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He exhorteth not to fall back from the faith, but to be steadfast, diligent, and patient to wait upon God, because God is most sure in his promise.
Anno Domini 63.
ALTHOUGH in the latter verses of the preceding chapter the apostle had reproved the Hebrews for their ignorance of the first principles of the oracles, or ancient revelations of God, in which the fundamental doctrines of the gospel are contained, he told them here, that he would not now discourse of the principles of the doctrine of Christ, but would carry them on to the perfection of Christian knowledge and experience, by explaining to them the deep meaning of some of the chief ancient oracles; not laying a second time the foundation of repentance from dead works, &c. as taught in the writings of Moses and the prophets, Hebrews 6:1-2.—And because the Hebrews were in danger of being drawn away from the profession of the gospel by their unbelieving brethren, who foundedtheir opposition to the Lord Jesus Christ on misinterpretations of the Jewish sacred writings, the apostle told them, he would immediately lead them to the true meaning of the principal parts of these writings, if Godpermitted him to do it, by preserving them from apostatizing till they should have an opportunity to read and consider this letter, Hebrews 6:3.—In the mean time, to make them sensible of their danger, and to rouze their attention to those discoveries of the hidden meaning of the ancient oracles which he was about to make to them, he shewed them the pernicious nature of apostacy, and the severe punishment to which apostates are doomed, Hebrews 6:4-8.—Lest, however, his reprehension of the Hebrews, and his anxiety to preserve them from apostacy, might have led them to think that he suspected they were going to renounce the gospel, he mitigated the severity of his reproof by telling them, that he hoped better things of them, and things connected with salvation, Hebrews 6:9.—founding his hope on the righteousness of God, who would not forget those works of love which, with so much labour and danger, they had performed, and were still performing, to the persecuted disciples of Christ in Judea; nor withhold from them the aids of his grace necessary to their perseverance, Hebrews 6:10.—Nevertheless, he earnestly besought them to shew the same diligence as formerly, in performing charitable offices to their afflicted brethren, that his hope concerning them might remain firm to the end, Hebrews 6:11.—and not to be slothful in the work of their salvation, but to imitate the converted Gentiles,who, through faith in Christ, and patience under persecution, were inheriting, in the Christian church, the blessings promised to the seed of Abraham, in the covenant which God made with that father of believers, Hebrews 6:12.
Having affirmed, that the converted Gentiles in the Christian church were inheriting the promises in the covenant with Abraham, the apostle, to carry the Hebrews on to perfection, took occasion to enter into the deep meaning of that ancient oracle. And first of all, by his account of God's covenant with Abraham, it appears that the blessings promised in it, although expressed in types and figures, are the very blessings which are plainly promised in the gospel. Moreover, his care in this particular has been of no small use in silencing the adversaries of revelation. For, by rightly explainingthe covenant with Abraham, the apostle has demonstrated, that the method of salvation by faith, the resurrection of believers from the dead, the general judgment, and the rewards and punishments of a future state, were all made known to the patriarchs and to the Jews, in that greatest of all the ancient oracles of God.
God's covenant with Abraham is often mentioned by Moses. But the fullest account of it is that which he has recorded, Gen 17:4-8 where all the articles of it are related at large. The apostle, however, did not on this occasion call the attention of the Hebrews to that complete account, but to one more shortly expressed, which, he says, was confirmed with an oath. His words are; When God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no one greater, he sware by himself, saying, In blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thee. This account of the covenant is evidently that recorded, Gen 22:15-18 where we are told that God spake these things to Abraham, after he had laid Isaac on the altar with an intention to sacrifice him. For, in no other passage of thewritings of Moses, is God said to have confirmed any part of his covenant with Abraham by an oath, Hebrews 6:13-14.—Concerning the promise, In blessing I will bless thee, it is to be remembered, that in the third and fourth chapters of this epistle, the apostle by a deep train of reasoning has shewed, that in this covenant God promised to Abraham and to his seed, a rest not only in the earthly Canaan, but in a heavenly country also, of which Canaan was a type. But if Abraham and his faithful seed were to be rewarded with the inheritance of heaven, it certainly implies that they were to be blessed with having their faith counted to them for righteousness. Wherefore it was not necessary that the apostle should enter more particularly into the meaning of the promise, In blessing I will bless thee.—But for the illustration of the promise, In multiplying I will multiply thee, he observed, that Abraham, after having patiently waited many years for its accomplishment, at length obtained it; namely, by the birth of Isaac. Nor was it necessary to say any thing more for the illustration of that promise; because, by leading the Hebrews to recollect the supernatural proceedings of God in respect to Isaac, they were taught that Abraham was to have a numerous seed by faith, as well as a numerous seed by natural descent. The reason is, the supernatural proceedings of God in respect to Isaac, were both an emblem and a pledge, that the power of God would be exerted in making Abraham the father of many nations, by producing in them the same spirit of faith with his; by the participation of which they would be more truly his children, than those whose relation to him was constituted merely by natural descent, Hebrews 6:15.
Farther, it is necessary to remark, that the apostle's design in mentioning the two promises whichwe have been considering, was not to give a full explanation of them, but that he might have an opportunity of declaring what God's intention was in confirming these promises with an oath, Hebrews 6:16.—namely, to shew to Abraham's seed by faith, whom the apostle calls the heirs, the immutability of his purpose to bless them by counting their faith to them for righteousness,and, we may also add, by bestowing on them, if faithful unto death, the inheritance of the heavenly country, Hebrews 6:17.—that by two immutable things, the promise and the oath of God, in either of which it was impossible for him to lie, the heirs who, by the covenant made with mankind after the fall, have escaped from the curse of the law to lay hold on the hope of pardon and eternal life set before them, might have strong consolation, Hebrews 6:18.—This hope, the apostle assures us, the faithful of all nations have in every age of the world, as Abraham's seed, for an anchor of the soul firmly fixed in heaven, called the place within the vail, because that place of the Mosaic tabernacle represented heaven, Hebrews 6:19.—Lastly, to shew that the great blessings of pardon and eternal life promised in the covenant are bestowed on Abraham's faithful seed through Christ, the apostle told the Hebrews; that Jesus, as our forerunner, has gone into heaven, there to plant for the faithful the hope of these blessings, on the ground of that most acceptable atonement which he made for the sin of the world by his death; and that he was well qualified to perform such a service for us, because by the oath of God, being made a high-priest after the order of Melchisedec, he was commissioned to enter into the holy place where God (the Trinity) manifests his presence, to make that effectual atonement for believers which God himself had prescribed, Hebrews 6:20.
The intelligent reader, no doubt, has observed, that the discourse in this chapter, is a proper sequel to the discourses concerning the sin and punishment of the rebellious Israelites in the wilderness, and concerning the rest which remaineth to persevering believers, delivered in the preceding third and fourth chapters of this epistle; and that the three discourses taken together, contain such an explanation of the covenant with Abraham, as leaves us no room to doubt, that therein the principal articles of the gospel revelation were preached to Abraham and to the Jews, as St. Paul indeed has expresslyaffirmed,Galatians 3:8; Galatians 3:8. Hebrews 4:2. The covenant with Abraham, therefore, may with great propriety be termed, The gospel of the patriarchs and of the pious Jews.
Hebrews 6:1. Therefore, leaving the principles— "Laying aside, comparatively speaking, the doctrines which were taught you when you were first initiated into Christianity." The apostle means what in the preceding chapter were called the elements, or first principles of the oracles of God, Hebrews 6:12.—Let us go on to perfection, τελειοτητα ; "To that state of knowledge, experience, and practice, to which "the following doctrines are designed to lead; searching with industry and diligence what the word of God has taught concerning Christ." The τελειοι, perfect, are opposed to babes in Christ. See ch. Hebrews 5:12. The foundation means, the doctrines taught men at first, in order to baptism into Christ. So St. Paul, As a wise master-builder, I have laid the foundation; 1Co 3:10 and in the next verse, Other foundation can no man lay, than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.—Dead works are no where mentioned but in this epistle, in the present verse, and ch. Hebrews 9:14. St. James indeed speaks of faith without works as dead, ch. Hebrews 2:17, &c. by which he means, that it is useless to him who has it; but here dead works are such as are not only useless and unprofitable, but as lead to death. They are such as God will punish with death. All sin exposes men to God's justice, and the wages of sin is death. Romans 6:23.
Hebrews 6:2. The doctrine of baptisms,— Dr. Sykes and many others think the reason why the sacred writer speaks of baptisms in the plural number to be this: He writes to the Hebrews, who had not only several sorts of baptisms enjoined in and by the law, but who had had John, whom all looked upon and acknowledged, baptizing into the belief of one who was to come after him, and into a baptism of repentance. When a Jew was converted, he was baptized into the profession of Jesus's being the Messiah, he already believing in the other great preparative doctrines. When John made use of the rite of baptism to all such as became believers in the Messiah, who was soon to appear, he declared repentance to be necessary, as a preparatory work for all the blessings of the gospel: after this, our Saviour coming, declared the same, and baptized disciples in his own name, as being the Messiah himself actually come. When a Jewish disciple therefore was to be baptized, he was particularly to be instructed in the difference between the Jewish and Christianbaptisms; and hence the apostle speaks here of the doctrine of baptisms. Lord Barrington understands this of the baptism of water, and the effusion of the Holy Spirit, by which the first disciples amongthe Jews, and the first converts among the devout and idolatrous Gentiles were initiated. He also explains the laying on of hands, as referring to the immediate communication of the spiritual gifts by means of the apostles. These he thinks were first principles, as baptism was the first entrance into the church, and laying on of hands the great evidence of it; and so repentance and living faith include the whole of Christianity; and a resurrection and eternal judgment are the great motives leading men under the grace of God to embrace it. Of laying on of hands must be understood as if he had said what was the use and purport of this practice; for anciently they were wont to lay on hands as soon as the persons were baptized, to give them the Holy Ghost; Acts 8:17; Acts 19:5-6. Sometimes they used this ceremony to appoint persons to offices; Acts 6:6; Act 13:3 sometimes to heal, as Acts 9:12; Acts 9:17. This custom then being so variously applied to such different purposes, it was explained to the person to be initiated by baptism.
Hebrews 6:3. And this will we do, if God permit.— That is, "We will go on to teach those doctrines, with which a perfect Christian ought to be well acquainted;" this verse being in connection with the first clause of the first verse: and accordingly, the apostle goes on to represent Christianity in its highest beauty, usefulness, and glory. The next clause, if God permit, seems to have this force; "If God will give me an opportunity, and I am not prevented by your apostatizing from Christianity, before my epistle comes to our hands." When this verse is thus understood, the connection of it with the immediatelyfollowing verses is perfectlyclear, though otherwise very obscure; for by those verses he shews in whatcase he thought God would not permit him or give him an opportunity for this, or reason to expect success in his attempt.
Hebrews 6:4. For it is impossible, &c.— "For your apostacy would put an end to my expectation of doing any good to you; it being impossible for those who have been once thoroughly enlightened in the faith, &c." It is thought by some, that we ought to soften the termimpossible, and understand no more by it than this; that it is extremely difficult. But this interpretation may well be called in question, since, when our apostle speaks of the same case, without using the word here rendered impossible, he describes it in terms equivalent; setting it forth as desperate and remediless; ch. Hebrews 10:26, &c. Besides, the circumstances of the sin were so peculiar, that we need not wonder that it should be as remarkably distinguished in its dreadful consequences. See the end of the note on Hebrews 6:6. And have tasted of the heavenly gift, signifies the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven, and revealed in the heart; so that the believer becomes a partaker of the Divine Spirit, and consequently of the divine nature, stiled by our Saviour the gift of God, John 4:10. To taste this gift, is to perceive, to be sensible of the truth and power of such gift of God. Perhaps the word tasted, both here and in the next verse, is used by our apostle with a particular regard to the metaphor that he had used before, of food, or strong meat. To be thoroughly convinced and assured of the reality of our possession of this gift through Jesus Christ, is one of the strongest motives to make any one hold fast his profession. It may seem by the next expression as if every one who had embraced the first principles of Christ, or had been baptized into the Christian religion, had been partaker of some gift or other of the Holy Ghost; and in a large sense this may be admitted to be true: but if it be imagined that every Christian enjoyed some or other of the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit—such as healing the sick, casting out devils, speaking with tongues, and the like; this seems more than fairly can be inferred from the present text. For though, in some places, to partake of, signifies to have a portion or share with others in common; (see ch. Hebrews 2:14; Hebrews 3:1; Hebrews 3:14.) yet, if a person were convinced of the truth of the gospel, and converted to a saving experience of its power, by hearing the word preached, or by a careful study of the scriptures, accompanied with the aid of the Holy Spirit; or by seeing himself, or being fully satisfied of, the miraculous powers and assistances of the first preachers of the gospel, accompanied with the same divine grace; he might properly enough be said to be a partaker of the Holy Ghost. Instead of were once enlightened—were made partakers, some read, have been, &c. &c.
Hebrews 6:5. Tasted the good word of God,— That is, have been experimentally acquainted with the gospel, which through the spirit conveys to the believer remission of sins, justification, and sanctification here, and the promise to the faithful of a resurrection to eternal life hereafter. By the powers of the world to come, are meant, I believe, "the powerful or miraculous works ofthe Christian age;" God bearing them witness both with signs and wonders, and with diverse miracles, and the gifts of the Holy Ghost, ch. Hebrews 2:4. The world to come, or rather the age to come, signifies the age of the Messiah; which was to last till the finalconsummation of all things: it is the same with the world to come, ch. Hebrews 2:5. They who not only saw those great miracles whereby Christianity was confirmed, but were themselves empowered to work them, could not possibly have fuller evidence of the truth of it.
Hebrews 6:6. If they shall fall away,— Two things are here to be observed; First, That the apostle speaks of such as not only fell away or apostatized from the genuine experience of the Christian, but also from the very profession of Christianity. This appears, from what he presently adds, to set forth the aggravation of their guilt,—that they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame. It is therefore very unreasonable, for persons to give way to despair themselves, or to drive others to it, by applying this text to other, and even the grossest sins, when it only relates to the case of an absolute and complete apostacy. Secondly, As the same thing is spoken of again, ch. Hebrews 10:26, &c. it cannot be improper to compare the two places together, in order to a complete understanding of the apostle's design; and therefore from the other place we may explain this if: If they shall εκουσιως, WILFULLY fall away. We may observe further, that the word παραπεσοντας here used, not only signifies falling away, but "all sinning;" that is, all departing from the rule which ought to have been followed: and accordingly, the substantive παραπτωμα is commonly used for trespass or lapse. Here it signifies a total falling away from Christ; deserting the brethren, and withdrawing from religion in times of difficulty;—crimes hinted at toward the close of this epistle. To renew them to repentance, means inwardly to convince them again of the truth, and bring them afresh to an inward change and new birth. See Colossians 3:10. The apostle adds, seeing they crucify to themselves, &c. That is, "They treat Christ, as if they thought he deserved the sentence executed upon him; and thus they expose him to an open shame, and act as if they thought he deserved to be treated as he was." It may be inquired, why the apostle speaks so severely of the condition of such apostates. Now the reason of this may be taken, partly from the nature of the evidence which they rejected: the fullest and clearest evidence that God ever designed to give of the truth of Christianity, was the miraculous operations of the Spirit; and when men not only experienced the genuine power of Christianity, but were eye witnesses of the miracles wrought in those primitive times, and were themselves empowered to work them, and yet rejected all this evidence, they could have no further or higher means whereby they should be convinced; so that their case must in that respect be absolutely desperate. And, finally, this may be resolved into the righteous judgment of God against such men, for the heinous aggravated wickedness of which they are guilty. If, where men have not had the advantage of this highest evidence, but barely have rejected the love of the truth which they once enjoyed, God may, in many given cases, justly send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie; there certainly must be much stronger reason for such a judicial proceeding of God against those who apostatized in the apostolic age, seeing their sin was so very great: and our author grounds this severe sentence upon the greatness of their sin, because they crucified the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame; and in the other place, because they do despight unto the Spirit of grace. See Parkhurst on the word Παραπιπτω .
Hebrews 6:7. For the earth which drinketh in the rain— By this comparison the manner of the apostle's reasoning appears evident: those who have been once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, &c. are steadily to persevere in their duties; in which case they are just like good soils, which, being well watered, constantly bring forth good fruit, and are very justly said to be blessed by God. See Genesis 27:27. On the other hand, those who fall away totally, are fitly comparedto barren and unfruitful lands, which produce nothing, or what is worse than nothing, briars and thorns. This is a state exceedingly bad, which is at present, and will finally be more so, cursed by God. See John 15:6. Matthew 13:40-42.Isaiah 24:5-6; Isaiah 24:5-6. Jeremiah 17:5-6.
Hebrews 6:9. But, beloved, &c.— This is exactly like St. Paul's way of closing and softening any thing that he had said which sounded terrible and dreadful. See for examples, 2 Thessalonians 2:13.Ephesians 4:20; Ephesians 4:20. Romans 8:9.
Hebrews 6:10-11. For God is not unrighteous, &c.— "I just now mentioned my hopes of your complete salvation; and I have reason to entertain such hopes, as well knowing the pious and benevolent dispositions, which many of you have expressed. For God is not unmindful of his gracious promises, so as to forget your diligent work and labour in his service, animated by a principle of unfeigned love, which you have manifested, not only to your brethren, but to his name also, in having ministered, and in still ministering, as his providence gives you opportunity, to the necessities of the saints. And we heartily wish that this temper were as universal, as it is commendable where it prevails; so that every one of you, into whose hands this epistle may come, might shew the same diligence, and exert the same studious care, in order to establish the full assurance of your hope, even to the end of your Christian course; by which hope you must still be supported, while in this world." The word πληροφορια, rendered full assurance, whatever it is applied to, whether it be faith, hope, or understanding, implies such a fulness, asleads a man to act readily and determinately upon it. See ch. 2 Chronicles 2:2; 2 Chronicles 2:22 Chronicles 2:2. 1 Thessalonians 1:5.
Hebrews 6:12. But followers of them, &c.— He means such holy Christians as had persevered in their sincere profession of Christ, as well as such other faithful believers as had lived in a just expectation of his coming, and were now in possession of the promises made to Abraham, which were fully accomplished. The apostle therefore encourages the Hebrews to be imitators of those who had gone before them in faith and hope, since they now saw all the promises made good, and those who perseveringly believed in Christ in possession of that which had been so long expected. Mr. Peirce explains this of the Gentiles who were converted to Christianity. If it be intended as a hint tostir up the Jews to emulation, as he supposes, it is certainly a very obscure one; for, comparatively, it is a low sense in which Christians, in this imperfect state, can be said to inherit the promises. "I rather think," says Dr. Doddridge, "it refers to all good men departed out of our world, whether in former or latter days, and under whatever dispensation they died." Taking it in this view, (which, I am fully persuaded, is just,) it will be, as several have observed, an unanswerable argument against the soul's continuing in a state of sleep during the intermediate period between death and the resurrection.
Hebrews 6:13-15. For when God made promise, &c.— "And a glorious confirmation you will find these promises to be, when you come to compare one spiritual object with another, and are better skilled in the method of interpreting the sacred oracles, on principles which I am going to lay down. For I may, in the first place, lead you to observe, that when God made the great and comprehensive promise to Abraham, (Genesis 12:2-3; Genesis 17:1-7.) on which so much of our hope as Christians does also depend, the promise that he would be a God to him, and that all nations should be blessed in his Seed,—seeing he had no greater a person to swear by, he swore by himself, even by the honours of his own sacred and divine name; saying, by an audible voice from heaven when he repeated the promise, while Abraham stood with Isaac before that altar on which with humble submission to the divine appointment he had just before laid him, (Genesis 22:16-17.) By myself have I sworn, saith the Lord, because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son, that blessing I will assuredly bless thee, and multiplying I will assuredly multiply thee; I will bless and multiply thee remarkably, so as to make thy seed as the stars of heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore. And thus having waited long in humble faith and patience, he obtained in due time the accomplishment of the promise, first in the birth of Isaac, and then, after a much longer attendance, the consummation of a better hope. And we whose circumstances so happily resemble his in this respect, may well follow the example of his faith, when we survey the foundation of it."
Hebrews 6:17. Wherein— Wherefore, or therefore: on which account. The word rendered confirmed, εμεσιτευσεν, signifies properly, as in the margin, interposed; and so it is rendered in many versions.
Hebrews 6:18. That by two immutable things,— "Namely, a promise and an oath, in each of which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, even we who in humble obedience to the gracious designs of his gospel, have fled for refuge to lay hold on the hope laid before us, the noble prize which that gospel proposes as the great object of our ambition and pursuit." Dr. Heylin observes, that the word παρακλησιν, rendered consolation, signifies incitement, and he observes, that the words in the next clause are figurative, yet clear, and highly instructive to those whom they concern; namely, they who have renounced the world, and its vain interests, and place all their happiness in being totally conformed to the will of God. The hope that this will one day be accomplished in them, is the refuge to which they necessarily fly: for withouthope the mind can have no rest; and these persons having withdrawn their hopes from secular interests, the hope of salvation (that is, conformity to the divine will,) is their only refuge. A firm adherence to this hope keeps them steadfast in the boisterous sea of temptations wherewith they are agitated; for so the metaphor is continued in the next verse: which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, &c.
Hebrews 6:19-20. Which entereth into that within the vail;— The apostle means, that the hope set before us, is not limited to any thing temporal or present, but reaches to heaven and heavenly things; which he compares to the holy of holies, that part of the tabernacle which was behind, or within the second vail. Compare ch. Hebrews 9:3. Into which (Hebrews 6:20.) Jesus is entered. See ch. Hebrews 9:24. The sacred writer here assigns a verymaterialdifferencebetweenthehighpriest'senteringwithintheearthlysanctuary, andJesusourHighpriest'senteringwithintheheavenlysanctuary. The Aaronical high priests did not enter the sanctuary as forerunners of the people, who were utterly debarred an entrance into it at any time: but Jesus is entered for us as a forerunner, and who will take care that all his faithful saints shall come after him into it.
Inferences.—In every respect, both with regard to knowledge and practice, let us go on to perfection. For this purpose, as Christians, let us remember what foundation has been already laid, of repentance and faith, of baptism, of a resurrection, and a future judgment; a judgment, eternal in its consequences, and therefore infinitely important. And let us remember, that as the building, in its highest advances, rests upon the foundation, and owes its stability to its union with it; so in like manner does our progress and advance in Christian piety stand in a near connection with our retaining these truths, though we by no means confine ourselves to them.
It is by a continual care to improve in them, that we shall most happily escape the danger, the dreadful danger of apostacy, to which we may otherwise be exposed. And O! let the awful passage before us be duly attended to in this view! Let us not rest in any enlightening that we may have received, in any taste that we may have had of the heavenly gift, of the good word of God, or the powers of the world to come, nor in any operation of the Spirit of God upon our minds. Men may now have all these, and yet fall away, and their guilt become more aggravated: they may injure the Redeemer so much the more in proportion to all that they have known of him; and indeed will be capable of wounding him the deeper by their apostacy, and of exposing him to greater infamy. Let us daily pray to be delivered from so great an evil! We are not left to be like a barren wilderness; the rain from on high comes often upon us, and we enjoy the choicest cultivation: may we bring forth fruits meet for him by whom we are dressed, the genuine fruits of practical, vital religion. So shall we receive a blessing from God, and flourish more and more, till we are transplanted to the paradise above.
But as for those unhappy creatures who bring forth briars and thorns, let them dread that final rejection which will be the portion of those who persist in abusing the divine goodness; let them dread the curse, the awful, irrecoverable curse, to be pronounced on such; let them dread the everlasting dearth with which their souls shall be parched, when ordinances, when the workings of the Spirit of God, when the common comforts and supports of this mortal animal life, shall be no more. Gladly do the ministers of Christ entertain better hopes concerning those committed to their care, while yet there is room for hope; though faithfulness to God, and to the souls of men, obliges them to speak in the language of such cautions as there. May divine grace apply it to those who are particularly concerned in it; and plant what is now a barren and abandoned desart, with such fruits of holiness, as may transform it into the garden of the Lord!
REFLECTIONS.—1st, The apostle,
1. Exhorts the Hebrews to advance in spiritual attainments. Therefore, leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection, to a far more advanced state of grace and understanding; even to love God with all our hearts, and all our souls, and all our mind: not laying again the foundation, and continuing still to insist on the first principles of the Christian doctrine, but proceeding to greater heights in heavenly wisdom and holiness. The principles that I speak of are those, (1.) Of repentance from dead works, implying a sense of the evil and danger of sin, the wages of which is death, an abhorrence of it, and the real conversion of heart from the love and practice of all iniquity. And, (2.) Of faith toward God, since all who come to him, must believe his being, attributes, and perfections; and especially that he is our reconciled God in the Son of his love, Christ Jesus. And these two principles of Christianity were typified under the Mosaical dispensation by the doctrine of baptisms, or divers washings prescribed to the temple worshippers, which signified the purification of the conscience, through faith in the blood of Jesus, and by the power of his Spirit, and of laying on of hands, for the receiving of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, or as used for any other purpose in the Christian church. (3.) And of the resurrection of the dead, which may be reckoned another first principle of Christianity. And, (4.) Of eternal judgment, when every man must appear to give account at God's bar, and to receive his sentence to be happy or miserable for ever, in body and soul, according to his deeds. These having been so often insisted upon, we design to leave them to your serious reflection, and pass on to sublimer things. And this will we do, if God permit. Note; (1.) When the foundation of religion is laid, the superstructure must be raised in an increase of knowledge, grace, and holiness. (2.) All that we purpose must be undertaken in dependance upon God's support; for without him we can do nothing aright.
2. To quicken them to diligence, he sets before them the fearful case of apostates. For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and so far received the knowledge of the truth as to experience the power of it, and have tasted of the heavenly gift in its genuine and divine consolations; and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, enjoyed the indwelling presence and witness of the divine Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God in its enlivening and regenerating influences; and of the powers of the world to come, enabled to perform many wonderful works; if after all this, they shall fall away from the gospel to Judaism, or Heathenism, the case is desperate, it is impossible to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, approving the wickedness of those who nailed him to the tree as an imposter; and put him to an open shame, by assenting in words or actions to the black calumnies of his murderers: apostacy, being a sin against the very remedy, cannot but be necessarily fatal. Note; Satan will often seek to distress the souls of the sincere, when under darkness or temptation, with these terrible declarations; let it therefore be remembered, that it is never impossible to renew those unto repentance, in whom the Lord still awakens a desire to repent and turn to him.
3. The different states of the gracious soul and the apostate are here described. 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; so the faithful heart, watered with the dew of divine influences from the Lord, brings forth the fruits of righteousness, which by Christ Jesus are acceptable and well pleasing to God, who blesses his own work, and gives a more abundant increase of every holy and gracious disposition. But that ground which after all the culture bestowed upon it, now beareth thorns and briers, is rejected by the owner as barren, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned: so where, amid the means of grace, unbelief and hardness of heart remain, or return, and after all their professions and experience men turn aside to error in principle, and ungodliness in practice, such are in God's sight reprobate, his curse lieth upon them, which soon shall be fearfully executed; when, cast into the belly of hell, they shall lie down in everlasting burnings which none can quench.
2nd, The apostle, from these awful warnings, passes on to the most powerful encouragements to steadfastness and perseverance.
1. He professes his good opinion of them, in general at least. But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak; that you will never prove apostates, but, taking warning by the fatal examples of others, will perseveringly cleave to the Lord Jesus Christ in faith and holiness.
2. He suggests the reason on which his confidence was built. For God is not unrighteous or unfaithful to his promises, and therefore will not forget your work and labour of love, the genuine principle of all holy obedience, and assured proof of your interest in the blessings of the gospel; which love ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do continue to minister unto them under all their afflictions. Note; (1.) Our love to God must appear in every work and labour of love for the good of his people. (2.) They who perseveringly give genuine proofs of their faith unfeigned, by a conversation such as becometh godliness, will find God faithful to his promises, and their bounteous rewarder.
3. He exhorts them to persevere. And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence, in every good word and work, your fruits of righteousness abiding and abounding, to the full assurance of hope unto the end, growing up to a more satisfied confidence of your interest in the eternal blessedness, invariably attached to your living Head and Saviour, and carried as a ship under full sails into the port of eternal rest. See therefore that ye be not slothful, but diligent in every means of grace, and in the duties of your calling, as followers of them who have trod before this holy path, and, through faith and patience amidst every trial, persevering unto the end, are now gone to inherit the promises in glory everlasting. Note; (1.) If we have good hope through grace, we should seek to grow up to the full assurance of hope unto the end. (2.) Diligence in religion, as in every thing else, is the only way to thrive. (3.) The examples of those who are gone to glory before us, should encourage and quicken us to follow them.
4. The faithfulness of God to his promises, should engage their fidelity to him. For when God made promise to Abraham concerning the Messiah, his future Seed, because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself, to give him the strongest assurance of the fulfilment of the promise, Saying, Surely, as I live, my being and perfections are engaged to accomplish my word, blessing, I will bless thee, and multiplying, I will multiply thee, so that thou shalt be a father of many nations, and on thy spiritual seed shall thy blessing descend to the latest ages. And so after he had patiently endured, through manifold afflictions, he obtained the promise of a son, the pledge of that Messiah who should descend from him; and at last departed himself in the faith, and entered the eternal world of glory. For men verily swear by the greater, solemnly appealing to God as the witness of truth, and avenger of falsehood; and an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife, this being judged the most solemn and decisive evidence which can be given to silence doubt, and terminate dispute. Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath, in condescension to our weakness, and to give us the utmost satisfaction with regard to his fidelity on his part in the accomplishment of all his promises: that by two immutable things, the promise and oath of God, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, filled with the sweetest delight, and supported under all our trials, who have fled for refuge, as the manslayer to the appointed city, (Numbers 35:11-12.) with eagerness, under an awakened sense of our guilt and danger, to lay hold upon the hope set before us, even Christ, the rock of his people's confidence: which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which entereth into that within the vail; Christ, the object of our hope, being ascended into heaven, thither the grace of hope follows him, keeping the soul unmoved amidst all the storms of temptation: whither the forerunner, our representative, is for us entered, even Jesus the exalted Saviour, gone to prepare a place for all his faithful saints, made an high-priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. Note; (1.) In Christ there is a refuge provided for the chief of sinners, and all who flee to him shall not only be safe but happy. (2.) In this tempestuous world we shall be hourly exposed to shipwreck, if hope do not enable us to ride out the storm, having cast anchor within the vail.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Hebrews 6". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 12 / Ordinary 17