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Hebrews 12

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Verse 1

1 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us , and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,

Ver. 1. With so great a cloud ] Or, cluster of witnesses, whose depositions we should hearken to, and rest in. Justin Martyr confesseth of himself, that seeing the pious lives and patient sufferings of the saints, he concluded that this was the truth they professed, and sealed with their blood. These, in things imitable, are as the cloud that led Israel; but in things unwarrantable (for in many things we fail all) as the black of the cloud, which whoso followeth with the Egyptians, is like to be drowned as they.

Let us lay aside every weight ] ογκος , or burden, or swelth. He that runs in a race will not have a burden upon his back, or shut up himself in a straight jacket.

The sin which doth so easily beset us ] ευπεοιστατος , or that sticks so close to us, or that troubles and puzzles us, or that curbs and girds us in, that we cannot run at liberty. Inordinate passions (saith one) come like foul weather, before we send for them; they often prevent all action of the will; but good affections are so overlaid with sin (which compasseth us about), that if we gather not wind under their wing (so ponderous the flesh is) they cannot mount up to purpose.

Let us run with patience ] This seems to be a contradiction (as one observeth), for running is active, patience passive; but he that here runs without patience never gets to the end of the race; for in the race of God’s commandments, men have foul play; one rails, another stops him, &c.

The race ] Gr. αγωνα , the strife race, for we must run and fight as we run, strive also to outstrip our fellow racers.

Verse 2

2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Ver. 2. Looking unto Jesus ] Gr. αφορωντες , looking off those things that may either divert or discourage, and looking unto Jesus with loving and longing looks. A Persian lady being at the marriage of Cyrus, and asked how she liked the bridegroom? How? said she; I know not. I saw nobody but mine own husband. Saints have a single eye, an eye of adamant, which will turn only to one point, to Christ alone.

The author and finisher ] The Alpha and Omega, the beginner and ender. In all other things and arts, non est eiusdem invenire et perficere, the same man cannot begin and finish. But Christ doth both, Philippians 1:5 .

Endured the cross ] Ran with courage, though he ran with the cross upon his back all the way.

Despising the shame ] Whereof man’s nature is most impatient. Christ shamed shame (saith an interpreter), as unworthy to be taken notice of in comparison of his design. So, according to his measure, did that nobleman, who when he came into jeering company of great ones, would begin and own himself for one of those they called Puritans. This was much better than that scholar in Queen’s college, mentioned by Mr Burroughs, who professed he had rather suffer the torments of hell than endure the contempt and scorn of the Puritans.

Verse 3

3 For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.

Ver. 3. For consider him ] Gr. αναλογισασθε , comparationem instituite. Make the comparison betwixt Christ and yourselves, betwixt his sufferings and yours, and then you will see a difference. Our troubles are but as the slivers and chips of his cross. I am heartily angry (saith Luther) with those that speak of my sufferings, which if compared with that which Christ suffered for me, are not once to be mentioned in the same day.

Lest ye be wearied and faint ] Gr. εκλυομενοι , loosened, as the nerves are in a swoon or palsy; or, let go, as water spilt upon the ground. This to prevent keep your eye upon your Captain and that cloud before mentioned. There were in Greece certain fields called Palaestrae, where young men exercised themselves in wrestling, running, &c. In these were set up statues of various valiant champions, that the young men that ran or wrestled, might fix their eye upon them. and be encouraged. When Jerome had read the life and death of Hilarion, he folded up the book, and said, Well, Hilarion shall he the champion that I will follow.

Verse 4

4 Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.

Ver. 4. Ye have not yet resisted ] q.d. You may do, and must look to do. And if you cannot endure words for Christ, how will you endure wounds? If you have run with the footmen, and they have tired you, how can ye contend with horses? Jeremiah 12:5 .

Striving against sin ] That is, against sinners that persecute you, or the sin that doth so easily beset you, and solicit you to spare yourself, and rather to yield a little than to suffer so much. The tabernacle was covered over with red (and the purple fathers tell us they take that colour clothes for the same intent), to note that we must defend the truth even to the effusion of blood. If we cannot endure martyrdom (if called thereunto) and sweat a bloody sweat for Christ’s sake, we cannot be comfortably assured that we are of his body. Christo submittemus (said that Dutch martyr) sexcenta si nobis essent colla: We will submit to Christ, though we should suffer never so many deaths for his sake. John Leaf, a young man burnt with Mr Bradford, hearing his own confession, taken before the bishop, read unto him, instead of a pen took a pin, and so pricking his hand, sprinkled the blood upon the said bill of his confession, willing the messenger to show the bishop that he had sealed the same bill with his blood already. See the story of William Pikes, Acts and Men., p. 1853.

Verse 5

5 And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him:

Ver. 5. And ye have forgot the exhortation ] Or, have ye forgot the consolation? a Are the consolations of God small unto you? Job 15:11 . Do ye, instead of wrestling with God, wrangle with him, refusing to be comforted (as Rachel), out of the pettishness of your spirits, as he, Psa 77:2 ? Will ye not, as children, eat your milk, because you have it not in the golden dish? Will ye be like the hedgehog, of which Pliny reporteth, that being laden with nuts and fruits, if the least filbert fall off, will fling down all the rest in a pettish humour, and beat the ground with her bristles.

Despise not thou the chastening ] See my Love Tokens, p. 37. Count it not a light matter, a common occurrence, such as must be borne by head and shoulders, and when things are at worst, they will mend again. This is not patience but pertinacy, strength but stupidity, "the strength of stone, and flesh of brass," Job 6:12 . When Gallienus the emperor had lost the kingdom of Egypt, What? said he, Sine lino Egyptio esse non possumus? cannot we be without the hemp of Egypt? but shortly after he was slain with the sword. When the Turks had taken two castles in Chersonesus, and so first got footing in Europe, the proud Greeks said that there was but a hog’s sty lost, alluding to the name of the castle. But that foolish laughter was turned within a while into most bitter tears. When Calais was lost under Queen Mary, those of the faction strove to allay the Queen’s grief, saying that it was only a refuge for runaway heretics, and that no Roman Catholic ought to deplore, but rather rejoice, at the damage:

At regina gravi iamdudum saucia cura,

Vulnus alit venis-

Nor faint when thou art rebuked] If we faint in the day of adversity, our strength is small, saith Solomon, Proverbs 24:10 ; and it is, Non quia dura, sed quia molles patimur, saith Seneca; not for that we suffer hard things, but because we are too soft that suffer them. As is the man, so is his strength, said they to Gideon,Judges 8:21; Judges 8:21 . Joseph’s bow abode in strength, even when the iron entered into his soul, Genesis 49:24 ; and Job’s stroke was heavier than his groaning, Job 23:2 . Invalidum omne natura querelum, saith Seneca: It is a weakness to be ever whining. See my Love Tokens.

a Legenda haec sunt cum interrogatione. Pisc.

Verse 6

6 For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.

Ver. 6. For whom the Lord loves ] Whom he entirely loveth and cockereth above the rest of his children. That son in whom he is well pleased, saith Mercer onProverbs 3:12; Proverbs 3:12 , whom he makes his white boy, saith Theophylact here. See my Love Tokens.

And scourgeth every son ] Lays upon them hard and heavy strokes. When Ignatius came to the wild beasts, Now, saith he, I begin to be a Christian. Omnis Christianus crucianus, saith Luther. And he hath not yet learned his A B C in Christianity, saith Bradford, that hath not learned the lesson of the cross. When Munster lay sick, and his friends asked him how he did, and how he felt himself, he pointed to his sores and ulcers (whereof he was full), and said, Hae sunt gemmae et pretiosa ornamenta Dei, & c., These are God’s gems and jewels wherewith he decketh his best friends, and to me they are more precious than all the gold and silver in the world. (Joh. Manl. loc. com.)

Verse 7

7 If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?

Ver. 7. God dealeth with you, &c. ] Corrections are pledges of our adoption and badges of our sonship. One Son God hath without sin, but none without sorrow. As God corrects none but his own, so all that are his shall be sure to have it; and they shall take it for a favour too, 1 Corinthians 11:32 .

Verse 8

8 But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.

Ver. 8. Then are ye bastards ] Qui exclpitur a numero flagellatorum, excipitur a numero filiorum, saith one. He that escapes affliction may well suspect his adoption. I have no stronger argument against the pope’s kingdom, saith Luther, than this, quod sine cruce regnat, that he reigns without the cross. They have no changes, surely they fear not God.

Verse 9

9 Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us , and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?

Ver. 9. And we gave them reverence ] Pater est, si pater non esses, &c., It is my father, &c. This cooled the boiling rage of the young man in Terence. Nicolas of Jenvile, a young French martyr, when he was condemned and set in the cart, his father coming with a staff would have beaten him; but the officers, not suffering it, would have struck the old man. The son crying to the officers, desired them to let his father alone, saying he had power over him to do what he would.

And live ] For corrections of instruction (and God never chastiseth but withal he teacheth, Psa 94:12 ) are the way of life, Proverbs 6:23 ; Proverbs 15:31 . See my Love Tokens.

Verse 10

10 For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.

Ver. 10. After their own pleasure ] To ease their stomachs, vent their choler, discharge themselves of that displeasure they have (and perhaps without cause) conceived against us. Not so the Lord; "Fury is not in me," saith he, Isaiah 27:4 . Though God may do with his own as he pleaseth, yet he doth never over do. For it goes as much against the heart with him, as against the hair with us; it is even a pain to him to be punishing,Lamentations 3:33; Lamentations 3:33 .

That we might be partakers ] Thus bitter pills bring sweet health, and sharp winter kills worms and weeds, and mellows the earth for better bearing of fruits and flowers. The lily is sowed in its own tears, and God’s vines bear the better for bleeding. The walnut tree is most fruitful when most beaten, and camomile the more you tread it, the more you spread it. Aloes kill worms, and stained clothes are whitened by bleeching.

Verse 11

11 Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.

Ver. 11. The peaceable fruit of righteousness ] That crown of righteousness wrought out unto us by afflictions,2 Corinthians 4:17; 2 Corinthians 4:17 , These are the preludes of our triumph, yea, a part of our salvation. Look therefore through the anger of God’s corrections, saith one, to the sweetness of his love therein, as by a rainbow we see the beautiful image of the sun’s light in the midst of the dark and waterish cloud. And look upon these afflictions as on so many wayward and touchy guests, which while they stay, watch every officer, but when they depart, they pay freely.

Unto them which are exercised thereby ] Gr. exercised naked in the fencing school, as invincible champions. By suffering they are made more able to suffer, as well beaten soldiers, or porters to the cross. Thus David was better able to bear with Shimei, because he was under that great affliction of Absalom’s rebellion.

Verse 12

12 Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees;

Ver. 12. Lift up the hands ] Pluck up your good hearts, and buckle close to your business; how else will you run the race that is set before you? Hebrews 12:1 . Gird up the loins of your minds; a drooping spirit makes no riddance of the way. Set all to rights, as the word ανορθωσατε signifieth.

Verse 13

13 And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed.

Ver. 13. Make straight paths ] Seek not byways (those highways to hell), leap not over the hedge of any commandment, so to escape any piece of foul way; but as those kine of the Philistines held straight on their way to Bethshemesh,1 Samuel 6:12; 1 Samuel 6:12 , though they had calves at home; so let us to heaven, though we have various things to divert us. "Let thine eyes look right on; and let thine eyelids look straight before thee," Proverbs 4:25 .

Verse 14

14 Follow peace with all men , and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord:

Ver. 14. Follow peace ] Gr. pursue it, though it flee from you. I am for peace (saith David), but when I speak of it, they are for war, Psalms 120:7 .

And holiness ] Or chastity, 1 Thessalonians 4:4 ; such a holiness as is opposed to fornication and profaneness, Hebrews 12:16 .

Without which ] The article may be neuter; and then the sense is, without which following peace and holiness, or a holy peaceableness, none shall see God to their comfort.

Verse 15

15 Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you , and thereby many be defiled;

Ver. 15. Lest any man fail ] Or, fall short, asHebrews 4:1; Hebrews 4:1 ; see the note there. Short shooting loseth many a game. He that in a race lieth down ere he come to the goal, gets not the garland. Perseverance crowns all our virtues. But it is an easy thing to fall a napping with the foolish virgins (yea, the wise also slumbered), which will prove to our cost when God shall send forth summons for sleepers.

Lest any root of bitterness ] Any scandalous sin, to the corrupting of others and the corroding of our own consciences, and out of which we recover not without much ado, till we have felt what an evil and bitter thing sin is, as David did, Psalms 51:1-19 .

Verse 16

16 Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright.

Ver. 16. Fornicator or profane ] He instanceth in some roots of bitterness. Esau’s profaneness appeared in these particulars: 1. In that he was no sooner asked for the birthright but he yielded. 2. That he parted with it for a trifle, a little red, red, as he called it in his haste and hunger. 3. That he did this, being, as he thought, at point of death. 4. That he went his way when he had done, as if he had done no such thing, he showed no sign of remorse or regret. Hence he is four or five several times branded with, "This is Edom." This is he that had a low esteem of spiritual privileges, that judged a jewel of greatest price worth forty pence.

Who for one morsel, &c. ] Many such Edomites now-a-days that prefer earth before heaven; a swine sty before a sanctuary, as the Gadarenes; their part in Paris before their part in Paradise, as that carnal cardinal. Vale lumen amicum, said Theotimus; Farewell, eyes, if I may not drink and do worse, ye are no eyes for me. (Ambrose.) He would rather lose his sight than his sin; so will many rather part with heaven than with their lusts. Oh, what madmen are these that bereave themselves of a room in that city of pearl for a few carnal pleasures, &c. Pope Sixtus V sold his soul to the devil to enjoy the popedom for seven years.

Verse 17

17 For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears.

Ver. 17. For ye know how that afterward ] Sero inquit Nero,

Ad praerepta venit possessaque gaudia sero.

(Sueton. Ner. c. 49. Ovid. Epis. Hel.) Esau came too short because too late. Think of the uncertainty of the gales of grace, and be nimble.

He was rejected ] απεδοκιμασθη , or, repulsed. For Isaac, when he saw that he had done unwilling justice in blessing Jacob, he durst not reverse the blessing, for he feared an exceeding great fear, Genesis 27:33 . Neither natural affection nor Esau’s importunity could make him repent and repeal what he had done.

Though he sought it carefully with tears ] Tears they were of discontent, for he cries and at same time threatens his brother Jacob. Some weep for sin, some for misery, some for joy, some for compassion, some for revenge and in hypocrisy, as Esau here, who rued his deed, but repented not his sin.

Verse 18

18 For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest,

Ver. 18. For ye are not come, &c. ] q.d. You are not under the law, but under grace, beware therefore of profaneness and licentiousness. For think you that God hath hired you to be wicked? are you delivered to do all these abominations Jeremiah 7:10 . Ought you not to walk gospel high? Philippians 1:27 . Will not the angel (Christ) that goeth along with you, destroy you after that he hath done you good, if ye turn not and repent according to the rules of the law, the gospel? Exodus 33:2-4 .

Verse 19

19 And the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words; which voice they that heard intreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more:

Ver. 19. And the sound of a trumpet ] Showing the nature of God’s law, to manifest God’s will, men’s sins, and to warn them of the wrath deserved; likewise to summon them to appear before the Judge.

The voice of words ] That is, the delivery of the decalogue, called the words of the covenant,Exodus 31:18; Exodus 31:18 , the ten words.

Verse 20

20 (For they could not endure that which was commanded, And if so much as a beast touch the mountain, it shall be stoned, or thrust through with a dart:

Ver. 20. For they could not endure ] This shows the nature and use of the law, contrary to that of the gospel. It is a killing letter, written in blood, holding forth justice only, and no mercy.

Verse 21

21 And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake:)

Ver. 21. Moses said, I exceedingly ] This Paul might have by tradition, or rather by revelation, unless he gathered it from Exodus 19:19 , compared withDaniel 10:8; Daniel 10:8 ; Daniel 10:16-17 ; Daniel 10:19 .

Verse 22

22 But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels,

Ver. 22. But ye are come to Mount ] And the blessings that come out of Sion (grace and peace that come by Jesus Christ) are better than all other blessings of heaven and earth, Psalms 134:3 .

The heavenly Jerusalem ] As Jerusalem was distinguished into two cities, the superior and the inferior; so is the Church into triumphant and militant; yet both make up but one city of the living God.

To an innumerable company ] Gr. To myriads, or many ten thousands of angels. Some have said that they are 99 to one, in comparison of the saints; grounding their conceit upon the parable of the lost sheep, Luke 15:4-7 .

Verse 23

23 To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect,

Ver. 23. To the general assembly ] Or public meeting of a whole country, as at a great assize, or some solemn celebrity. The Roman emperors raised up ample amphitheatres in a circular form, that the people sitting all around, might have a commodious sight of such pleasant spectacles as were set before them. That which Pompey erected was of such extent, that it was able to receive 40,000 men, as Pliny witnesseth. But, oh, what a glorious amphitheatre is that of heaven! What a stately congregation house! O praeclarum diem cum ad illud animorum concilium caetumque proficiscar, et cure ex hac turba et colluvione discedam! (Cie. de Sencetute.) Surely, if Cicero or some other heathen could say so, how much more may we exult and say, Oh, that dear day when we shall go out of this wretched world, and wicked company, to that general assembly of holy and happy souls! And how should we in the mean while turn every solemnity into a school of divinity; as when Fulgentius saw the nobility of Rome sit mounted in their bravery, it mounted his meditation to the heavenly Jerusalem. And another, when he sat and heard a sweet concert of music, seemed upon this occasion carried up for the time beforehand to the place of his rest, saying very passionately, What music may we think there is in heaven! (Mr Esty, Art of Meditat., by Dr Hall.)

Which are written in heaven ] In Jerusalem records were kept of the names of all the citizens, Psalms 48:3 ; so in heaven. And as the citizens of Rome might not accept of freedom in any other city; so neither should we seek things on earth, as those whose names are written in the earth, Jeremiah 17:13 .

Verse 24

24 And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.

Ver. 24. That speaketh better things ] Every drop whereof had a tongue to cry for vengeance; whence it is called bloods, in the plural, Genesis 4:10 . But the blood of sprinkling (so Christ’s blood is here called, either in allusion to the blood of the paschal lamb sprinkled on the door posts, Exodus 12:7 , or else to the sprinkling of that blood, of the covenant described Exodus 24:8 , with Heb 9:18 ) speaketh reconciliation, peace, and eternal life.

Verse 25

25 See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape , if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven:

Ver. 25. See that ye refuse not, &c. ] Gr. παραιτησησθε , that ye shift him not off by frivolous pretences and excuses, as those recusant guests did, Mat 22:1-14 It is as much as your souls are worth. Look to it therefore.

That speaketh from heaven ] By his blood, word, sacraments, motions of his Spirit, mercies, &c. If we turn our backs upon such bleeding embracements, and so kick against his naked bowels, what will become of us? And mark, that he speaketh of himself, as one.

Verse 26

26 Whose voice then shook the earth: but now he hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven.

Ver. 26. Whose voice then shook, &c. ] viz. When he gave the law; what shall he do when he comes to judgment?

Not the earth only, &c. ] Not men only, but angels, who stand amazed at the mystery of Christ. As for men, they will never truly desire Christ till they are shaken, Haggai 2:7 . God’s shaking ends in settling; it is not to ruin, but to refine us.

Verse 27

27 And this word , Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.

Ver. 27. And this word, yet once more ] The apostle commenteth upon the prophet whom he citeth, and from that word of his, Yet once, conchdeth the dissolution of the present frame of the world by the last fire, and the establishing of that new heaven and new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness,2 Peter 3:12-13; 2 Peter 3:12-13 . The force of Scripture words is then well to be weighed by those that will draw therehence right consequences. And they have done singular good service to God and his Church that have employed their time and their talents for the finding out the sense of the text, by fishing out the full import and signification of the original words. In which kind learned Mr Leigh, by his Critica Sacra upon both Testaments, hath merited much commendation. And now much more on his late elaborate Annotations upon the New Testament, whereby I confess I have received much help in this review.

Verse 28

28 Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear:

Ver. 28. A kingdom which cannot be moved ] As the mighty monarchies of the world could; for those had their times and their turns, their ruin as well as their rise, so that now they live but by fame only. Not so the kingdom of heaven. You may write upon it the Venetian motto, Nec fluctu, nec flatu movetur; Neither winds nor waves can stir it. We must so endeavour after grace, as if it were to be gotten by labour, and not bestowed by favour; yet must we acknowledge it to be free, as if we had not laboured at all.

With reverence ] Gr. With bashfulness, as in God’s holy presence. SeeDeuteronomy 23:14; Deuteronomy 23:14 .

Verse 29

29 For our God is a consuming fire.

Ver. 29. A consuming fire ] viz. To profligate professors, ungirt Christians, Isaiah 33:14 . And whereas the apostle saith Our God, he means the God of Christians also (as well as of Jews) is a consuming fire, see Exodus 23:20 , with the note. As he is Pater miserationum, a Father of mercies to the penitent, so he is Deus ultionum, a God of vengeance to the rebellious. And as there is a legal and evangelical repentance, so also faith, to be exercised of all his people. There is an evangelical faith, which is in applying of Christ in the promises. There is also a legal faith, which consists in believing the threatenings and the terrors of the Lord. And if any would dwell safely with this devouring fire, let him read and practise that inIsaiah 33:14-15; Isaiah 33:14-15 . Hypocrites shall be afraid, and as women’s paint falls off when they come near the fire, so shall theirs.

Bibliographical Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Hebrews 12". Trapp's Complete Commentary. 1865-1868.