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1 Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God,
Ver. 1. Let us go on unto perfection ] Gr. φεοωμεθα , let us be carried on, as with a force, Acts 2:2 , breaking through all impediments, aiming at the highest pitch, and eyeing the best patterns. It is a low and unworthy strain in some to labour after no more grace than will keep life and soul together, that is, hell and soul asunder.
Repentance firm dead works ] These are the six principles of Christian religion, that must be laid as a foundation. Certa semper sunt in paucis, saith Tertullian. Fundamentals are but few; few they are in number, but many in virtue; in sight small, but great in weight; like gold, which being solid is contracted into a narrow room, but may be drawn into so large an extent, that one angel may cover an acre of ground, as the naturalists have observed. The Apostles’ Creed (anciently called Symbolum, a sign or badge to distinguish Christians from infidels and wicked people) was heretofore briefer than now. The mention of the Father’s being maker of heaven and earth, the Son’s burial and descending into hell, and the communion of saints, being wholly omitted, haply are not necessary for all men to know, as Suarez saith, or sufficiently implied in other articles, or known by the light of reason; and so not making difference between Christians and heathens. (Dr Ussier.) The Papists have lately coined twelve new articles by the authority of Pope Plus IV, A. D. 1564, raised out of the Council of Trent, and added to the Nicene Creed, to be received with oath, as the true catholic faith, to be believed by as many as shall be saved. Those that list to see them, may read the epistle before Bishop Jewel’s works, and Sir Humphrey Land’s Via tuta. Whereunto if they will add the Jesuit’s new ten commandments, let them read the Spanish Pilgrim.
2 Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.
Ver. 2. Doctrine of baptisms ] Inward and outward. Flaminis et fluminis, of water and of the Spirit, that "washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost," Titus 3:5 . Calvin thinks the apostle meaneth the solemn rites or set days of baptizing. Others, the doctrine of both the sacraments; one being figuratively put for both, and the mention of the Lord’s supper omitted, because the doctrine thereof was not anciently propounded to the catechumeni, or young Christians; neither were they suffered to see it administered.
And of laying on of hands ] Hereby is meant the whole ministry and order of Church government, as prescribed by the word. The Scripture is to be taken in the largest sense, if nothing hinder, neither matter, phrase, nor scope. (Wilson’s Theol. Rules.)
3 And this will we do, if God permit.
Ver. 3. If God permit ] If God give me life and ability, and you capacity and stability; for many fall away, whose damnation sleepeth not.
4 For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost,
Ver. 4. Who were once enlightened ] φωτισθεντες , as with a flash of lightning. Knowing persons, and those they call the wits of the world, are in the greatest danger of the unpardonable sin; which begins in apostasy, holds on in persecution, ends in blasphemy.
And have tasted ] As cooks do their sauces with the tip of their finger only; or as the Israelites tasted the fruits of the land, and vet perished in the wilderness. Men may taste that which they spit out again, as physicians oft do.
The heavenly gift ] Gr. Supercelestial gift, i.e. Christ, who is called the gift, John 4:10 , and the benefit,1 Timothy 6:2; 1 Timothy 6:2 .
Partakers of the Holy Ghost ] Of his common and inferior gifts and operations. These a man may lose, and have his dispositions to sin seven times more inflamed than before, Matthew 12:44 .
5 And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come,
Ver. 5. And have tasted the good word ] Catching at the promises, as children do at sweetmeats, rejoicing therein, as the stony ground hearers did, conceiving a rolling opinion, as Haman did, that they are the men whom the King of heaven will honour.
And the powers of the world to come ] i.e. The wonderful works of the world to come, as glorification, resurrection, last judgment, whereinto a hypocrite may see far, and have a glimpse of heaven, or a flash of hell upon his conscience, as Balaam, Spira.
6 If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.
Ver. 6. If they shall fall away ] Totally and finally, as Judas and Julian did, and as Mr John Glover thought he had done, and did therefore eat his meat against his appetite, only defer the time of his damnation, which, by mistake of this text, he thought he could not possibly avoid. But God, who comforteth those that are cast down, did not only at last rid him out of all his fears, but also framed him to such mortification of life, as the like lightly hath not been seen, saith Mr Fox, who knew it.
And put him to an open shame ] As if they had not found him the same that they took him for. In those that have wilfully resisted divine truths made known to them, and after taste, despised them, a persuasion that God hath forsaken them (set on strongly by Satan) stirs up a hellish hatred against God; carrying them to a revengeful desire of opposing whatsoever is God’s, though not always openly (for then they should lose the advantage of doing hurt), yet secretly and subtlely, and under pretence of the contrary, as one well observeth.
7 For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God:
Ver. 7. And bringeth forth herbs ] So the fruitful Christian (that, watered with the word and Spirit, bringeth forth a harvest of holiness) shall receive the blessing of increase, John 15:2 . Such trees as brought forth fruit fit for meat were not to be destroyed, Deuteronomy 20:19 ; but trees that were not for fruit were for the fire, Matthew 3:10 . The earth thankfully returns her burden to the painful tiller. Let earth teach earth: terram quam terimus, terram quam gerimus, the earth we tear, the earth we bear.
8 But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned.
Ver. 8. Is rejected, and is nigh to cursing ] The sin against the Holy Ghost is therefore unpardonable, because God (not suffering himself to be derided, or his Spirit of truth to be found a liar) smiteth these sinners against their own souls, with blindness and reprobacy of mind. Whence follows, 1. An impossibility of repentance, sith it is the work of that Spirit whom they have despited, and will not suffer any saving operation of his to fasten on their souls. 2. Such a desperate fury invadeth them, that they resist and repudiate the matter of remission, the blood of Christ, whereby if they might have mercy, yet they would not; but continue raving and raging against both the physic and the physician, to their endless ruth and ruin.
9 But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak.
Ver. 9. But, beloved, we are persuaded ] He would not be mistaken. Zuinglius, when he had inveighed against vice, would usually close up his discourse with Probe vir, haec nihil ad te. All this is nothing to thee, thou honest man. (Scult. Annul.) We can hardly beat the dogs out of doors but the children will cry.
Things that accompany salvation ] Gr. εχομενα, i.e. κατεχομενα , that have salvation, that comprehend it, are contiguous to it, and touch upon it. Grace and glory differ not but in degree.
10 For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister.
Ver. 10. For God is not unrighteous ] That is, unfaithful, 1 John 1:9 . There is a justice of fidelity as well as of equity.
To forget your work. ] The butler may forget Joseph, and Joseph forget his father’s house; but forgetfulness befalls not God, to whom all things are present, and before whom there is written a book of remembrance for them that fear the Lord, and think upon his name, Malachi 3:16-17 .
11 And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end:
Ver. 11. Do show the same diligence ] A man may as truly say the sea burns, or fire cools, as that certainty of salvation breeds security and looseness.
To the full assurance ] All duties tend to assurance, or spring from it. Strive we must to the riches of full assurance, Colossians 2:2 . But in case our assurance be not so fair, yield not to temptations and carnal reasonings. Coins that have little of the stamp left, yet are current.
12 That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
Ver. 12. That ye be not slothful ] A ready heart makes riddance of God’s work. Shake off sloth. Spontaneae lassitudines morbos loquuntur, saith Hippocrates. Sure I am that dulness and luskishness argue a diseased soul.
But followers of them ] It was a good law that the Ephesians made, that men should propound to themselves the best patterns, and ever bear in mind some eminent man, αιεν υπομιμνησκεοθαι τινος των τη αρετη χρωμενων ..
13 For when God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself,
Ver. 13. For when God made promise ] Of those many that by faith and patience had inherited the promises, the apostle instanceth in Abraham, famous both for his faith in God’s promise, Hebrews 6:13 , and for his patience, Hebrews 6:15 .
14 Saying, Surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee.
Ver. 14. Bleasing I will bless thee ] Now he whom God blesseth shall be blessed, as Isaac said of Jacob,Genesis 27:33; Genesis 27:33 .
15 And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise.
Ver. 15. After he had patiently endured ] Waited many years for an Isaac, and yet longer for eternal life. "I have waited for thy salvation, O Lord," saith dying Jacob, Genesis 49:18 .
16 For men verily swear by the greater: and an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife.
Ver. 16. Swear by the greater ] So do not they that swear by sundry creatures and qualities, God can hardly spare such, Jeremiah 5:7 . That passage, "As thy soul liveth," is not an oath, but an asseveration, or obtestation only, conjoined with the oath.
An end of all strife ] The end of an oath is to help the truth in necessity, and to clear men’s innocency, Exodus 22:11 .
17 Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath:
Ver. 17. God willing more abundantly ] His word is sufficient, yet tendering our infirmity he hath bound it with an oath, and set to his seal. His word cannot be made more true, but yet more credible. Now two things make a thing more credible: 1. The quality of the person speaking; 2. The manner of the speech. If God do not simply speak, but solemnly swear, and seal to us remission of sins, and adoption of sons by the broad seal of the sacraments, and by the privy seal of his Spirit, should we not rest assured?
18 That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us:
Ver. 18. We might have strong ] Such as swalloweth up all worldly griefs, as Moses’ serpent did the sorcerers’ serpents, or as the fire doth the fuel. The sacraments are God’s visible oaths unto us; he taketh, as it were, the body and blood of his Son into his hand, and solemnly sweareth to bestow upon us all the purchase of Christ’s passion. Should not therefore the joy of the Lord be our strength? Nehemiah 8:10 . The comforts of philosophy are λεσχαι και φλυαοαι (as Plato hath it, as Socrates found it when he was to die), that is, toys and trifles. Nescio quomodo imbecillior est medicina quam morbus, saith Cicero, the disease is too hard for the medicine. But the consolations of God are strong in themselves, and should not be small with us, Job 15:11 .
To lay hold upon the hope, &c. ] Gr. κοατησαι, to lay hold by main force, and so to hold as not to lose our hold, when the devil would pull it from us. It is our faith that he fights against, our hope that he would shred us off. Look to it.
19 Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil;
Ver. 19. Both sure and stedfast ] Spes in terrents, incerti nomen boni: Spes in divinis, nomen est certissimi.
And which entereth into that ] This anchor is cast upward, and fastened not in the depth of the sea, but in the height of heaven, whereof it gets firm hold and sure possession. Now that ship (saith one) may be tossed, not shipwrecked, whereof Christ is the pilot, the Scripture the compass, the promises the tacklings, hope the anchor, faith the cable, the Holy Ghost the winds, and holy affection the sails, which are filled with the graces of the Spirit.
20 Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.
Ver. 20. Whither the forerunner ] Like as the high priest once a year entered into the holy of holies to pray for the people.
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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Hebrews 6". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 12 / Ordinary 17