵא , “perfectorum;” so ad verbum. ῾Η στερεὰ τροφή , “cibus solidus,” “solida slimonia;” “strong meat,” “strong nourishment.” Τῶν διὰ τὴν ἕξιν . “Eorum qui pro ipsa consuetudine,” Vulg. Lat.; “them that by custom.” “ Propter habitum,” Bez.; “by reason of a habit,” properly. “Of use,” say ours; which is the way whereby a habit is obtained. Syr., דּמְדַרְשִׁין , “who have much inquired;” who are ready in inquiries. Τὰ αἰσθητήρια γεγυμνασμένα ἐχόντων . “Exercitatos habent sensus;” “sen-suum organa;” “the organs or instruments of their senses;” who have their senses ready and expedite.
Hebrews 5:12-14 . For whereas for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one should teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness; for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth unto them that are of full age. even those who, by reason of use, have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
The charge of a crime or fault intimated in the preceding verse is, as was said, improved and manned for a fuller and more unavoidable conviction. These two things, therefore, doth the apostle design in these words:
1. To give the rein of the general charge he had burdened them withal, and to prove the equity of it in particular instances. This he declareth in that causal conjunction, γάρ , “for where,”
2. To enlarge and further declare the nature of the fault charged on them, from its effects and consequents, with other circumstances. And this is done,
(1.) From an aggravating circumstance of time, or the duration of the season of instruction and growing in knowledge which they had enjoyed: “Whereas for the time.”
(2.) From the consideration of a duty which might justly be expected from them, with respect unto that time and season “Ye ought to have been teachers.”
(3.) From a contrary event, or how things were indeed fallen out with them on the other side: “They had need to be taught what were the first principles of the oracles of God.” And,
(4.) The whole is enforced by an antithesis between two sorts of hearers of the word, expressed in an elegant similitude or metaphor. The instructive nature of this similitude consists,
[1.] In that likeness or conformity which is between bodily food and the word of the gospel as preached.
[2.] In the variety of natural food, as suited unto the various states and conditions of them that feed thereon; answered by the doctrines of truth in the gospel, which are of various kinds. And in the exemplification hereof natural food is reduced unto two kinds,
[2.] “Strong meat:”
and those that feed thereon unto two sorts, children, and men of ripe age; both which are applied unto the hearers of the word. Wherefore the apostle, in the application of this similitude, represents unto us two sorts of professors of the gospel, or hearers of the word, and gives a description of them by their several qualities. For,
[1.] Some there are who are νήπιοι , “babes,” and continue so; and some are τέλειοι , such as are “of full age,” or “perfect.”
[2.] These νήπιοι , or “babes,” are described by a double property: for,
1st. They are νωθροὶ ταῖς ἀκσαῖς , verse 11, “dull in hearing;”
2dly. They are ἄπειροι λόγου δικαιοσύνης , “unskilful in the word of righteousness.” In opposition hereunto, τέλειοι those who are spiritually adult, are,
1st. Supposed to be ἔχοντες νοῦν , such as have understandings, so as to be capable of instruction;
2dly. Are said to have αἰσθητήρια γεγυμνασμένα , senses exercised to discern good and evil. The different means to be applied unto these different sorts for their good, according to their respective conditions, are expressed in the terms of the metaphor: to the first, γάλα , “milk;” to the other, στερεὰ τροφή , “strong food,’or nourishment; all comprised in the ensuing scheme:
1. Νήπιοι .
(1.) Νωθροὶ ταῖς ἀκοαῖς .
(2.) ῎Απειροι λόγου δικαιοσύνης .
2. Τέλειοι .
(1.) Φρόνιμοι .
(2.) Τὰ αἰσθητήρια γεγυμνασμένα ἔχοντες .
Στερεᾶς τροφῆς .
And the intention of the apostle is to represent unto the Hebrews herein their state and condition, arising from their being “dull in hearing.” And this he doth both absolutely and comparatively, with respect unto what others were, and what they themselves might and ought to have been. For he shows that they were yet “babes, unskilful in the word of righteousness,” and such had need “to be fed with milk.”
First, The first thing considerable in these words, is an aggravation of the fault reproved in the Hebrews, from a circumstance of time: Διὰ τὸν χρόνον , “pro ratione temporis.” ‘Considering the time and season you Hebrews have had, you might have been otherwise long ago;’ “jamdudum,” as one renders the words. Or διὰ τὸν χρόνον may not intend the space of time, but the nature of the season which they were under. ‘The season is such, whether you consider the opportunities of it, or the dangers of it, or the shortness of its continuance, as that you ought so diligently to have improved it, that yourselves might have been at work in the teaching of others, had you been zealous for the gospel, as you ought to be, or careful about your own duty.’Such times as were then come on and passing over the Hebrews, as to their profession of the gospel, called for more than ordinary diligence in their improvement. There is no inconvenience in this sense, and it hath good instruction in it; but I shall rather adhere unto that which is more commonly received, Διὰ τὸν χρόνον , “for the time,” is as much as ‘with respect unto the time past and gone since their first calling unto and profession of the gospel.’But men may have time enough, and yet have no advantage by it, for want of other necessary helps and assistances. A tree may have been planted a long time in a dry and barren wilderness, and yet it would be a vanity to expect any great growth or thriving from thence, as having the benefit neither of rain nor a fruitful soil. And when God expects fruit from his vineyard, he gives it not time only, but all other things necessary to its improvement, Isaiah 5:1-4. Wherefore it is supposed, that during the time intended, these Hebrews wanted no necessary means of instruction. This the apostle had before declared, Hebrews 2:1; Hebrews 2:3. The word of the gospel was both “preached” and “confirmed” unto them. And as they had for a season the ministry of all the apostles, and of sundry of them for a longer continuance, so it is justly supposed they had yet one of them surviving and abiding among them. Moreover, they had in common use the scriptures of the Old Testament, which testified unto all that they had been taught concerning Jesus Christ; and most of the writings of the New Testament were before this time communicated unto them. Wherefore, during the season intended, they enjoyed sufficient means of “growing in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” Without a supposition hereof they could not have been justly reproved for a want of proficiency. Yea, in every expression of their crime this is supposed. They were “dull in hearing;” which they could not have been had not the word been constantly preached unto them, for without preaching there can be no hearing. And all this the apostle makes evident, Hebrews 6:7, where he compares them unto the earth, which hath frequent showers of rain falling upon it, because of the abundant waterings which they had received by the constant preaching of the word unto them.
As for the duration of this season in particular, it was not equal unto them all. Every one had only the time since his own conversion to account for. If we shall take the words with respect unto the whole church at Jerusalem, then the date of this time is to be fixed on the day of Pentecost, when, upon the effusion of the Holy Ghost on the apostles, testified and evidenced by the miracle of tongues, with the sermon of Peter unto them that ensued thereon, so many thousands of them were converted to the faith, Acts 2:0. And if this be allowed, the space of time intended was about thirty years. But, not to bind up the expression unto any especial epocha, it is enough that they had, all and every one of them whom the apostle intends, more time than they had well used or improved. And we ought to observe , that,
Obs. 1. The time wherein we enjoy the great mercy and privilege of the dispensation of the gospel unto us, is a matter which must in particular be accounted for.
This time is variously dispensed, its measure being given by the sovereign will and wisdom of God. All who have time given them to this purpose, have not the same time. The day of the gospel is not of the same length unto all nations, churches, persons, unto whom it is granted. But all have time and light enough to do the work that is required of them. And it is a talent to be accounted for. Neither must we account for it only in general, but as to our improvement of it in particular duties. These Hebrews had such a time. And it was not enough, it did not answer the design of God in it, that they professed the gospel, and did not renounce Jesus Christ, as some among them did; it was moreover expected from them, that they should grow and thrive in knowledge and holiness proportionable to their time and means: and not doing so, it is charged on them as a great aggravation of their guilt. An evil it was that they had not profited under the dispensation of the gospel, but especially it was so, in that they had not answered the time that God had graciously intrusted them withal. And we may all do well to consider it, who have the like day of grace, mercy, and patience, with what they enjoyed. See our exposition of Hebrews 3:13; Hebrews 3:15.
Secondly, A duty is expressed, the want of whose performance is charged also as an aggravation of the sin insisted on. εἷναι διδάσκαλοι , “you ought to have been teachers.” Διδάκαλος is the word whereby the writers of the New Testament express “Rabbi,” which was the usual name of the public teachers of the law among the Jews. He is such a one, not only that is fit and meet to teach and instruct others occasionally, but also hath disciples committed to him, depending on him, and learning from him. So is our Savior himself called in the Gospel; and so he termed himself with respect unto his disciples, Mark 4:38, John 13:13. And John tells us that it is the same name with the Hebrew “Rabbi,” and the Syriac “Rabboni,” John 1:38; John 20:16. And it is the name of the teaching officer given by Christ unto the church, 1 Corinthians 12:28, Ephesians 4:11. Nor is it anywhere used but for a public teacher, preacher, or instructor of disciples in the knowledge of God.
᾿Οφείλοντες εἷναι , “you ought to be.” He doth not only say that they had enjoyed such a time and season of instruction as that they might have been able to teach and instruct others; but this he declares was expected from them as their duty. And the right understanding hereof depends on the consideration of the state and condition of the churches in those days. For this reproof would now seem uncouth and unreasonable. Our hearers do not look upon it as their duty to learn to be teachers; at least not in the church, and by means of the knowledge to be attained therein. They think it enough for them, if at best they can hear with some profit to themselves. But this was not the state of things in primitive times. Every church was then a seminary, wherein provision and preparation was made, not only for the continuation of the preaching of the gospel in itself, but for the calling, gathering, and teaching of other churches also, When, therefore, a church was first planted by the ministry of the apostles, it was for a while continued under their own immediate care and inspection, and then usually committed by them unto the ministry of some evangelists. By them were they instructed more and more in the mysteries of religion, and directed in the use of all means whereby they might grow in grace and knowledge. And in this state were they continued, until some were found meet among themselves to be made overseers and instructors of the rest, 2 Timothy 2:2; Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5. Upon their decease, others were to be called and chosen from among themselves to the same work by the church. And thus were the preservation and successive propagation of the churches provided for; it being suited to the nature and law of all societies, as also to the institution and love of Christ unto his churches, that, in compliance with his appointment, they should be able to continue and preserve their being and order. And this course, namely, that teachers of the church should be educated thereunto in the church, continued inviolate until the public school at Alexandria, which became a precedent unto other places for a mixed learning of philosophy and religion; which after a while corrupted both, and at length the whole church itself.
And this also was the manner before in the synagogues of the Jews They had in them public teachers of the law, who were their rabbis, or διδάσκαλοι . By these, others, their disciples, sitting at their feet whilst they taught and preached, were instructed in the knowledge thereof; as Paul giveth an instance in himself and his teacher Gamaliel, Acts 22:3. And among these disciples, those who profited above others in an especial manner, as Paul affirmeth he did “above his equals” (that is, those who had enjoyed the same time and means with him), Galatians 1:14, were afterwards themselves designed and called to be διδάσκαλοι , or teachers.
And men in those days did not only learn in the church that they might be able afterwards to teach in the same, but also that they might be instrumental in the work of the gospel in other places: for out of the churches went those who were made use of in the propagation of the gospel ordinarily; which cannot now well be imitated, unless the whole ancient order were restored, which we are not yet to expect. Wherefore hearers in the church were not only taught those things which might be sufficient unto their own edification, but every thing also that was necessary to the edification of others; an ability for whose instruction it was their duty to aim at. I do not say that this was the duty of all hearers. Every one was not to labor to profit by the word that he might himself be a teacher. Many things might invincibly incapacitate sundry persons from any such work or office. But yet in those days it might be the duty of many, especially in that church of the Hebrews; for this was the great seminary of preachers for the whole world all that time wherein the law was to go forth from Zion, and healing waters from Jerusalem. And there were two reasons why the ministry of the Jews was so necessary and useful to the world, whereby the Gentiles were made debtors unto them, by a participation of their spiritual things; not only which were theirs originally, and possessed by them before the Gentiles had any interest in them, but also because by their ministry they were communicated unto them, Romans 15:27:
1. Because, upon their conversion to Christ, they immediately made a great progress in knowledge. For they had before received the seeds and foundations of all evangelical truths in the scriptures of the Old Testament; and so soon as the light of the gospel shined into their hearts, all things were cleared up unto them, from, the true sense of those principles wherein they had before been instructed which was now made manifest unto them. And our apostle immediately blames these Hebrews for the want of an acquaintance with those principles. But hence were those who did really profit by the word quickly ready for this work. On the other side the Gentile converts, setting aside the consideration of extraordinary illumination, revelation, and inspiration by the Spirit of God, which many in those days were made partakers of, must needs require a longer time to be perfectly instructed in the mysteries of the gospel, whereunto they had been such utter strangers.
2. It was in the Jews’synagogues, throughout their dispersions in the world, that the preachers of the gospel began to divulge their message. For God had so ordained, that in all places the accomplishment of the promise made unto their fathers should first be declared unto them, Acts 13:32-33; Acts 13:46. Now this could not be done but by those that were Jews; for the Gentile converts, being uncircumcised, could neither have access unto their synagogues nor acceptance with them. On this account it was greatly incumbent on these Hebrews to thrive in knowledge, that they might be able to teach others, when God in his providence should call them thereunto. And hence it was, that when this church, not long after its first planting, was scattered by persecution, all the members of it went up and down preaching the gospel with great success, first to the Jews, and then to the Grecians also, Acts 8:4; Acts 11:19-20. After this those that succeeded, as it seems, were remiss and negligent in learning, and so unfit for this work; which the apostle blames in them.
This I take to be the meaning of the place. But if you will suppose that the apostle useth the word διδάσκαλοι in a larger sense, for any that are able to instruct others, as their neighbors, families, or relations, as occasion should require, then it was the duty of all these Hebrews to have been such teachers, and their sin it was wherein they were not able so to be.
Obs. 2. Churches are the schools of Christ, wherein his disciples are trained up unto perfection, every one according to the measure appointed for him, and his usefulness in the body.
We may consider the church in general, and with respect unto some particular members of it.
First, In general, every one that belongs unto it ought to have a double aim; first his own edification, and then his usefulness in respect of others. The first is the principal end, both of the ministry and the administration of all ordinances in the church, Ephesians 4:11-13. This, therefore, in the first place, is that which everyone ought to attend diligently unto; which also they are continually exhorted, encouraged, and persuaded unto in the Scripture, as that which is indispensably required of them, 2 Peter 3:18. And those who are negligent herein do frustrate all the ends of Christ’s love and care towards them in his church; which they must answer for. And the want of it, in some good measure, is a dreadful symptom of approaching eternal ruin, as our apostle declares, Hebrews 6:7-8. The church is the garden of Christ, enclosed and watered; and every plant which continueth in a withering, unthrifty condition will at length be plucked up and cast out. Herein, therefore, ought all to be trying and examining themselves who have any care of their own souls, and who intend not to make use of the ordinances of the gospel only to countenance them in their security, and so to hasten and aggravate their destruction. And there is nothing more lamentable, in the present profession of Christian religion, than the woful negligence of most herein. They hear the word, for the most part, as company, or custom, or their lusts, or ease, direct them. And they content themselves in hearing of it, without any endeavors for its improvement. So do many souls under the best of means come to the worst of ends. But this is not all. We are so to learn in the church as that we may be useful to others; a matter which few think of or trouble themselves about. But this Christ expects of all the members of his churches in an especial manner. For every church is “the body of Christ, and members in particular,” 1 Corinthians 12:27; that is, of the whole body, and unto one another. And the apostle there shows what a monstrous thing it is for a member to be useless in the body. Every one is to contribute to the growth of the whole, Ephesians 4:16; Colossians 2:19. He that doth not so is dead. One way or other every one may contribute to this building, cast into this sanctuary, some their talents, some their mites Times, seasons, opportunities, advantages for usefulness, are in the hand of God; but our duty it is to be prepared for them, and then to lay hold upon them. It is not every one’s lot or call to be public teachers of others; and the undertaking of that work without a due ability and an orderly call is forbidden, James 3:1: but every one may have occasion to make use of the utmost of that light and knowledge which is communicated unto them in the dispensation of the word. They who have not flocks to watch over may yet have families, relations, children, servants, masters, whom, by their light and knowledge, they may benefit; and it is required of them that so they should do. It may not be the duty of every one, at all times, to “convince gainsayers,” and to stop the mouths of them that oppose the truth; but it is so to be
“always ready to give an answer unto every man that asketh a reason of the hope that is in them, with meekness and fear,” 1 Peter 3:15;
and it will be so, to plead for and defend the truth, if they are called to suffer for it, like the martyrs in former days In these and such like things lies that usefulness in the body of Christ which every member of it ought to aim at under the means of instruction which he affords in his church. And those who do not will have their portion with the unprofitable. See Philippians 2:15-16. It is a sad condition, when a person can return no tolerable answer unto that inquiry, ‘Of what use are you in the church of Christ?’
Secondly, In particular, it were doubtless well if some persons in every church might be trained up under instruction with this very design, of being made meet to be teachers of others. The Lord Christ will indeed provide laborers for his harvest, but in his own way, and not in a compliance with our negligence.
Obs. 3. It is the duty of ministers of the gospel to endeavor their hearers’increase in knowledge, until they also are able to instruct others, according to their calls and opportunities. So did those who taught these Hebrews, whence they are reproved for failing their expectation. Some, it may be, are apt to fear lest their hearers should know too much. Many corrupt lusts and affections may prompt them hereunto; which are all resolved into self, with respect unto profit or reputation. And this hath proceeded so far in the degeneracy of the church of Rome, as to produce the commendation of blind obedience and ignorance, as the mother of devotion; than which nothing could be invented more contrary to the whole course and design of the gospel And it is well if no others are tainted with the same disease. Even good men had need to watch against discomposures of mind, when they find on trial, it may be, some of their hearers to be like David, “wiser” in the things of God “than their teachers.” And Joshua himself was earnest with Moses to forbid Eldad and Medad from prophesying; out of no good frame, as appeareth by the reply of Moses, “Enviest thou for my sake?” Numbers 11:29. But this occasioned the prayer of that holy man, which is unto us a rule of duty, “Would God that all the LORD’S people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his Spirit upon them!” And to a faithful minister, there is no greater crown nor cause of rejoicing, than when he can be instrumental so to carry on any of his hearers towards perfection, as that their gifts and abilities may outshine his own, especially if they are accompanied with humility and holiness. And for those who are either negligent in this work, or, taking upon them the place and duty of teachers, are unable for it, they betray the souls of men, and shall bear their own judgment.
The Second branch of the apostolical reproof consists in a declaration of the consequent or effect of the negligence reproved: “You have need that one should teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God.”
Χρείαν ἔχετε , “you have need;” ‘There is need of it on your account; if you are not thus taught again, you will not know the “principles of the oracles of God.”’We are said χρείαν ἔχειν , to need those things naturally without which we cannot well live, as Matthew 6:8; and morally without which we cannot perform our duty.
Τοῦ διδάσκειν ὑμᾶς . There is an antithesis herein, between their duty and the event, or unto what was before mentioned as expected from them. It was expected justly, that they should be διδάσκαλοι , “teachers;” but they had need τοῦ διδάσκειν αὐτοῦς , “that one should teach them.” And so πάλιν , which we render “again,” may be well rendered, “on the contrary,” or “on the other side:” ‘It is thus fallen out, by your negligence, that instead of being “teachers of others,” of being masters of the assemblies, you, “on the other hand,” had need to be placed on the lowest form of those who learn; the highest evidence of your dulness and want of proficiency.’ Τοῦ διδάσκειν , that is, say we, “that one should teach you;” τίνα , that “some one or other should do it.” Or μέ may be supplied; “that I should teach you.” So he useth the same kind of expression, Οὐ χρείαν ἔχετε γράφειν ὑμῖν , “Ye have no need to write unto you;” that is, ‘that I should write unto you,’ 1 Thessalonians 4:9. As he expressly speaks, 1 Thessalonians 1:8, ῝Ωστε μὴ χρείΑν ἡμᾶς ἔχειν λαλεῖν τι , “That we should not need to speak any thing.” But yet whereas the apostle treats not about his own personal ministry towards them, but of their continued instruction by the constant means they enjoyed, it may be left indefinitely, that “one,” or “some,” should do that work, ‘That you should be taught.’
Τίνα τὰ στοιχεῖα , “which be the first principles;” not only which they are, but what they are, is intended. The words, as they lie in our translation, seem to intimate that this alone is aimed at, namely, that they should be taught to distinguish between the first principles of Christian religion and the superstructions on them, or necessary deductions from them; but the very nature of the things themselves is intended. They were to be instructed in the principles of Christian religion in the sense to be explained.
Στοιχεῖον is used by our apostle indifferently, so as that it may be taken in a good or bad sense, according as its adjuncts require. Frequently he applies it to the principles and rudiments of the Jewish religion, or Mosaical institutions: Galatians 4:3, Στοιχεῖα τοῦ κόσμου , “The rudiments of the world;” earthly, carnal, worldly, as opposed to the spiritual, heavenly principles of the gospel: Galatians 4:9, Ασθενῆ καὶ πτωχὰ στοιχεῖα , “Weak and beggarly elements,” which could not enrich the souls of men with grace. See Colossians 2:8; Colossians 2:20. Nor doth he at any time make use of this word but when he treateth with the Jews, or those that did Judaize. By Peter the word is used in another sense; either properly or metaphorically, 2 Peter 3:10; 2 Peter 3:12.
Στοιχεῖα are the “first principles” of anything, natural or artificial, or the first ground of any science; as the letters of the alphabet are the στοιχεῖα of reading, the principles, rudiments, elements.
Στοιχεῖα τῆς ἀρχῆς , that is, τὰ στοχεῖα τὰ πρῶτα , the “first principles,” as in our translation; “the principles of the beginning.” Τῶν λογίων τοῦ Θεοῦ , “of the oracles of God,” “eloquiorum Dei.” Λόγια Θεοῦ are the Scriptures; usually in the New applied unto these of the Old Testament: Acts 7:38, ῞Ος ἐδέξατο λόγια ζῶντα δοῦναι ἡμῖν , “Who received the living oracles to give unto us;” that is, the law, “which if a man do, he shall live therein.” The Jews ἐπιστεύθησαν τὰ λόγια τοῦ Θεοῦ , “were intrusted with the oracles of God,” Romans 3:2; that is, all the scriptures of the Old Testament: so that what was not committed unto them in the same way is not to be reckoned among the “oracles of God” belonging unto the Old Testament. 1 Peter 4:11, Εἵ τις λαλεῖ , ὡς λόγια Θεοῦ , “If any man speak, as the oracles of God;” that is, let them that teach, speak with gravity and authority, and every way conformably to the Scriptures. And the Scriptures are thus called, because as oracles they were given out from God by inspiration, 2 Timothy 3:16, 2 Peter 1:21.
We may now, therefore, inquire what it is that the apostle intends by these “first rudiments” or “principles of the oracles of God.” It is generally apprehended that he designs the catechetical principles of Christian religion, which also, as it is supposed, he reckons up in the beginning of the next chapter; such principles as converts, or young children, are usually instructed and catechised in. And it may be he calls them “principles,” as the Jews call the principal heads of their religion “fundamenta legis,” the “ foundations of the law;” as he also calls these principles θεμέλιον , the “foundation,” Hebrews 6:1. But yet, upon the consideration of the words, and his use of them in other places, before declared, I judge that he hath another design. Στοιχεῖα he elsewhere declares to be the institutions of the law; and λόγια τοῦ Θεοῦ peculiarly denote the scriptures of the Old Testament. The use and end of these institutions, as appointed and declared in the oracles of God, was to type out Jesus Christ, as our apostle will more fully afterwards prove and confirm. This was the first thing that the Jews were to learn in them, by them, and from them; namely, that unto the Lord Christ, his person, his office, his death and sacrifice, testimony was given by Moses and the prophets; as also that these things alone were represented in the institutions of the law. These were “the rudiments of the oracles of God” committed unto the Jews; and these, that is, the meaning, sense, end and use of them, they had not learned, but had need to be taught them again. This made them incline to their old Judaism, make little progress in the perception of the mysteries of the gospel, and desire to mix the ceremonies of the law with the ordinances thereof. But as this was peculiar unto them, so I deny not but that, by just analog, it may be extended unto the first necessary principles of Christian religion. And from the whole of this discourse we may observe,
Obs. 4. That the holy Scriptures are to be looked on, consulted, and submitted unto, as “the oracles of God.”
The consideration of their being so adds to our duty, and directs us in its discharge. For we are called by it to weigh aright what is ascribed unto them and what belongs to them as such. And this will influence us with that due regard and reverence which is required towards them. Thus we may consider,
1. Their efficacy and power. Stephen calls them τὰ λόγια ζῶντα , the “living oracles” of God, Acts 7:38. They are so in respect of their Author, they are the oracles of “the living God;” whereas the oracles wherewith Satan infatuated the world were most of them at the shrines and graves of dead men; whence, in their idolatries, the Israelites were charged to have “ate the sacrifices of the dead,” Psalms 106:28. And they are so in respect of their use and efficacy; they are “living,” because life-giving oracles unto them that obey them. “Keep this word,” saith Moses, “for it is your life,” Deuteronomy 32:47 And God says that he gave the people precepts, “which if a man do, he shall live in them,” Ezekiel 20:11. And it hinders not that Stephen speaks of the law given by Moses, concerning which our apostle, says that it was “the ministry of death,” 2 Corinthians 3:7; for it was not so in itself, but by reason of the sin and inability of men to keep it. So the law could not give life, in that it was weak through sin, Romans 8:3. Besides, Paul speaks only of the preceptive part of the law, with the curse annexed unto its transgression. Stephen treats of the whole, as it had respect unto Jesus Christ. They are words accompanied with divine power and efficacy, to quicken and give life unto them that obey them; which proceeds from their Author, and his power in them, as Hebrews 4:12. The Scriptures are not a “dead letter,” as some have blasphemed, but the “living oracles of God,” that is, life-giving, quickening; or they are accompanied with a living power, which they will put forth and exert toward the souls of men. For God still speaks in them unto us So saith, Stephen: “Moses received the living oracles of God to give unto us; ‘ ‘not to our fathers only, who lived in those days, but unto us also, now so many generations after.’And in the same manner doth God, by his prophets and apostles, continue to speak to us; which gives power and efficacy unto their word.
2. Authority. They are the “oracles of God,” who hath supreme authority over the souls and consciences of us all. So the Thessalonians are commended, that
“when they received the word, they received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God,” 1 Thessalonians 2:13;
that is, absolutely submitting their souls and consciences unto the authority of God, speaking therein and thereby. And without this respect we can never read nor hear the Scripture in a due manner.
3. Infallible truth and absolute certainty. They are the “oracles of God,” who is the first truth, whose being is truth, and who cannot lie. Every thing that may be false hath an inconsistency with his being. To suppose that any thing which is not absolutely true can proceed from him, is to deny him to be God. Peter gives no other proof that in the preaching of the gospel they “followed not cunningly-devised fables,” but that they were confirmed by the oracle of God, 2 Peter 1:16-21. God is “a God of truth,” Deuteronomy 32:4; and all his words are “words of truth,” Ecclesiastes 12:10. Herein then, alone, the souls of men can find assured rest and peace. Whatever else they may lean upon, whatever appearance of truth it may have, yet falsehood and a lie may be in it. Before God gave his oracles unto men, that is, before he sent out his light and truth to lead and guide them, they did nothing but perpetually wander in ignorance, error, and darkness, unto destruction. And so far as any yet take any thing else but the oracles of truth for their guide, they must continually fluctuate; and though they are not always actually deceived, they are never certain but that they are so. “I will show thee what is noted in the scripture of truth,” Daniel 10:21, is the only guide we have for our souls.
4. Mysteries. “Oracles” have mysteries in them, and under this covert Satan endeavored to hide his delusions. For whereas the oracles of God were mysterious from the matter contained in them, which is sacred, holy, sublime, and incomprehensible, he delivered himself in dark, enigmatical, dubious expressions, that, making an appearance of something mysterious, he might draw a cloud of darkness over his lies and falsehoods. And it is in opposition unto all the pretended mysteries of Gentile worship, that our apostle, summing up the principal doctrines concerning the person and mediation of Christ Jesus, says, “Without controversy great is the mystery of godliness,” 1 Timothy 3:16. The oracles of God are mysterious from the depths and excellency of the things revealed, delivered in words of truth and soberness. And this will teach us how we ought to behave ourselves with respect unto the word, these oracles of God. It is generally owned to be our duty to read it, to study it, to meditate upon it, and to attend unto its dispensation in preaching; and those by whom these things are neglected shall bear their own judgment: but as to the manner of the discharge of these duties, there may be a great failure among the best. That diligence, that reverence, that submission of mind and conscience, that dependence on God for the revelation of his mind and will, which ought constantly to accompany all them who consider and attend unto the oracles of God, we are too often at a loss in.
Obs. 5. God hath, in infinite love and wisdom, so disposed of his word as that there are first principles, plain and necessary, laid down in it, to facilitate the instruction he intends thereby.
Men have learned this wisdom in teaching of all arts and sciences. They first lay down general principles and theorems, which they make the basis and foundation of all their following instructive deductions. And so there are “first principles of the oracles of God.”
And, 1. They are plain, and easy to be learned. The things themselves contained in them, as hath been showed, are deep and mysterious; but they are all of them so plainly declared, as that he who runs may read them. It is an unquestionable truth, that what is not clearly and plainly revealed in the word, though it be true, and the knowledge of it very useful, yea, necessary to some persons in some circumstances, yet it doth not belong unto those “principles of the oracles of God,” which it is the duty of all men expressly to know and believe. I could go over all the principles that are of this nature, and evince that they are all of them so plainly, so fully, so clearly revealed, taught, and expressed, and that in words and terms so suited unto the reason and understandings of men, that none unto whom the word of God comes can be ignorant of them without the guilt of supine negligence and horrible sloth; nor will any err about them, unless their minds are prepossessed with invincible prejudices, or carnal, corrupt, and earthly affections. And this is necessarily required unto the nature of first principles. They must be maxims plainly and evidently declared and asserted, or they are very unmeet to be the first principles of knowledge in any kind.
2. They are such as being learned, received, believed in a due manner, the way is plain for men towards perfection; they have such an influence into all other sacred truths, which, indeed, are but deductions from them, or lesser streams from that blessed fountain which is contained in them, and do so suit and prepare the mind for them, that they have an easy access unto it. The minds of men being duly inlaid with these “first principles of the oracles of God,” it is unconceivable how they may thrive in the knowledge of the deepest mysteries, and that in a due manner. If, indeed, when men have been instructed in these principles, they grow careless and negligent, as though they halt obtained enough, and need seek no farther, as is the manner of many, they will be of no advantage unto them. He that lays the foundation of a house, and neglects the carrying on of the building, will find it but a sorry shelter in a storm. And whereas God hath designed the knowledge of these principles as a means unto a further growth and improvement, from whence they are so termed, where that end is neglected, he will blast the other attainment, that it shall be utterly useless. But where this foundation is well laid, where these principles are duly learned, and improved as they ought to be, they make the way smooth and easy unto greater degrees of knowledge; I mean, unto such as are industrious in the use of means. And this, as it makes evident what is our duty concerning them, so it gives great encouragement unto the discharge thereof. We ought to learn them, because they are principles; and we are encouraged to learn them, because they open the way to further improvement.
3. They are such, as that if they are not duly learned, rightly understood, and if the mind be not possessed with them, all endeavors after higher attainments in light and knowledge are preposterous, and will prove fruitless. Yea, some are reaching; and among others, sundry consequents, all of them dangerous, and some of them pernicious, do ensue on this neglect. For,
(1.) Some are apt to be reaching after abstruse speculations, both in themselves and in the manner of their revelation, before they have any acquaintance with those “first principles of the oracles of God.” And constantly one of these events doth ensue; for either they are “always learning, and never come to the knowledge of the truth,” wearying themselves in the search of such things as they cannot comprehend nor be led into a right understanding of; or else are “vainly puffed up in their fleshly minds,” upon a presumption that they know some marvellous thing beyond the common rate of other men, when they know nothing as they ought, nothing with respect unto its proper principles,
(2.) This is the cause whence so many persons, using industry and diligence in the hearing of the word, do yet learn, thrive, and profit so little as they do. All preaching, at least for the most part, supposeth a knowledge of these first principles; without which not one word that is spoken therein can well be understood. Many, therefore, being unacquainted with them, must of necessity lose that advantage by the preaching of the word which otherwise they might attain. And this was the very case in hand between our apostle and the Hebrews, which put him to such a strait. He knew that it was his duty to declare, to the church “the whole counsel of God,” and that in the deepest and most mysterious truths of the gospel, so carrying them on to perfection; but he also found that these things would prove unprofitable to many, because their minds were not as yet well inlaid with the “first principles of the oracles of God.” This put him to the strait he expresseth in the beginning of the sixth chapter. And so it falls out among ourselves. It is ofttimes a grief unto us, to consider how many of our hearers seem to have little advantage by the best of our endeavors, because of their ignorance in the supposed principles and foundations of what we deliver. Hence they hear, and go away altogether unconcerned in what they have heard; and,it may be, complain of the sermon or preacher, when the fault was solely in their own understandings. But as we ought, for the sake of some who are real beginners, to divert unto their instruction in those fundamental principles of religion; so we ought not, in a compliance with their sloth and negligence who have carelessly omitted the acquainting of themselves with them, cease our endeavor to carry on more diligent and thriving souls toward perfection, nor would Paul do so in this place. In the meantime, parents, masters, ministers, all in their several stations and capacities, ought to consider of how great importance it is to have all those committed to their care, or under their inspection, well instructed in those “first principles of the oracles of God.”
(3.) Hence it is that multitudes are so easily seduced unto foolish and sottish errors, and such as overthrow the foundation of truth and faith in them who do entertain them. Things are proposed unto them under specious pretences, which at first seem to have somewhat excellent and peculiar in them, and, as far as they can discern, are of no evil tendency; but after they have embraced them, and are brought under their power, it is found, when it is too late, that they have virtually renounced the foundation of the gospel, and are now taken in the snare that cannot be broken, for it is for their life.
4. These principles are such, as that if they alone are known, received, believed, obeyed, provided their progress in knowledge be not obstructed by men’s own negligence, prejudices, or lusts, they may attain the end of faith and obedience, in the salvation of their souls. They are such, as without the express knowledge whereof in those that are adult, the Scripture speaks nothing of any possibility of attaining unto life and immortality. And as was declared before, the knowledge of them, where they are not duly improved unto an increase of light, according to the means we do enjoy, is no way available; but upon a supposition that a man is brought unto an acquaintance with these principles of the oracles of God, in the want of means and advantages to carry him on towards perfection in the knowledge of other principles of truth, useful and necessary in their places and circumstances, though he should be ignorant of them, or fall into errors about them, not inconsistent with or destructive of the principles he hath received, they are sufficient in their own kind to lead and conduct him unto rest with God. And as this consideration will not give the least countenance unto the sloth or negligence of any who do or may enjoy the advantage of growing in the knowledge of God, and of our Lord Jesus Christ; so it is a relief with respect unto their condition who, by reason of the blindness of their pretended guides, or on any other occasion, are not supplied with the means of a further improvement.
And from what hath been discoursed it appears, both of what great importance it is unto our faith and obedience, to be well instructed in the chief principles of religion, as also what an inexcusable fault it is, in those who for any season have enjoyed the means of instruction, to be found defective herein.
Obs. 6. Those who live under the preaching of the gospel are obnoxious to great and provoking sins, if they diligently watch not against them. Such was that of these Hebrews here mentioned. But hereof, as also of the danger of such sins, we must treat more afterwards.
Thirdly, It follows, as an illustration of what was before charged on the Hebrews, and to the same purpose, “And are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.” This allusion the apostle chose, to represent unto them the state or condition whereinto they were brought by their sinful negligence, as also to give life and strength unto his reproof; and therefore pursues it to the end of the chapter. Γεγόνατε , “ye are become.” The word may be taken in a twofold sense; for,
1. It may signify, ‘It appears what you are, and what you stand in need of. It may be some have had other thoughts of you, by reason of your profession, and the time of instruction you have enjoyed. You have had “a name to live,” and possibly to be in a very flourishing condition, as being the first church in the world, the mother in some sort of all other churches, and such as have had privileges which no other church ever had, or ever shall enjoy. But, upon trial, it is made manifest how dull and slothful you have been, how ignorant you are, and how little you have improved your season.’And it will in like manner be one day evident, that many churches and persons who make a goodly appearance, on the account of their outward privileges and enjoyments, will be found, when they are brought into the balance of the sanctuary, to be light, empty, dead, and every way insufficient. But things are changed in the world. Churches are now esteemed of, or pretend unto an esteem, by their pleas of antiquity, outward order, solemnity of forms, and a seemingly sacred grandeur, without the least respect unto the light, knowledge, and holiness of their members. In the days of the apostles it was not so. Unless churches in their members did thrive in grace, knowledge, and holiness, they had no respect unto outward things, though never so good in their place and order, but as aggravations of the sin and judgment of unprofitable professors. And this may be the sense of that expression, γεγόνατε , “ye are become;” for so are many things in the Scripture said then to be, when they are made manifest, or appear so to be.
2. It may be the apostle by this expression denotes a decay and declension in them. ‘You are become,’that is now, ‘what formerly you were not. So Chrysostom on the place: Οὐκ εἴπε χρείαν ἔχετε , ἀλλὰ γεγόνατε χρείαν ἔχοντες· τούτεστι ὑμεῖς ἠθελήσατε , ὑμεῖς ἑαυτοὺς εἰς τοῦτο κατεστήσατε , “This is that which you have now brought yourselves unto.” They had been taught, and they had learned the things of the gospel; but now, through their carelessness, forgetfulness, and want of industry to grow in grace and knowledge, they were decayed into great darkness, ignorance, and confusion. And it is known that this is no unusual thing among professors. Through their inadvertency, sinful negligence, worldly-mindedness, they lose the knowledge which they had attained; and, on a perverse continuance in such an evil course, through the righteous judgment of God, even all that they seemed to have is taken from them. Knowledge may be lost as well as holiness, at least as unto the degrees of it. And it is most probable, from the nature and tenor of his whole discourse, that this is the evil which the apostle chargeth them withal; which sufficiently manifests the greatness of their sin and the danger of their condition. For it is worse with them who have, through their own default, lost what they had attained in the ways of God, than with those who never attained what was their duty so to do; for the loss of light and knowledge proceeds from causes of a more enormous guilt than a mere ignorance of them ordinarily doth, or indeed can do.
What they were thus become, as to their state and condition, the apostle in the same similitude expresses.
1. Positively; they were such as had need γάλακτος , of “milk.”
2. Negatively; καὶ οὐ στερεᾶς τροφῆς , “and not of strong meat.”
Κρείαν ἔχοντες , in the same sense as χρείαν ἔχετε before; only, as joined with γεγόνατε , it may intend their decay and declension into a worse estate than what they were in formerly: ‘You are come to stand in need.’In the similitude proposed, the word of God is compared to food, and the several sorts of it, both as to their nature and use; for it is the food of our souls. And natural food is distinguished by the apostle in this place into “milk” and “strong meat;” which gives us a distribution of the oracles of God into two general heads also, answering in respect of use unto these two sorts of food.
1. Positively, “ You have need of milk. ” The whole word of God is, it may be, sometimes compared absolutely unto milk, because of its purity and freedom from corrupt mixtures, whence it is fit for nourishment: 1 Peter 2:2, “ As new-born babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby.” Nothing is of a more natural nourishment than milk; and it is never hurtful but where the body is prepossessed with obstructions. These in the mind, with respect to the word, the apostle in that place warns us to cast out. Verse 1, “Wherefore, laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and evil speakings, as new-born babes.” So James doth in like manner, James 1:21. In this place, I say, it is supposed that the whole gospel, the whole word of God, which is the food of our souls, is compared unto milk. But I rather judge that even here some especial parts or doctrines of the word, suited to the condition of them to whom the apostle speaks, are intended. He calls them “new-born babes;” that is, persons newly converted to Christ, and it may be but weak in the faith. These he adviseth to seek after suitable food in the word, for the nourishment of their souls, or the strengthening of them in faith and obedience; and that is those plain doctrines of truth which were meet for them who as yet were not capable of higher mysteries. It is therefore some parts of the word only, and some things taught therein, which are compared to milk, both with respect unto the nature and common use of it. It is a kind of food that is easy of digestion, needs no great strength of nature to turn it into nutriment; and is therefore the common nourishment of babes, and children, and sick persons, not sufficing to maintain the health and strength of persons of full age and a healthy constitution. So our apostle useth the same similitude, 1 Corinthians 3:1-2,
“And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat; for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able.”
The same similitude, the same distribution of the parts of it, is used as in this place. The reason why babes are fed with milk is because they want strength of nature to digest stronger meat; so he says they were able to bear milk, but not strong meat spiritually. It is evident, therefore, what the apostle here understandeth by “milk,” namely, such doctrines of truth as he calls “the first principles of the oracles of God,” plain and fundamental truths; such in some measure they might be capable of, but not of the great and deep mysteries of the gospel. And he declares whom he intends by these “babes,” even such as are “carnal;” that is, such as, by reason of their indulgence unto their carnal affections, had kept their souls in a weak and distempered condition as unto spiritual things.
This condition of theirs, as it was a consequent of their own sin, so it was a grief and discouragement unto him who designed and earnestly desired to carry them on unto perfection, “unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” And this being the great end of the ministry towards the church, Ephesians 4:12-13, it is no small trouble unto all that are faithful in the discharge of their office, when they find their hearers not so to thrive as to be capable of receiving the highest mysteries of truth. It is grievous unto them, either always to dwell on the first rudiments of religion, or to treat of things which they fear to be above the capacity of their auditors. Their delight and satisfaction is to be dispersing the mysteries of the gospel and of the kingdom of God. Hereof we have a most eminent instance in our apostle. His writing and his preaching to the churches were of the same kind, as in sundry places he doth declare. And we see that the greatest part of his epistles is taken up with the declaration of the deepest mysteries of the will, wisdom, and counsel of God. And for this cause he is now by some reflected on, as a person whose writings are obscure, and hard to be understood; for men begin not to fear to cast the shame and guilt of their own ignorance on a pretended obscurity in his writings. Thus these Hebrews had need of milk, and that not through the tenderness of their constitution, but by having contracted an ill habit of mind.
2. Negatively, he says they had not need of “strong meat;” that is, it was not expedient, in their present condition, to set it before them, unless they were first sufficiently excited out of their stupid negligence. Στερεὰ τροφή is “meat yielding solid nourishment.” Now, as in general all the principal mysteries of the gospel, that whole wisdom which he preached ἐν τοῖς τελείοις 1 Corinthians 2:6, “unto” (or “among”) “them that were perfect” or adult, and grown up unto some good measure in the stature of Christ, are intended hereby; so in especial he hath respect unto the things which belong unto the priesthood and sacrifice of Christ. These are solid meat unto the souls of sound believers. And hereby Christians may take a due measure of their spiritual health, strength, and growth. If the solid doctrines concerning the offices of Christ, especially his priesthood and sacrifice, are suited to their minds and affections, if they find food and spiritual nourishment in them, it is a good evidence of their progress in the knowledge of Christ and the gospel. But if such things have neither taste nor relish in them unto their spiritual appetite; if they do not readily digest them, nor find benefit by them, it is manifest they are but weak and feeble, as the apostle further proves in the following verses.
And we may observe from the first sense of that expression, “You are become,”
Obs. 7. There will be a time when false and unprofitable professors will be made manifest and discovered, either to their present conviction or their eternal confusion.
And from the second sense of it, it may be observed,
Obs. 8. That men do oftentimes secretly wax worse and worse under profession and means of grace. Of the causes and ways hereof see our exposition on Hebrews 4:13.
Obs. 9. There are provisions of truth in the Scripture, suitable to the spiritual instruction and edification of all sorts of persons that belong to Jesus Christ. There is in it both “milk” and “strong meat.”
The disciples of Christ ever were, and ever will be, in this world, of several sorts, sizes, and capacities. In the house of God there are all sorts of vessels, of lesser and greater quantity, cups and flagons, Isaiah 22:24. There are in the church babes, young men, and fathers, 1 John 2:0. There are among the hearers of the gospel persons sound, healthy, thriving; and those that are weak, sickly, and feeble. Their different ages and capacities, with their distinct measures of opportunities and diligence, their temptations and occasions of life, make this diversity necessary and unavoidable; as in the same flock of sheep there are lambs, and strong sheep, and ewes great with young. Now, in a house where there dwell together old men, and strong men, and children or babes, those that are healthy and those that are sick, if they should be all of them bound up unto the same diet or food, some of them must necessarily perish. But a wise householder will provide for them differently, according to their several states and capacities, that which shall be wholesome and convenient for them all; and the principal wisdom of the steward of the house is to give out to every one a portion proper for him. So is it in the church of Christ, which is the family of God; and therefore the great Householder hath prepared his heavenly manna according to the spiritual appetite and digestion of them all. As upon the receiving of manna every one gathered לְפִאּאָכְלוֹ , Exodus 16:18, according to his appetite and need, so is the heavenly manna of the word disposed, that every one may have what suits him. There are in the word, as was said of old, fords where the lamb may wade, and depths where the elephant may swim. There are in it plain doctrines and first principles, necessary unto all; and there are truths of a deeper search, that are profitable to some. And concerning these things we may observe,
1. That the Lord Christ hath an especial care of the weak, the young, the sick, and the diseased of his flock. There is, indeed, a difference to be put between them who are so invincibly by their natural infirmities, temptations, and tenderness in the ways of religion, and those who are so through their own neglect and sloth, as it was with these Hebrews. The latter sort are severely to be admonished and rebuked; but to the former Christ showeth singular tenderness and compassion. So in the first place he committeth unto Peter the care and charge of his lambs, John 21:15. And the like affection he declareth in his own person, as he is the great Shepherd of the sheep, Isaiah 40:11. He will take care of the whole flock, according to the office and duty of a shepherd, but his especial care is concerning his lambs, and those that are with young; and in the severity which he threateneth against false and idle shepherds, he regards principally their neglect of the diseased, the sick, the broken, and that which is driven away, Ezekiel 34:4. These, therefore, in the dispensation of the gospel, must be carefully attended unto, and food convenient, or nourishment suitable to their state and condition, is carefully to be provided for them. And not only so, but they are in all things to be dealt withal with the same gentleness, tenderness, and meekness, that Christ exerciseth towards them. He will one day call some to an account for rough and brutish usage of his lambs. Whether they have hindered them from being fed according to their necessity, or have driven them from their pasture, or have further exercised severity against them, it must be all accounted for unto the love and care of Christ. But,
2. The delight of Christ is in them that thrive, and are strong in the faith, as those from whom he receives most of honor and glory. We, therefore, ought to aim that they may all be such, such as may take in and thrive upon solid food, the deeper mysteries of the gospel. To pretend, from Christ’s care of the weak, that those other more deep and mysterious truths, which the apostle compareth unto “strong meat,” are needless to be inquired into, is highly blasphemous. This some are come unto; they think we have no need to search into the principal mysteries of the gospel, but to take up with the plain lessons of morality which are given us therein, and in other good books besides. But a higher reflection on the wisdom of God men can scarcely contract the guilt of. To what end hath he revealed these things unto us? Why hath he recorded that revelation in his word? Why doth he appoint his whole counsel, so revealed, to be declared and preached?
Certainly never was any thing more unwisely contrived than the giving the Scripture to the church, if it be not our duty to endeavor an acquaintance with the principal things contained in it. But these men seem not to know the design of God towards his church. They may learn it if they please from our apostle, Ephesians 4:7-14. It is not merely that men may have so much light and knowledge, faith and obedience, as will, as it were, serve their turn, to bring them at last unto heaven, though no pretended measures of these things ‘e sufficient for that end, where men rest in them to the neglect of farther attainments. But God aimeth to bring men unto clearer discoveries of his wisdom, grace, and love, than they have yet attained; into nearer communion with himself; to a fuller growth in light, knowledge, faith, and experience; that even in this world he may more eminently communicate of himself unto them: which he doth in and by the truths which they despise. These truths and doctrines, therefore, also, which the apostle calls “strong meat” for “them that are of full age,” are to be searched, inquired into, and preached. Wherefore, hence it will follow in general,
1. That it is the wisdom of the dispensers of the gospel to consider what doctrines are most suitable unto the capacity and condition of their hearers. And in particular,
2. That it is a preposterous and unprofitable course, to instruct them in the greater mysteries of the gospel who have not as yet well laid the foundation, in understanding the more common and obvious principles of it; which the apostle confirms and illustrates: Hebrews 6:13-14,
“For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness; for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth unto them that are of full age, even those who, by reason of use, have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.”
These verses contain a further illustration and confirmation of what was before asserted; and a reason is added with respect unto the Hebrews, why they stood in need of milk, and not of strong meat. To this end the apostle gives a description of the two sorts of hearers before mentioned. First, Of those that use milk, verse 13; that is, who ought so to do. Secondly, Of those unto whom strong meat doth more properly appertain, verse 14. Of the first he says, “Every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness.” It may be the reasoning of the apostle would have seemed more perspicuous if the subject and predicate of this proposition had been changed; as if he had said, ‘Those who are unskilful in the word of righteousness had need of milk.’And so he speaks in the next verse, where those who are of “full age,” and “have their senses exercised to discern good and evil,” are said to have need or use of “strong meat.” But all comes to the same purpose. Having told them in the verse foregoing that they were “such as had need of milk,” he describes in this what sort of persons they are who are in that condition, even such as are “unskilful in the word of righteousness;” such are “babes.”
Πᾶς ὁ μετέχων γάλακτος , “quisquis lacte participatur.” This is the subject spoken of: every one who is of the number of them who, by reason of their infirm, weak state and condition, ought to be fed and nourished with milk. What is this milk, what is intended by it, and what it is to be fed with it, have been already declared. It is mentioned here only to repeat the subject spoken of, and which is further to be described. For he is,
῎Απειρος λόγου δικαιοσύνης . “Unskilful,” say we. “Rudis,” “inexpertus.” Properly, “one that hath no experience,” as in the margin of our translation. So any one is said to be “inexpertus armorum,” “unexpert in arms.” So David put off Saul’s armor, no doubt excellent in itself, because he had not been so exercised in such arms as to be ready and expert in them. ῎Απειρος is, he who is “unacquainted” with any thing, either as to its nature or its use. And when this is referred unto the understanding, it is not amiss rendered by “want of skill,” “unskilful.” And this is spoken, not of him who is utterly ignorant of any matter, but who, having some general knowledge of it, is not able wisely to manage and improve it unto its proper end. And it is spoken with respect unto “the word of righteousness.”
Λόγου δικαιοσύνης . One thinks that by δικαιοσύνη here, τελειότης is intended, λόγος τέλειος : and this is put for τέλειος : and λόγος τέλειος , is the same with that σοφία , 1 Corinthians 2:6, and γνῶσις , Ephesians 3:10. But whatever we piece or fancy may be thus collected out of any word or text, by hopping from one thing to another without any reason or consequence. This word of righteousness” is no other but the word or doctrine of the gospel It is λόγος σταυροῦ , the “word of the cross,” from its principal subject, 1 Corinthians 1:18; and it is λόγος δικαιοσύνης , from its nature, use, and end. Therein is the righteousness of God revealed unto us, Romans 1:17; and the righteousness of Christ, or Christ as he is “the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth,” Romans 10:4, and so alone declares the way of righteousness, what that is which God approves and accepts, and how we come to be interested therein; as we shall see afterwards more at large.
Now, the Hebrews are not said to be ignorant, that is utterly, of this “word of righteousness,” for they owned and made profession of the gospel; but only to be “unskilful” in it, especially in the great mysteries of it, such as he was now communicating unto them. They had not attained unto a distinct and clear understanding of the truths of the gospel, so as to be able to improve them to their proper ends; or, they had not experience in themselves of their power, efficacy, and reality.
Lastly, The apostle gives the general reason of this whole state and condition, whence it is thus with any one: Νήπιος γάρ ἐστι . It can be no otherwise with such a one, seeing he is but a babe.’He intends, therefore, in the former words, not such as use milk occasionally, but such as feed on milk only. Such are νήπιοι . The word is used to signify either the least sort of children, such as we call babes, or such as are weak and foolish like them. The allusion is unto the first sort, such as live on milk alone. There are sundry qualities that are proper unto children, as simplicity, innocency, submission, weakness, and ignorance. And because these are different, believers are sometimes, with respect unto some of these qualities, compared unto them; and sometimes are forbidden to be like them, with respect unto others of them. David says of himself that he was as a “weaned child,” because of his submission, and the resignation of his will unto the will of God, Psalms 131:2. And our Savior requires us to receive the kingdom of God as little children, casting out those perverse and distempered affections and passions which are apt to retard us in our duty, Matthew 18:3, Luke 18:17; and, on the other side, with respect unto that weakness, ignorance, and inconstancy, which they are under the power of, we are forbidden to be like them, 1 Corinthians 14:20, Ephesians 4:14. Here the respect unto a babe is upon the account of these latter qualities. “Such,” saith Chrysostom, “as must be fed with milk; for being left unto themselves, they will put dirt and straw into their mouths.” And it is plain what sort of persons the apostle intendeth in this description: they are such as, enjoying the dispensation of the word, or who have done so for some season, yet, through their own sloth and negligence, have made little or no proficiency in spiritual knowledge. Such persons are babes, and have need of milk, and are not capable of instruction in the more heavenly mysteries of the gospel. And we may observe, that,
Obs. 1. The gospel is the only “word of righteousness,” in itself and unto us.
Utterly in vain will it be to seek for any material concernment of righteousness elsewhere. The law was originally a word of righteousness both in itself and unto us. As it was in our hearts, it was that effect of the righteousness of God in us, whereby we were made conformable and like unto him; which was our righteousness, Ephesians 4:24, Colossians 3:10; Ecclesiastes 7:29. As written in tables of stone, it was a transcript of what was created in our hearts, representing the righteousness of God objectively in the way of doctrine, as the other did subjectively by the way of principle. The sum of its precepts and promises was, “Do this, and live;” or, “The man that doeth those things shall live by them,” Romans 10:5, from Leviticus 18:5; Ezekiel 20:11; Deuteronomy 30:14. Hence it was every way a complete word of righteousness. And on all occasions it is in the Scripture pleaded as just or righteous, holy, equal, good; such as. God was glorified in, and man had no reason to complain of. But now, upon the entrance of sin, this law, although it continues eternally righteous in itself, yet it is no longer a word of righteousness unto us. Nay, it is become an occasion of more sin and more wrath, and on both accounts, of a greater distance between God and us; which are contrary to that righteousness which it was originally the word of, Romans 4:15; Romans 7:10-13. We were dead, and it could not give life; and after we were once sinners, it could do nothing at all towards the making of us righteous, Romans 8:3-4. Wherefore the gospel is now the only “word of righteousness,” both in itself and unto us. It is so declaratively, as the only means of its revelation; and it is so efficiently, as the only means of its communication unto us.
1. It is so declaratively, because “therein is revealed the righteousness of God,” Romans 1:17. This at first was revealed by the law; but now, as to our interest in it and benefit by it, it is so only by the gospel. For that declaration of the righteousness of God which remains in the law, however it be pure and holy in itself, tends not to beget righteousness in us, nor to give us peace with God. This, therefore, is done only by the gospel, and that on several accounts. For,
(1.) Therein the righteousness and severity of God against sin are more fully revealed than ever they were or could be by the law, in its sanction or most severe execution. It is true, our apostle tells us that “by the law is the knowledge of sin,” that is, of what it is, or what is so; but the knowledge of what it deserves in the righteousness of God is made more openly manifest by the gospel. Had God executed the sentence of the law on all offenders, he had thereby declared that he would not pardon sin; but in the gospel he declares that he could not do so, with the honor of his holiness, without an equivalent price and satisfaction. His righteousness and severity against sin are more fully manifested in the suffering and sacrifice of Christ to make atonement for sin, which are the foundations of the gospel, than ever they could have been in or by the law, Romans 3:25; Romans 8:2-3.
(2.) The faithfulness of God in the accomplishment of his promises is frequently in the Scripture called his “righteousness;” and it is so. And the first express promise that God ever gave unto his creatures was concerning Christ and his coming in the flesh, Genesis 3:15. From this did all other promises of God arise, as from their spring and fountain; and upon the accomplishment thereof do all their accomplishments depend. For if this be not fulfilled, whatever appearance there may be of any such thing, yet indeed no one promise of God was yet ever fulfilled from the foundation of the world. Hereon, then, alone depended the declaration of the righteousness of God, as it consists in his faithfulness. And this is done in and by the gospel, which is a declaration of God’s fidelity in the accomplishment of that ancient, that original promise, Romans 15:8; Luke 1:70; Acts 3:18; Acts 3:24-26.
(3.) The righteousness which God requireth, approveth, accepteth, is therein alone declared and revealed. And this is frequently also called “the righteousness of God,” 2 Corinthians 5:21, Romans 10:3; or “the righteousness which is of God by faith,” Philippians 3:9. It is not now the righteousness revealed in the law that God doth require of us, as knowing it impossible unto us; but it is that righteousness only wherein “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth,” Romans 8:3-4; Romans 10:3-4. Hence,
2. The gospel is the word of righteousness declaratively, because it alone reveals unto us our own righteousness; that is, what God requireth in us and will accept from us. This is the great inquiry of mankind not utterly hardened in sin, that is, who are not one half in hell already, namely, what they shall do for a righteousness wherewith to appear before God, to answer his justice, and to be accepted with him; for these are the ends of our righteousness, this it must do, or it will not avail us. Here mankind, left unto themselves and unto the law, would wander everlasting]y, until they were swallowed up in eternal ruin; and a thousand paths have they been tracing to this purpose. And after everything within them, without them, about them, above them, hath said unto them, ‘This is not the way,’they must all, after they have walked a little while in the light of the fire and the sparks they have kindled, receive this from the hand of God, that they shall lie down in sorrow, Isaiah 1:11. See the loss they are brought unto expressed, Micah 6:6-7. But here the gospel ariseth like the sun in its brightness, dispelling all darkness and mists, and evidently declaring a righteousness satisfactory unto all the wants and whole design of the soul, a righteousness suited to the holiness of God, answering his justice, becoming ours in a way expressing the goodness, grace, and love of God, whereby all the holy properties of his nature are glorified, and our souls secured. And this is the righteousness of Christ, both in what he did and suffered for us or in our stead, imputed unto us, or reckoned unto us for our righteousness, through faith in him. This is declared in the gospel alone; and indeed the whole gospel is nothing but the declaration of it, in its nature, causes, effects and consequents. Hence principally is the gospel called a “word of righteousness,” as being that blessed mystery of truth wherein the righteousness of God, of Christ, and of man, do meet and center, to the eternal glory of God, the honor of Christ, and our salvation.
3. It is a word of righteousness declaratively, because the doctrine thereof doth clearly and eminently teach and instruct us to be righteous with that righteousness which consisteth in universal holiness and fruitfulness in good works; that is, in the discharge of all duties towards God and man. This also is called our righteousness, and therein are we commanded to be righteous, 1 John 3:7. And although all duties of righteousness and holiness are taught and enjoined by the law, yet are they more perfectly, fully, and clearly so by the gospel. For therein the nature of them is more fully explained, directions instructive for their due performance are more full of light, plain, and evident, and enforcements of them are administered far more effectual than under the law. The doctrine of the gospel is universally a doctrine of holiness and righteousness, allowing not the least countenance, indulgence, or dispensation, on any pretense, to the least sin, but condemning the inmost disorders of the heart with the same severity that it doth the outward perpetration of actual sin, nor allowing a discharge from any duty whatever. See Titus 2:11-12. And there is no more required of us in this world but that our conversation be such as becometh the gospel. And those who, upon any pretense, do make it the ministry of sin and unrighteousness, shall bear their own judgment.
Again; It is “the word of righteousness” efficiently, as it is the instrument of communicating righteousness unto us, or of making us righteous. For,
1. Take our righteousness for that wherewith we are righteous before God, the righteousness of God in Christ, and it is tendered unto or communicated unto us by the promises of the gospel alone, Acts 2:38-39.
2. Faith, whereby we receive those promises, and Christ in them, with righteousness unto life, is wrought in us by the preaching of the gospel, Romans 10:17. And,
3. Our sanctification and holiness is wrought in us thereby, John 17:17. Which things ought to be more largely explained, but that I must now contract my discourse; wherefore, on all these accounts, and with respect unto all other real concernments of it, the gospel is in itself and unto us the word of righteousness. Therefore,
Obs. 2. It is a great aggravation of the negligence of persons under the dispensation of the gospel, that it is a “word of righteousness.”
To evince this, it is here so called by the apostle, that such persons may know what it is that they neglect and despise. To be regardless of any message from God, not to attend unto it diligently, not to use and pursue it unto its proper end, is a high affront to the divine Majesty; but whereas this message from God is such a word of righteousness, wherein all the concerns of God’s righteousness and our own are inwrapped, this is the highest aggravation that our disobedience is capable of. Consider also,
Obs. 3. That God requires, of all those who live under the dispensation of the gospel, that they should be “skillful in the word of righteousness.”
Those are blamed here who, after the time they had enjoyed in hearing, were yet “unskilful” in it; and this is part of that great and severe charge which the apostle in this place manageth against some of the Hebrews. Now, this skill in the gospel which is required of us respecteth either doctrines or things. As the doctrine of the gospel is respected, so it is practical knowledge that is intended. As it respects things, so it is experience. And this the word in the original casts a regard upon; whence we place in the margin, as the true signification of it, “hath no experience.” I shall not absolutely exclude either sense. And as to the first, or skill as it is a practical knowledge, it is an ability, readiness, or dexterity to use things Unto their proper ends. It supposeth a notional knowledge of their nature, use, and end, and asserteth an ability and dexterity to employ them accordingly; as he who is skillful in a trade or mystery is able to manage the rules, tools, and instruments of it unto their proper end. Wherefore in the duty proposed, it is supposed that a man have the knowledge of the doctrines of the gospel; and it is required that he be able readily to manage them to their proper ends. To know the nature of this duty, we must consider what are those ends of the gospel with respect whereunto it is required of us that we be able skilfully to use and improve the truths of it. ! shall name only three of them:
1. The increase and establishment of our faith. There is nothing to us of greater concernment, nor is it otherwise to be done but by the word of the gospel.. Thereby is faith first ingenerated; and thereby alone it is nourished, strengthened, and increased. It is the seed, it is the food, it is the life of faith. Wherein, then, consists the dexterity and ability of using the doctrine of the gospel unto the strengthening and preserving of our faith, which is required of us? It may be reduced unto these three heads:
(1.) The clearing and due application of its proper object unto it. Christ is the peculiar, immediate, and proper object of faith, and through him do we believe in God, 1 Peter 1:0. Now he is every way as such, in his person, offices, work, righteousness, revealed, declared, and proposed unto us, in the doctrine and promises of the gospel. Herein, therefore, consists our skill in the word of righteousness, in having in a readiness, and duly applying by faith, the doctrine and promises concerning Christ and his mediation. These are the nourishment of faith, whereby it grows and gets strength by the genuine and proper exercise of it, 2 Corinthians 3:18. And where this skill is wanting, where persons are not able out of their own stores to present their faith daily with suitable objects, as tendered in the doctrine and promises of the gospel, it will decay, and all the fruits of it will wither.
(2.) This skill in the word of righteousness is exercised in the preservation of faith, by a resistance unto the temptations that rise up against it. The great way of preserving faith in the assaults of Satan, is to have in a readiness some suitable and seasonable word out of the gospel whereby it may be assisted and excited. Then will faith be able to hold up its shield, whereby the fiery darts of Satan will be quenched. So dealt our Lord Jesus Christ himself in his temptation. No sooner did Satan make any assault upon him, but immediately he repelled his weapons, and secured his faith, by a suitable word out of the Scripture, all whose stores lay open to him, who was of “quick understanding in the fear of the Lord.” He, therefore, who is skillful in the gospel will have in a readiness, and be able dexterously to manage, seasonable precepts, promises, warnings, instructions, and to oppose them unto all the suggestions of Satan, unto the preservation and security of his faith. Others will be at a loss, and not know what to do when temptations do befall them, yea., they are commonly bewildered in their own darkness and by their own reasonings, until they are taken in the snares of the evil one. There is a peculiar antidote in the Scripture against the poison of every temptation or suggestion of Satan. If we have them in a readiness, and are skillful in the application of them, it will be our safety or our healing.
(3.) Hereby alone is faith secured against “the cunning crafts of men that lie in wait to deceive.” It is known how variously and continually faith is assaulted by the crafts, violences, and sophisms of seducers; as, for instance, by those who “have erred concerning the troth, saying that the resurrection is past already.” And what is the issue of it? “They overthrow the faith of some,” as 2 Timothy 2:18. The like may be said of all other important doctrines of evangelical truth. And we see what havoc hath been made among professors by this means; how not only the faith of some, but of multitudes in our days, hath been overthrown hereby. And the reason is, because they have not been skillful in the word of righteousness, nor have known how to draw out from that magazine of sacred truths that which was necessary for the defense of their faith. The Scripture was the “tower of David, built for an armoury, wherein there hang a thousand bucklers, all shields of mighty men.” There are weapons prepared in abundance for the defense of faith, if we are but ready and dexterous in their management.
It may be spoken with a confidence which the truth will warrant, that the reasons why so many do fall from the faith of the gospel unto Popery, Quakerism, or the like, may be reduced unto these two heads:
[1.] The satisfaction of some special lust, perverse humor or inclination; and,
[2.] Want of skill in the word of righteousness, as it is such: all other pretences are but shades and coverings of these two reasons of apostasy.
And so there are two sorts of persons that fall from the faith:
[1.] Such as principally seduce themselves by their own lusts and several interests. ῎Ανθρωποι κατεφθαρμένοι τὸν νοῦν , ἀδόκιμοι περὶ την πίστιν , 2Ti 3:8 ; 1 Timothy 6:5; men of corrupt minds, that refuse and reject the truth for the love of their lusts and sins. And,
[2.] Such as are deceived and seduced; and they are ἄκακοι , not perversely evil, Romans 16:18, but unstable, because unskilful in the word.
There are two ways whereby, or two cases wherein, we have need to secure our faith against the oppositions of men, and both of them depend on our skillfulness in the word:
[1.] When we are to prove and confirm the truth against them. So it is said of Apollos, that “he mightily convinced the Jews, showing by the Scriptures that Jesus was Christ,” Acts 18:28. But how was he able so to do? Because he himself was “mighty in the Scriptures,” verse 24; that is, he was ready and skillful in the word of righteousness, and this whilst he was only a private disciple.
[2.] When we are to defend it against the opposition of gainsayers, and their mouths can no otherwise be stopped. If men be but skillful and ready in the Scriptures, though destitute of all advantages of learning, it is inexpressible how able they will be, and such persons have been, in confounding all the sophistry of the most subtile adversaries of the truth. When without this ability, men lie to be seized on as a prey by the next seducer. Wherefore, without the duty here enjoined, we may easily see what, on all accounts, our condition is with respect unto our faith.
2. The next end of the doctrines of the gospel, which we need this skill to manage them unto, is the guidance of us in the whole course of our duty, that we be not out of our way, nor at a loss about it. The word is our rule, our guide, our light, in all our walking before God; but if we have not an acquaintance with it, if we are not ready to use and apply it, we shall never walk steadily nor uprightly.
(1.) This is our guide in the whole course of our lives. “Thy statutes,” saith David, “are the men of my counsel,” those with whom he advised on all occasions. Those who are skillful in the word, in the precepts, directions, and instructions of it, have their rule in a readiness for all occasions of duty, and in the whole course of their affairs. The way wherein they should walk will still be represented unto them; whilst others wander in the dark, and at best walk at “peradventure,” or hazard, with God; which we render “walking contrary” unto him, Leviticus 26:21.
(2.) In particular difficult cases, which often befall us in the course of our conversation in this world. Such as these, where men are unskilful in the word, do either entangle them and fill them with perplexities, so as that they are at their wit’s end, and know not what to do, or else they violently and presumptuously break through them, to the wounding of their consciences, and the hardening of their spirits against a sense of sin. But he who is thoroughly acquainted with the word, and is able dexterously to apply it unto all occasions of duty, will extricate himself from these straits in a due manner; for there is no case of this nature can befall us, but there are rules and directions in the Scripture that will guide us safely through it, if we are skillful in their application.
(3.) The right discharge of all duties towards others depends hereon, and without it we fail more or less in them all. Hence are we enabled to admonish, exhort, instruct, comfort, and reprove, those in whom we are concerned, and that with such authority as may have an influence upon their minds and consciences. Without this, we know neither the true nature, grounds, nor reasons, of any one duty we perform towards others, nor can make use of those things which only will make what we say or do effectual. As therefore it is so with respect unto the increase and preservation of our faith, so also with regard unto all our duties, the whole course of our obedience, it is necessary that we should be skillful in the word of righteousness.
3. Consolation in distress depends hereon. This the Scripture is the only storehouse of. Whatever is taken from any other stores and applied unto that purpose, is but vanity and froth. Here all the springs, principles, causes, reasons, arguments, for true consolation of mind in distress, are treasured up. And on what various occasions, and how frequently, these cases occur wherein we stand in need of especial consolation, we all. know by experience. And in them all, it is unavoidable that we must either be left unto darkness and sorrow, or betake ourselves unto reliefs that are worse than our troubles, if we have not in a readiness those grounds of solid consolation which the Scripture is stored withal. But whatever are our sorrows or troubles, however aggravated or heightened, whatever be their circumstances, from what cause soever they rise, of sins or sufferings, our own or others in whom we are concerned, if we are skillful in the word of righteousness, we may at all times and places, in prisons, dungeons, exiles, have in readiness wherewith to support and refresh our souls. And this I thought meet to add for the discovery of the importance of that duty, a defect whereof is here blamed in the Hebrews by our apostle.
Again; the word signifies “want of experience,” and so it respects the things of the gospel. With respect unto them it is said, ‘They have not experience of the word of righteousness;’that is, of the things contained in it, and their power. And in this sense also it deserves our consideration; for the want of this experience, where we have had time and means for it, is both our great fault and our great disadvantage. Now, by this experience I intend a spiritual sense, taste, or rel is h, of the goodness, sweetness, useful excellency, of the truths of the gospel, endearing our hearts to God, and causing us to adhere unto him with delight and constancy. And this experience, which is of so great use and advantage, consists in three things:
1. A thorough mixture of the promises with faith. This I shall not enlarge upon, because I have spoken unto it expressly in the second verse of the fourth chapter. In brief, it is that lively acting of faith which the Scripture expresseth by “tasting,” “eating,” “drinking;” which gives a real incorporation of the things we are made partakers of. When faith is assiduously acted upon the promises of God, so as that the mind or soul is filled with the matters of them, and virtue goes forth from them in all its actings, as they will be influenced by every object that it is filled withal, then the foundation is laid of their experience. This the apostle intends, Ephesians 3:17, “That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith.” Faith, by its frequent lively actings on Christ, brings him, as it were, to make a constant residence in the heart, where he always puts forth his power, and the efficacy of his grace.
2. In a spiritual sense of the excellency of the things believed, wherewith the affections are touched and filled. This is our taste, how that the Lord is gracious. And hence are we said to be “filled with joy in believing,” as also to have the “love of God shed abroad in our hearts;” which, with sundry things of the same nature belong unto this experience. And no tonic can express that satisfaction which the soul receives in the gracious communication of a sense of divine goodness, grace, and love unto it in Christ, whence it “rejoiceth with joy unspeakable and full of glory.” And this is different from the evanid joys of hypocrites. They are all from without, occasional, depending merely on something peculiar in the dispensation of the word, and on some circumstances of their own condition which they are commensurate unto; not engaging the heart unto greater love and more firm adherence unto God, but issuing absolutely in the present satisfaction of the affections. But that love, delight, and joy, which are a part or effect of spiritual experience, have their root within, namely, in those actings of faith we before described. They are the fruits and flowers of it, which may be excited by external occasions, but proceed not from them; and therefore are they abiding, though liable to depressions and interruptions, But to be sure they always increase our love of, and strengthen our adherence unto God.
3. In experiments of the power of the word, on all occasions, especially as it is a word of righteousness. Sundry useful instances might here be insisted on; I shall mention two only:
(1.) There is in it a sense of the power of the word in giving peace with God. This is the difficultest thing in the world to be impressed on the mind of a man really and seriously convinced of the guilt of sin. Many ways such an one cannot but try, to find some rest and satisfaction; but all, after some vain promises, do issue in disappointments. But when the soul doth really close with that way which it is directed unto by the gospel, that is, when it mixeth it with faith as a word of righteousness, the authority of the word in the conscience doth secure it that its peace is firm and stable. This it is to have an experiment of the word, when we find our souls satisfied and fortified by the authority of it, against all oppositions, that through Christ we are accepted of God, and are at peace with him.
(2.) In satisfying the heart to choose and prefer spiritual, invisible, and eternal things, before those that are present, and offer us the security of their immediate enjoyment. When we are satisfied that it is good for us, that it is best for us, to forego present earthly things, which we see and handle, and know full well the comfort, benefit, and advantage of, for those things which eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor can they by any reasonings of our own take place in the conceptions of our hearts, merely on the authority of the word, testifying to the excellency and certainty of these invisible things, then have we an experiment of the power of the word. Now, as the experience intended consists in these things, so it is easy to discern of how great importance it is, and how much it is our duty to endeavor it.
In the 14th verse, which completes the antithesis proposed, and wherein the apostle issues his discourse on this matter, four things are expressed :
1. The subject concerning whom he speaks, in opposition unto them whom he called νήπιοι , or “babes; and these are οἱ τέλειοι , “those that are of full age.”
2. The food that is proper for them, in opposition to the milk of babes; and that is στερεὰ τροφή , “ strong meat,” or sound, solid nourishment.
3. A description of them, giving an account of what is said concerning the meetness of strong meat unto them; and that is, because they are such as have αισθητήρια γεγυμνασμένα , “their senses exercised to discern good and evil:” which belongs unto the description of the subject of the proposition, “those of full age.”
4. The means whereby they came into this condition; it was διὰ τὴν ἕξιν , “by reason of a habit,” “use,” or “practice,” they had got. And these things must be explained.
1. Τέλειοι as opposed to νήπιοι naturally, are persons adult, grown up, come to “full age.” So our apostle makes the opposition, Ephesians 4:13-14. He would have us come by the knowledge of God εἰς ἄνδρα τέλειον , “to a perfect man;” that we should be no more νήπιοι , “children, tossed up and down: which things in both places are morally to be understood. As νήπιοι , therefore, are persons weak, ignorant, and unstable in spiritual things, so τέλειοι are those who have their understandings enlarged, and their minds settled in the knowledge of Christ, or the mysteries of the gospel.
Τέλειος , also, without respect to νήπιος , taken absolutely, is “perfect and complete,” such a one as to whom nothing is wanting. תָּמִים “integer,” “rectus;” “upright,” “sincere, perfect.” In that sense were they said to be “perfect” under the old testament, who were upright and sincere in their obedience. But this in general is not the perfection here intended; for it only respects an especial qualification of the mind with regard unto the truths of the gospel. This our apostle mentions, 1 Corinthians 2:6, Σοφίαν λαλοῦμεν ἐν τελείοις , “We speak wisdom” (that is, declare the mysteries of the gospel) “among them that are perfect;” that is, such whose minds, being freed from corrupt prejudices, are enlightened by the Spirit of God, and themselves thereby initiated into the mysteries of Christ. And these he afterwards calls “spiritual men,” or such as have received the Spirit of Christ, whereby we know the things that are freely given us of God, 1Co 2:12 ; 1 Corinthians 2:15.
And there are also degrees in this perfection, seeing it is not absolute. For that which is so the apostle denies to have been in himself, Philippians 3:12. Much less is it in any of us, or attainable by us. But to “every one of us grace is given, according to the measure of the gift of Christ.” An equal measure is not designed unto all, Ephesians 4:13. Everyone hath his distinct size, stature, or age, which he is to arrive unto. So everyone may grow up to be a “perfect man,” though one be taller and stronger than another. And to bring every man to perfection, according to his measure, is the design of the work of the ministry, Colossians 1:28. So when any grace is raised to a constant sincere exercise, it is said to be “perfect,” 1 John 4:18. Wherefore the τέλειοι here, “the perfect,” or “those of full age,” are such as being instructed in the doctrine of the gospel, and using diligence in attending thereunto, have made a good progress, according to their means and capacities, in the knowledge of Christ and his will.
2. Unto this sort of hearers “strong meat” doth belong; that is, it is to be provided for them and proposed unto them. This is useful for their state and condition. What is intended by this strong meat, food, or nourishment, hath been declared already.
3. The reason is subjoined whence it is that strong meat belongs unto these persons; or rather, a further description is added, whence it will appear that it doth so. They have “their senses exercised to discern good and evil.”
And we must inquire,
(1.) What are the senses intended.
(2.) How they are exercised.
(3.) What it is to discern both good and evil.
(1.) For the first, the allusion is still continued between infants and those that are adult. Infants have all their senses. For αἰσθητήρια are properly “sensuum organs,” the organs of the external senses. These infants have, even eyes, ears, and the like. And they have their internal sense in its principle. But they know not how to use them, unto any advantage. They cannot by their taste distinguish between food which is good and wholesome, and that which is noxious or pernicious. And the senses intended are the faculties of understanding and judging spiritual things; the abilities of the mind to discern, judge, and determine concerning them. And these, in several degrees, are really in all sorts of hearers, babes and those of full age. But,
(2.) In those of full age these senses are γεγυμνασμένα , “exercised.” This makes the distinction. They are not so in babes. Hence they are not ready and expedite in their acts about their proper objects. They can neither make a right judgment about spiritual truths, nor duly apprehend the mysteries of the gospel when proposed unto them; and that because the intellectual faculties of their minds are not exercised spiritually about them. And the word doth not denote an actual exercise, but that readiness, ability, and fitness for any thing, which is attained by an assiduous exercise; as a soldier who is trained is ready for his duty, or a wrestler for prizes (whence the allusion is taken) unto his strivings. Wherefore, to have our senses exercised in the way intended, is to have our understandings and minds, through constant, sedulous study, meditation, prayer, hearing of the word, and the like means of the increase of grace and knowledge, to become ready, fit, and able to receive spiritual truths, and to turn them into nourishment for our souls. For so it follows, they are thus exercised,
(3.) Πρὸς διάκρισιν καλοῦ τε καὶ κακοῦ , “to the discerning of good and evil.” Διάκρισις , is an exact judgment, putting a difference between things proposed to us; a determination upon a right discerning of the different natures of things. And that which this judging and determining faculty is here said to be exercised about, is good and evil. But whereas they are doctrines and propositions of truth that the apostle treats concerning, it might be expected that he should have said, ‘to the discerning, or dijudication, of what is true and false.’ But,
[1.] The allusion to food, which he still carries on, requires that it should be thus expressed. Of that which is or may be proposed as food unto us, some is wholesome and nourishing, some hurtful and noxious; the first is good, the latter evil.
[2.] Though the first consideration of doctrines be, whether they be true or false, yet on that supposition the principal consideration of them concerns their subject-matter, whether it be good or evil unto our souls, whether it tend unto our edification or destruction.
But whereas it is the oracles of God that are the food proposed, and no evil can be supposed to be in them, what need of this faculty of discerning in this case between good and evil?
[1.] The similitude required a respect to both, because food of both sorts may be proposed or set before us.
[2.] Though nothing but what is good be prepared for us in the Scripture, in the oracles of God, yet this ability of judging or discerning between good and evil is necessary unto us in the dispensation of them. For,
1 st, That may, by some, be proposed unto us as taken from the Scripture, which indeed is not so, which is not wholesome food, but mere poison to the souls of men. Such are those hurtful and noisome opinions which men of corrupt minds do vent, pretending that they are derived from the Scripture, wherein indeed they are condemned. Or, or misapply that which is true in its proposal, whereby it may become evil and noxious unto us. To avoid these dangers, it is necessary that we have our senses exercised unto the discerning both of good and evil.
Wherefore these persons of full age, are such as are meet to have the mysteries of the gospel, and those especially about the priesthood and sacrifice of Christ, preached unto them, seeing their minds and understandings are so exercised about things evangelical, as that they are able to judge aright about the things proposed unto them, discerning their goodness and suitableness unto the nourishment of their souls, as also to discover what is evil, and to reject it.
4. This ability is attained διὰ τὴν ἕχιν , “by reason of use.” ῞Εξις is a “habit;” and a habit is a firm, rooted disposition, giving readiness unto and facility in acts about its proper object. Now the apostle intends such a habit as is acquired by use and exercise; whence we render it “use..” The first principle or spring of spiritual light is infused by the Holy Ghost. The improvement hereof into a fixed habit is by constant and continual exercise. Now this habit or use respects all the ways and means that are appointed for our increase in the knowledge of the mysteries of the gospel. For hereby the mind, being accustomed unto the senses of the word of God, is enabled to make a right judgment of what is proposed unto it. And the observations further clearing the sense of the words, wherewith we shall close our exposition of this chapter, are these that ensue:
Obs. 1. The word of the gospel, in the dispensation of it, is food provided for the souls of men.
A supposition hereof runs through this whole discourse of the apostle, and hath been occasionally spoken unto before; but it being that which leads and determines the sense of this verse also, as to what is instructive in it, it must be touched on again. There is a new spiritual life wrought in all that believe, the life by virtue whereof they live unto God. The only outward means used by God in the communication of this life unto us, is the word of the gospel, 1 Peter 1:23; James 1:18. This life God takes care of to preserve. It is the new creature, that in us which is “born of God,” by virtue whereof we are admitted into his family. And God will not bring forth, and then suffer that which is born of him to be starved. Now every thing is increased and maintained by the same means whereby it is ingenerated or begun. Wherefore the provision that God makes for this new creature, the food he prepareth for it, is his word, 1 Peter 2:1-3. Hereon the preservation of our spiritual life, our growth, increase, and strength, do absolutely depend. Hence wherever God will have a church, there he will preserve his word. And where he absolutely takes that away, he hath no more family, no more church. So when the woman, through the persecution of the dragon, was driven into the wilderness, into an obscure, distressed condition, yet God took care that there she should be fed, Revelation 12:6. She was never utterly deprived of the food of the word. It is true, the provision which he makes hereof is sometimes more plentiful, and sometimes more strait; yet will he never suffer it to be so removed from any that are his, but that a diligent hand shall find bread enough. And without further enlargement, we may learn hence sundry things:
1. No judgment is so to be feared and deprecated as a deprivation of the dispensation of the word. No judgment is like famine:
“They that are slain with the sword are better than they that be slain with hunger; for these pine away, stricken through for want of the fruits of the field,” Lamentations 4:9.
And no famine like that of the word, which God threateneth as the sorest of his judgments, Amos 8:11. This is as much to be dreaded above the other as the soul is to be preferred before the body, and spiritual life above natural. To be deprived of the food of our souls is of all distresses the most dreadful. And we may do well to consider, that when Egypt was in the midst of its plenty, which no doubt was sufficiently abused, it was then that their consuming famine was at the door.
2. No temporal mercy is so liable unto abuse as fullness of bread. This, joined with pride and idleness, which usually accompany it in the world, produced the sins of Sodom, Ezekiel 16:49. So is it with the fullness of this spiritual food, spiritual pride and spiritual sloth are apt to grow up with it, to corrupt and abuse it. It requires much wisdom and heedfulness to manage ourselves aright under the plentiful dispensation of the word, such as at this time we enjoy. Some apparently are proud and delicate, waxing wanton under their enjoyment, so that wholesome food is despised by them, nothing will serve them but some poisonous dainties of fond and foolish imaginations. And some are slothful, thinking all pains and charge too much that they take or are at about the word. The curiosity and sloth of these days bode no good. I am almost persuaded that the generality of the Egyptians derided Joseph, when they saw him make such time together “the earth brought forth by handfuls.” If they did not think his labor altogether needless, why did they not do in like manner, why did they make no provision for themselves? which afterwards they so smarted for. Learn, therefore, of him as well as you are able, to lay in provision of this spiritual food in a time of plenty, that you may have some stores for your use in an evil day that may be approaching.
3. Those who by any means endeavor to obstruct the dispensation of the word, they do their endeavor to famish the souls of men. They keep their food from them, without which they cannot live. Whether this be done by negligence, ignorance, or disability in those who take upon themselves to be God’s stewards, but have none of his provision under their disposal, or whether it be done out of a real hatred to the word, the cruelty is dreadful, and the crime will be avenged. The people will curse him who hoardeth corn in a time of dearth; and God will curse them who, at any time, detain from others the bread of life.
4. The word is to be esteemed, valued, and sought after, as our daily food. Negligence and carelessness about the food of our souls is too great an evidence that there is no principle of life in us. Think not too much of your pains.
Obs. 2. Whereas the word is food, it is evident that it will not profit our souls until it be eaten and digested.
It is called here τροφή , “nourishment;” which food is not as it is prepared, but as it is received. When manna was gathered and laid up, and not eaten, it “stank and bred worms.” We see that some take great pains to come and hear the word. This is but the gathering of manna, What do you with it afterwards? If it lie by you, it will be of no use. But what is required unto this eating and digestion, was, as I remember, before declared.
Obs. 3. It is an evidence of a thriving and healthy state of soul, to have an appetite unto the deepest mysteries of the gospel, or most solid doctrines of truth, and to be able profitably to digest them.
This is the substance of the character which the apostle here gives of such persons; and he blames these Hebrews that such they were not: and therefore such we ought all to be, who live under circumstances and advantages like to theirs. This is the property of a thriving soul, of a good proficient in the school of Christ. He is naturally inclined to desire the declaration of the most weighty and substantial truths of the gospel; in them is he particularly delighted, and by them is he profited: whereas if you take others beyond milk, or first principles, ordinarily they are at a loss, and very little benefited by any provision you can make for them. But yet sometimes it falls out in these things spiritual as it doth in things natural. Some persons under sickness and distempers, having their appetite corrupted, and their taste vitiated, do greatly desire, and impetuously long after strong food; which is no way meet for them, and which, when they have eaten it, does but increase their indisposition and heighten their distemper. So some, altogether unmeet for the right understanding and due improvement of the deep mysteries of the gospel, yet, out of pride and curiosity, do neglect and despise the things which are suited unto their edification, and desire nothing, delight in nothing but what is above them, and indeed beyond their reach. That we may not be deceived, nor deceive ourselves herein, I shall give some differences between this property of sound, thriving, and healthy souls, desiring, delighting in, and profiting by the strong meat of gospel mysteries, and the inordinate longing of spiritually sick and distempered minds after those things which are not meet for them:
1. The desires and appetite of the former are kept always within the bounds of what is written and plainly revealed in the word; for we have showed that the deepest mysteries have the plainest revelations. Offer them any thing that is not plainly attested by the word, and they turn from it as poison. They have learned in all things to “think soberly,” according to the analogy of faith, Romans 12:3. They would be wise, but unto sobriety, and not above what is written. But for the other sort, if anything be new, curious, seemingly mystical, removed from the common sense and apprehensions of Christians, without any due consideration whether it be a truth of God or no, that is it which they run greedily after, and catch at the empty cloud of. Their principal business is to “intrude themselves into the things which they have not seen, being vainly puffed up by their fleshly minds,” Colossians 2:18.
2. The former sort, upon the declaration and discovery of any deep, important mysteries of the gospel, are greatly taken up with a holy admiration and reverence of God, whose these things are. So our apostle, having in the 9th, 10th, and 11th chapters of his Epistle to the Romans, treated of the deep mysteries of electing grace, and the effects of it, he shuts up his whole discourse in an admiration of God, and an ascription of glory unto him, Romans 11:8-36. So is it with all holy and humble souls, upon their instruction in and view they have of the mysteries of the gospel, in that marvellous light whereinto they are translated. The other sort satisfy themselves in their own speculation, without being much affected with the greatness or glory of God, in the things they imagine themselves to know.
3. The former sort do find real food and nourishment in this strong meat, so that their faith is strengthened, their love increased, and holiness promoted in their souls by them. They find by experience that such things do not only sound in their ears or float in their minds in the notion of them, but that really and truly their faith feeds upon them; and their whole souls being affected with them, they are encouraged and directed by them in the course of their obedience. Others, whose desires proceed from the distempers of pride and curiosity, find none of those things; and so their itching ears are suited, and their inquisitive minds satisfied, they regard them not. Hence it is hard to see one of these notional persons either fruitful or useful; neither can they bear those parts of the yoke of Christ which would make necessary the constant exercise of faith and love.
4. The former sort are always more and more humbled, the latter more and more puffed up, by what they attain unto. But I must not further enlarge on these things. There yet remain two observations more, with the naming whereof we shall shut up our discourses on this chapter.
Obs . 4. The assiduous exercise of our minds about spiritual things, in a spiritual manner, is the only means to make us to profit in hearing of the word.
When our spiritual senses are exercised by reason of constant use, they are in a readiness to receive, embrace, and improve, what is tendered unto them. Without this we shall be dull and slow in hearing, the vice here so severely reproved.
Obs. 5. The spiritual sense of believers, well exercised in the word, is the best and most undeceiving help in judging of what is good or evil, what is true or false, that is proposed unto them.
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Owen, John. "Commentary on Hebrews 5". "John Owen Exposition of Hebrews". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 12 / Ordinary 17