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Bible Commentaries

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

Hebrews 13

Verses 1-25

Hebrews 13:1 . Let brotherly love continue. The love as when you first believed, and when many of you sold your possessions to raise a fund for the widows, who were cut off from the alms of the synagogue.

Hebrews 13:2 . Be not forgetful to entertain strangers, whether accredited ministers of the word, or brethren fleeing from persecution. Abraham and Lot, in so doing, entertained Angels, unconscious of their guests. Tertullian recites a proverb of the first believers. “See how these christians love one another.” Dr. Cave’s account of Pachome, an Egyptian father, and celebrated as a pillar in the church, is deficient. He was an officer attached to a Roman legion, and gives this account of his own conversion. That being on a forced march, and the men in great distress, we came, says he, to a town whose inhabitants afforded every supply; but with an openness and generosity of heart we had nowhere before witnessed. Struck with their benevolence, we enquired who those people were that had been so impelled to do good? It was replied, that they were Christians, whose maxim was, to aid every one as much as they could; to do good to all men, even to their enemies, or rather to be the friends of all the world, and thus disarm every foe. I then lifted up my hand to heaven and said, “if this religion make men so much better than others, then from this very day I would be a christian.”

Hebrews 13:4 . Marriage is houourable in all ranks and degrees of men, which forms a double argument against concubinage and adultery. The apostle’s affirmation however is chiefly intended to counteract the pernicious notion of some ascetics, who at this early period denounced marriage as incompatible with the pure spirit of christianity; and who, if their vile imposture had been continued, they would well nigh have depopulated the human race. The Corinthian church was partly infected with this error, and wrote to Paul apparently on this subject. 1 Corinthians 7:1-46.7.2. The apostle in this passage to the Hebrews restores the institution to its primitive honour as one of the first proofs of divine beneficence and goodness towards man. Genesis 2:18-1.2.22.

Hebrews 13:5 . Let your conversation be without covetousness. Τροπος , mores sint absque avaritia. Let your manners be without avarice, or inordinate desire. Seeing the Lord has said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee, let it be apparent from your conduct that your heart is not set on worldly riches, but on seeking to please him who is the alsufficient God, and a satisfying portion to the soul.

Hebrews 13:7-58.13.8 . Remember them who have the rule over you: ηγουμενων , your leaders and guides, ducum vestrorum; who have spoken to you the word of God: whose faith follow, and abide in their doctrine. Considering the end of their conversation, which is Christ, the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever. The poets say, Jupiter rex omnibus idem. Jove, the king, is the same to all. The immutability of Christ is stated in equivalent terms, in Revelation 1:8. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty. Theophylact says, Idem est Christ heri; id est, omni præterito tempore, et hodie, hoc est, præsenti tempore, et in seculo futura, ideoq, infinita. Christ is the same yesterday, that is, in all preseding time; and to-day, that is, the present time; and in future ages, and therefore he is infinite.

These phrases, according to Estius, speak of Christ’s divinity, which is always the same; or according to Heinsius, without any beginning or ending. Junius says, we may infer the identity of his essence, from the identity and effects of his actions. And Tirinus says, that Jesus Christ is now the same to us in power and munificence, and will be always and everywhere the same, and in all things. To the same effect are the words of Cyril, St. Thomas, Anselm, Ribera, and Lapide, as may be seen in the Biblia Magna. Erasmus explains this jointly of Christ’s person and doctrine, and proper enough from the immutability of his person is inferred his truth, which shall remain when the heavens are no more.

I have been careful to collect learned illustrations here, because Dr. Doddridge expounds this text solely of Christ’s power and grace; and out of respect to some great expositors, who urge Acts 5:4, and 2 Corinthians 4:5, as instances in which Christ signifies not his person but his word. And who are those great expositors? Why truly, Grotius and Limborch, two avowed Arians. The illustrious authors cited above are all fathers in sacred criticism, and are hostile to the doctor’s notion. It is a lamentable fact, that if there be an Arian gloss, however futile, Dr. Doddridge is sure to favour his readers with it, and in some wary or bye way to state it with beguiling force.

Hebrews 13:9-58.13.10 . Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines. Novelty in doctrine is but a beguiling charm; it is, on the contrary, infinitely preferable for the heart to be established with grace, in all the power of regeneration, and all the habitudes of piety and holiness. Then the buzzings of the pharisees about meats and drinks cannot hurt you. We have in Christ a better priest, and a better altar, at which they, through unbelief, have no right to eat.

Hebrews 13:14 . Here we have no continuing city, but we seek one to come. A city conveys the idea of society and of opulence, the leading objects of man’s desire. Our highest enjoyments are indeed of a social nature, and a competence, if not affluence, is a laudable object of ambition. Comfortable accommodation as we pass through life is what all seek, but few find; and when found, there we are for making our home, and taking up our rest. But there is no continuance; we are often bereaved by some unforeseen causes, or if not, we are soon removed from them by death. Our enjoyments arise in great measure from agreeable connections, in domestic or in religious life; but in these there is no abiding. Providence often separates chief friends, persecution scattered the early christians, and death separated David and Jonathan. If we acquire a competence for the present life, it may all be scattered by the wind: riches make themselves wings and fly away. Job said, I shall die in my nest, and multiply my days as the sand; but how soon were all his hopes put to flight. The world is full of changes, death takes away those whom we love, and will soon take us away. Here we have no continuing city.

But we seek one to come. Heaven is also called a city, one that hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. That is a state of glorious society, enjoying all the delights of mutual intercourse without any alloy; a home that is undisturbed by domestic discord, and friendship without deceit. A state perfectly exempt from all that tends to mar our present enjoyment and satisfaction in religious society; no cold indifference is found there, no jealousies, no divisions, no dissensions, no disputes, neither sin nor imperfection of any kind. All is harmony and love, and that for ever. Our highest enjoyments here are transient only, and are quickly succeeded with clouds and darkness. There all is permanent, a high noonday, and our sun shall no more go down.

All true believers are seeking to enter this city, making it the great and leading object of pursuit, and by that are they distinguished from the men of the world. To them it is a glorious reality; they are here strangers and pilgrims only, the world on which they tread will soon be burnt up, and nothing will remain but the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and its ever-blessed inhabitants.

Hebrews 13:17 . Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves. Be guided by those holy elders who by age, by wisdom and experience, and incessant labours, have a paternal voice in the house of God. (See on 1 Thessalonians 5:12-52.5.13) Those true shepherds who govern their flocks as fathers, taking the judgment and consent of the people along with them, like Romaine, Cecil, and Hill, in London; Crosse, in Bradford; Venn, in Huddersfield; Ryland, in Bristol, and many others, who admirably succeeded in preserving concord and peace among large congregations. They are models for us to study and imitate. On collating this verse with 1 Thessalonians 5:12-52.5.13, we discover another proof that Paul wrote this letter to the Hebrews.

Hebrews 13:20-58.13.21 . Now the God of peace, who having harmony in himself, and promotes concord in his works, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, after he had reconciled all things to himself on the cross, that great shepherd of the sheep, celebrated by the prophets, Psalms 23:0; Psalms 95:3. Ezekiel 34:11, through the blood of the everlasting covenant; and he could not have been raised without the ransom of his life being paid; make you perfect. Paul prays here for the Hebrews as he had just solicited them to pray for him. The peace of God which passeth all understanding is the grand source of personal happiness, and the earnest of future felicity.

Hebrews 13:23 . Timothy is set at liberty. This marks a respect not unlike that of St. Paul for Timothy, and that the writer of this epistle was well known to the Hebrew christians. The slight variation in the style may be accounted for from the variation in the subjects of this and his other epistles.


The meekness of wisdom displayed by this great apostle in his treatment of the Hebrews cannot be too much admired, and ought to be regarded as a model to all christian pastors in their conduct towards the flock. He mourns over them, but he deals not in censures or criminations, nor does he threaten them with exclusion from his society and fellowship, but is gentle among them, as a nurse cherisheth her children, and owns them still as brethren, notwithstanding their numerous errors and defects. How holy and how lovely is such an example, and how deserving of imitation.

Paul well reflected on the trials and difficulties they had met with, on the weakness of their faith, their want of information, their exposedness to the seductive influence of judaizing teachers, and their national prejudices and predilections in favour of the ritual economy, once established by divine authority, and guarded by the highest sanctions. He therefore endeavours to reclaim them by a display of the superior excellence of the gospel, as realizing all that types and prophets had foretold, and advancing so near to the suburbs of heaven as to give admission to the company of angels, and the glorified spirits around the throne. And what could the Hebrews desire more? The christian church is placed on the highest pinnacle of glory; and when Christ shall take to himself his great power and reign, it shall be “as the days of heaven upon the earth.” Deuteronomy 11:21.

The apostle having spoken at large, closes with a few short requests, enforcing charity, guarding nuptial chastity, and enjoining a conduct exempt from every sordid vice. In particular he exhorts them to love, to honour and esteem their ministers, without which how can prosperity attend the church? The people who glory in their pastors, will ever find pastors who rejoice over them.

A happy and heavenly frame of mind is recommended, and strongly too, by the consideration that we are all strangers and pilgrims on earth. Why should this old man build a mansion; he is but a tenant at will, he has no lease of life. Heaven only is the pilgrim’s home. Suffer then the word of exhortation, and offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, giving thanks to his name.

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Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Hebrews 13". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. 1835.