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Bible Commentaries

John Owen Exposition of Hebrews
Hebrews 6

 

 

Other Authors
Introduction

Verse 1

διὸ ἀφέντες τὸν τῆς ἀρχῆς τοῦ χριστοῦ λόγου, ἐπὶ τὴν τελεισvτηατ φερώμεθα

διό. “ideo,” “quapropter,” “propterea;” a wherefore.” ᾿αφέντες, “intermittentes,” Ari., Vulg. Lat., Rhem., “intermitting:” as though the apostle laid these things aside only for the present, with a resolution to take them up again in this epistle; but neither doth the word signify any such thing nor doth he so do. “Relinquentes,” Bez., “leaving.” Syr., נֶשְׁבּוק, “emittamus,” or “demittamus;” “dismissing,” properly. τὸν τῆς ἀφχῆς τοῦ χριστοῦ λόγου. Arias, “sermonem initii Christi.” Vulg., “inchoationis Christi.” “The word of the beginning of Christ,” as the Rhemists; very obscurely in Latin, and in our language. Erasm., “omisso qui in Christo rudes inchoat sermone;” “the word that entereth those that are unskilful,” or, “beginners in Christ.” So also Beza. We, “the principles of the doctrine of Christ.” Syr., “the beginning of the word of Christ,” for “the word of the beginning of Christ.” The word of, or that which concerns the principles of the doctrine of Christ. ᾿επὶ τὴν τελειότηατ φερώμεθα. φερώμεθα, “feramur,” “let us be carried on.” Syr., “ נִאחֵא, “let us come to.” Arab., “let us lift up ourselves.” Rhem., “let us proceed.” Ours, “let us go on unto perfection.”

Hebrews 6:1. — Wherefore, leaving the doctrine of the beginning of Christ, let us be carried on to perfection.

διό, “wherefore.” This illative manifests that there is a dependence in what ensues on what was discoursed of before. That which follows may be either an inference from it, or be the effect of a resolution occasioned by it. “Wherefore;” — that is either, ‘This duty will hence follow;’or, ‘Seeing it is so, I am thus resolved to do.’And this connection is variously apprehended, on the account of the ambiguity of the expression in the plural number and first person. ᾿αφέντες ...... φερώμεθα, — “We leaving, let us go on.” For in this kind of expression there is a rhetorical communication; and the apostle either assumes the Hebrews unto himself as to his work, or joins himself with them as to their duty. For if the words be taken the first way, they declare his resolution in teaching; if in the latter, their duty in learning.

First, And if we take the words in the first way, as expressing the apostle’s resolution as to his own work, the inference seems to have an immediate dependence on the eighth verse of the preceding chapter, passing by the discourse of the following verses as a digression, to be as it were included in a parenthesis: “Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing you are dull in hearing;” I shall therefore, for your future instruction, “leave the principles of the doctrine of Christ,” and go on unto more sublime mysteries, or the wisdom that we speak among them that are perfect.’For although he had blamed them for their dulness and backwardness in learning, yet he doth not declare them, at least not all of them, to be such as were uncapable of these mysteries, so as that he ought not to communicate them unto them. This is the meaning of the words, if the apostle assume the Hebrews unto himself, and if it be his work that is intended.

Secondly, If in the latter way the apostle join himself unto the Hebrews, and it is their duty which is intended, namely, that they should not always dwell on the first principles or lessons of Christianity, but press on unto perfection, then, —

1. This illative, διό, seems to have respect unto the time, in the first place, which these Hebrews had enjoyed under the means of growth in the knowledge of Christ; on the account whereof he affirms that it might be justly expected concerning them that they should be teachers of others. “Therefore,” saith he, or on the consideration hereof, ‘it is just and equal that you should go on towards perfection;’which that they would do, he expresseth his hopes concerning them, Hebrews 6:9.

2. It respects also that negligence, and sloth, and backwardness to learn, which he had reproved in them. As if he had said, ‘Seeing, therefore, you have hitherto been so careless in the improvement of the means which you have enjoyed, — which hath been no small fault or evil in you, but that which hath tended greatly to your disadvantage, — now at last stir up yourselves unto your duty, and go on to perfection.’

We need not precisely to determine this connection, so as to exclude either intention; yea, it may be the apostle, having respect unto the preceding discourse, and considering thereon both the present condition of the Hebrews, as also the necessity that there was of instructing them in the mystery of the priesthood of Christ, — without the knowledge whereof they could not be freed from their entanglements unto the Aaronical priesthood and ceremonies, which were yet in use and exercise among them, — doth intend in this inference from thence both his own duty and theirs; that he should proceed unto their further instruction, and that they should stir up themselves to learn and profit accordingly. This, the duty of his office and care of them, and this their advantage and edification, required; for this alone was the great means and expedient to bring them off in a due manner, and upon right grounds, from that compliance with Judaism which God would now no longer connive at, nor tolerate the practice of, as that which was inconsistent with the nature and design of the gospel. And it is apparent, that before the writing of this epistle, they were not sufficiently convinced that there was an absolute end put unto all Mosaical institutions; for notwithstanding their profession of the gospel, they still thought it their duty to abide in the observation of them. But now the apostle designs their instruction in that mystery which particularly evinceth their inconsistency with faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, and obedience unto him.

᾿αφέντες, “omittentes,” “relinquentes;” we, “leaving.” ᾿αφίημι, is sometimes “dimitto,” to “dismiss,” to “discharge,” or “let go;” sometimes “omitto,” “missum facio,” to “omit,” to “pass by.” And it is used with respect unto speech of things that have been already mentioned. τούτων ἀφέμενοι τῶν λόγων, in Lucian, “omitting these discourses,” — laying aside further speech concerning these things. So is it here used by our apostle. But the signification of the word is to be limited unto the present occasion; for consider the things here spoken of absolutely, and they are never to be left, either by teachers or hearers. There is a necessity that teachers should often insist on the rudiments or first principles of religion; and this not only with respect unto them who are continually to be trained up in knowledge from their infancy, or unto such as may be newly converted, but also they are occasionally to be inculcated on the minds of those who have made a farther progress in knowledge. And this course we find our apostle to have steered in all his epistles. Nor are any hearers so to leave these principles as to forget them, or not duly to make use of them. Cast aside a constant regard unto them in their proper place, and no progress can be made in knowledge, no more than a building can be carried on when the foundation is taken away. But respect is had on both sides unto the present occasion. ‘Let us not always dwell upon the teaching and learning of these things, but “omitting” them for a season, as things that you are, or might be, well acquainted withal, let us proceed unto what is further necessary for you.’

Obs. 1. It is the duty of ministers of the gospel to take care, not only that their doctrine they preach be true, but also that it be seasonable with respect unto the state and condition of their hearers.

Herein consists no small part of that wisdom which is required in the dispensation of the word. Truths unseasonable are like showers in harvest. It is “a word spoken in season” that is beautiful and useful, Proverbs 25:11; yea, “every thing is beautiful in its own time,” and not else, Ecclesiastes 3:11. And two things are especially to be considered by him who would order his doctrine aright, that his words may be fit, meet, and seasonable:

1. The condition of his hearers, as to their present knowledge and capacity. Suppose them to be persons, as the apostle speaks, of “full age,” such as can receive and digest “strong meat,” — that have already attained some good acquaintance with the mysteries of the gospel. In preaching unto such an auditory, if men, through want of ability to do otherwise, or want of wisdom to know when they ought to do otherwise, shall constantly treat of first principles, or things common and obvious, it will not only be unuseful unto their edification, but also at length make them weary of the ordinance itself. And there will be no better effect on the other side, where the hearers being mostly weak, the more abstruse mysteries of truth are insisted on, without a prudent accommodation of matters suited unto their capacity. It is, therefore, the duty of stewards in the house of God to give unto his household their proper portion. This is the blessed advice our apostle gives to Timothy, 2 Timothy 2:15 : “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, οφρθοτομοῦντα τὸν λόγον τῆς ἀληθείας,” — “rightly cutting out the word of truth.” This is that whereby a minister may evince himself to be “a workman that needeth not to be ashamed:” — if as, when the beasts that were sacrificed were cut into pieces, the priest according to the law disposed of the parts of them, unto the altar, himself, and them that brought them, that each in the division might have his proper and legal portion; so he give out a due and proper part unto his hearers, he is an approved workman. Others cast all things into confusion and disorder; which will at length redound unto their own shame. Now, whereas in all churches, auditories, or congregations, there is so great a variety of hearers, with respect unto their present attainments, knowledge, and capacities, so that it is impossible that any one should always, or indeed very frequently, accommodate his matter and way of instruction to them all; it were greatly to be desired that there might be, as there was in the primitive church, a distribution made of hearers into several orders or ranks, according as their age or means of knowledge do sort them, that so the edification of all might be distinctly provided for. So would it be, if it were the work of some separately to instruct those who yet stand in need to be taught the first principles of the oracles of God, and of others to build up towards perfection those who have already made some progress in the knowledge of the gospel; or the same work may be done by the same persons at several seasons. Nor doth any thing hinder but that those who are strong may be occasionally present at the instructions of the weak, and the latter at the teachings of the former, both to their great advantage. In the meantime, until this can be attained, it is the duty and wisdom of a minister to apply himself, in the doctrine he preacheth, and the manner of his delivery, unto the more general state of his hearers, as by him it is apprehended or known. And as it will be a trouble unto him who esteems it his duty to go forward in the declaration of the mysteries of the gospel, to fear that many stay behind, as being unable to receive and digest the food he hath provided; so it should be a shame to them who can make no provision but of things trite, ordinary, and common, when many, perhaps, among their hearers are capable of feeding on better or more solid provision. Again, —

2. The circumstances of the present time are duly to be considered by them who would preach doctrine that should be seasonable unto their hearers; and these are many, not here to be particularly insisted on. But those especially of known public temptations, of prevalent errors and heresies, of especial opposition and hatred unto any important truths, are always to be regarded; for I could easily manifest that the apostle in his epistles hath continually an especial respect unto them all. Neither was a due consideration hereof ever more necessary than it is in the days wherein we live. And other things may be added of the like nature unto this purpose. Again, —

Obs. 2. Some important doctrines of truth may, in the preaching of the gospel, be omitted for a season, but none must ever be forgotten or neglected. — So deals the apostle in this place, and light hath been. sufficiently given us hereinto by what hath already been discoursed.

That which is passed over here he calls τὸν τῆς ἀρχῆς τοῦ χριστοῦ λόγου “sermonem de Christo initiantem;” “sermo exordii Christi;” “sermo quo instituuntur rudes in Christo.” We say, “the principles of the doctrine of Christ,” I fear somewhat improperly; for “the principles of the doctrine of Christ” indefinitely must include all, at least the most principal, of those which are so. ῾ο λόγος, “the word;” that is, the word preached. So ὁλόγος is frequently used, 1 Corinthians 1:18. And the name “Christ” is not taken here personally, neither efficiently, as though “of Christ,” should be ‘whereof Christ is the author,’nor objectively concerning Christ; but it is taken metonymically for the doctrine of the gospel, and the profession of that religion which was taught by him. So that “the word of Christ” is no more but the doctrine of the gospel as preached and taught. τῆς ἀρχῆς containeth a limitation of this doctrine with respect unto some parts of it; that is, those which men usually and ordinarily were first instructed in, and which, from their own nature, it was necessary that so they should be. These are here called “the word of the beginning of Christ.” And what these doctrines are, the apostle declares particularly in the end of this verse, and in the next, where we shall inquire into them. They are the same with “the first principles of the oracles of God,” whereof mention was made before. Having declared what for the present he would omit and pass by, although there was some appearance of a necessity to the contrary, the apostle expresseth what his present design in general was, and what was the end which therein he aimed at. Now this was, that, not being retarded by the repetition or re-inculcation of the things which he would therefore omit, they might (he in teaching, they in learning) “go on to perfection.” And two things must be considered: —

1. The end intended;

2. The manner of pressing towards it.

The end is τελειότης, “perfection;” that is, such a knowledge of the mysterious and sublime doctrines of the gospel as those who were completely initiated and thoroughly instructed were partakers of. Of this he says, σοφίαν λαλοῦμεν ἐν τελείοις, 1 Corinthians 2:6; — “We speak wisdom among the perfect;” or, ‘declare the deep mysteries of the gospel, “the wisdom of God in a mystery,” unto them that are capable of them.’It is, then, a perfection that the apostle aims at; but such as comes under a double limitation: —

1. From the nature of the thing itself. It is only an intellectual perfection, a perfection of the mind in knowledge, that is intended. And this may be where there is not a moral, gracious, sinless perfection. Yea, men may have great light in their minds, whilst their wills and affections are very much depraved, and their lives unreformed.

2. It is a comparative, and not an absolute perfection. An absolute perfection, in the comprehension of the whole mystery of God in Christ, is not by us attainable in this life. The apostle denies it concerning himself, Philippians 3:12. But such a degree and measure as God is pleased to communicate to believers in the ordinary use of means, is that which is intended. See Ephesians 4:12-13. Take, therefore, the perfection here aimed at objectively, and it is the more sublime mysteries of the gospel which it expresseth; take it subjectively, it is such a clear perception of them, especially of those which concern the person and offices of Christ, and particularly his priesthood, as grown believers do usually attain unto.

The manner of arriving at this end he expresseth by φερώμεθα. And in this word is the rhetorical communication mentioned. For either he ascribes that unto himself with them which belonged only unto them; or that unto them which belonged only unto him; or what belonged unto them both, but in a different way, — namely, unto him in teaching, unto them in learning. “Let us be carried on.” The word is emphatical, intimating such a kind of progress as a ship makes when it is under sail. “Let us be carried on;” that is, with the full bent of our minds and affections, with the utmost endeavors of our whole souls. ‘We have abode long enough by the shore; let us now hoist our sails and launch forth into the deep.’And we may hence learn, that, —

Obs. 3. It is a necessary duty of the dispensers of the gospel to excite their hearers, by all pressing considerations, to make a progress in the knowledge of the truth.

Thus dealeth our apostle with these Hebrews. He would not have them always stand at the porch, but enter into the sanctuary, and behold the hidden glories of the house of God. Elsewhere he complains of those who are “always learning,” — that is, in the way of it, under the means of it; but yet, by reason of their negligence and carelessness in the application of their minds unto them, do “never come εἰς ἐπίγνωσιν,” 2 Timothy 3:7, — to a clear knowledge and acknowledgment of the truth. And in the same spirit he complains of his Corinthians for their want of proficiency in spiritual things, so that he was forced in his dealing with them to dwell still on the rudiments of religion, 1 Corinthians 3:1-2. In all his epistles heis continually, as it were, pressing this on the churches, that they should labor to “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ;” and that they might do so, was the principal matter of his prayers for them, Ephesians 3:14-19; Ephesians 1:15-19; Colossians 2:1-2. And they are utter strangers to his spirit and example who are careless in this matter, especially such as persuade and even compel others so to be. Wherefore this duty is necessary unto dispensers of the gospel on sundry accounts: —

1. Because their hearers do greatly need the exercise of it. They are apt to be slothful and weary; many begin to run well, but are quickly ready to faint. There is no reckoning up the occasions hereof, they are so many and various. Weariness of the flesh; self-conceit of having attained what is sufficient, perhaps more than others; curiosity and itching ears, in attending unto novelties; dislike of that holiness and fruitfulness of life which an increase of knowledge openly tends unto; misspending on the one hand, or covetousness of time for the occasions of life on the other; any prevailing corruption of mind or affections; the difficulty that is in coming to the knowledge of the truth in a due manner, making the sluggard cry, “There is a lion in the streets;” with other things innumerable, are ready and able to retard, hinder, and discourage men in their progress. And if there be none to excite, warn, and admonish them; to discover the variety of the pretences whereby men in this matter deceive themselves; to lay open the snares and dangers which hereby they cast themselves into; to mind them of the excellency of the things of the gospel and the knowledge of them, which are proposed before them; it cannot be but that by these means their spiritual condition will be prejudiced, if not their souls ruined. Yea, sometimes men are so captivated under the power of these temptations and seductions, and are furnished with such pleas in the de-fence of their own sloth and negligence, as that they must be dealt wisely and gently withal in admonitions concerning them, lest they be provoked or discouraged. Hence our apostle having dealt effectually with these Hebrews about these things, shuts up his discourse with that blessed expression of love and condescension towards them, Hebrews 13:22, “I beseech you, brethren, suffer the word of exhortation, — ἀνέχεσθε:” ‘So bear with it, as that which, however it may be contrary to your present inclinations, yet proceeds out of tender love to your souls, and hath no other end but your spiritual advantage.’Neither ought this to abate herein the endeavors of faithful ministers, but only give them further occasion to stir up and exercise their prudence and diligence.

2. The advantages which professors have by a progress in the knowledge of spiritual things, make it a necessary duty to stir them up and lead them on therein, unto them who are obliged in all things to watch for the good of their souls. And these advantages also present themselves in so much variety, that they cannot be here recounted. Mention may be made of some few in a way of instance; as,

(1.) Hereon, in a way of an effectual means, depends the security of men from seduction into heresies, noisome and noxious errors. Of what sort are they whom we see seduced every day? Are they not persons who either are brutishly ignorant of the very nature of Christian religion, and the first principles of it, — with which sort the Papists fill the rolls of their converts; or such as have obtained a little superficiary knowledge, and confidence therein, without ever laying a firm foundation, or carrying on an orderly superstruction thereon in wisdom and obedience, — which sort of men fill up the assemblies of the Quakers? The foundation of God standeth sure at all times, — God knoweth who are his; and he will so preserve his elect as to render their total seduction impossible. But in an ordinary way, it will be very difficult in such a time as this, — when seducers abound, false doctrines are divulged and speciously obtruded, wherein there are so many wolves abroad in sheep’s clothing, and so great an opposition is on all hands made to the truth of the gospel, — for any to hold out firm and unshaken unto the end, if their minds be not inlaid and fortified with a sound, well grounded knowledge of the mysteries of the gospel. It is the teaching of the Spirit, the unction of the Holy One, whereby we know all necessary truths, that must preserve us in such a season, 1 John 2:27.

(2.) Proportionable unto our growth in knowledge will be our increase in holiness and obedience. If this at any time fall out otherwise, it is from the sins and wickedness of the persons in whom it is; in the nature of the things themselves, they thus depend on one another. See Ephesians 4:21-24; Romans 12:2. That “ignorance is the mother of devotion,” is a maxim that came from hell to fetch the souls of men, and has carried back multitudes with it; where let it abide. Now the reason why the improvement of knowledge doth tend unto the improvement of holiness and obedience, is because faith acts itself on Christ only in and by the things which we know, whereby spiritual strength is derived unto us, and we are enabled unto them.

(3.) Usefulness in the church, unto our families, and amongst all men, depends hereon. This needs no other confirmation than what the experience of every man will suggest unto him. And if I should design to go over but the principal advantages which we attain, or may do so, in the growth of spiritual light and knowledge, there is not any thing wherein our faith or obedience is concerned; nothing that belongs unto our graces, duties, or communion with God, in them or by them; nothing wherein we are concerned in temptations, afflictions, or consolation, but might be justly called in to give testimony thereunto. If, therefore, the ministers of the gospel have any care for, or any love unto the souls of their hearers; if they understand any thing of the nature of the office and work which they have taken on themselves, or the account they must one day give of the discharge of it; they cannot but esteem it among the most necessary duties incumbent on them, to excite, provoke, persuade, and carry on, those who are under their charge towards the perfection before described.

There is therefore nothing, in the whole combination against Christ and the. gospel which is found in the Papacy, of a more pernicious nature and tendency than is the design of keeping the people in ignorance. So far are they from promoting the knowledge of Christ in the members of their communion, that they endeavor by all means to obstruct it; for, not to mention their numerous errors and heresies, every one whereof is a diversion from the truth, and a hinderance from coming to an acquaintance with it, they do directly keep from them the use of those means whereby alone its knowledge may be attained. What else means their prohibition of the people from reading the Scripture in a language they understand? The most expeditious course for the rendering of all streams unuseful, is by stopping of the fountain. And whereas all means of the increase of knowledge are but emanations from the Scripture, the prohibition of the use thereof doth effectually evacuate them all. Was this spirit in our apostle? had he this design? It is evident to all how openly and frequently he expresseth himself to the contrary. And to his example ought we to conform ourselves. Whatever other occasion of writing he had, the principal subject of his epistles is constantly the increase of light and knowledge in the churches, which he knew to be so necessary for them. We may therefore add, —

Obs. 4. The case of that people is deplorable and dangerous whose teachers are not able to carry them on in the knowledge of the mysteries of the gospel. The key of knowledge may be taken away by ignorance as well as malice. And so it is with many. And when knowledge is perished from their lips who should preserve it, the people must perish for want of that knowledge, Hosea 4:6; Matthew 15:14.

Obs. 5. In our progress towards an increase in knowledge, we ought to go on with diligence and the full bent of our wills and affections.

I intend hereby to express the sense of φερώμεθα. It is of a passive signification, denoting the effect, “Let us be acted, carried on;” but it includes the active use of means for the producing that effect. And the duties on our part intended may be reduced unto these heads, —

1. Diligence in an application unto the use of the best means for this end, Hosea 6:3. Those that would be carried on towards perfection must not be careless, or regardless of opportunities of instruction, nor be detained from them by sloth or vanity, nor diverted by the businesses and occasions of this world. Both industry in their pursuit, and choice in the preferring of them before secular advantages and avocations, are required hereunto.

2. Intension of mind in the attending unto them. Such persons are neither to be careless of them nor careless under them. There are who will take no small pains to enjoy the means of instruction, and will scarce miss an opportunity that they can reach unto; but when they have so done, there they sit down and rest. It is a shame, to consider how little they stir up their minds and understandings to conceive aright and apprehend the things wherein they are instructed. So do they continue to hear from day to day, and from year to year, but are not carried on one step towards perfection. If both heart and head be not set at work, and the utmost endeavors of our minds improved, in searching, weighing, pondering, learning, treasuring up the truths that we are taught by any means of divine appointment, we shall never make the progress intended. 3. There is required hereunto, that our wills and affections be sincerely inclined unto and fixed on the things themselves that we are taught. These are the principal wings or sails of our souls, whereby we are, or may be, carried on in our voyage. Without this all that we do will amount to nothing, or that which is no better. To love the truth, the things proposed unto us in the doctrine of it; to delight in them; to find a goodness, desirableness, excellency, and suitableness unto the condition of our souls in them; and therefore to adhere and cleave unto them; is that which will make us prosper in our progress. He that knows but a little and loves much, will quickly know and love more. And he that hath much knowledge but little love, will find that he labors in the fire for the increase of the one or other. When, in the diligent use of means, our wills and affections do adhere and cleave with delight unto the things wherein we are instructed, then are we in our right course; then if the holy gales of the Spirit of God do breathe on us, are we in a blessed tendency towards perfection. 2 Thessalonians 2:10.

4. The diligent practice of what we know is no less necessary unto the duty pressed on us. This is the next and immediate end of all teaching and all learning. This is that which renders our knowledge our happiness: “If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.” Doing what we know is the great key to give us an entrance into knowing what we do not. If we do the will of God, we shall know of his word, John 7:17. And, —

5. All these are to be managed with a certain design and prospect towards this end, of growing in grace and knowledge, and that until we arrive at the measure of our perfection appointed unto us in Jesus Christ. In these ways, and by these means, we may attain the effect directly expressed, of being carried on in the increase of spiritual light and knowledge, and not without them.


Verse 1-2

In the remainder of the first verse and the next that follows, the apostle declares in particular instances what were the things and doctrines which he called in general before, “the beginning of the doctrine of Christ,” whose further handling he thought meet at present to omit.

Hebrews 6:1-2. ΄ὴ πάλιν θεμέλιον καταβαλλόμενοι μετανοίας ἀπὸ νεκρῶν ἔργων, καὶ πίστεως ἐπὶ θεὸν, βαπτισμῶν διδαχῆς, ἐπιθέσεώς τε χειρῶν, ἀναστάσεώς τε νεκρῶν, καὶ κρὶματος αἰωνίου.

The Syriac translation proposeth these words in the way of an interrogation, “Will you again lay another foundation?” and the Ethiopic, omitting the first clause, in the way of a precept, “Attend therefore again to the foundation, that you dispute not concerning repentance from dead works, in the faith of God.” But neither the text nor scope of the apostle will bear either of these interpretations.

Hebrews 6:1-2. — Not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith towards God, of baptisms, doctrine, and the laying on of hands, of the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.

There are two things in these words added concerning “the doctrine of the principles of Christ,” or “the first doctrines of Christianity:”

1. Their general nature with respect to the whole truth of the gospel, metaphorically expressed; they are the “foundation.”

2. Their nature in particular is declared in sundry instances; not that all of them are mentioned, but these instances are chosen out to show of what kind they are. In the first, two things are proposed:

1. The expression of the thing itself intended, which is “the foundation.”

2. The apostle’s design with respect unto it, “not laying it again.”

FIRST, ΄ὴ πάλιν θεμέλιον καταβαλλόμενοι. θεμέλιος is, as was said, in this matter metaphorical, including an allusion unto an architect and his building. First he lays the foundation; and he is a most foolish builder who either doth not so, or who rests therein, or who is always setting it up and pulling it down, without making a progress. Indeed, that foundation which is all the building, which hath not an edifice erected on it, is no foundation; for that which is materially so, becomes so formally only with respect unto the building upon it. And those who receive the doctrines of Christ here called the “foundation,” if they build not on them, they will prove none unto them, whatever they are in themselves.

There are two properties of a foundation: —

1. That it is that which is first laid in every building. This the natural order of every building requires.

2. It is that which bears the whole weight of the superstructure; the whole, and all the parts of it, being laid upon it, and firmly united unto it. With respect unto the one or other of these properties, or both, are the doctrines intended called the “foundation.” But in the latter sense they cannot be so. It is Christ himself, and he only, who is so the foundation as to bear the weight and to support the whole building of the church of God. Isaiah 28:16; Matthew 16:18; 1 Corinthians 3:10-11; Ephesians 2:20-22;1 Peter 2:4-5. He is so personally, the life and being of the church consisting in its spiritual union unto his person, 1 Corinthians 12:12; and doctrinally, in that all truth is resolved into what is taught concerning him, 1 Corinthians 3:10; 1 Corinthians 3:13. Wherefore it is in allusion unto a foundation with respect unto its first property, namely, that it is first laid in the building, that these doctrines are called “the foundation” (so the Jews term the general principles of their profession יסודי תורה, “the foundations of the law,” or the principal doctrines taught therein), — the first doctrines which are necessary to be received and professed at men’s first entrance into Christianity. And the apostle intends the same things by the threefold expression which he maketh use of: —

1. στιοχεῖα τῆς ἀρχῆς λογίων τοῦ θεοῦ, Hebrews 5:12, — “the first principles of the oracles of God:”

2. ῾ο τῆς ἀρχῆς τοῦ χριστοῦ λόγος: and,

3. θεμέλοις, Hebrews 6:1; — “the beginning of the doctrine of Christ,” and “the foundation.”

Concerning these things he says, ΄ὴ πάλιν καταζαλλόμενοι, “not laying it again.” His saying that he would not lay it again, doth not infer that he himself had laid it before amongst them, but only that it was so laid before by some or other. For it was not by him that they received their first instruction, nor doth he mention any such thing in the whole epistle; whereas he frequently pleads it unto those churches which were planted by himself, 1 Corinthians 3:5-6; 1 Corinthians 3:10; 1 Corinthians 4:15. And it is known from the story that his ministry was not used in their first conversion. But he knew that they had faithful instructors, who would not leave them unacquainted with these necessary things; and that they would not have been initiated by baptism, or admitted into the church, without a profession of them. Besides, they were such as in general they owned in their former church- state. He might, therefore, well say that he would not lay this foundation again. ‘These things,’saith he, ‘you have already been instructed in by others, and therefore I will not (as also on other considerations) go over them again.’Wherefore let the hearers of the gospel carefully look to it, that they learn those things whereof they have had sufficient instruction; for if any evil ensue from their ignorance of them, they must themselves answer for it. Such ignorance is their sin, as well as their disadvantage. Preachers may take it for granted, that what they have sedulously and sufficiently instructed their hearers in, they have also received and learned, because it is through their sinful negligence if they have not so done. And they are not bound always to wait on some in their negligences, to the disadvantage of others.

SECONDLY, The apostle declares in particular what were those doctrinal principles, which he had in general so described, which were taught unto them who were first initiated into Christianity, and which he will not now again insist upon. “Repentance from dead works,” etc.

We must first consider the order of these words, and then their sense, or the things themselves intended. Some here reckon up six principles, some make them seven, some but four, and by some they are reduced unto three.

The first two are plain and distinct, “Repentance from dead works,” and “faith towards God.” The next that follow are disputed as to their coherence and sense: βαπτισμῶν διδαχῆς ἐπιθέσεώς τε χειρῶν. Some read these words with a note of distinction between them, βαπτισμῶν, διδαχῆς, both the genitive cases being regulated by θεμέλιον, “The foundation of baptisms, and of doctrine;” which are put together by apposition, not depending one upon another, διδαχή is “the preaching of the word.” And this was one of the first things wherein believers were to be instructed, — namely, that they were to abide ἐν τῇ διδαχῇ, Acts 2:42; in a constant attendance unto the doctrine of the gospel, when preached unto them. And as I shall not assert this exposition, so I dare not positively reject it, as not seeing any reason cogent to that purpose. But another sense is more probable.

Take the words in conjunction, so as that one of them should depend on and be regulated by the other, and then,

1. We may consider them in their order as they lie in the original: βαπτισμῶν διδαχῆς ἐπιθέσεώς τε χειρῶν (supposing the first to be regulated by θεμέλιος, and both the latter by it), — “The baptisms of doctrine and imposition of hands.” There were two things peculiar to the gospel, — the doctrine of it, and the extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost. Doctrine is compared to and called baptism, Deuteronomy 32:2; hence the people were said to be “baptized unto Moses,” when they were initiated into his doctrines, 1 Corinthians 10:1-2. The baptism of John was his doctrine, Acts 19:3. And the baptism of Christ was the doctrine of Christ, wherewith he was to “sprinkle many nations,” Isaiah 52:15. This is the first baptism of the gospel, even its doctrine. The other was the communication of the gifts of the Holy Ghost, Acts 1:5. That this, and this alone, is intended by “the laying on of hands,” I shall prove fully afterwards. And then the sense would be, ‘The foundation of gospel baptisms, — namely, preaching, and the gifts of the Holy Ghost.’And I know but one argument against this sense, — namely, that it is new and singular. To avoid this,

2. The order of the words must be inverted in their exposition. Not the “baptisms of doctrine,” but the “doctrine of baptisms,” must be intended. But then two things must be observed: —

(1.) That βαπτισμῶν, “baptisms,” is not immediately regulated by θεμέλιον, the “foundation;” and so “baptisms” are not asserted absolutely to be a foundation, as is “repentance from dead works,” but only the doctrine about it is so.

(2.) It cannot be readily conceived why διδαχή, “doctrine,” should be prefixed unto “baptisms” alone, and not to “repentance” and “faith,” the doctrines whereof also are intended; for it is not the grace of repentance and faith, but the doctrine concerning them, which the apostle hath respect to. There is, therefore, some peculiar reason why “doctrine” should be thus peculiarly prefixed unto “baptisms and the laying on of hands,” and not to the other things mentioned; for that “imposition of hands” is placed in the same order with “baptisms,” the conjunctive particle doth manifest, ἐπιθέσεώς. The following instances are plain, only some would reduce them unto one principle, — namely, the resurrection of all unto judgment.

There is, therefore, in these words nothing peculiar nor difficult, but only what concerns “baptisms,” and “the imposition of hands,” the “doctrine” whereof is specified. Now, I cannot discover any just reason hereof, unless it be, that by “baptisms,” and “the imposition of hands,” the apostle intendeth none of those rudiments of Christian religion wherein men were to be first instructed, but those rites whereof they were made partakers who were so instructed. As if the apostle had said, ‘These principles of the doctrine of Christ, — namely, repentance, faith, the resurrection, and judgment, are those doctrines wherein they are to be instructed who are to be baptized, and to have hands laid on them.’According to this sense, the words are to be read as in a parenthesis: “Not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith towards God, (namely, the doctrine of baptisms, and of the imposition of hands,) of the resurrection from the dead, and eternal judgment.” When men began to attend unto the gospel, and thereon to give up their names to the church, there were certain doctrines that they were thoroughly to be instructed in, before they were admitted unto baptism; see Galatians 6:6. These being the catechetical rudiments of Christian religion, are called here διδαχὴ βαπτισμῶν ἐπιθέσεώς τε χειρῶν, or the doctrines that were to be taught in order unto the administration of those rites.

Taking this for the design of the apostle in the words, as is most probable, there are four instances given of those principal rudiments of Christian religion, wherein all men were to be instructed before they were admitted unto baptism, who came thereunto in their own personal right, having not been made partakers thereof by their covenant right, through the profession of their parents, in their infancy. In these were persons to be fully instructed before their solemn initiation; the doctrine concerning them being thence called the “doctrine of baptisms, and of the imposition of hands,” because previously necessary unto the administration of these rites. There is a difficulty, I confess, that this exposition is pressed with, from the use of the word in the plural number, βαπτισμῶν, “of baptisms;” but this equally concerns all other expositions, and shall be spoken unto in its proper place. And this I take to be the sense of the words which the design of the place and manner of expression lead us unto. But yet, because sundry learned men are otherwise minded, I shall so explain the words as that their meaning may be apprehended, supposing distinct heads of doctrine to be contained in them.

Our next work is to consider the particular instances in their order. And the first is, μετανοίας ἀπὸ νεκρῶν ἔργων “repentance from dead works.” This was taught in the first place unto all those who would give up themselves to the discipline of Christ and the gospel. And in the teaching hereof, both the nature and necessity of the duty were regarded. And in the nature of it two things were declared, and are to be considered:

1. What are “dead works;” and,

2. What is “repentance from them.”

1. This expression of “dead works” is peculiar unto our apostle, and unto this epistle. It is nowhere used but in this place and Hebrews 9:14. And he useth it in answer unto what he elsewhere declares concerning men’s being dead in sin by nature, Ephesians 2:1; Ephesians 2:5; Colossians 2:13. That which he there ascribes unto their persons, here he attributeth unto their works. These Peter calls men’s “old sins,” namely, which they lived in before their conversion: 2 Peter 1:9, an δήθην λαβὼν τοῦ καθαρισμοῦ τῶν πάλαι αὐτοῦ ἁμαρτιῶν, — “Forgetting that he was purged from his old sins.” He hath respect unto what is here intended. They were, before their initiation, instructed in the necessity of forsaking the sins wherein, they lived before their conversion, which he calls their “old” or “former sins;” which he hath also respect unto, 1 Peter 4:3, “For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries” The necessity of repentance from these and the like sins was taught them, and which they made profession of, before they were admitted unto baptism, wherein they received a token of their being purged from them. And a relapse into those sins which men had openly professed their repentance and relinquishment of, was ever esteemed dangerous, and by some absolutely pernicious; whereon great contests in the church did ensue. For the controversy was not, whether men falling into any sin, yea, any open or known sin, after baptism, might repent, — which none was ever so foolishly proud as to deny, — but the question was about men’s open falling again into those sins, suppose idolatry, which they had made a public profession of their repentance from before their baptism. And it came at last to this, not whether such men might savingly repent, obtain pardon of their sins, and be saved; but whether the church had power to admit them a second time to a public profession of their repentance of those sins, and so take them again into full communion. For some pleaded, that the profession of repentance for those sins, and the renunciation of them, being indispensably necessary antecedently unto baptism in them that were adult, — the obligation not to live in them at all being on them who were baptized in their infancy, — baptism alone was the only pledge the church could give of the remission of such sins; and therefore, where men fell again into those sins, seeing baptism was not to be repeated, they were to be left unto the mercy of God, — the church could receive them no more. But whereas the numbers were very great of those who in time of persecution fell back into idolatry, who yet afterwards returned and professed their repentance, the major part, who always are for the many, agreed that they were to be received, and reflected with no small severity on those that were otherwise minded. But whereas both parties in this difference ran into extremes, the event was pernicious on both sides, — the one in the issue losing the truth and peace, the other the purity of the church. The sins of unregenerate persons, whereof repentance was to be expressed before baptism, are called “dead works,” in respect of their nature and their end. For,

(1.) As to their nature, they proceed from a principle under the power of spiritual death; they are the works of persons “dead in trespasses and sins.” All the moral actings of such persons, with respect unto a supernatural end, are dead works, being not enlivened by a vital principle of spiritual life. And it is necessary that a person be spiritually living before his works will be so. Our walking in holy obedience is called “the life of God,” Ephesians 4:18; that is, the life which God requires, which by his especial grace he worketh in us, whose acts have him for their object and their end. Where this life is not, persons are dead; and so are their works, even all that they do with respect unto the living God. And they are called so,

(2.) With respect unto their end; they are “mortua,” because “mortifera,” — “dead, because deadly;” they procure death, and end in death. “Sin, when it is finished, bringeth truth death,” James 1:15. They proceed from death spiritual, and end in death eternal. On the same account are they called “unfruitful works of darkness,” Ephesians 5:11. They proceed from a principle of spiritual darkness, and end in darkness everlasting. We may, therefore, know what was taught them concerning these dead works, namely, their nature and their merit. And this includes the whole doctrine of the law, with conviction of sin thereby. They were taught that they were sinners by nature, “dead in sins,” and thence “children of wrath,” Ephesians 2:1-3; that in that estate the law of God condemned both them and their works, denouncing death and eternal destruction against them. And in this sense, with respect unto the law of God, these dead works do comprise their whole course in this world, as they did their best as well as their worst. But yet there is no doubt an especial respect unto those great outward enormities which they lived in during their Judaism, even after the manner of the Gentiles. For such the apostle Peter, writing unto these Hebrews, describes their conversation to have been, 1 Peter 4:3, as we showed before. And from thence he describes what a blessed deliverance they had by the gospel, 1 Peter 1:18-21. And when he declares the apostasy of some to their former courses, he shows it to be like the returning of a dog to his vomit, after they had escaped them that live in error, and the pollutions that are in the world through lust, 2 Peter 2:18-22. These were the works which converts were taught to abandon, and a profession of repentance for them was required of all before their initiation into Christian religion, or before they were received into the church. For it was not then as now, that any one might be admitted into the society of the faithful, and yet continue to live in open sins unrepented of.

2. That which is required, and which they were taught, with respect unto these dead works, is μέτάνοια, “repentance.” “Repentance from dead works” is the first thing required of them who take upon them the profession of the gospel, and consequently the first principle of the doctrine of Christ, as it is here placed by the apostle. Without this, whatever is attempted or attained therein is only a dishonor to Christ and a disappointment unto men. This is the method of preaching, confirmed by the example and command of Christ himself: “Repent, and believe the gospel,” Matthew 4:17; Mark 1:15. And almost all the sermons that we find, not only of John the Baptist in a way of preparation for the declaration of the gospel, as Matthew 3:2, but of the apostles also, in pressing the actual reception of it on the Jews and Gentiles, have this as their first principle, namely, the necessity of repentance, Acts 2:38; Acts 3:19; Acts 14:15. Thence, in the preaching of the gospel it is said, that “God commandeth all men everywhere to repent,” Acts 17:30. And when the Gentiles had received the gospel, the church at Jerusalem glorified God, saying, “Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life,” Acts 11:18. Again, this is expressed as the first issue of grace and mercy from God towards men by Jesus Christ, which is therefore first to be proposed unto them: “Him hath God exalted to be a Prince and a Savior, for to give repentance unto Israel,” Acts 5:31. And because it is the first, it is put synecdochically for the whole work of God’s grace by Christ: “God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities,” Acts 3:26. It is therefore evident, that this was the first doctrinal principle, as to their own duty, which was pressed on and fixed in the minds of men on their first instruction in the gospel.

And in the testimonies produced, both the causes of it and its general nature are expressed. For,

(1.) Its supreme original cause is the good-will, grace, and bounty of God. He grants and gives it to whom he pleaseth, of his own good pleasure, Acts 11:18.

(2.) It is immediately collated on the souls of men by Jesus Christ, as a fruit of his death, and an effect of that “all power in heaven and in earth” which was bestowed on him by the Father. “He giveth repentance unto Israel,” Acts 5:31. The sovereign disposal of it is from the will of the Father; and the actual collation of it is an effect of the grace of the Son. And,

(3.) The nature of it is expressed in the conversion of the Gentiles: it is “unto life,” Acts 11:18. The repentance required of men in the first preaching of the gospel, and the necessity whereof was pressed on them, was “unto life;” that is, such as had saving conversion unto God accompanying of it. This kind of repentance is required unto our initiation in the gospel-state. Not an empty profession of any kind of repentance, but real conversion unto God, is required of such persons.

But, moreover, we must consider this μετάνοια, or “repentance,” in its own nature, at least in general, that we may the better understand this first principle of catechetical doctrine. In this sense it respects, —

(1.) The mind and judgment;

(2.) The will and affections; and,

(3.) The life or conversation of men.

(1.) It respects the mind and judgment, according to the notation of the word, which signifies a change of mind, or an after-consideration and judgment. Men, whilst they live in dead works, under the power of sin, do never make a right judgment concerning either their nature, their guilt, or their end. Hence are they so often called to remember and consider things aright, to deal about them with the reason of men; and for want thereof are said to be foolish, brutish, sottish, and to have no understanding. The mind is practically deceived about them. There are degrees in this deceit, but all sinners are actually more or less deceived. No men, whilst the natural principle of conscience remains in them, can cast off all the convictions of sin, Romans 2:14-15; and that it is “the judgment of God that those who commit such things are worthy of death,” Romans 1:32. But yet some there are who so far despise these convictions as to give up themselves unto all sin with delight and greediness. See Ephesians 4:17-19. Practically they call good evil, and evil good; and do judge either that there is not that evil in sin which is pretended, or, however, that it is better to enjoy “the pleasures of it for a season,” than to relinquish or forego it on other considerations. Others there are who have some further sense of those dead works. In particular they judge them evil, but they are so entangled in them as that they see not the greatness of that evil, nor do make such a judgment concerning it as whereon a relinquishment of them should necessarily ensue. Unto these two heads, in various degrees, may all impenitent sinners be reduced. They are such as, despising their convictions, go on in an unbridled course of licentiousness, as not judging the voice, language, and mind of them worth inquiring into. Others do in some measure attend unto them, but yet practically they refuse them, and embrace motives unto sin, turning the scale on that side as occasion, opportunities, and temptations do occur. Wherefore, the first thing in this repentance is a thorough change of the mind and judgment concerning these dead works. The mind, by the light and conviction of saving truth, determines clearly and steadily concerning the true nature of sin, and its demerit, that it is an evil thing and bitter to have forsaken God thereby. Casting out all prejudices, laying aside all pleas, excuses, and palliations, it finally concludes sin, — that is, all and every sin, every thing that hath the nature of sin, — to be universally evil; evil in itself, evil to the sinner, evil in its present effects and future consequents, evil in every kind, shamefully evil, incomparably evil, yea, the only evil, or all that is evil in the world. And this judgment it makes with respect unto the nature and law of God, to its own primitive and present depraved condition, unto present duty and future judgment. This is the first thing required unto repentance, and where this is not, there is nothing of it.

(2.) It respects the will and affections. It is our turning unto God; our turning from him being in the bent and inclination of our wills and affections unto sin. The change of the will, or the taking away of the will of sinning, is the principal part of repentance. It is with respect unto our wills that we are said to be “dead in sin,” and “alienated from the life of God.” And by this change of the will do we become “dead to sin,” Romans 6:2; that is, whatever remainder of lust and corruption there may be in us, yet the will of sinning is taken away. And for the affections, it works that change in the soul, as that quite contrary affections shall be substituted and set at work with respect unto the same object. There are “pleasures” in sin, and also it hath its “wages.” With respect unto these, those that live in dead works both delight in sin, and have complacency in the accomplishment of it. These are the affections which the soul exerciseth about sin committed, or to be committed. Instead of them, repentance, by which they are utterly banished, sets at work sorrow, grief, abhorrency, self-detestation, revenge, and the like afflictive passions of the mind Nothing stirs but they affect the soul with respect unto sin.

(3.) It respects the course of life or conversation. It is a repentance from dead works; that is, in the relinquishment of them. Without this no profession of repentance is of any worth or use. To profess a repentance of sin, and to live in sin, is to mock God, deride his law, and deceive our own souls. This is that change which alone doth or can evidence the other internal changes of the mind, will, and affections, to be real and sincere, Proverbs 28:13. Whatever without this is pretended, is false and hypocritical; like the repentance of Judah, “not with the whole heart, but feignedly,” Jeremiah 3:10, — בְּשֶׁקֶר. There was a lie in it; for their works answered not their words. Neither is there any mention of repentance in the Scripture wherein this change, in an actual relinquishment of dead works, is not expressly required. And hereunto three things are necessary: —

[1.] A full purpose of heart for the relinquishment of every sin. This is “cleaving unto the Lord with purpose of heart,” Acts 11:23; Psalms 17:3. To manifest the stability and steadfastness which is required herein, David confirmed it with an oath, Psalms 119:106. Every thing that will either live or thrive must have a root, on which it grows and whence it springs. Other things may occasionally bud and put forth, but they wither immediately. And such is a relinquishment of sin from occasional resolutions. Upon some smart of conviction, from danger, sickness, trouble, fear, affliction, there blooms in the minds of many a sudden resolution to forsake sin; and as suddenly for the most part it fades again. True repentance forms a steady and unshaken resolution in the heart, which respects the forsaking of all sin, and at all times and occasions.

[2.] Constant endeavors to actuate and fulfill this purpose. And these endeavors respect all the means, causes, occasions, temptations, leading unto sin, that they may be avoided, opposed, and deliverance obtained from them; as also all means, advantages, and furtherance of those graces and duties which are opposed to these dead works, that they may be improved. A heartless, inactive purpose, is that which many take up withal, and ruin their souls by. Where, therefore, there is not a sedulous endeavor, by watchfulness and diligence, in the constant use of all means to avoid all dead works, in all their concerns, from their first rise and principle to their finishing or consummation, there is no true repentance from them.

[3.] An actual relinquishment of all sins in the course of our walking before God. And hereunto is required,

1st. Not an absolute freedom from all sin; for there is no man living who doeth good, and sinneth not.

2dly. No absolute and precise deliverance even from great sins, whereinto the soul may be surprised by the power of temptations. Examples to the contrary abound in the Scripture. But yet such sins, when any one is overtaken with them, ought,

(1st.) To put the sinner upon a severe inquiry whether his repentance were sincere and saving; for where it is, usually the soul is preserved from such falls, 2 Peter 1:10. And,

(2dly.) Put him upon the renewing his repentance, with the same care, diligence, sorrow, and humiliation, as at the first. But,

1st. It is required that this property of repentance be prevalent against the common sins of the world, men’s “old sins,” which they lived in before their conversion. Those sins which are expressly declared in the gospel to be inconsistent with the profession, ends, and glory of it, it wholly excludes, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; 2 Corinthians 7:10; 1 John 3:14-15. And,

2dly. Against a course in any sin or sins, either spiritual or fleshly, internal or external, 1 John 3:9; Romans 6:2.

3dly. For the most part, against all outward sins in the course of our conversation in the world; in which things our sincerity or perfection is exercised. And these things were necessary to be touched on, to manifest the nature of this first principle wherein men are to be instructed.

Obs. 1. There is no interest in Christ or Christian religion to be obtained without “repentance from dead works;” nor any orderly entrance into a gospel church-state without a credible profession thereof.

This was one of the first things that were preached unto sinners, as was before declared; and without a compliance herewith they were not further to be treated with. For, —

1. The Lord Christ came not only to save men from their sins, but to turn them from their sins, — to turn them from their sins, that they may be saved from them. When he comes out of Sion as a Redeemer, a Deliverer, a Savior, he “turns away ungodliness from Jacob;” that is, he turns Jacob from ungodliness, Romans 11:26, — namely, by repentance. This was one principal end of the birth, life, death, and exaltation of Christ. His work in all these was to make peace and reconciliation between God and man. Hereunto belongeth the slaying, destruction, or removal of the enmity that was between them. This, with respect unto God, was done by the atonement he made, the sacrifice he offered, and the price of redemption that he paid, 2 Corinthians 5:21. But the whole work is not hereby completed. The enmity on our part also must be taken away, or reconciliation will not be finished. Now, we were “enemies in our mind by wicked works,” Colossians 1:21; and thereby “alienated from the life of God,” Ephesians 4:18. The removal hereof consists in this repentance; for that is our turning unto God upon the terms of peace tendered unto us. They, therefore, do but deceive their own souls who trust unto peace with God on the mediation of Christ, but are not at peace with God in their own souls by repentance; for the one is not without the other. As he who is at peace with God on his own part by repentance, shall never fail of peace from God by the atonement, — for he that so lays hold on his arm and strength, that he may have peace, shall be sure to obtain it, Isaiah 27:5, — so without this, whatever notions men may have of reconciliation with God, they will find him in the issue as “devouring fire,” or “everlasting burnings.” All doctrines, notions, or persuasions that tend to alleviate the necessity of that personal repentance which was before described, or would substitute any outward penance, or corporeal, pecuniary, penal satisfaction in the room thereof, are pernicious to the souls of men. And there is nothing so much to be dreaded or abhorred as a pretense taken unto sin, unto any sin without repentance, from the grace or doctrine of the gospel. “Shall we continue in sin,” saith our apostle, “that grace may abound? God forbid.” Those who do so, and thereby “turn the grace of God into lasciviousness,” are among the number of them “whose damnation sleepeth not.”

2. That any person living in sin without repentance, should have an interest in Christ or Christian religion, is inconsistent with the glory of God and the honor of Jesus Christ, and would render the gospel, if taught therein, a doctrine fit to be rejected by all men. For where is the glory of the righteousness or holiness of God, if impenitent sinners may be accepted with him? Besides that it is contrary unto the whole declaration of himself, that he “will not acquit the guilty,” that he will not justify the wicked, nor accept the ungodly, it hath an absolute inconsistency with the especial righteousness of his nature, and which he exerciseth as the supreme rector and judge of all, that any such persons should approach before him, or stand in his sight, Psalms 5:4-6; Romans 1:32. And for the Lord Jesus Christ, it would plainly make him the “minister of sin;” — the thought whereof our apostle so detests, Galatians 2:17. Nay, a supposition hereof would make the coming of Christ to be the greatest means of letting in and increasing sin on the world, that ever was since the fall of Adam. And the gospel must then be looked on as a doctrine meet to be abandoned by all wise and sober persons, as that which would tend unavoidably to the debauching of mankind and the ruin of human society. For whereas it doth openly and avowedly propose and declare the pardon and remission of sin, of all sorts of sin, to all sorts of persons that shall believe and obey it; if it did this without annexing unto its promise the condition of repentance, never was there, nor can there be, so great an encouragement unto all sorts of sin and wickedness. There is much to that purpose in the doctrines of purgatory, penances, and satisfactions; whereby men are taught that they may come off from their sins at a cheaper rate than eternal ruin, without that repentance which is necessary. But this is nothing in comparison to the mischief which the gospel would produce, if it did not require “repentance from dead works.” For besides those innumerable advantages that otherwise it hath to evidence itself to be from God, whereas these other pretences are such as wise and considering men may easily look through their daubing, and see their ground of falsehood, the gospel doth certainly propose its pardon freely, “without money, and without price;” and so, on this supposition, would lay the reins absolutely free on the neck of sin and wickedness: whereas those other fancies are burdened and charged with such inconveniencies as may lay some curb upon them in easy and carnal minds. Wherefore, I say, on such a false and cursed supposition, it would be the interest of wise and sober men to oppose and reject the gospel, as the most effectual means of overflowing the world with sin and ungodliness. But it doth not more fully condemn idolatry, or that the devil is to be worshipped, than it doth any such notion or apprehension. It cannot be denied but that some men may, and it is justly to be feared that some men do, abuse the doctrine of the gospel to countenance themselves in a vain expectation of mercy and pardon, whilst they willingly live in a course of sin. But as this, in their management, is the principal means of their ruin, so, in the righteous judgment of God, it will be the greatest aggravation of their condemnation. And whereas some have charged the preachers of gospel grace as those who thereby give countenance unto this presumption, it is an accusation that hath more of the hatred of grace in it than of the love of holiness. For none do nor can press the relinquishment of sin and repentance of it upon such assured grounds, and with such cogent arguments, as those by whom the grace of Jesus Christ in the gospel is fully opened and declared. From what hath been discoursed, we may inquire after our own interest in this great and necessary duty; to assist us wherein I shall yet add some further directions; as,—

Repentance is twofold: first, Initial; secondly, Continued in our whole course; and our inquiry is to be after our interest in both of them. The former is that whose general nature we have before described, which is the door of entrance into a gospel-state, or a condition of acceptance with God in and through Christ. And concerning it we may observe sundry things: —

1. That as to the properties of it, it is, —

(1.) Solemn; a duty that in all its circumstances is to be fixed and stated. It is not to be mixed only with other duties, but we are to set ourselves on purpose and engage ourselves singularly unto it. I will not say this is so essential unto it, that he can in no sense be said sincerely to have repented who hath not separately and distinctly been exercised herein for some season; yet I will say, that the repentance of such a one will scarce be ever well cleared up unto his own soul. When the Spirit of grace is poured out on men, they shall “mourn apart,” Zechariah 12:12-14; that is, they shall peculiarly and solemnly separate themselves to the right discharge of this duty between God and their souls. And those who have hitherto neglected it, or failed herein, may be advised solemnly to address themselves unto it, whatever hopes they may have that they have been carried through it already. There is no loss of time, grace, nor comfort, in the solemn renovation of initial repentance.

(2.) Universal, as to the object of it. It respects all sin and every sin, every crooked path, and every step therein. It absolutely excludes all reserves for any sin. To profess repentance, and yet with an express reserve for any sin, approacheth very near the great sin of lying to the Holy Ghost. It is like Ananias his keeping back part of the price when the whole was devoted. And these soul-destroying reserves, which absolutely overthrow the whole nature of repentance, commonly arise from one of these pretences or occasions: —

[1.] That the sin reserved is small, and of no great importance. It is a little one. But true repentance respects the nature of sin, which is in every sin equally, the least as well as the greatest. The least reserve for vanity, pride, conformity to the world, inordinate desires or affections, utterly overthrows the truth of repentance, and all the benefits of it.

[2.] That it is so useful as that, at least at present, it cannot be parted withal. So Naaman would reserve his bowing before the king in the house of Rimmon, because his honors and preferments depended thereon. So it is with many in their course of life or trading in the world; some advantages by crooked ways seem as useful to them as their right hand, which they cannot as yet cut off and cast from them. This, therefore, they have a secret reserve for; though it may not be express, yet it is real and effectual But he who in this case will not part with a right eye, or a right hand, must be content to go with them both into hell-fire.

[3.] Secrecy. That which is hidden from every eye may be left behind. Some sweet morsel of this kind may yet be rolled under the tongue. But this is an evidence of the grossest hypocrisy, and the highest contempt of God, who seeth in secret.

[4.] Uncertainty of some things whether they are sins or no. It may be some think such neglects of duty, such compliances with the world, are not sins; and whereas themselves have not so full a conviction of their being sinful as they have of other sins which are notorious and against the light of nature, only they have just reason to fear they are evil, — this they wilt break through, and indulge themselves in them. But this also impeacheth the truth of repentance. Where it is sincere, it engageth the soul against “all appearance of evil.” And one that is truly humbled hath no more certain rule in his walking, than not to do what he hath just cause to doubt whether it be lawful or no.

True repentance, therefore, is universal, and inconsistent with all these reserves.

2. Unto the same end, that we may be acquainted with our own interest in this initiating repentance, we must consider the season when it is wrought. And this is,—

(1.) Upon the first communication of gospel light unto us by the Holy Ghost. Christ sends him to “convince us of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment,” John 16:8. And if upon the first participation of light and conviction by the Holy Ghost, this repentance is not wrought in us, it is to be feared that we have missed our season. And so it falls out with many. They receive light and convictions, but use them unto other ends. They put them, it may be, upon a profession, and a relinquishment of some ways and parties of men, but further they use them not. Their first proper end is to work our own souls unto saving repentance; and if we miss their first impressions, their power and efficacy for that end is hardly recoverable.

(2.) It never fails on the first saving view of Jesus Christ as crucified, Zechariah 12:10. It is impossible that any one should have a saving view of Christ crucified, and not be savingly humbled for sin. And there is no one single trial of our faith in Christ whether it be genuine or no, that is more natural than this: What have been the effects of it as to humiliation and repentance? Where these ensue not upon what we account our believing, there we have not had a saving view of Christ crucified.

3. Whereas we call this repentance initial, we must consider that it differs not in nature and kind from that which we ought to be exercised in whilst we are in this world; whereof afterwards. That which we intend thereby, is the use of repentance in our first admission into an interest in a gospel- state. And with respect hereunto its duration may be considered; concerning which we may observe, —

(1.) That with some, especially in extraordinary cases, this work and duty may be over in a day, as to its initiating use and efficacy. So was it with many primitive converts, who at the same time were savingly humbled and comforted by the promises of the gospel, Acts 2:37-42; Acts 16:31-34. Now, although in such persons the things we have ascribed unto this repentance are not wrought formally and distinctly, yet are they all wrought virtually and radically, and do act themselves on all future occasions.

(2.) Some are held longer unto this duty as it is initiating. Not only did Paul continue three days and nights under his sore distress without relief, but others are kept days, and weeks, and months ofttimes, in the discharge of this duty, before they have a refreshing entrance given them thereby into an estate of spiritual rest in the gospel. There is, therefore, no measure of time to be allotted unto the solemn attendance unto this duty, but only this, that none faint under it, wax weary of it, or give it over, before there be thereby administered unto them an entrance into the kingdom of God.

And these considerations of the nature of repentance from dead works as it is initiating, may give us some direction in that necessary inquiry concerning our own personal interest in it.

Now there are several ways whereby men miss their duty with respect unto this first principle, and thereby ruin their souls eternally: —

1. Some utterly despise it. Such are the presumptuous sinners mentioned, Deuteronomy 29:19-20. As they disregard the curse of the law, so they do also the promise of the gospel, as unto any repentance or relinquishment of sin with respect unto them. Such folly and brutish foolishness possesseth the minds of multitudes, that they will have some expectation of benefit by the gospel, and will give it an outward compliance, but will not touch on the very first thing which it indispensably requireth of all that intend any concernment in it. It were easy to open and aggravate this deplorable folly; but I must not stay on these things.

2. Some will repent in their dead works, but not from them. That is, upon convictions, afflictions, dangers, they will be troubled for their sins, make confession of them, be grieved that they have contracted such guilt and dangers, with resolutions to forego them; but yet they will abide in their sins and dead works still. So Pharaoh more than once repented him in his sins, but never had repentance from them. And so it was expressly with the Israelites themselves, Psalms 78:34-37. And this kind of repentance ruins not fewer souls than the former total contempt of it. There are not a few unto whom this kind of repentance stands in the same stead all their days, as confession and absolution do to the Papists; it gives them present ease, that they may return to their former sins.

3. Some repent from dead works in some sense, but they repent not of them. They will come, through the power of their convictions, to a relinquishment of many of their old sins, as Herod did upon the preaching of John Baptist, but are never truly and savingly humbled for sin absolutely. Their lives are changed, but their hearts are not renewed. And their renunciation of sin is always partial; whereof before. There are many other ways whereby men deceive their souls in this matter, which I must not now insist upon. Secondly, This repentance, in the nature and kind of it, is a duty to be continued in the whole course of our lives. It ceaseth as unto those especial acts which belong unto our initiation into a gospel-state; but it abides as to our orderly preservation therein. There must be no end of repentance until there is a full end of sin. All tears will not be wiped from our eyes until all sin is perfectly removed from our souls. Now repentance, in this sense, may be considered two ways: —

1. As it is a stated, constant duty of the gospel;

2. As it is occasional: —

1. As it is stated, it is our humble, mournful walking with God, under a sense of sin, continually manifesting itself in our natures and infirmities. And the acts of this repentance in us are of two sorts: —

(1.) Direct and immediate;

(2.) Consequential and dependent, The former may be referred unto two heads: —

[1.] Confession;

[2.] Humiliation.

These a truly penitent soul will be continually exercised in. He whose heart is so lifted up, on any pretense, as not to abide in the constant exercise of these acts of repentance, is one whom the soul of God hath no delight in. The other, which are immediate acts of faith, but inseparable from these, are,

[1.] Supplications for the pardon of sin;

[2.] Diligent watchfulness against sin.

It is evident how great a share of our walking with God consists in these things, which yet I must not enlarge upon.

2. This continued repentance is occasional, when it is heightened unto a singular solemnity. And these occasions may be referred unto three heads: —

(1.) A personal surprisal into any great actual sin. Such an occasion is not to be passed over with the ordinary actings of repentance. David, upon his fall, brings his renewed repentance into that solemnity, as if it had been his first conversion to God. On that account he deduceth his personal sins from the sin of his nature, Psalms 51:5, besides many other circumstances whereby he gave it an extraordinary solemnity. So Peter, upon the denial of his Master, “wept bitterly;” which, with his following humiliation and the renovation of his faith, our Savior calls his conversion, Luke 22:32, — a new conversion of him who was before really converted. There is nothing more dangerous unto our spiritual state, than to pass by particular instances of sin with the general duties of repentance.

(2.) The sin or sins of the family or church whereunto we are related, calls unto us to give a solemnity unto this duty, 2 Corinthians 7:11. The church having failed in the business of the incestuous offender, when they were convinced by the apostle of their sinful miscarriage therein, most solemnly renewed their repentance towards God.

(3.) Afflictions and sore trials call for this duty, as we may see in the issue of all things between God and Job, Job 42:6.

And lastly, we may observe, that this repentance is a grace of the Spirit of Christ, a gospel grace; and therefore, whatever unpleasantness there may be in its exercise unto the flesh, it is sweet, refreshing, satisfactory, and secretly pleasant, unto the inner man. Let us not be deterred from abiding and abounding in this duty. It is not a morose, tetrical, severe self- maceration, but a humble, gracious, mournful walking with God, wherein the soul finds rest, sweetness, joy, and peace, being rendered thereby compliant with the will of God, and benign, useful, kind, compassionate, towards men, as might be declared.

The necessity of a profession of this repentance from dead works in order unto an admission into the society of the church, that an evidence be given of the power and efficacy of the doctrine of Christ in the souls of men, that his disciples may be visibly separated by their own profession from the world that lies in evil, and be fitted for communion among themselves in love, hath been elsewhere spoken unto.

The second instance of the doctrinal foundation supposed to be laid among the Hebrews, is “of faith towards God.” And this principle, with that foregoing, are coupled together by the conjunctive particle καί, — “of repentance and of faith.” Neither ought they to be, nor can they be severed. Where the one is, there is the other; and where either is not, there is neither, whatever be pretended. He repenteth not who hath not faith towards God; and he hath no faith towards God who repenteth not. And in this expression, where repentance is first placed, and faith in God afterwards, only the distinction that is between them, but neither an order of nature in the things themselves, nor a necessary order in the teaching of them, is intended. For in order of nature “faith towards God” must precede “repentance from dead works” No man can use any argument to prevail with others unto repentance, but it must be taken from the word of the law or the gospel, the precepts, promises, and threatenings of them. If there be no faith towards God with respect unto these things, whence should repentance from dead works arise, or how can the necessity of it be demonstrated? Besides, that the order of nature among the things themselves is not here intended is evident from hence, in that the very last principles mentioned, concerning “the resurrection from the dead and eternal judgment,” are the principal motives and arguments unto the very first of them, or the necessity of repentance, as our apostle declares fully, Acts 17:30-31. But there is some kind of order between these things with respect unto profession intended. For no man can or ought to be esteemed to make a due profession of faith towards God, who does not first declare his repentance from dead works. Nor can any other have the comfort of faith in God, but such as have in themselves some evidence of the sincerity of their repentance.

Wherefore, omitting any further consideration of the order of these things, we must inquire what is here intended by “faith in God.” Now this cannot be faith in the most general notion of it; because it is reckoned as a principle of the doctrine of Christ, but faith in God absolutely taken is a duty of the law of nature. Upon an acknowledgment of the being of God, it is thereby required that we believe in him as the first eternal truth; that we submit unto him and trust in him, as the sovereign Lord, the judge and rewarder of all. And a defect herein was the beginning of Adam’s transgression. Wherefore faith in this sense cannot be called a principle of the doctrine of Christ, which wholly consists in supernatural revelations. Nor can it be so termed with respect unto the Jews in particular. For in their Judaism they were sufficiently taught faith in God, and needed not to have been instructed therein as a part of the doctrine of Christ. And there is a distinction put by our Savior himself between that faith in God which they had, and the peculiar faith in himself which he required: John 14:1, “Ye believe in God, believe also in me.” Besides, where these two, repentance and faith, are elsewhere joined together, as they are frequently, it is an especial sort of faith in God that is intended. See Luke 24:46-47; Acts 19:4; Acts 20:21.

It is therefore faith in God as accomplishing the promise unto Abraham in sending Jesus Christ, and granting pardon or remission of sins by him, that is intended. The whole is expressed by, “Repent ye, and believe the gospel,” Mark 1:15; that is, the tidings of the accomplishment of the promise made to the fathers for the deliverance of us from all our sins by Jesus Christ. This is that which was pressed on the Hebrews by Peter in his first sermon unto them, Acts 2:38-39; Acts 3:25-26. Hence these two principles are expressed, by “repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ,” Acts 20:21. As repentance is here described by the “terminus a quo,” — it is “repentance from dead works;” so there it is described by its “terminus ad quem,” — it is “repentance toward God,” in our turning unto him. For those who live in their lusts and sins, do it not only against the command of God, but also they place them, as to their affections and expectation of satisfaction, in the stead of God. And this faith in God is there called, by way of explication, “faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ;” that is, as him in whose giving and sending the truth of God was fulfilled, and by whom we believe in God, 1 Peter 1:21. This, therefore, is the faith in God here intended; namely, that whereby we believe the accomplishment of his promise, in sending his Son Jesus Christ to die for us, and to save us from our sins. And this the Lord Christ testified unto in his own personal ministry. Hence our apostle says, that “he was the minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers,” Romans 15:8. And this he testified unto them, John 8:24, “I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins; for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins:” and that because they rejected the promise of God made unto the fathers concerning him, which was the only foundation of salvation. And this was the first thing that ordinarily our apostle preached in his dispensation of the gospel: 1 Corinthians 15:3, “For I delivered unto you first of all, ......how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.” He taught the thing itself, and the relation it had unto the promise of God recorded in the Scripture. That this is the faith in God here intended, I prove by these reasons: —

1. Because this indeed was that faith in particular which, in the first preaching of the gospel unto these Hebrews, they were taught and instructed in. And therefore with respect unto it our apostle says, that he would not lay again the foundation. The first calling of the church among them was by the sermons of Peter and the rest of the apostles, Acts 2-4. Now consult those sermons, and you shall find the principal thing insisted on in them was the accomplishment of the promises made to Abraham and David, which they exhorted them to believe. This, therefore, was that faith in God which was first taught them, and which our apostle hath respect unto.

2. Because it was the want of this faith which proved the ruin of that church. As in the wilderness, the unbelief which they perished for respected the faithfulness of God in the accomplishment of his promise with respect to the land Canaan; so the unbelief which the body of the people now perished for, dying in their sins and for them, respected the accomplishment of the great promise of sending Jesus Christ: which things the apostle compares at large, Hebrews 3. This, then, was that which he here minds the Hebrews of, as the principal foundation of that profession of the gospel which they had taken on them. And we may observe, that, —

Obs. 2. Faith in God as to the accomplishing of the great promise, in sending his Son Jesus Christ to save us from our sins, is the great fundamental principle of our interest in and profession of the gospel.

Faith in God under this formal consideration, not only that he hath sent and given Jesus Christ his Son, but that he did it in the accomplishment of his promise, is required of us. For whereas he hath chosen to glorify all the properties of his nature in the person and mediation of Christ, he doth not only declare his grace in giving him, but also his truth in sending him according unto his word. And this was that which holy persons of old did glorify God in an especial manner upon the account of, Luke 1:54-55; Luke 1:68-75. And there is nothing in the gospel that God himself, our Lord Jesus Christ, and the holy apostles, do more insist upon than this, that God hath fulfilled his promise in sending his Son into the world. On this one thing depend all religion, the truth of the Bible, and all our salvation. If it be not evident that God hath accomplished his promise, the whole Bible may pass for a fable; for it is all built on this supposition, that God gave and hath accomplished it; the first being the foundation of the Old Testament, and the latter of the New. And there are sundry things that signalize our faith in God with respect hereunto; as,—

1. This promise of sending Jesus Christ was the first express engagement that God ever made of his faithfulness and veracity unto any creatures. He is essentially faithful and true; but he had not engaged himself to act according unto those properties, in his dealing with us in a way of love and grace, calling for trust and confidence in us, before he gave the promise concerning Christ, Genesis 3:15. This, therefore, was the spring and measure of all other subsequent promises. They are all of them but new assurances thereof; mad according as it fares with that, so it must do with all the rest. God gave out this promise as that whereon he would depend the honor and glory of his fidelity in all other promises that he should make. As we find him true or failing herein, so he expects our faith and trust in all his other promises should be. Hence this was the first and immediate object of faith in man after the fall.

The first thing proposed unto him, was to believe in God with respect unto his faithfulness in the future accomplishment of this promise; and faith concerning its actual accomplishment is the first thing required of us

Besides, this promise hung longest on the file before its accomplishment. There was not less than four thousand years between its giving and its performance. And many things happened during that season, whereby both itself, and faith in God thereon, were greatly signalized. For,

(1.) More and greater objections against the truth of it, more temptations against it, were raised and managed, than against all other promises whatever. This long suspension of its fulfilling gave such advantages to Satan in his opposition unto it, that he prevailed against every expectation but that of faith tried and more precious than gold. And the saints themselves had a great exercise in the disappointments which many of them fell into as to the time of its accomplishment. It is not unlikely that most of them looked for it in their own days; great, therefore, were the trials of all sorts about it.

(2.) It was all that the true church of God had to live upon during that long season, the sole foundation of its faith, obedience, and consolation. It is true, in progress of time, God added other promises, precepts, and institutions, for the direction and instruction of the church; but they were all built on this one promise, and all resolved into it. This gave life and signification unto them, — therewith were they to stand or fall.

(3.) This was that the world broke off from God upon, and by rejecting it, fell into all confusion and misery. The promise being given unto Adam, was indefinitely given to mankind. And it was suited unto the reparation of their lost condition, yea, their investiture into a better state. And this increased the wrath and malice of Satan. He saw that if they applied themselves to the faith hereof, his former success against them was utterly frustrated. Wherefore he again attempts them, to turn them off from the relief provided against the misery he had cast them into. And as to the generality of mankind, he prevailed in his attempt. By a relinquishment of this promise, not believing of it, not retaining it in their minds, they fell into a second apostasy from God. And what disorder, darkness, confusion, yea, what a hell of horror and misery they cast themselves into, is known. And this consideration greatly signalizes faith in God with respect to this promise.

(4.) The whole church of the Jews, rejecting the accomplishment of this promise, utterly perished thereon. This was the sin which that church died for; and that, indeed, which is the foundation of the ruin of all unbelievers who perish under the dispensation of the gospel.

It will be said, it may be, that this promise being now actually accomplished, and that taken for granted, we have not the like concern in it as they had who lived before the said accomplishment. But there is a mistake herein. No man believes aright that the Son of God is come in the flesh, but he who believes that he came in the accomplishment of the promise of God, unto the glory of his truth and faithfulness. And it is from hence that we know aright both the occasion, original, cause, and end of his coming; which whoso considereth not, his pretended faith is in vain.

2. This is the greatest promise that God ever gave to the children of men; and therefore faith in him with respect hereunto is both necessary unto us, and greatly tends unto his glory. Indeed all the concernments of God’s glory in the church, and our eternal welfare, are wrapped up herein. But I must not enlarge hereon.

Obs. 3. Only we must add, that the consideration of the accomplishment of this promise is a great encouragement and supportment unto faith with respect unto all other promises of God. — Never was any kept so long in abeyance, the state of the church and design of God requiring it. None ever had such opposition made to its accomplishment. Never was any more likely to be defeated by the unbelief of men; all faith in it being at length renounced by Jews and Gentiles, — which, if any thing, or had it been suspended on any condition, might have disappointed its event. And shall we think that God will leave any other of his promises unaccomplished? that he will not in due time engage his omnipotent power and infinite wisdom in the discharge of his truth and faithfulness? Hath he sent his Son after four thousand years’ expectation, and will he not in due time destroy antichrist, call again the Jews, set up the kingdom of Christ gloriously in the world, and finally save the souls of all that sincerely believe? This great instance of divine fidelity leaves no room for the objections of unbelief as unto any other promises under the same assurance.

The third principle, according to the order and sense of the words laid down before, is the “resurrection of the dead.” And this was a fundamental principle of the Judaical church, indeed of all religions properly so called in the world. The twelfth article of the creed of the present Jews is, ימי משיח, — “The days of the Messiah;” that is, the time will come when God will send the Messiah, and restore all things by him. This under the old testament respected that faith in God which we before discoursed concerning. But the present Jews, notwithstanding this profession, have no interest herein. For not to believe the accomplishment of a promise when it is fulfilled, as also sufficiently revealed and testified unto to be fulfilled, is to reject all faith in God concerning that promise. But this they still retain an appearance and profession of. And their thirteenth article is, תחיית מתים, “The revivification” or “resurrection from the dead.” And the faith hereof being explained and confirmed in the gospel, as also sealed by the great seal of the resurrection of Christ, it was ever esteemed as a chief principle of Christianity, and that whose admittance is indispensably necessary unto all religion whatever. And I shall first briefly show how it is a fundamental principle of all religion, and then evidence its especial relation unto that taught by Jesus Christ, or declare how it is a fundamental principle of the gospel. And as to the first, it is evident that without its acknowledgment all religion whatever would be abolished; for if it be once supposed or granted that men were made only for a frail mortal life in this world, that they have no other continuance assigned to their being but what is common to them with the beasts that perish, there would be no more religion amongst them than there is among the beasts themselves. For as they would never be able to solve the difficulties of present temporary dispensations of providence, which will not be reduced unto any such known visible rule of righteousness, abstracting from the completement of them hereafter, as of themselves to give a firm apprehension of a divine, holy, righteous Power in the government of the universe; so, take away all consideration of future rewards and punishments, which are equally asserted in this and the ensuing principle, and the lusts of men would quickly obliterate all those notions of a Deity, as also of good and evil in their practice, which should preserve them from atheism and bestiality. Neither do we ever see any man giving himself up to the unbelief of these things, but that immediately he casts off all consideration of any public or private good, but what is centred in himself and the satisfaction of his lusts.

But it will be asked, whether the belief of the immortality of the soul be not sufficient to secure religion, without the addition of this article of the resurrection? This, indeed, some among the ancient heathens had faint apprehensions of, without any guess at the resurrection of the body. And some of them also who were most steady in that persuasion had some thoughts also of such a restoration of all things as wherein the bodies of men should have their share. But as their thoughts of these things were fluctuating and uncertain, so was all their religion also; and so it must be on this principle. For there can be no reconciliation of the doctrine of future rewards and punishments, to be righteously administered, unto a supposition of the separate everlasting subsistence of the soul only; that is, eternal judgment cannot be on satisfactory grounds believed without an antecedent acknowledgment of the resurrection of the dead. For what justice is it, that the whole of blessedness or misery should fall on the soul only, where the body hath had a great share in the procurement of the one or the other? or that whereas both concur unto the doing of good or evil, the soul only should be rewarded or punished; especially considering what influence the body hath into all that is evil, how the satisfaction of the flesh is the great inducement unto sin on the one hand, and what it often undergoeth and suffereth for that which is good on the other? Shall we think that God gave bodies to the holy martyrs only to endure inexpressible tortures and miseries to death for the sake of Christ, and then to perish for ever? And this manifesteth the great degeneracy the Jewish church was now fallen into; for a great number of them were apostatized into the atheism of denying the resurrection of the dead. And so confident were they in their infidelity, as that they would needs argue and dispute with our Savior about it; by whom they were confounded, but, after the manner of obstinate infidels, not converted, Matthew 22:23-24, etc. This was the principal heresy of the Sadducees; which drew along with it those other foolish opinions of denying angels and spirits, or the subsistence of the souls of men in a separate condition, Acts 23:8. For they concluded well enough, that the continuance of the souls of men would answer no design of providence or justice, if their bodies were not raised again. And whereas God had now given the most illustrious testimony unto this truth in the resurrection of Christ himself, the Sadducees became the most inveterate enemies unto him and opposers of him; for they not only acted against him, and those who professed to believe in him, from that infidelity which was common unto them with most of their countrymen, but also because their peculiar heresy was everted and condemned thereby. And it is usual with men of corrupt minds to prefer such peculiar errors above all other concerns of religion whatever, and to have their lusts inflamed by them into the utmost intemperance. They, therefore, were the first stirrers up and fiercest pursuers of the primitive persecutions: Acts 4:1-2,

“The Sadducees came upon the apostles, being grieved that they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead.”

The overthrow of their private heresy was that which enraged them: Acts 5:17-18,

“Then the high priest rose up, and all that were with him (which is the sect of the Sadducees), and were filled with indignation, and laid their hands on the apostles, and put them in the common prison.”

And an alike rage were the Pharisees put into about their ceremonies, wherein they placed their especial interest and glory. And our apostle did wisely make an advantage of this difference about the resurrection between those two great sects, to divide them in their counsels and actings, who were before agreed on his destruction on the common account of his preaching Jesus Christ, Acts 23:6-9.

This principle, therefore, both upon the account of its importance in itself, as also of the opposition made unto it among the Jews by the Sadducees, the apostles took care to settle and establish in the first place; as those truths are in an especial manner to be confirmed which are at any time peculiarly opposed. And they had reason thus to do, for all they had to preach unto the world turned on this hinge, that Christ was raised from the dead, whereon our resurrection doth unavoidably follow; so that they confessed that without an eviction and acknowledgment hereof all their preaching was in vain, and all their faith who believed therein was so also, 1 Corinthians 15:12-14. This, therefore, was always one of the first principles which our apostle insisted on in the preaching of the gospel; a signal instance whereof we have in his discourse at his first coming unto Athens. First, he reproved their sins and idolatries, declaring that God by him called them to repentance from those dead works; then he taught them faith in that God who so called them by Jesus Christ: confirming the necessity of both by the doctrine of the resurrection from the dead and future judgment, Acts 17:18-31. He seems, therefore, here directly and summarily to lay down those principles in the order in which he constantly preached them in his first declaration of the gospel. And this was necessary to be spoken concerning the nature and necessity of this principle.

᾿ανάστασις νεκρῶν, “the resurrection of the dead.” It is usually expressed by ἀνάστασις, the “resurrection” only, Mark 12:18; Luke 20:27; Luke 20:33; John 11:24; Matthew 22:23; Matthew 22:28. For by this single expression the whole was sufficiently known and apprehended. And so we commonly call it “the resurrection,” without any addition. Sometimes it is termed ἀνάστασις ἐκ νεκρῶν, Acts 4:2, the “resurrection from the dead;” that is, from the state of the dead. Our apostle hath a peculiar expression, Hebrews 11:35, ῎ελαβον ἐξ ἀναστάσεως τοὺς νεκροὺς αὐτῶν, “They received their dead from the resurrection;” that is, by virtue thereof, they being raised to life again. And sometimes it is distinguished with respect unto its consequents in different persons, the good and the bad. The resurrection of the former is called ἀνάστασις John 5:29, the “resurrection of life;” that is, which is unto life eternal, — the means of entrance into it. This is called ἀνάστασις δικαίων, the “resurrection of the just,” Luke 14:14. And so תחיית מתים, the “life of the dead,” or the “resurrection of the dead,” was used to express the whole blessed estate which ensues thereon to believers: “If by any means I might attain εἰς τὴν ἐξανάστασιν τῶν νεκρῶν,” — “the resurrection of the dead,” Philippians 3:11. This is ἀναβίωσις, “a living again;” as it is said of the Lord Christ distinctly, ᾿ανέστη καὶ ἀνέζησεν, Romans 14:9, — “He rose and lived again,” or he arose to life. With respect unto wicked men it is called ἀνάστασις κρίσεως, — the “resurrection of judgment,” or unto judgment, John 5:29. Some shall be raised again to have judgment pronounced against them, to be sentenced unto punishment: “Reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished,” 2 Peter 2:9. And both these are put together, Daniel 12:2, “And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.”

This truth being of so great importance as that nothing in religion can subsist without it, the apostles very diligently confirmed it in the first churches; and for the same cause it was early assaulted by Satan, and denied and opposed by many. And this was done two ways: —

1. By an open denial of any such thing: 1 Corinthians 15:12, “How say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?” They wholly denied it, as a thing improbable and impossible, as is evident from the whole ensuing disputation of the apostle on that subject.

2. Others there were, who, not daring to oppose themselves directly unto a principle so generally received in the church, would still allow the expression, but put an allegorical exposition upon it, whereby they plainly overthrew the thing intended. They said, “The resurrection is past already,”

2 Timothy 2:18. It is generally thought that these men, Hymeneus and Philetus, placed the resurrection in conversion, or reformation of life, as the Marcionites did afterwards. What some imagine about the Gnostics is vain. And that the reviving of a new light in us is the resurrection intended in the Scripture, some begin to mutter among ourselves; but, that as death is a separation or sejunction of the soul and the body, so the resurrection is a reunion of them in and unto life, the Scripture is too express for any one to deny and not virtually to reject it wholly. And it may be observed, that our apostle in both these cases doth not only condemn these errors as false, but declares positively that their admission overthrows the faith, and renders the preaching of the gospel vain and useless.

Now this resurrection of the dead is the restoration, by the power of God, of the same numerical body which died, in all the essential and integral parts of it, rendering it, in a reunion of or with the soul, immortal, or of an eternal duration, in blessedness or misery. And, —

Obs. 4. The doctrine of the resurrection is a fundamental principle of the gospel, the faith whereof is indispensably necessary unto the obedience and consolation of all that profess it. I call it a principle of the gospel, not because it was absolutely first revealed therein. It was made known under the old testament, and was virtually included in the first promise. In the faith of it the patriarchs lived and died; and it is testified unto in the psalms and prophets. With respect hereunto did the ancients confess that they were “strangers and pilgrims on the earth,” seeking another city and country, wherein they should live with God for ever. They desired and looked for “an heavenly country,” wherein their persons should dwell, Hebrews 11:16. And this was with relation to God’s covenant with them: wherein, as it follows, “God was not ashamed to be called their God,” — that is, their God in covenant; which relation could never be broken. And therefore our Savior proves the resurrection from thence, because if the dead rise not again, the covenant- relation between God and his people must cease, Matthew 22:31-32. Hence also did they take especial care about their dead bodies and their burial, not merely out of respect unto natural order and decency, but to express their faith of the resurrection. So our apostle says, that “by faith Joseph gave commandment concerning his bones,” Hebrews 11:22; and their disposal into a burying-place is rehearsed by Stephen as one fruit of their faith, Acts 7:15-16. Job gives testimony unto his faith herein, Job 19:25-26. So doth David also, Psalms 16:9-10, and in sundry other places. And Isaiah is express to the same purpose, Isaiah 26:19, “Thy dead shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust: for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead.” This God proposeth for the comfort of the prophet, and all those who were either persecuted or stain in those days for righteousness’sake. Their resurrection is both directly and emphatically expressed. And whereas some would wrest the words to signify no more but the deliverance and exaltation of those who were in great distress, yet they must acknowledge that it is expressed in allusion to the resurrection of the dead; which is therefore asserted in the words, and was believed in the church. The same also is taught in Ezekiel’s vision of the vivification of dry bones, Ezekiel 37; which, although it declared the restoration of Israel from their distressed condition, yet it did so with allusion to the resurrection at the last day, without a supposition of the faith whereof the vision had not been instructive. And many other testimonies to the same purpose might be insisted on. I do not, therefore, reckon this a principle of the doctrine of the gospel, absolutely and exclusively unto the revelations of the Old Testament, but on three other reasons: —

1. Because it is most clearly, evidently, and fully taught and declared therein. It was, as sundry other important truths, made known under the old testament sparingly and obscurely. But “life and immortality,” with this great means of them both, were “brought to light by the gospel,” 2 Timothy 1:10; all things concerning them being made plain, clear, and evident.

2. Because of that solemn confirmation, and pledge of it which was given in the resurrection of Christ from the dead. This was wanting under the old testament, and therefore the faith of men might ofttimes be greatly shaken about it. For whereas death seized on all men, and that penally, in the execution of the sentence of the law, — whence they were for fear of it obnoxious to bondage all their days, Hebrews 2:14-15, — they had not received any pledge or instance of a recovery from its power, or the taking off that sentence and penalty. But Christ dying for us, and that directly under the sentence and curse of the law, yet conquering both death and law, being raised again, the pains or bonds of death being loosed, hath given a full confirmation and absolute assurance of our resurrection. And thus it is said, that “he brought life and immortality to light” by “abolishing of death,” 2 Timothy 1:10; that is, the power of it, that it should not hold us for ever under its dominion, 1 Corinthians 15:54-57.

3. Because it hath a peculiar influence into our obedience under the gospel. Under the old testament the church had sundry motives unto obedience taken from temporal things, namely, prosperity and peace in the land of Canaan, with deliverance out of troubles and distresses. Promises hereof made unto them the Scripture abounds withal, and thereon presseth them unto obedience and diligence in the worship of God. But we are now left unto promises of invisible and eternal things, which cannot be fully enjoyed but by virtue of the resurrection from the dead. And therefore these promises are made unspeakably more clear and evident, as also the things promised unto us, than they were unto them: and so our motives and encouragements unto obedience are unspeakably advanced above theirs. This may well, therefore, be esteemed as an especial principle of the doctrine of the gospel. And, —

(1.) It is an animating principle of gospel obedience, because we are assured thereby that nothing we do therein shall be lost. In general the apostle proposeth this as our great encouragement, that “God is not unrighteous to forget our work and labor of love,” Hebrews 6:10; and shows us the especial way whereby it shall be remembered. Nothing is more fatal unto any endeavors, than an apprehension that men do in them spend their strength in vain, and their labor for nought. This makes the hands of men weak, their knees feeble, and their hearts fearful. Nor can any thing deliver us from a slothful despondency but an assurance that the fruit of our endeavors shall be called over again. And this is given us alone by the faith of the resurrection of the dead, when they shall awake again and sing who dwell in the dust; and then shall “the righteous be had in everlasting remembrance.” Let no man fear the loss of his work, unless it be such as the fire will consume; when it will be to his advantage to suffer that loss, and to have it so consumed. Not a good thought, word, or work, but shall have a new life given unto it, and have as it were a share in the resurrection.

(2.) We are assured hereby that such things shall not only be remembered, but also rewarded. It is unto the righteous, as we have observed, not only a “resurrection from the dead,” but a “resurrection unto life,” that is, eternal, as their reward. And this is that which either doth or ought to give life and diligence unto our obedience. So Moses, in what he did and suffered for Christ, had “respect unto the recompence of reward,” Hebrews 11:26. God hath put the declaration hereof into the foundation of all our obedience in the covenant: “I am thy exceeding great reward,” Genesis 15:1 And at the close of it, the Lord Jesus doth not think it enough to declare that he will come himself, but also, that “his reward is with him,”

Revelation 22:12. Some have foolishly supposed that this reward from God must needs infer merit in ourselves, whereas “eternal life is the gift of God through Jesus Christ,” and not the wages of our works, as death is of sin, Romans 6:23. It is such a reward as is absolutely a free gift, a gift of grace;

“and if by grace, then it is no more of works, otherwise grace is no more grace; but if it be of works, then it is no more grace, otherwise work is no more work,” Romans 11:6.

The same thing cannot be of works and grace also, of our own merit and of the free gift of God. And others, it is to be feared, under a mistaken pretense of grace, do keep off themselves from a due respect unto this gracious reward, which the Lord Christ hath appointed as the blessed issue and end of our obedience. But hereby they deprive themselves of one great motive and encouragement thereunto, especially of an endeavor that their obedience may be such, and the fruits of it so abound, that the Lord Christ may be signally glorified in giving out a gracious reward unto them at the last day. For whereas he hath designed, in his own grace and bounty, to give us such a glorious reward, and intendeth by the operation of his Spirit, to make us fit to receive it, or “meet for the inheritance of the saints in light,” Colossians 1:12, our principal respect unto this reward is, that we may receive it with an advantage of glory and honor unto our Lord Jesus. And the consideration hereof, which is conveyed unto us through the faith of the resurrection, is a chief animating principle of our obedience.

(3.) It hath the same respect unto our consolation:

“For if in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable,” 1 Corinthians 15:19;

that is, if we regard only outward things in this world, reproaches, scornings, revilings, troubles, persecutions, have been the lot of most of them who so hoped in Christ. ‘But is this all which we shall have from him, or by him?’Probably as to outward things it will prove so to most of us in this world, if it come not to greater extremities: “Then are we of all men most miserable.” But stay a while; these things will be all called over again at the resurrection (and that is time enough), and all things be put into another posture. See 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10. We have, therefore, no reason to despond for what may befall us in this life, nor at what distress this flesh we carry about us may be put unto. We are, it may be, sometimes ready to faint, or to think much of the pains we put ourselves unto in religious duties, especially when our bodies, being weak and crazy, would willingly be spared, or of what we may endure and undergo; but the day is coming that will recompense and make up all. This very flesh, which we now thus employ under its weaknesses in a constant course of the most difficult duties, shall be raised out of the dust, purified from all its infirmities, freed from all its weaknesses, made incorruptible and immortal, to enjoy rest and glory unto eternity. And we may comfort ourselves with these words, 1 Thessalonians 4:18.

The fourth principle mentioned is κρίμα αἰώνιον. This is the immediate consequent of the resurrection of the dead. Men shall not be raised again to live another life in this world, and as it were therein to make a new adventure; but it is to give an account of what is past, and to “receive what they have done in the body, whether it be good or evil.” And because there are no outward, visible transactions between God and the souls of men after their departure out of this world, nor any alteration to be made as to their eternal state and condition, this judgment is spoken of as that which immediately succeeds death itself: Hebrews 9:27, “It is appointed unto all men once to die, but after this the judgment.” This judgment is sure, and there is nothing between death and it that it takes notice of. But as to some, there may be a very long space of time between the one and the other; neither shall judgment be administered until after the resurrection from the dead, and by means thereof. And when all the race of mankind appointed thereunto have lived and died according to their allotted seasons, then shall judgment ensue on them all. κρίμα is commonly used for a “condemnatory sentence.” There fore some think that it is only the judgment of wicked and ungodly men that is intended. And indeed the day of judgment is most frequently spoken of in the Scripture with respect thereunto. See 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10, Jude 1:14-15, 2 Peter 2:9. And this is partly because the remembrance of it is suited to put an awe upon the fierceness, pride, and rage, of the spirits of men, rushing into sin as the horse into the battle; and partly that it might be a relief unto the godly under all, either their persecutions from their cruelty, or temptations from their prosperity. But in reality the judgment is general, and all men, both good and bad, must stand in their lot therein: “We shall all stand before the judgment-seat of Christ; for it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me,” Romans 14:10-11. And this is that which is here intended. As the resurrection of the dead that precedes belongs to all, so doth the judgment that follows. And this our apostle expresseth by κρίσις, a word of the same original and signification with κρίμα.

This κρίμα, or “judgment,” is said to be αἰώνοιν. דין עולמיםis the eleventh fundamental article of the present Jewish creed. Two of the Targums, as a supplement of that speech, which they suppose defective, ויֹּאמֶר קַיִן אֶלאּהֶבֶל אָחִיו, Genesis 4:8, “And Cain said to his brother Abel,” add a disputation between the brothers about eternal judgment, with rewards and punishments; which they suppose Cain to have denied, and Abel to have asserted. And as there is no doubt but that it was one principal article of the faith of the church before the flood, so it is probable that it was much opposed and derided by that corrupt, violent, and wicked generation which afterwards perished in their sins. Hence Enoch’s prophecy and preaching among them was to confirm the faith of the church therein, Jude 1:14-15. And probably the “hard speeches” which are specified as those which God would severely avenge, were their contemptuous mockings and despisings of God’s coming to judgment; as Peter plainly intimates, 2 Peter 3:3-5. This seems to be the great controversy which the church before the flood had with that ungodly generation, namely, whether there were a future judgment or no; in the contempt whereof the world fell into all profligacy of abominable wickednesses. And as God gave testimony to the truth in the prophecy of Enoch, so he visibly determined the whole matter on the side of the church in the flood, which was an open pledge of eternal judgment. And hence these words, “The Lord cometh,” became the appeal of the church in all ages, 1 Corinthians 16:22. αἰώνοιν respects not the duration of this judgment, but its end and effect. For it shall not be of a perpetual duration and continuance; which to fancy is both absurd in nature and inconsistent with the proper end of it, — which is, to deliver men over unto their everlasting lot and portion. And it is both curious, needless, and unwarrantable, to inquire of what continuance it shall be, seeing God hath given no revelation thereof. Neither is the mind of man capable of making any tolerable conjecture concerning the process of the infinite wisdom of Christ in this matter. Neither do we know, as to time or continuance, what will be necessary therein, to the conviction and confusion of impenitent sinners, or as to the demonstration of his own righteousness and glory. It may be esteemed an easy, but will be found our safest wisdom, to silence even our thoughts and inquiries in all things of this nature, where we cannot trace the express footsteps of divine revelation. And this judgment is called “eternal,” —

1. In opposition to the temporal judgments which are or have been passed on men in this world, which will be all then called over again and revised. Especially it is so with respect unto a threefold judgment: —

(1.) That which passed upon the Lord Christ himself, when he was condemned as a malefactor and blasphemer. He never suffered that sentence to take place quietly in the world, but from the first he sent his Spirit to argue, reason, and plead his cause in the world, John 16:8-11. This he ever did, and ever will maintain, by his church. Yet there is no absolute determination of the case. But when this day shall come, then shall he condemn every tongue that was against him in judgment, and all his adversaries shall be confounded. (2.) All those condemnatory sentences, whether unto death or other punishments, which almost in all ages have been given against his disciples or true believers. With the thoughts and prospect hereof did they always relieve themselves under false judgments and cruel executions. For they have had “trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment; they have been stoned and sawn asunder, tempted and slain with the sword; they have wandered about in sheep-skins and goat- skins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented; not accepting deliverance,” (upon the world’s terms,) “that they might obtain a better resurrection;” as Hebrews 11:35-37. In all these things they “possessed their souls in patience,” following the example of their Master, “committing themselves unto Him that judgeth righteously,” 1 Peter 2:23.

(3.) The false sentences which, under their provocations, professors have passed on one another. See 1 Corinthians 4:3-5.

2. Because it is “judicium inevitabile,” an “unavoidable sentence,” which all men must stand or fall by; for “it is appointed unto all men once to die, and after that is the judgment.” This judgment is no more avoidable unto any man than death itself, from which the experience of some thousands of years leaves unto men no hope of escape.

3. Because in it and by it an unchangeable determination of all men’s estate and condition is made for eternity, — the judgment which disposeth of men unalterably into their eternal estate, whether of blessedness or of misery.

Two things must be yet further spoken unto, to clear this great principle of our faith: first, the general nature of this eternal judgment; and then the evidences we have of its truth and certainty.

First, The general concerns of this eternal judgment are all of them plainly expressed in the Scriptures, which declare the nature of it: —

1. As to its time, there is a determined and unalterable day fixed for it: “God hath appointed a day wherein he will judge the world in righteousness,” Acts 17:31. And this time is commonly called “the day of judgment,” Matthew 10:15; Matthew 11:22; Matthew 11:24, Mark 6:11; 2 Peter 2:9; 1 John 4:17. And this day being fixed in the foreknowledge and determinate counsel of God, can no more be either hastened or deferred than God himself can be changed. Until this appointed time comes, whatever falls out, he will satisfy his wisdom and glory in his ordinary government of the world, interwoven with some occasional extraordinary judgments; and therein he calls all his own people to be satisfied. For this precise time, the knowledge of it is among the principal secrets of his sovereignty, which he hath, for reasons suited to his infinite wisdom, laid up in his own eternal bosom. Hence is that of our Savior, “Of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son,” (that is, in and by the human nature,) “but the Father,” Mark 13:32; which is the highest expression of an unrevealable divine secret. God hath not only not revealed it, but he hath decreed not to reveal it. All inquiries about it are not only sinfully curious, but foolish and impious. Then it is certain, when all things foretold in the Scripture are accomplished, when the obedience of all the elect is completed, and the measure allotted unto the wickedness of the world in the patience of God is filled up; then, and not before, the end shall be. In the meantime, when we see a man old, weak, diseased, nature being decayed and infirmities abounding, we may judge that his death is not far off, though we know not when he will die: so, seeing the world come to that state and condition, so weakened and decayed as unto its principal end that it is scarce any longer able to bear the weight of its own wickedness, nor supply the sinful lusts of its inhabitants; seeing all sorts of sins, new and old, heard and unheard of, perpetrated everywhere in the light of the sun, and countenanced with atheistical security; as also, considering that the gospel seems to have finished its work where it is preached, with all sorts of signs of the like nature, — we may safely conclude that the end of all things is approaching.

2. There is the judge, which is Jesus Christ. Originally and absolutely this is the judgment of God, of him who made the world; and therefore is it often said that God shall judge the world, Deuteronomy 32:35-36; Ecclesiastes 12:14. “God, the judge of all,” Hebrews 12:23. But the actual administration of it is committed unto Jesus Christ alone, to be exercised visibly in his human nature, Romans 14:10; Daniel 7:13; Matthew 16:27; Matthew 19:28; John 5:22-27; Acts 17:31; 2 Corinthians 5:10; 1 Thessalonians 4:16; 2 Thessalonians 1:7, and many other places. And herein, in the same individual person, he shall act the properties of both his natures. For as he shall visibly and gloriously appear in his human nature exalted to the supreme place of judicature, and invested with sovereign power and authority over all flesh, Daniel 7:13; Matthew 24:30; 1 Thessalonians 4:16; Romans 14:10; so he shall act the power and omniscience of his deity in upholding the whole state of the creation in judgment, and in the discovery of the hearts and comprehension of the thoughts, words, and actions of all the children of men, from the beginning of the world unto the end thereof. And herein, as all the holy angels shall accompany him, and attend upon him, as ministers, assistants, and witnesses unto his righteous judgments, Matthew 25:31; Luke 9:26; Jude 1:14-15; Daniel 7:10; so also in the judgment of fallen angels and the reprobate world, the saints, acquitted, justified, glorified in the first place, shall concur with him in this judgment, by applauding his righteousness and holiness with their unanimous suffrage, Isaiah 3:14; Matthew 19:28; 1 Corinthians 6:2-3. For, —

3. As to the outward manner of this judgment, it shall be with solemnity and great glory, 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10; Jude 1:14-15; Daniel 7:9, Revelation 20:11-12. And this shall be partly for the demonstration of the glory and honor of Jesus Christ, who hath been so despised, reproached, persecuted in the world; and partly to fill the hearts of sinners with dread and terror, as Revelation 6:15-17, where this judgment is represented. And the order of this judgment will be, —

(1.) That all the elect shall first be acquitted and pronounced blessed; for they join in with the Lord Christ in the judgment of the world, which they could not do if themselves were not first freed and exalted.

(2.) The devil and his angels shall be judged, and that on three general heads: —

[1.] Of their original apostasy;

[2.] Of the death of Christ;

[3.] Of persecution.

(3.) The world of wicked men; probably,

[1.] Hypocrites in the church;

[2.] All others without. For, —

4. The -persons to be judged are,

(1.) Fallen angels, 1 Corinthians 6:3; 2 Peter 2:4; Jude 1:6; Matthew 25:41.

(2.) All men, universally, without exception, Isaiah 45:23; Romans 14:9-10; Matthew 25:31-32. In especial,

[1.] All the godly, all such as have believed and obeyed the gospel, shall be judged, Luke 21:36; Romans 14:12; 2 Timothy 4:8, whether all their sins shall be then called over and made known unto others, seeing they are known to Him who is more in himself and unto us than all the world besides, I question.

[2.] All the ungodly and impenitent sinners, Deuteronomy 32:35; 2 Peter 2:9; Jude 1:15.

5. The rule whereby all men shall be judged is the law of their obedience made known unto them. As,

(1.) The Gentiles before the coming of Christ shall be judged by the law of nature, which all of them openly transgressed, Romans 2:12-14.

(2.) The Jews of the same time by the law, and the light into redemption from sin superadded thereunto; that is, by the rule, doctrine, precepts, and promises, of the law and prophets.

(3.) The gospel unto all men unto whom it hath been offered or preached, Romans 2:16. The rule of judgment at the last day neither is nor shall be any other but what is preached every day in the dispensation of the gospel. No man shall be able to complain of a surprisal, or pretend ignorance of the law whereby he is to be judged. The sentence of it is proposed unto them continually. In the word of the gospel is the eternal condition of all the sons of men positively determined and declared. And all these things are at large insisted on by others.

Secondly, The evidence which God hath given concerning this future judgment, whereon the certainty of it as to us doth depend, may also be considered; and, —

1. God hath planted a presumption and sense of it on the minds and hearts of men by nature, from whence it is absolutely and eternally inseparable. Conscience is nothing but that judgment which men do make, and which they cannot but make, of their moral actions with reference unto the supreme future judgment of God. Hence the apostle treating of this future judgment, Romans 2:12-16, diverts to show what evidence all mankind had in the meantime that such a judgment there should be, verses 14, 15; and this he declares to consist in their own unavoidable thoughts concerning their own actions, good or evil. This in the meanwhile accused them, and forced them to own a judgment to come. Yea, this is the proper language of conscience unto sinners on all occasions. And so effectual was this evidence on the minds of the heathen, that they generally consented into a persuasion, that by ore or other, somewhere or other, a future judgment would be exercised with respect unto things done in this world. Fabulous inventions and traditions they mixed in abundance with this conviction, as Romans 1:21; but yet this made up the principal notions whereby a reverence unto a divine Being was preserved in their minds. And those who were wise and sober among them thought it sufficient to brand a person as impious and wicked, to deny an unseen judgment of men’s actions out of this world; wherewith Cato reproached Caesar in the business of Catiline. This sense being that which keeps mankind within some tolerable bounds in sin, the psalmist prays that it may be increased in them, Psalms 10:13. See Genesis 20:11.

2. The working of reason on the consideration of the state of all things in this world, complies with the innate principles and dictates of conscience in this testimony. We suppose those concerning whom we treat do own the being of God, and his providence in the government of the world. Others deserve not the least of our consideration. Now those who are under the power of that acknowledgment and persuasion must and do believe that God is infinitely just and righteous, infinitely wise and holy, and that he cannot otherwise be. But yet when they come to consider how these divine properties are exerted in the providential government of the world, which all ages, persons, and places, must of necessity be subject unto and disposed by, they are at a loss. The final impunity of flagitious sinners in this world; the unrelieved oppressions, afflictions, and miseries of the best; the prosperity of wicked, devilish designs; the defeating and overthrow of holy, just, righteous undertakings and endeavors; promiscuous accidents to all sorts of persons, however differenced by piety or impiety; the prosperous course of men proud and blasphemous, who oppose God in principles and conversation as far as they are able; the secret, undiscovered murders of martyrs and innocents in inquisitions and dungeons; the extreme confusion that seems to be in all things here below; with other things of the like kind innumerable, are ready to gravel and perplex the minds of men in this matter. They have greatly exercised the thoughts even of the saints of God, and tried their faith, as is evident, Psalms 78:4-17; Jeremiah 12:1-2; Habakkuk 1:3-4; Habakkuk 1:13; Job 21:5-8, etc. And the consideration hereof turned some of the wisest heathens unto atheism or outrageous blasphemies at their dying hours. But in this state even reason, rightly exerted, will lead men to conclude, that, upon the supposition of a divine Being and providence, it must needs be that all these things shall be called over again, and then receive a final decision and determination, whereof in this world they are not capable. And among the heathens there were proverbial speeches, which they uttered on occasion of great distresses, which signified no less; as, “Est profecto Deus qui haec videt.” For, —

(1.) Upon a due examination it will quickly appear, that the moral actions of men with respect unto God, in the way of sin and obedience, are such as that it is utterly impossible that judgment should be finally exercised towards them in things visible and temporal, or that in this world they should receive “a just recompence of reward.” For whereas they have an aspect unto men’s utmost end, which is eternal, they cannot be justly or rightly stated but under punishments and rewards eternal, Romans 1:32;2 Thessalonians 1:6. Seeing, therefore, no full judgment can possibly pass upon the sins of men in this world, because all that can befall them is infinitely short of their demerit, even reason itself cannot but be satisfied that God, in his infinite wisdom and sovereignty, should put off the whole judgment unto that day, wherein all penalties shall be equalled to their crimes, and rewards unto obedience. So when our apostle reasoned before Felix about “righteousness and temperance,” knowing how unavailable his arguments would be without it against the contrary sin and evil, from the impunity and prosperity of such sinners in the world, to make them effectual he adds the consideration of the “judgment to come,” Acts 24:25. Here reason may relieve itself in the midst of all cross occurrences of providence, and such as are not only contrary to our desires, but directly opposite unto our judgments as to what is suitable to infinite justice and wisdom. The final determination of things is not made here; nor is it possible it should so be, on the ground now assigned.

(2.) Should God take men off from a respect unto future eternal judgment, and constantly dispense rewards and punishments in this world, according unto what the wisest of men can apprehend just and equal (which, if any thing, must satisfy, without a regard to eternal judgment), as it would be most unequal and unrighteous, so it might be an occasion of greater wickedness than the world is yet pestered withal. Unrighteous and unequal it must be unavoidably, because the judgment supposed must pass according unto what men are able to discern and judge upon; that is, outward actions only. Now this were unrighteous in God, who sees and knows the heart, and knows that actions have their good and evil, if not solely, yet principally, from their respect thereunto. “The LORD is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed,” said Hannah, when Eli judged her drunk, but God saw that she prayed, 1 Samuel 2:3. There is nothing more evident than that it is inconsistent with and destructive of all divine perfections, that God should pass a decretory sentence on the actions of men according to what appears unto us to be just and equal. This, therefore, God declines, namely, to judge according to a rule that we can comprehend, Isaiah 11:3, Romans 2:2. But, —

(3.) Suppose that God should in this world distribute rewards and punishments constantly according to what he sees in the hearts and inward dispositions of the minds of men, it is no less evident that it would fill all men with unspeakable confusion, and prevail with them to judge that indeed there is no certain rule of judgment, no unmovable bounds and limits of good and evil; seeing it would be absolutely impossible that by them the judgments of God should be reduced unto any such rules or bounds, the reasons of them being altogether unknown. This the Scripture plainly owns, Psalms 77:19; Psalms 36:6. Wherefore, —

(4.) Should God visibly and constantly have dispensed rewards and punishments in this world according to the rule of men’s knowledge, comprehension, and judgment, — which alone hath an appearance of being satisfactory, — it would have been a principle, or at least the occasion, of a worse kind of atheism than any yet the earth hath been pestered withal. For it could not have been but that the most would have made the judgment of man the only rule of all that they did, which God must be obliged to comply withal, or be unrighteous; which is absolutely to dethrone him, and leave him only to he the executioner of the wills and reasons of men. But from all these, and the like perplexities, reason itself may quietly take sanctuary in submission unto sovereign Wisdom as to present dispensations, in a satisfaction that it is not only suitable unto, but necessary on the account of divine justice, that there should be a future eternal judgment, to pass according to truth upon all the ways and actions of men. And hereby doth God keep up in the hearts of men a testimony unto this great principle of our profession. Therefore, when our apostle reasoned before Felix concerning such duties and sins as were discoverable by the light of nature, namely, righteousness and temperance, — with respect to both which he was openly and flagitiously guilty, — he adds this principle concerning judgment to come; the truth whereof the conscience and reason of the wretch himself could not but comply withal, Acts 24:25.

3. God hath given testimony hereunto in all the extraordinary judgments which he hath executed since the foundation of the world. It is not for nothing that he doth sometimes, that he doth so frequently, go out of or beside the common beaten tracks and paths of providence. He doth it to intimate unto the world, that things are not always to pass at their present rate, but are one day to be called to another account. In great judgments “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against the ungodliness of men,” Romans 1:18; and an intimation is given of what he will further do hereafter. For as “he leaves not himself without witness” in respect of his goodness and patience, “in that he doeth good, and giveth rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons; filling men’s hearts with food and gladness,”

Acts 14:17; so he gives testimony to his righteousness and holiness in the judgments that he executes, Psalms 9:16. For whereas goodness and mercy are the works wherein God is as it were delighted, he gives testimony unto them, together with his patience and long-suffering, in the ordinary course of his dispensations; but judgment in severity he calls “his strange work,” that which he proceeds not unto but on great provocations, Isaiah 28:21, — he satisfieth his holy wisdom with some extraordinary necessary instances of it. And thus he hath himself singled out some particular instances, which he gave on purpose that they might be as pledges of the future judgment, and hath given us a rule in them how we are to judge of all his extraordinary acts of the same kind. Such was the flood whereby the world was destroyed in the days of Noah; which Peter affirms expressly was a type to shadow out the severity of God in the last final judgment, 2 Peter 2:5; 2 Peter 3:5-7. Of the like nature was his “turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemning them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly,” 2 Peter 2:6. He made them a terrifying example, “that others should hear, and fear, and do no more so presumptuously.” But now, whereas God hath not, in the space of four thousand years, brought any such judgment on any other places or persons, if this example had respect only unto this world, it must needs have lost all its force and efficacy upon the minds of sinners. Wherefore it did nearly respect the judgment to come, God giving therein an instance what obstinate and profligate sinners are to look for at that great day. Wherefore Jude says expressly, they are “set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire,” verse 7. And this is the language of all God’s extraordinary judgments either on persons or places in the world. Let men’s sins be what they will, God can endure in his long-suffering the sins of one as well as another, among “the vessels of wrath” that are “fitted for destruction,” and so he doth ordinarily, or for the most part; but yet he will sometimes reach out his hand from heaven in an extraordinary instance of vengeance, on purpose that men may know that things shall not for ever be passed over in such a promiscuous manner, but that he hath “appointed another day wherein he will judge the world in righteousness.” And for this reason such signal judgments as are evidences of the future eternal judgment of God, are in the Scripture expressed in words that seem to declare that judgment itself, rather than the types of it, Isaiah 34:4; Revelation 6:13-14; Daniel 7:9-10; Matthew 24:29-30. But, —

4. God hath not absolutely intrusted the evidence and preservation of this important truth, which is the foundation of all religion, unto the remainders of innate light in the minds and consciences of men, which may be variously obscured, until it be almost utterly extinguished; nor yet unto the exercise of reason on the consideration of the present administration of providence in this world, which is ofttimes corrupted, depraved, and rendered useless; nor yet unto the influence which extraordinary judgments may have upon the minds of men, which some fortify themselves against by their obstinacy in sin and security; but he hath abundantly testified unto it by express revelation from the beginning of the world, now recorded in his word, by which all men must be tried, whether they will or no. It may not be doubted but that Adam was acquainted with this truth immediately from God himself. He was so, indeed, in the commination given against sin at first, especially as it was explained in the curse after he had actually sinned. And this was that which was taught him in the threatening, and which his eyes were open to see clearly after his fall, when he immediately became afraid of God as his judge, Genesis 3:10. Nor can it be doubted but that he communicated the knowledge of it unto his posterity. But whereas they quickly, in that profligacy in all wickedness which they gave themselves unto, had, together with all other sacred truths, lost the remembrance of it, or, at least, practically despised and scoffed at the instruction which they had received therein, God knowing the necessity of it, either to restrain them in their flagitious courses, or to give them a warning that might leave them without excuse, makes a new express revelation of it unto Enoch, and by him to mankind: Jude 1:14-15,

“For Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousand of his saints, to execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them, of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches, which ungodly sinners have spoken against him.”

And this is the second new revelation that is recorded before the flood. There were two revelations that were the foundation of the church; the one concerning future judgment, in the threatening; the other concerning the recovery and restoration of mankind, in the promise. Both seem to have been equally neglected by that cursed generation. But God solemnly revived them both; the first by Enoch, the latter by Noah, who was the “preacher of righteousness,” 2 Peter 2:5, in whom the Spirit of Christ preached unto them who are now in prison, 1 Peter 3:19-20. And this old prophecy was revived by the Holy Ghost, partly that we might know that God from the beginning of the world gave public testimony unto and warning of his future eternal judgment; and partly to acquaint us that in the latter days men would break out into an excess and outrage in sin and wickedness, like that of those before the flood, wherein it would be necessary that they should be restrained, or terrified, or warned, by preaching unto them this truth of the judgment to come. After this the testimonies given unto it in the scriptures both of the 01d and New Testaments do so abound, and are so obvious to all, that it is no way needful particularly to produce them.

This principle being thus cleared and confirmed, it may not be amiss to show what practical improvement it doth require. And, —

Obs. 5. It is manifest that there is no duty in religion that is not, or ought not to be, influenced by the consideration of it.

I shall only name some of them whereunto it is in an especial manner applied by the Holy Ghost himself: —

1. Ministers of the gospel ought to dwell greatly on the consideration of it, as it is represented in its terror and glory, that they may be excited and stirred up to deal effectually with the souls of men, that they fall not under the vengeance of that day. So our apostle affirms that it was with himself; for having asserted the truth and certainty hereof in these words, “For we must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ, that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done,” he adds thereunto, “Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men,” 2 Corinthians 5:10-11; — ‘Duly considering what will be the state of things with all men in that day, how dreadful the Lord Christ will be therein unto impenitent sinners, and what “a fearful thing it is to fall into the hands of the living God,” I use all diligence to prevail with men to get such an interest in the peace and reconciliation tendered in the gospel, that they may be accounted worthy to stand in that day.’See Colossians 1:28. And without a continual due apprehension hereof, it cannot be but that men will grow cold, and dead, and formal in their ministry. If the judgment-seat of Jesus Christ be not continually in our eye, whatever other motives we may have unto diligence in our work, we shall have little regard to the souls of men, whether they live or die in their sins: without which, whatever we do is of no acceptance with God.

2. The consideration of it is peculiarly applied by the Holy Ghost against security in worldly enjoyments, and those evils wherewith it is usually accompanied. So it is made use of by our blessed Savior, Luke 21:34-36; and so by our apostle, 1 Thessalonians 5:2-8. And this also is expressed in the type of it, or the flood in the days of Noah; — nothing in it was more terrible unto men than that they were surprised in the midst of their enjoyments and employments, Matthew 24:38-39.

3. It is in like manner frequently applied unto the consolation of believers, under the troubles, difficulties, and persecutions, which in this life they undergo, 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10 : even the terror and the glory of it, with the vengeance which shall be executed in it, are proposed as the matter of highest consolation unto believers; as indeed they are, on many accounts not here to be insisted on. See Isaiah 35:3-4; Luke 21:28, Revelation 19:1-7. And therefore are we required to look for, long for, and, what lies in us, hasten to this day of the Lord, when, on all accounts, our joy shall be full, 2 Timothy 4:8; Revelation 22:20.

4. It is in like manner everywhere applied to the terror of ungodly and impenitent sinners, 1 Thessalonians 5:2-3; 2 Thessalonians 1:6-9; Jude 1:14-15, and in many other places not to be numbered.

And unto these ends, in an especial manner, is the consideration of it to be by us improved. These, therefore, (that we may return to the text,) are those fundamental principles of Christian religion which the apostle calls “the doctrine of baptisms and the laying on of hands.” This is a summary of that doctrine wherein they were to be instructed who were to be baptized, and to have imposition of hands thereon.

But there occurs no small difficulty from the use of the word “baptisms,” in the plural number; for it is not anywhere else in the Scripture so used, when the baptism of the gospel is intended, and the Jewish washings are often so expressed. The Syriac interpreter, which is our most ancient translation, renders it in the singular number, “baptism;” but because there is a full agreement in all original copies, and the ancient expositions also concur therein, none have yet adventured to leave the original, and follow that translation, but all generally who have commented on the place have considered how the word may be understood and explained. And herein they have fallen into such various conjectures as I shall not spend time in the consideration and refutation of, but content myself with the naming of them, that the reader may use his own judgment about them. Some, therefore, suppose that mention is made of “baptisms” because of the baptism of John and Christ, which, as they judge, were not only distinct but different. But the Jews were indifferently baptized by the one or the other, and it was but one ordinance unto them. Some, because of the many baptisms or washings among the Jews, into the room of all which the mystery of our baptism doth succeed. But this of all other conjectures is the least probable; and if any respect could be had thereunto, it would have been necessary to have mentioned “baptism” in the singular number. Some think respect is had unto the several sorts of gospel baptism, which are usually referred unto three heads, “fluminis,” “fiaminis,” “sanguinis,” — of the water by external washing, of the Spirit by internal purifying, of afflictions unto blood by both. And thus the apostle should not only intend the baptism of water, but also the whole spiritual cleansing of the soul and conscience, which was required of men at their initiation into Christian religion, called ἐπερώτημα συνειδήσεως ἀγαθῆς, 1 Peter 3:21; with a purpose to seal their confession with their blood if called thereunto, and therein being baptized with the baptism wherewith the Lord Christ in his sufferings was baptized, Matthew 20:23. And this hath in it much of probability, and which, next unto what I have fixed on, I should embrace. Some suppose regard may be had unto the stated times of baptism, which were fixed and observed in the primitive church, when they baptized persons publicly but twice or thrice in the year. But it is certain that this custom was not then introduced. Some betake themselves unto an enallage of number; which, indeed, is not unusual, but there is nothing here in the text to give countenance unto a supposition of it.

Wherefore the most general interpretation of the words and meaning of the apostle is, that although baptism be but one and the same, never to be repeated or reiterated on the same subject, nor is there any other baptism or washing of the same kind, yet because the subjects of it, or those who were baptized, were many, every one of them being made partakers of the same baptism in special, that of them all is called “baptisms,” or the baptism of the many.

All persons who began to attend unto the gospel were diligently instructed in the fore-mentioned principles, with others of an alike nature (for they are mentioned only as instances), before they were admitted unto a participation of this ordinance, with imposition of hands that ensued thereon; these, therefore, are called the “doctrine of baptisms,” or the catechetical fundamental truths wherein those to be baptized were instructed, as being the things whereof they were to make a solemn profession.

But if we shall follow the other interpretation, and suppose that this “doctrine of baptisms” is an expression of a distinct principle by itself, then cannot the word by any means be restrained unto the baptism by water only. For although this be an important head of Christian doctrine, namely, the declaration, use, and end of our sacramental initiation into Christ and the profession of the gospel, yet no reason can be given why that should be called “baptisms,” seeing it hath respect only to the thing itself, and not to the persons who are made partakers of it.

Admit, therefore, of this sense, that it is the doctrine concerning baptisms which is intended, and then the whole of what is taught, or the substance of it, concerning the sanctification and purification of the souls of men in their insition into and union with Christ, outwardly expressed in the sign of baptism, and wrought inwardly by the Spirit and grace of God, through the efficacy of the doctrine of the gospel, in opposition to all the legal and carnal washings among the Jews, is intended hereby. So the Lord Christ “loved the church, and gave himself for it, that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,” Ephesians 5:25-26.

And indeed the doctrine hereof is among the rudiments of Christian religion.

But I yet adhere to the former exposition, and that also because unto “baptisms,” “imposition of hands,” whose nature we must nextly inquire into, is added.

Some suppose that by this imposition of hands that rite in the church which was afterward called “confirmation,” is intended. For whereas there were two sorts of persons that were baptized, namely, those that were adult at their first hearing of the gospel, and the infant children of believers, who were admitted to be members of the church; the first sort were instructed in the principles mentioned before they were admitted unto baptism, by the profession whereof they laid the foundation of their own personal right thereunto; but the other, being received as a part and branches of a family whereupon the blessing of Abraham was come, and to whom the promise of the covenant was extended, being thereon baptized in their infancy, were to be instructed in them as they grew up unto years of understanding. Afterwards, when they were established in the knowledge of these necessary truths, and had resolved on personal obedience unto the gospel, they were offered unto the fellowship of the faithful. And hereon, giving the same account of their faith and repentance which others had done before they were baptized, they were admitted into the communion of the church, the elders thereof laying their hands on them in token of their acceptation, and praying for their confirmation in the faith. Hence the same doctrines became previously necessary unto both these rites; — before baptism to them that were adult; and towards them who were baptized in infancy, before the imposition of hands. And I do acknowledge that this was the state of things in the apostolical churches, and that it ought to be so in all others. Persons baptized in their infancy ought to be instructed in the fundamental principles of religion, and make profession of their own faith and repentance, before they are admitted into the society of the church. But that in those first days of the first churches, persons were ordinarily after baptism admitted into their societies by imposition of hands, is nowhere intimated in the Scripture. And the whole business of confirmation is of a much later date, so that it cannot be here intended. For it must have respect unto, and express somewhat that was then in common use.

Now there is mention in the Scripture of a fourfold imposition of hands used by the Lord Christ and his apostles. The first was peculiar unto his own person, in the way of authoritative benediction. Thus, when he owned little children to belong to his covenant and kingdom, “he put his hands on them, and blessed them,” Mark 10:16. But this was peculiar to himself, who had all blessings in his power; and hereof this is the only instance. Secondly, This rite was used in the healing of diseases. They laid their hands on sick, weak, and impotent people, healing them in a miraculous manner, Luke 4:40; Mark 16:18; Acts 28:8. This was the sign of the communication of healing virtue from the Lord Christ by their ministry. Thirdly, Imposition of hands was used in the setting apart of persons to the office and work of the ministry, 1 Timothy 4:14; 1 Timothy 5:22; Acts 6:6. The rite herein was derived from the Old Testament, Numbers 8:10; the whole congregation laid their hands on the Levites in their consecration. And it was of old of common use among the Jews in the dedication of their rulers, rabbis, or teachers, being called by them סמיכה ידים. Fourthly, It was used by the apostles in the collation of the supernatural spiritual gifts of the Holy Ghost unto them who were baptized, Acts 8:17; Acts 19:6. In no other duties of religion was this rite made use of, as to any mention that is made thereof in the New Testament, or records concerning the practice of the primitive churches. The first of these, as we observed, was only a personal action of our Lord Jesus Christ, and that in one single instance; so not here intended. The second was extraordinary also, and that wherein the generality of Christians were not concerned; nor can any reason be given why the mention of a thing extraordinary, occasional, and temporary, should be here inserted. The third was a rite of standing use in the church, and that wherein church- order is much concerned. But as to the use of it, one sort of persons only was concerned therein. And no just reason can be given why the apostle, from the doctrine of the first intrants of Christian religion, should proceed to the ordination of ministers, omitting all other rites of the church, especially that of the supper of the Lord, wherein so great a part of the worship of the church consisted. Besides, there is no ground to give a probability that the apostle should insert the observation of this rite, or the doctrine concerning it, in the same order and under the same necessity with those great fundamentals of faith, repentance, the resurrection, and eternal judgment.

Wherefore the imposition of hands in the last sense mentioned is that which most probably is intended by our apostle. For,

1. Adhering to our first interpretation as the most solid and firm, the “imposition of hands” intended, is a description of the persons that were to be instructed in the other fundamental principles, but is no principle itself. And this is not applicable unto any other of the uses of this rite. For,

2. This “laying on of hands” did commonly, if not constantly in those days, accompany or immediately follow baptism, Acts 8:13-17; Acts 19:6. And a thing this was of singular present use, wherein the glory of the gospel and its propagation were highly concerned. This was the state of things in the world: When, upon the preaching of the gospel, any were converted unto Christ, and upon their profession of faith and repentance were baptized, the apostles present (or if near unto them, they came on that purpose) laid their hands on them, whereon they received the Holy Ghost in a supernatural communication of evangelical gifts. And this, next to the preaching of the word, was the great means which the Lord Christ made use of in the propagation of the gospel. By the word he wrought internally, on the minds and consciences of men; and by these miraculous gifts he turned the thoughts of men to the consideration of what was preached, by what in an extraordinary manner was objected to their external senses. And this was not confined unto a few ministers of the word, and the like, but, as it appears from sundry places of Scripture, was common almost unto all believers that were baptized, Galatians 3:5; 1 Corinthians 14:3. In the verse following mention is made of those who were made “partakers of the Holy Ghost,” — that is, of his miraculous gifts and operations, which were communicated by this imposition of hands; which therefore refers unto the same. After these times this rite was made use of on other occasions of the church, in imitation, no doubt, of this extraordinary action of the apostles; but there is no mention of it in the Scripture, nor was it in use in those days, and therefore cannot be here intended. And this is the most genuine interpretation of this place. Those mentioned were “the principles of the doctrine of Christ;” wherein, among others of the same importance, they were to be well instructed who were to be baptized, and thereon to have hands laid on them, whereby the extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost were communicated unto them. But we shall allow a room also for that other exposition of the words which is more generally received, and in the exclusion whereof, because it complies with the analogy of faith, I dare not be peremptory. And this is, that “the doctrine of laying on of hands” maketh one distinct principle of Christianity by itself. But then the thing signified is principally intended, namely, the communication of the Holy Ghost unto believers in his gifts and graces, ordinary and extraordinary, whereof this rite was the external sign. And as this was peculiar to the gospel, so it contained the principal verification of it. And this it did sundry ways: —

1. Because the promises of the Lord Christ for the sending of him were eminently and visibly accomplished. It is known that when he was leaving the world he filled his disciples with an expectation of his sending the Holy Ghost unto them; and he did not only propose this promise as their great supportment during his absence, but also suspended on its accomplishment all the duty which he required from them in the office he had called them unto. Therefore he commanded them to abide quietly at Jerusalem, without any public engagement into their work, until they had received the promise of the Spirit, Acts 1:4; Acts 1:8. And when this was done, it gave a full and glorious testimony, not only unto his truth in what he had told them in this world, but also unto his present exaltation and acceptation with God, as Peter declares, Acts 2:33.

2. His gifts themselves were such, many of them, as consisted in miraculous operations, whereby God himself gave immediate testimony to the truth of the gospel: Hebrews 2:4, “God himself bearing witness,” (to the preachers of it,) “both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost.” This made the doctrine concerning them of unconceivable importance unto believers of those days, as that whereby their faith and profession were eminently justified in the face of the world.

3. This dispensation of the Holy Ghost was peculiar to the times of the gospel, and was in itself a sufficient proof of the cessation of all legal ordinances. For it was the principal prophecy and promise under the old testament, that in the days of the Messiah the Holy Ghost should be so poured out, as I have at large elsewhere declared. And it was to be a consequent of his glorification, John 7:38-39. Hence, by the argument of their receiving the Spirit, our apostle proves to the Galatians their freedom from the law, Galatians 3:2. Wherefore,

4. The doctrine concerning this dispensation of the Spirit was peculiar to the gospel, and so might be esteemed an especial principle of its doctrine.

For although the church of the Jews believed in the Holy Ghost as one person in the Trinity, after their obscure manner of apprehension, yet they were strangers unto this dispensation of him in his gifts, though promised under the old testament, because not to be accomplished but under the new. Yea, John the Baptist, who in light into the mystery of the gospel out went all the prophets that were before him, yet had not the knowledge hereof communicated unto him. For those who were only baptized with his baptism, and initiated thereby into the doctrine of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, “had not so much as heard whether there were any Holy Ghost;” that is, as unto this dispensation of him, Acts 19:2-3. Hereupon our apostle, instructing them in the doctrine of the gospel, made use of this rite of the imposition of hands; whereon “the Holy Ghost came on them, and they spake with tongues, and prophesied,” verse 6. This, therefore, being so great and important a concern of the gospel, and this being the rite appointed to represent it by, the doctrine concerning it, — namely, the promise of Christ to send the Holy Ghost, with the nature, use, and end of the gifts which he wrought in believers, — is expressed, and reckoned among the first principles of Christian religion. But the reader is at liberty to follow whether of these interpretations he pleaseth. And from the whole of what hath been discoursed we may take the ensuing observations: —

Obs. 6. Persons to be admitted into the church, and unto a participation of all the holy ordinances thereof, had need be well instructed in the important principles of the gospel. — We have here the rule of the apostle, and example of the primitive churches, for the ground of this doctrine. And it is necessary that such persons should be so instructed on their own part, as also on the part of the church itself. On their own part, because without it the ordinances themselves will be of little use unto them; for what benefit can any receive from that whose nature and properties he is unacquainted withal? And neither the nature nor use of the ordinances of the church can be understood without a previous comprehension of the fundamental principles of the gospel, as might be easily demonstrated. And it is so on the part of the church; for the neglect hereof was the chiefest occasion of the degeneracy of most churches in the world. By this means were the societies of them filled with ignorant, and consequently profane persons, by whom all their administrations were defiled, and themselves corrupted, as I have showed elsewhere. When once the care and diligence of the first churches, in the instruction of those whom they admitted into their communion, were laid aside, and an empty form taken up in the room of sedulous teaching, the churches themselves hastened into a fatal apostasy.

Obs. 7. It is not the outward sign, but the inward grace, that is principally to be considered in those ordinances or observances of the church which visibly consist in rites and ceremonies, or have them accompanying of them. — As in the rite of imposition of hands, the dispensation of the Holy Ghost was principally to be considered.


Verse 3

καὶ τοῦτο ποιήσομεν, ἐανπερ ἐπιτρέπῃ ὁ θεός. (2)

And this will we do, if so be that God permit. These words contain two things: —

1. The resolution of the apostle as to the matter and occasion before him: “And this will we do.”

2. A limitation of that resolution by an express submission to the will and pleasure of God: “If so be that God permit.”

As to the sense of the First, it is plain that the apostle in the foregoing verses had proposed or mentioned two things of very diverse natures. The first whereof is, “going on to perfection;” and the other, the “laying again of the foundation,” verse 1. Hence it is doubted and inquired whether of these it be that the apostle hath respect unto in these words, “And this will we do.”

“This will we do;” that is either, “We will go on to perfection,” which was exhorted unto, verse 1, and so is the more remote antecedent; or “This will we do, laying again the foundation,” which is the next antecedent, whereunto τοῦτο seems to relate. And this sundry expositors adhere unto. But there are some things which make it evident that respect is had herein to the former and more remote antecedent, namely, “going on to perfection.” And they are, first, what the apostle saith, and then what he doth.

1. In what he saith, his manner of expressing these things is considerable; for as to the latter, he twice intimates his intention to omit their further handling: “Therefore leaving,” or at present omitting, “the principles of the doctrine of Christ;” and, “not laying again the foundation,” verse 1. Hereunto if we refer these words, “And this will we do, if God permit,” they rather signify the present leaving of them than their further handling; and he not only declares his resolution to omit them, but also gives a sufficient reason why he would do so. And this is expressed in the last verses of the chapter foregoing. They had already had both time and means sufficient for their instruction in these principles: so that to inculcate them on those by whom they were learned and received was needless; and for those who had either not received them or rejected them, it was to no purpose further to treat with them about these things; which he confirms with a severe reason and dreadful consideration, verses 4-8. But things are otherwise expressed concerning the other antecedent. He speaks of it positively as that which was in his purpose and design. ‘“Let us,” saith he, “go on to perfection,” I in teaching, you in learning; “and this will we do, if God permit.”’

2. His intention is no less evident from what he doth in this epistle. There is, indeed, in this chapter and the last chapter of it, mention made about repentance, faith, patience, obedience, the worship of God, and the like; but not as principles of doctrine, to be laid as a foundation, but as graces to be practiced in the course of their edification. But the main business he undertakes, and the work which he pursues, is the carrying on of these Hebrews to perfection by the declaration of the most sublime mysteries of the gospel, especially that which is among the chiefest of them, namely, the priesthood of Christ, and the prefiguration of it by that of Melchisedec. The whole series of this discourse depends on Hebrews 5:10-11. Having declared unto them that he had many things to instruct them in concerning the priesthood of Christ, as shadowed out in the person and office of Melchisedec, he lets them know that he had also sundry discouragements in his design; which yet were not such but that he would break through them and pursue his intention. Only, to make his way as smooth and plain as conveniently he could, he deals with them a while about the removal of those hinderances which lay in his way on their part, and then returneth directly to his first proposal, and the handling of it, in the last verse of this chapter. This, therefore, is the sense of these words:

‘For the reasons before insisted on, and afterwards to be added, I will proceed unto the declaration of the principal mysteries of the gospel, especially those which concern the priesthood of Christ; and thereby raise up the building of your faith and profession upon the foundation that hath been laid; whereby, through the grace of God, you may be carried on to perfection, and become skillful in the word of righteousness.’

Obs. 1. No discouragements should deter the ministers of the gospel from proceeding in the declaration of the mysteries of Christ, whose dispensation is committed unto them, when they are called thereunto. — Among the various discouragements they meet withal, the least is not what ariseth from the dulness of them that hear. This our apostle had now in his eye in a particular manner, yet resolved to break through the consideration of it in the discharge of his duty. So it is with many still. Neither is any thing more irksome and grievous unto faithful preachers, than the incapacity of their hearers to receive gospel mysteries through their own negligence and sloth. But in this condition they have here an example for their guidance and direction.

And these things lie plain therein:

1. That they use all means, by warnings, persuasions, encouragements, and threatenings, to stir up their people out of their slothful, careless frame and temper. So doth our apostle with the Hebrews in this chapter, leaving nothing unsaid that might excite them unto diligence and a due improvement. of the means of knowledge which they enjoyed. So will they do with them that “watch for their souls as those who must give an account;” and ministers of another sort have no concern in these matters.

2. As occasion offers itself, to proceed in their work. And that, —

(1.) Because there are among their hearers some concerning whom they are “persuaded of better things, and such as accompany salvation,” as our apostle speaks, verse 9, whose edification is not to be neglected for the sinful sloth and ignorance of others.

(2.) God is pleased sometimes to convey saving light to the minds of men, before very dark and ignorant, in and by the dispensation of the deepest mysteries of the gospel, without such preparatory instruction in the more obvious principles of it as is ordinarily required. Not knowing, therefore, by what ways or means, how or when, God will work upon the souls of men, it is their duty to proceed in the declaration of the whole counsel of God committed unto them, and leave the success of all unto Him by whom they are employed.

Secondly, The limitation of this resolution is expressed in those words, ᾿ ᾿εάνπερ ἐπιτρέπῃ ὁ θεός, — “If God permit.” There may be a threefold occasion of these words, or a respect unto three things in the will of God, and consequently a threefold ‘exposition of them. For, —

1. Respect may be had merely and solely unto the unknown sovereign will and pleasure of God, and so no more is intended but that general limitation and expression of our absolute dependence on him, which we ought to bound all our resolutions withal. This our nature, and the nature of all our affairs, as they are in the hand of God, and at his disposal, do require of us. And therefore also it is expressly enjoined us, as a duty to be continually minded in all we undertake or do, James 4:13-15. If this be intended (as it is also, if not only), then it is as if he had said, ‘If He in whose hand are my life, and breath, and all my ways, whose I am, whom I serve, and to whose disposal I willingly submit myself in all things, see good, and be pleased to continue my life, opportunity, his assistance, and all other things necessary to this work, I will proceed with my design and purpose to acquaint you with and instruct you in the great mysteries of the priesthood and sacrifice of Christ.’See 1 Corinthians 16:7.

2. Respect may be had unto the condition of the Hebrews, whose sloth and negligence in hearing the word he hath now under reproof, and the will or purpose of God concerning them. For he seems to intimate unto them that there may be some fear lest God should be so provoked by their former miscarriages as that he would not afford them the means of further instruction. For this is a thing which God often threatens, and which falls out oftener than we are aware of, yea, most nations of the earth are examples of this severity of God. So a word of the stone importance is used unto this purpose, as to the turning away of the gospel from any persons or people, Acts 16:7, “They assayed to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit suffered them not,” — he permitted it not; which is the same with forbidding them to preach the word in Asia, verse 6. And so the sense of the expression amounts to this, ‘If God, whom I fear you have much provoked by your negligence and contempt of his word, will yet exercise patience and long-suffering towards you, and not east you out of his care by forbidding me to proceed in my design, or depriving me of my opportunity, — if God hinder me not by reason of your unworthiness, but be graciously pleased to be with me in my designed work.’

3. There is a μείωσις in the words, wherein a further respect unto the will of God is included rather than expressed. For it is not a mere naked permission in God that the apostle intends, as if he should have said, ‘If God let me alone, and, as it were, wink at what I am doing.’But there is a supposition in it of the continuance of God’s gracious assistance and especial presence with him; without which he frequently declared that he could neither undertake nor accomplish any thing that lay before him. God can, in the beginning or middle of an epistle or a sermon, take us off when he pleaseth, if he do but withdraw his assistance from us. And all these respects unto the will of God are not only consistent, so as that the closing with one excludeth not another, but they are all of them plainly included in the apostle’s intention, and are necessary to be taken in unto the right understanding of his words.

Obs. 2. As it is our duty to submit ourselves in all our undertakings unto the will of God, so especially in those wherein his glory is immediately concerned. — In general we have a rule given us as to the most ordinary occasions of life, James 4:13-15. Not to do it, is to disavow our dependence on God; a fruit of carnal wisdom and security which God greatly abhorreth. Neither is there any thing which will so fill our lives with disappointment and vexation; for in vain shall any man, be his condition at present what it will, seek for rest or peace in any thing but the will of God. But especially is this required of us in those things wherein the glory of God himself is immediately concerned. Such are those here, with respect whereunto our apostle makes this deference unto the sovereign pleasure of God, “This will we do, if God permit,” — namely, the things which concern the instruction and edification of the church, which regard the glory of God in an especial manner. For, —

1. All these things are under the especial care of God, and are ordered by peculiar wisdom. Not to submit ourselves absolutely in these things unto him, is to take his own things out of his hand, and to exalt our wisdom against his, as though we knew better what belonged unto his affairs than himself.

2. We come not to have any concernment in the things of God but upon his call, and hold it at his pleasure. That is the rise and tenor of our ministry in the church, whatever it be. And is it not just and equal that we should wholly submit in our work unto his will, and rest in his pleasure? It may be we have many things in our view that are desirable unto us, many things we would think meet to engage our endeavors in, as supposing them to have a great tendency to the glory of God, in all which he hath determined contrary to our desires and aims. All our satisfaction lies in, and all our duty is to be bounded by, this submission.

Obs. 3. Let them who are intrusted with means of light, knowledge, and grace, improve them with diligence, lest, upon their neglect, God suffer not his ministers further to instruct them.


Verses 4-6

῞αδύνατον γάρ τοὺς ἅπαξ φωτισθέντας, γευσαμένους τε τῆς δωρεᾶς τῆςἐπουρανίου, καὶ μετόχους γενηθέντας πνεύματος ἁγίου, καὶ καλὸν γευσαμένους θεοῦ ῥῆμα, δυνάμεις τε μέλλοντος αἰῶνος, καὶ παραπεσόντας, πάλιν ἀνακαινίζειν εἰς μετάνοιαν, ἀνασταυροῦντας ἐαυτοῖς τὸν ψἱὸν τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ παραδειγματίζοντας.

᾿αδύνατον γάρ, “impossibile enim;” that is, “est,” — “it is impossible.” Syr., אֶלָּא לָא מֶשְׁכְּחִין, “but they cannot.” This respects the power of the persons themselves, and not the event of things; it may be not improperly as to the sense. Beza and Erasmus, “fieri non potest,”” it cannot be.” The same with “impossible;” but the use of the word ἀδύνατον in the New Testament, which signifies sometimes only what is very difficult, not what is absolutely denied, makes it useful to retain the same word as in our translation, “for it is impossible.”

τοὺς ἅπαξ φωτισθέντας. Syr, הָנוּן דָּחֲדָא זְבַן לְמַעֲמוּדִיתָא נְחֵתוּ, “those who one time” (or “once”) “descended unto baptism;” of which interpretation we must speak afterwards. All others, “qui semel fuerint illuminati,” “who were once illuminated.” Only the Ethiopic follows the Syriac. Some read “illustrati,” to the same purpose.

γευσαμένους τε τῆς δωρεᾶς τῆς ἐπουρανίου. Vulg. Lat., “gustaverant etiam donum coeleste;” “etiam” for “et” Others express the article by the pronoun, by reason of its reduplication: “Et gustaverint donum illud coeleste,” “and have tasted of that heavenly gift.” Syr., “the gift that is from heaven.” And this the emphasis in the original seems to require. “And have tasted of that heavenly gift.”

και, μετόχους γενηθέντας πςεύματος ἁγίου. “Et participes facti sunt Spiritus Sancti,” Vulg. Lat.; “and are made partakers of the Holy Ghost.” All others, “facti fuerint,” “have been made partakers of the Holy Ghost.” Syr., דְּקוּדְשָׁא רוּחָא, “the Spirit of holiness.”

καὶ καλὸν γευσαμένους θεοῦ ῥῆμα. Vulg. Lat., “et gustaverunt nihilominus bonum Dei verbum.” Rhem., “have moreover tasted the good word of God.” But “moreover” doth not express “nihilominus;” [it must be rendered] “and have notwithstanding,” which hath no place here. καλὸν ῥῆμα, “verbum pulchrum.”

δυνάμεις τε μέλλοντος αἰῶνος. “Virtutesque seculi futuri.” Syr., חיְלָא, “vir-tutem,” “the power.” Vulg., “seculi venturi.” We cannot in our language distinguish between “futurum” and “venturum,” and so render it, “the world to come.”

καὶ παραπεσόντας. Vulg., “et prolapsi sunt.” Rhem., “and are fullen.” Others, “si prolabantur;” which the sense requires, — “if they fall,” that is, “away,” as our translation, properly. Syr., דְּתוּב נֶחְטוּן, “that sin again;” somewhat dangerously, for it is one kind of sinning only that is included and expressed.

πάλιν ἀνακαινίζειν εἰς μετάνοιαν. Vulg, “rursus renovari ad poenitentmm, “to be renewed again to repentance,” rendering the active verb passively. So Beza also, “ut denuo renoventur ad resipiscentiam;” “that they should again be renewed to repentance.” The word is active as rendered by ours, “to renew them again to repentance.”

Hebrews 6:4-6. — 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, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, if they fall away [for any] to renew them again to repentance; seeing they crucify again to themselves the Son of God, and put him unto open shame [or treat him ignominiously].

That this passage in our apostle’s discourse hath been looked upon as accompanied with great difficulties is known to all; and many have the differences been about its interpretation. For, both doctrinally and practically, sundry have here stumbled and miscarried. It is almost generally agreed upon, that from these words, and the colorable but indeed perverse interpretation and application made of them by some in the primitive times, occasioned by the then present circumstances of things, to be mentioned afterwards, the Latin church was so backward in receiving the epistle itself, that it had not absolutely prevailed therein in the days of Jerome, as we have elsewhere declared. Wherefore it is necessary that we should a little inquire into the occasion of the great contests which have been in the church, almost in all ages, about the sense of this place.

But that church proceeding in her lenity, and every day enlarging her charity, Novatus and Novatianus taking offense thereat, advanced an opinion on the contrary extreme. For they denied all hope of church pardon, or of a return unto ecclesiastical communion, unto them who had fallen into open sin after baptism; and, in especial, peremptorily excluded all persons whatsoever who had outwardly complied with idolatrous worship in time of persecution, without respect unto any distinguishing circumstances. Yea, they seem to have excluded them from all expectation of forgiveness from God himself. But their followers, terrified with the uncharitableness and horror of this persuasion, tempered it so far as that, leaving all persons absolutely to the mercy of God upon their repentance, they only denied such as we mentioned before a re-admission into church communion, as Acesius speaks expressly in Socrates, lib. 1. cap. 7. Now this opinion they endeavored to confirm, as from the nature and use of baptism, which was not to be reiterated, whereon they judged that no pardon was to be granted unto them who fell into those sins which they lived in before, and were cleansed from at their baptism; so principally from this place of our apostle, wherein they thought their whole opinion was taught and confirmed. And so usually doth it fall out, very unhappily, with men who think they see some peculiar opinion or persuasion in some singular text of Scripture, and will not bring their interpretations of it unto the analogy of faith, whereby they might see how contrary it is to the whole design and current of the word in other places. But the church of Rome, on the other side, though judging rightly, from other directions given in the Scripture, that the Novatians transgressed the rule of charity and gospel discipline in their severities, yet, as it should seem, and is very probable, knew not how to answer the objection from this place of our apostle: therefore did they rather choose for a season to suspend their assent unto the authority of the whole epistle, than to prejudice the church by its admission. And well was it that some learned men afterward, by their sober interpretations of the words, plainly evinced that no countenance was given in them unto the errors of the Novatians; for without this it is much to be feared that some would have preferred their interest in their present controversy before the authority of it: which would, in the issue, have proved ruinous to the truth itself; for the epistle, being designed of God unto the common edification of the church, would at length have prevailed, whatever sense men, through their prejudices and ignorance, should put upon any passages of it. But this controversy is long since buried; the generality of the churches in the world being sufficiently remote from that which was truly the mistake of the Novatians, yea, the most of them do bear peaceably in their communion, without the least exercise of gospel discipline towards them, such persons as concerning whom the dispute was of old whether they should ever in this world be admitted into the communion of the church, although upon their open and professed repentance. We shall not, therefore, at present need to labor in this controversy. But the sense of these words hath been the subject of great contests on other occasions also. For some do suppose and contend that they are real and true believers who are deciphered by the apostle, and that their character is given us in and by sundry inseparable adjuncts and properties of such persons. Hence they conclude that such believers may totally and finally fall from grace, and perish eternally. Yea, it is evident that this hypothesis, of the final apostasy of true believers, is that which influenceth their minds and judgments to suppose that such are here intended. Wherefore others, who will not admit that, according to the tenor of the covenant of grace in Christ Jesus, true believers can perish everlastingly, do say, that either they are not here intended, or if they are, the words are only comminatory, wherein although the consequence in them in a way of arguing be true, — namely, that on the supposition laid down, the inference is certain, — yet the supposition is not asserted in order unto a certain consequent, whence it should follow that true believers might so really fall away and absolutely perish. And these things have been the matter of many contests among learned men.

Again; there have been sundry mistakes in the practical application of the intention of these words unto the consciences of men, mostly made by themselves who are concerned. For whereas, by reason of sin, they have been surprised with terrors and troubles of conscience, they have withal, in their darkness and distress, supposed themselves to be fallen into the condition here described by our apostle, and consequently to be irrecoverably lost. And these apprehensions usually befall men on two occasions. For some having been overtaken with some great actual sin against the second table, after they have made a profession of the gospel, and having their consciences harassed with a sense of their guilt (as it will fall out where men are not greatly hardened through the deceitfulness of sin), they judge that they are fallen under the sentence denounced in this scripture against such sinners as they suppose themselves to be, whereby their state is irrecoverable. Others do make the same judgment of themselves, because they have fallen from that constant compliance with their convictions which formerly led them unto a strict performance of duties, and this in some course of long continuance.

Now, whereas it is certain that the apostle in this discourse gives no countenance unto the severity of the Novatians, whereby they excluded offenders everlastingly from the peace and communion of the church; nor to the final apostasy of true believers, which he testifieth against in this very chapter, in compliance with innumerable other testimonies of Scripture to the same purpose; nor doth he teach any thing whereby the conscience of any sinner who desires to return to God, and to find acceptance with him, should be discouraged or disheartened; we must attend unto the exposition of the words in the first place, so as not to break in upon the boundaries of other truths, nor transgress against the analogy of faith. And we shall find that this whole discourse, compared with other scriptures, and freed from the prejudices that men have brought unto it, is both remote from administering any just occasion to the mistakes before- mentioned, and is a needful, wholesome commination, duly to be considered by all professors of the gospel.

In the words we consider, —

1. The connection of them unto those foregoing, intimating the occasion of the introduction of this whole discourse.

2. The subject described in them, or the persons spoken of, under sundry qualifications, which may be inquired into jointly and severally.

3. What is supposed concerning them.

4. What is affirmed of them on that supposition.

FIRST, The connection of the words is included in the causal conjunction, γὰρ, “for.” It respects the introduction of a reason, for what had been before discoursed, as also of the limitation which the apostle added expressly unto his purpose of making a progress in their further instruction, “If God permit.” And he doth not herein express his judgment that they to whom he wrote were such as he describes, for he afterwards declares that he “hoped better things concerning them;” only it was necessary to give them this caution, that they might take due care not to be such. And whereas he had manifested theft they were slow as to the making of a progress in knowledge and a suitable practice, he lets them here know the danger that there was in continuing in that slothful condition. For not to proceed in the ways of the gospel, and obedience thereunto, is an untoward entrance into a total relinquishment of the one and the other. That therefore they might be acquainted with the danger hereof, and be stirred up to avoid that danger, he gives them an account of those who, after a profession of the gospel, beginning at a non-proficiency under it, do end in apostasy from it. And we may see, that the severest comminations are not only useful in the preaching of the gospel, but exceeding necessary towards persons that are observed to be slothful in their profession.

SECONDLY, The description of the persons that are the subject spoken of is given in five instances of the evangelical privileges whereof they were made partakers; notwithstanding all which, and against their obliging efficacy to the contrary, it is supposed that they may wholly desert the gospel itself. And some things we may observe concerning this description of them in general; as, —

1. The apostle, designing to express the fearful state and judgment of these persons, describes them by such things as may fully evidence it to be, as unavoidable, so righteous and equal. Those things must be some evident privileges and advantages, whereof they were made partakers by the gospel. These being despised in their apostasy, do proclaim their destruction from God to be rightly deserved.

2. That all these privileges do consist in certain especial operations of the Holy Ghost, which were peculiar unto the dispensation of the gospel, such as they neither were nor could be made partakers of in their Judaism. For the Spirit,” in this sense, was not “received by the works of the law, but by the hearing of faith,” Galatians 2:2; and this was a testimony unto them that they were delivered from the bondage of the law, namely, by a participation of that Spirit which was the great privilege of the gospel.

3. Here is no express mention of any covenant grace or mercy in them or towards them, nor of any duty of faith or obedience which they had performed. Nothing of justification, sanctification, or adoption, is expressly assigned unto them. Afterwards, when he comes to declare his hope and persuasion concerning these Hebrews, that they were not such as those whom he had before described, nor such as would so fall away unto perdition, he doth it upon three grounds, whereon they were differenced from them: as, —

(1.) That they had such things as did “accompany salvation;” that is, such as salvation is inseparable from. None of these things, therefore, had he ascribed unto those whom he describeth in this place; for if he had so done, they would not have been unto him an argument and evidence of a contrary end, that these should not fall away and perish as well as those. Wherefore he ascribes nothing to these here in the text that doth peculiarly “accompany salvation,” Hebrews 6:9.

(2.) He describes them by their duties of obedience and fruits of faith. This was their “work and labor of love” towards the name of God, verse 10. And hereby, also, doth he difference them from these in the text, concerning whom he supposeth that they may perish eternally, which these fruits of saving faith and sincere love cannot do.

(3.) He adds, that in the preservation of those there mentioned the faithfulness of God was concerned: “God is not unrighteous to forget.”

For they were such he intended as were interested in the covenant of grace, with respect whereunto alone there is any engagement on the faithfulness or righteousness of God to preserve men from apostasy and ruin; and there is so with an equal respect unto all who are so taken into the covenant. But of these in the text he supposeth no such thing; and thereupon doth not intimate that either the righteousness or faithfulness of God was any way engaged for their preservation, but rather the contrary. The whole description, therefore, refers unto some especial gospel privileges, which professors in those days were promiscuously made partakers of; and what they were in particular we must in the next place inquire: —

1. The first thing in the description is, that they were ἅπαξ φωτισθέντες, “once enlightened;saith the Syriac translation, as we observed, “once baptized.” It is very certain that, early in the church, baptism was called φωτισμός, “illumination;and φωτίζειν, “to enlighten,” was used for “to baptize.” And the set times wherein they solemnly administered that ordinance were called ἡμέραι τῶν φωτῶν, “the days of light.” Hereunto the Syriac interpreter seems to have had respect. And the word ἅπαξ, “once,” may give countenance hereunto. Baptism was once only to be celebrated, according to the constant faith of the churches in all ages. And they called baptism “illumination,” because it being one ordinance of the initiation of persons into a participation of all the mysteries of the church, they were thereby translated out of the kingdom of darkness into that of grace and light. And it seems to give further countenance hereunto, in that baptism really was the beginning and foundation of a participation of all the other spiritual privileges that are mentioned afterwards. For it was usual in those times, that upon the baptizing of persons, the Holy Ghost came upon them, and endowed them with extraordinary gifts, peculiar to the days of the gospel, as we have showed in our consideration of the order between “baptism” and “imposition of hands.” And this opinion hath so much of probability in it, having nothing therewithal unsuited to the analogy of faith or design of the place, that I should embrace it, if the word itself, as here used, did not require another interpretation. For it was a good while after the writing of this epistle, and all other parts of the New Testament, at least an age or two, if not more, before this word was used mystically to express baptism. In the whole Scripture it hath another sense, denoting an inward operation of the Spirit, and not the outward administration of an ordinance. And it is too much boldness, to take a word in a peculiar sense in one single place, diverse from its proper signification and constant use, if there be no circumstances in the text forcing us thereunto, as here are not. And for the word ἅπαξ, “once,” it is not to be restrained unto this particular, but refers equally unto all the instances that follow, signifying no more but that those mentioned were really and truly partakers of them.

φωτίζομαι, is “to give light or knowledge by teaching;” — the same with הוֹרֶה, which, therefore, is so translated ofttimes by the Greeks; as by Aquila, Exodus 4:12; Psalms 119:33; Proverbs 4:4; Isaiah 27:11, as Drusius observes. And it is so by the LXX., Judges 13:8; 2 Kings 12:2; 2 Kings 17:27. Our apostle useth it for “to make manifest;” that is, “bring to light,” 1 Corinthians 4:5, 2 Timothy 1:10. And the meaning of it, John 1:9, where we render it “lighteth,” is to teach. And φωτισμός is “knowledge upon instruction:” 2 Corinthians 4:4, εἰς τὸ μὴ αὐγάσαι αὐτοῖς τὸν φωτισμὸν τοῦ εὐαγγελίου, — “That the light of the gospel should not shine into them;” that is, the knowledge of it. So 2 Corinthians 4:6, πρὸς φωτισμὸν τῆς γνώσεως, — “The light of the knowledge.” Wherefore to be “enlightened,” in this place, is to be instructed in the doctrine of the gospel, so as to have a spiritual apprehension thereof. And this is so termed on a double account: —

(1.) Of the object, or the things known and apprehended. For “life and immortality are brought to light by the gospel,” 2 Timothy 1:10. Hence it is called “light;” “the inheritance of the saints in light.” And the state which men are thereby brought into is so called in opposition to the darkness that is in the world without it, 1 Peter 2:9. The world without the gospel is the kingdom of Satan: ῾ο κόσμος ὅλος ἐν τῷ πονηρῷ κεῖται, 1 John 5:19. The whole of the world, and all that belongs unto it, in distinction and opposition unto the new creation, is under the power of the wicked one, the prince of the power of darkness, and so is full of darkness. It is τόπος αὐχμηρός, 2 Peter 1:19; “a dark place,” wherein ignorance, folly, error, and superstition do dwell and reign. By the power and efficacy of this darkness are men kept at a distance from God, and know not whither they go. This is called “walking in darkness,” 1 John 1:6; whereunto “walking in the light,” that is, the knowledge of God in Christ by the gospel, is opposed, 1 John 1:7. On this account is our instruction in the knowledge of the gospel called “illumination,” because itself is light.

(2.) On the account of the subject, or the mind itself, whereby the gospel is apprehended. For the knowledge which is received thereby expels that darkness, ignorance, and confusion, which the mind before was filled and possessed withal. The knowledge, I say, of the doctrine of the gospel, concerning the person of Christ, of God’s being in him reconciling the world unto himself, of his offices, work, and mediation, and the like heads of divine revelation, doth set up a spiritual light in the minds of men, enabling them to discern what before was utterly hid from them, whilst “alienated from the life of God through their ignorance.” Of this light and knowledge there are several degrees, according to the means of instruction which they do enjoy, the capacity they have to receive it, and the diligence they use to that purpose. But a competent measure of the knowledge of the fundamental and most material principles or doctrines of the gospel is required unto all that may thence be said to be illuminated; that is, freed from the darkness and ignorance they once lived in, 2 Peter 1:19-21.

This is the first property whereby the persons intended are described; they are such as were “illuminated” by the instruction they had received in the doctrine of the gospel, and the impression made thereby on their minds by the Holy Ghost; for this is a common work of his, and is here so reckoned. And the apostle would have us know that, —

Obs. 1. It is a great mercy, a great privilege, to be enlightened with the doctrine of the gospel, by the effectual working of the Holy Ghost. But, —

Obs. 2. It is such a privilege as may be lost, and end in the aggravation of the sin, and condemnation of those who were made partakers of it. And, —

Obs. 3. Where there is a total neglect of the due improvement of this privilege and mercy, the condition of such persons is hazardous, as inclining towards apostasy.

Thus much lies open and manifest in the text. But that we may more particularly discover the nature of this first part of the character of apostates, for their sakes who may look after their own concernment therein, we may yet a little more distinctly express the nature of that illumination and knowledge which is ascribed unto them; and how it is lost in apostasy will afterwards appear. And, —

(1.) There is a knowledge of spiritual things that is purely natural and disciplinary, attainable and attained without any especial aid or assistance of the Holy Ghost. As this is evident in common experience, so especially among such as, casting themselves on the study of spiritual things, are yet utter strangers unto all spiritual gifts. Some knowledge of the Scripture, and the things contained in it, is attainable at the same rate of pains and study with that of any other art or science.

(2.) The illumination intended, being a gift of the Holy Ghost, differs from, and is exalted above this knowledge that is purely natural; for it makes nearer approaches unto the light of spiritual things in their own nature than the other doth. Notwithstanding the utmost improvement of scientifical notions that are purely rural, the things of the gospel, in their own nature, are not only unsuited to the wills and affections of persons endued with them, but are really foolishness unto their minds. And as unto that goodness and excellency which give desirableness unto spiritual things, this knowledge discovers so little of them, that most men hate the things which they profess to believe. But this spiritual illumination gives the mind some satisfaction, with delight and joy, in the things that are known. By that beam whereby it shines into darkness, although it be not fully comprehended, yet it represents the way of the gospel as a way of righteousness, 2 Peter 2:21, which reflects peculiar regard of it on the mind.

Moreover, the knowledge that is merely natural hath little or no power upon the soul, either to keep it from sin or to constrain it unto obedience. There is not a more secure and profligate generation of sinners in the world than those who are under the sole conduct of it. But the illumination here intended is attended with efficacy, and doth effectually press in the conscience and whole soul unto an abstinence from sin, and the performance of all known duties. Hence persons under the power of it and its convictions do ofttimes walk blamelessly and uprightly in the world, so as not with the other to contribute unto the contempt of Christianity. Besides, there is such an alliance between spiritual gifts, that where any one of them doth reside, it hath assuredly others accompanying of it, or one way or other belonging unto its train, as is manifest in this place. Even a single talent is made up of many pounds. But the light and knowledge which is of a mere natural acquirement is solitary, destitute of the society and countenance of any spiritual gift whatever. And these things are exemplified unto common observation every day.

(3.) There is a saving, sanctifying light and knowledge, which this spiritual illumination riseth not up unto; for though it transiently affects the mind with some glances of the beauty, glory, and excellency of spiritual things, yet it cloth not give that direct, steady, intuitive insight into them which is obtained by grace. See 2 Corinthians 3:18; 2 Corinthians 4:4; 2 Corinthians 4:6. Neither doth it renew, change, or transform the soul into a conformity unto the things known, by planting of them in the will and affections, as a gracious saving light doth, 2 Corinthians 3:18; Romans 6:17; Romans 12:2.

These things I judged necessary to be added, to clear the nature of the first character of apostates.

2. The second thing asserted in the description of them is, that they have “tasted of the heavenly gift,” — γευσαμένους τε τῆς δωρεᾶς τῆς ἐπουρανίου. The doubling of the article. gives emphasis to the expression. And we must quire,

(1.) What is meant by the “heavenly gift;” and,

(2.) What. by “tasting of it.”

(1.) The “gift of God,” δωρεά, is either δόσις, “donatio,” or δώρημα, “donum.” Sometimes it is taken for the grant or giving itself, and sometimes for the thing given. In the first sense it is used, 2 Corinthians 9:15, Thanks be to God, ἐπὶ τῇ ἀνεκδιηγήτῳ αὐτοῦ δωρεᾷ,” — “for his gift that cannot be declared;” that is, fully or sufficiently. Now this gift was his grant of a free, charitable, and bountiful spirit to the Corinthians, in ministering unto the poor saints. The grant hereof is called God’s gift. So is the gift of Christ used also, Ephesians 4:7, “According to the measure of the gift of Christ;” that is, according as he is pleased to give and grant of the fruits of the Spirit unto men. See Romans 5:15-17; Ephesians 2:7. Sometimes it is taken for the thing given, properly δῶρον or δώρημα, as James 1:17. So is used, John 4:10, “If thou knewest the gift of God, τὴν δωρεάν τοῦ θεοῦ:” — “the gift of God;” that is, the thing given by him, or to be given by him. It is, as many judge, the person of Christ himself in that place which is intended. But the context makes plain that it is the Holy Ghost; for he is the “living water” which the Lord Jesus promiseth in that place to bestow. And so far as I can observe, δωρεά, “the gift,” with respect unto God, as denoting the thing given, is nowhere used but only to signify the Holy Ghost. And if it be so, the sense of this place is determined, Acts 2:38, “Ye shall receive,” τὴν δωρεὰν τοῦ ἀγίου πνεὺματος— “the gift of the Holy Ghost;” not that which he gives, but that which he is. Acts 8:20, “Thou hast thought δωρεὰν τοῦ θεοῦ,” — “that the gift of God may be purchased with money;” that is, the power of the Holy Ghost in miraculous operations. So expressly, Acts 10:45; Acts 11:17. Elsewhere δωρεά, so far as I can observe, when respecting God, doth not signify the thing given, but the grant itself. The Holy Spirit is signally “the gift of God” under the new testament.

And he is said to be ἐπουράνιος, “heavenly,” or from heaven. This may have respect unto his work and effect, — they are heavenly as opposed to carnal and earthly. But principally it regards his mission by Christ after his ascension into heaven, Acts 2:33. Being exalted, and having received the promise of the Father, he sent the Spirit. The promise of him was, that he should be sent “from heaven,” or “from above;” as God is saint to be “above,” which is the same with “heavenly,” Deuteronomy 4:39; 2 Chronicles 6:23; Job 31:28; Isaiah 32:15; Isaiah 24:18. When he came upon the Lord Christ, to anoint him for his work, “the heavens were opened,” and he came from above, Matthew 2:16. So, Acts 2:2, at his first coming on the apostles, “there came a sound from heaven.” Hence he is said to be ἀποσταλεὶς οὐρανοῦ, — that is, to be ἡ δωρεὰ τοῦ θεοῦ ἐπουράνιος, “sent from heaven,” 1 Peter 1:12. Wherefore, although he may be said to be heavenly upon other accounts also, which therefore are not absolutely to be excluded, yet his being sent from heaven by Christ, after his ascension thither, and exaltation there, is principally here regarded. He, therefore, is this ἡ δωρεὰ ἡ ἐπουράνιος, the “heavenly gift” here intended, though not absolutely, but with respect to an especial work.

That which riseth up against this interpretation is, that the Holy Ghost is expressly mentioned in the next clause, “And were made partakers of the Holy Ghost.” It is not therefore probable that he should be here also intended.

Ans. [1.] It is ordinary to have the same thing twice expressed in various words, to quicken the sense of them; and it is necessary it should be so when there are divers respects unto the same thing, as there are in this place.

[2.] The following clause may be exegetical of this, declaring more fully and plainly what is here intended, which is usual also in the Scriptures; so that nothing is cogent from this consideration to disprove an interpretation so suited to the sense of the place, and which the constant use of the word makes necessary to be embraced. But, —

[3.] The Holy Ghost is here mentioned as the great gift of the gospel times, as coming down from heaven, not absolutely, not as unto his person, but with respect unto an especial work, namely, the change of the whole state of religious worship in the church of God; whereas we shall see in the next words he is spoken of only with respect unto external, actual operations. But he was the great, the promised heavenly gift, to be bestowed under the new testament, by whom God would institute and ordain a new way, and new rites of worship, upon the revelation of himself and will in Christ. Unto him was committed the reformation of all things in the church, whose time was now come, Hebrews 9:10. The Lord Christ, when he ascended into heaven, left all things standing and continuing in religious worship as they had done from the days of Moses, though he had virtually put an end unto it [the Mosaical dispensation.] And he commanded his disciples that they should attempt no alteration therein until the Holy Ghost were sent from heaven to enable them thereunto, Acts 1:4-5. But when he came, as the great gift of God promised under the new testament, he removes all the carnal worship and ordinances of Moses, and that by the full revelation of the accomplishment of all that was signified by them, and appoints the new, holy, spiritual worship of the gospel, that was to succeed in their room. The Spirit of God, therefore, as bestowed for the introduction of the new gospel-state, in truth and worship, is “the heavenly gift” here intended. Thus our apostle warneth these Hebrews that they

“turn not away from him who speaketh from heaven,” Hebrews 12:25; that is, Jesus Christ speaking in the dispensation of the gospel by “the Holy Ghost sent from heaven.” And there is an antithesis included herein between the law and the gospel; the former being given on earth, the latter being immediately from heaven. God in the giving of the law made use of the ministry of angels, and that on the earth; but he gave the gospel church- state by that Spirit which, although he worketh in men on the earth, and is said in every act or work to be sent from heaven, yet is still in heaven, and always speaketh from thence, as our Savior said of himself, with respect unto his divine nature, John 3:13.

(2.) We may inquire what it is to “taste” of this heavenly gift. The expression of tasting is metaphorical, and signifies no more but to make a trial or experiment; for so we do by tasting, naturally and properly, of that which is tendered unto us to eat. We taste such things by the sense given us naturally to discern our food; and then either receive or refuse them, as we find occasion. It doth not, therefore, include eating, much less digestion and turning into nourishment of what is so tasted; for its nature being only thereby discerned, it may be refused, yea, though we like its relish and savor, upon some other consideration. Some have observed, that to taste is as much as to eat; as 2 Samuel 3:35, “I will not taste bread, or ought else.” But the meaning is, ‘I will not so much as taste it;’whence it was impossible he should eat it. And when Jonathan says he only tasted a little of the honey, 1 Samuel 14:29, it was an excuse and extenuation of what he had done. But it is unquestionably used for some kind of experience of the nature of things: Proverbs 31:18, “She tasteth that her merchandise is good;” or hath experience of it, from its increase. Psalms 34:8, “O taste and see that the LORD is good:” which Peter respects, 1 Peter 2:3, “If so be that ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious,” or found it so by experience. It is therefore properly to make an experiment or trial of any thing, whether it be received or refused; and is sometimes opposed to eating and digestion, as Matthew 27:34. That, therefore, which is ascribed unto these persons, is, that they had an experience of the power of the Holy Ghost, that gift of God, in the dispensation of the gospel, the revelation of the truth, and institution of the spiritual worship of it; of this state, and of the excellency of it, they had made some trial, and had some experience; — a privilege which all men were not made partakers of. And by this taste they were convinced that it was far more excellent than what they had been before accustomed unto; although now they had a mind to leave the finest wheat for their old acorns. Wherefore, although tasting contains a diminution in it, if compared with that spiritual eating and drinking, with that digestion of gospel truths, turning them into nourishment, which are in true believers; yet, absolutely considered, it denotes that apprehension and experience of the excellency of the gospel as administered by the Spirit, which is a great privilege and spiritual advantage, the contempt whereof will prove an unspeakable aggravation of the sin, and the remediless ruin of apostates.

The meaning, then, of this character given concerning these apostates is, that they had some experience of the power and efficacy of the Holy Spirit from heaven, in gospel administrations and worship. For what some say of faith, it hath here no place; and what others affirm of Christ, and his being the gift of God, comes in the issue unto what we have proposed. And we may observe, further to clear the design of the apostle in this commination, that, —

Obs. 1. All the gifts of God under the gospel are peculiarly heavenly, John 3:12, Ephesians 1:3; and that in opposition, —

(1.) To earthly things, Colossians 3:1-2;

(2.) To carnal ordinances, Hebrews 9:23. Let them beware by whom they are despised.

Obs. 2. The Holy Ghost, for the revelation of the mysteries of the gospel, and the institution of the ordinances of spiritual worship, is the great “gift of God” under the new testament.

Obs. 3. There is a goodness and excellency in this heavenly gift, which may be tasted or experienced in some measure by such as never receive them, in their life, power, and efficacy. They may taste, —

(1.) Of the word in its truth, not its power;

(2.) Of the worship of the church in its outward order, not its inward beauty;

(3.) Of the gifts of the church, not its graces.

Obs. 4. A rejection of the gospel, its truth and worship, after some experience had of their worth and excellency, is a high aggravation of sin, and a certain presage of destruction.

3. The third property whereby these persons are described is added in these words, καὶ μετόχους γενηθέντας πνεύματος ἀγίου, — “And were made partakers of the Holy Ghost.” This is placed in the middle or center of the privileges enumerated, two preceding it, and two following after, as that which is the root and animating principle of them all. They all are effects of the Holy Ghost, in his gifts or his graces, and so do depend on the participation of him. Now men do so partake of the Holy Ghost as they do receive him. And he may be received either as unto personal inhabitation or as unto spiritual operations. In the first way “the world cannot receive him,” John 14:17; where “the world” is opposed unto true believers, and therefore those here intended were not in that sense partakers of him. His operations respect his gifts. So to partake of him is to have a share, part, or portion, in what he distributes by way of spiritual gifts; in answer unto that expression,

“All these worketh that one and the self-same Spirit, dividing unto every man severally as he will,” 1 Corinthians 12:11.

So Peter told Simon the magician, that he had no part in spiritual gifts, he was not partaker of the Holy Ghost, Acts 8:21. Wherefore to be “partaker of the Holy Ghost,” is to have a share in and benefit of his spiritual operations.

But whereas the other things mentioned are also gifts or operations of the Holy Ghost, on what ground or for what reason is this mentioned here in particular, that they were made partakers of him, which if his operations only be intended, seems to be expressed in the other instances?

Ans. (1.) It is, as we observed before, no unusual thing in the Scripture to express the same thing under various notions, the more effectually to impress a consideration and sense of it on our mind, especially where an expression hath a singular emphasis in it, as this hath here used; for it is an exceeding aggravation of the sins of those apostates, that in these things they were partakers of the Holy Ghost.

(2.) As was before intimated, also, this participation of the Holy Ghost is placed, it may be, in the midst of the several parts of this description, as that whereon they do all depend, and they are all but instances of it. They were “partakers of the Holy Ghost,” in that they were “once enlightened;and so of the rest.

(3.) It expresseth their own personal interest in these things. They had an interest in the things mentioned not only objectively, as they were proposed and presented to them in the church, but subjectively, — they themselves in their own persons were made partakers of them. It is one thing for a man to have a share in and benefit by the gifts of the church, another to be personally himself endowed with them.

(4.) To mind them in an especial manner of the privileges they enjoyed under the gospel, above what they had in their Judaism; for whereas then they had not so much as heard that there was a Holy Ghost, — that is, a blessed dispensation of him in spiritual gifts, Acts 19:2, — now they themselves in their own persons were made partakers of him; than which there could be no greater aggravation of their apostasy. And we may observe in our way, that, —

Obs. The Holy Ghost is present with many as unto powerful operations, with whom he is not present as to gracious inhabitation; or, many are made partakers of him in his spiritual gifts who are never made partakers of him in his saving graces, Matthew 7:22-23.

4. It is added, fourthly, in the description, that they had “tasted καλὸν θεοῦ ῥῆμα, — the good word of God.” And we must inquire, —

(1.) What is meant by “the word of God;”

(2.) How it is said to be “good;and,

(3.) In what sense they “tasted” of it.

(1.) ῾ρῆμα is properly “verbum dictum,” “a word spoken;” and although it be sometimes used in another sense by our apostle, and by him alone, — Hebrews 1:3; Hebrews 11:3, where it denotes the effectual active power of God, — yet both the signification of the word and its principal use elsewhere denote words spoken; and when applied unto God, his word as preached and declared. See Romans 10:17, John 6:68. The word of God, that is the word of the gospel as preached, is that which they thus tasted of. But it may be said, that they enjoyed the word of God in their state of Judaism. They did so, as to the written word; for “unto them were committed the oracles of God,” Romans 3:2; but it is the word of God as preached in the dispensation of the gospel that is eminently thus called, and concerning which such excellent things are spoken, Romans 1:16; Acts 20:32; James 1:21.

(2.) The word is said to be καλόν, “good,” desirable, amiable, as the word here used signifieth. Wherein it is so we shall see immediately. But whereas the word of God preached under the dispensation of the gospel may be considered two ways: —

[1.] In general, as to the whole system of truths contained therein; and

[2.] In especial, for the declaration made of the accomplishment of the promise in sending Jesus Christ for the redemption of the church, — it is here especially intended in this latter sense. This is emphatically called ῥῆμα, 1 Peter 1:25. So the promise of God in particular is called his “good word:” Jeremiah 29:10,

“After seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you;”

as he calls it “the good thing which he had promised,” Jeremiah 33:14. The gospel is the “good tidings of peace and salvation” by Jesus Christ, Isaiah 52:7.

(3.) Hereof they are said to “taste,” as they were before of the heavenly gift. The apostle as it were studiously keeps himself to this expression, on purpose to manifest that he intendeth not those who by faith do really receive, feed, and live on Jesus Christ, as tendered in the word of the gospel, John 6:35; John 6:49-51; John 6:54-56. It is as if he had said, ‘I speak not of those who have received and digested the spiritual food of their souls, and turned it into spiritual nourishment; but of such as have so far tasted of it, as that they ought to have desired it as “sincere milk, to have grown thereby.”’But they had received such an experiment of its divine truth and power, as that it had various effects upon them. And for the further explication of these words, and therein of the description of the state of these supposed apostates, we may consider the ensuing observations, which declare the sense of the words, or what is contained in them: —

Obs. 1. There is a goodness and excellency in the word of God, able to attract and affect the minds of men, who yet never arrive at sincere obedience unto it.

5. Lastly, It is added, δυνάμεις τε μέλλοντος αἰῶνος, — “And the powers of the world to come.” δυνάμεις are גְּבוּרוֹת, or נִפְלָאוֹת; the mighty, great, miraculous operations and works of the Holy Ghost. What they were, and how they were wrought among these Hebrews, hath been declared in our exposition on Hebrews 2:4, whither I shall refer the reader; and they are known from the Acts of the Apostles, where sundry instances of them are recorded. I have also proved on that chapter, that by “the world to come,” our apostle in this epistle intends the days of the Messiah, that being the usual name of it in the church at that time, as the new world which God had promised to create. Wherefore these “powers of the world to come,” were the gifts whereby those signs, wonders, and mighty works, were then wrought by the Holy Ghost, according as it was foretold by the prophets that they should be so. See Joel 2, compared with Acts 2. These the persons spoken of are supposed to have “tasted;” for the particle τε refers to γευσαμένους foregoing. Either they had been wrought in and by themselves, or by others in their sight, whereby they had an experience of the glorious and powerful working of the Holy Ghost in the confirmation of the gospel. Yea, I do judge that themselves in their own persons were partakers of these powers, in the gifts of tongues and other miraculous operations; which was the highest aggravation possible of their apostasy, and that which peculiarly rendered their recovery impossible. For there is not in the Scripture an impossibility put upon the recovery of any but such as peculiarly sin against the Holy Ghost: and although that guilt may be otherwise contracted, yet in none so signally as this, of rejecting that truth which was confirmed by his mighty operations in them that rejected it; which could not be done without an ascription of his divine power unto the devil. Yet would I not fix on those extraordinary gifts exclusively unto those that are ordinary. They also are of the powers of the world to come. So is every thing that belongs to the erection or preservation of the new world or the kingdom of Christ. To the first setting up of a kingdom, great and mighty power is required; but being set up, the ordinary dispensation of power will preserve it. So is it in this matter. The extraordinary, miraculous gifts of the Spirit were used in the erection of Christ’s kingdom, but it is continued by ordinary gifts; which, therefore, also belong unto the powers of the world to come.

THIRDLY, From the consideration of this description, in all the parts of it, we may understand what sort of persons it is that is intended here by the apostle. And it appears, yea is evident, —

1. That the persons here intended are not true and sincere believers, in the strict and proper sense of that name, at least they are not described here as such; so that from hence nothing can be concluded concerning them that are so, as to the possibility of their total and final apostasy. For,

(1.) There is in their full and largo description no mention of faith, or believing, either expressly or in terms equivalent; and in no other place in the Scripture are such intended, but they are mentioned by what belongs essentially to their state. And,

(2.) There is not any thing ascribed to these persons that is peculiar to them as such, or discriminative of them, as taken either from their especial relation unto God in Christ, or any such property of their own as is not communicable unto others. For instance, they are not said to be called according to God’s purpose; to be born again, not of man, nor of the will of flesh, but of God; nor to be justified, or sanctified, or united unto Christ, or to be the sons of God by adoption; nor have they any other characteristical note of true believers ascribed to them.

(3.) They are in the following verses compared to the ground on which the rain often falls, and beareth nothing but thorns and briers. But this is not so with true believers. For faith itself is an herb peculiar to the enclosed garden of Christ, and meet for him by whom we are dressed.

(4.) The apostle afterwards discoursing of true believers, doth in many particulars distinguish them from such as may be apostates; which is supposed of the persons here intended, as was before declared. For,

[1.] He ascribeth unto them in general “better things, and such as accompany salvation,” verse 9.

[2.] He ascribes a “work and labor of love,” as it is true faith alone which worketh by love, verse 10; whereof he speaks not one word concerning these.

[3.] He asserts their preservation; —

1st, On the account of the righteousness and faithfulness of God, verse 10;

2dly, Of the immutability of his counsel concerning them, verse 17, 18. In all these and sundry other instances doth he put a difference between these apostates and true believers. And whereas the apostle intends to declare the aggravation of their sin in falling away by the principal privileges whereof they were made partakers, here is not one word, in name or thing, of those which he expressly assigns to be the chief privileges of true believers, Romans 8:27-30.

2. Our next inquiry is more particularly whom he doth intend. And,

(1.) They were such who not long before were converted from Judaism unto Christianity, upon the evidence of the truth of its doctrine, and the miraculous operations wherewith its dispensation was accompanied.

(2.) He intends not the common sort of them, but such as had obtained especial privileges among them. For they had received extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost, as speaking with tongues or working miracles. And,

(3.) They had found in themselves and others convincing evidences that the kingdom of God and the Messiah, which they called “the world to come,” was come unto them; and had satisfaction in the glories of it.

(4.) Such persons as these, as they have a work of light on their minds, so, according to the efficacy of their convictions, they may have such a change wrought upon their affections and in their conversation, as that they may be of great esteem among professors; and such those here intended might be. Now it must needs be some horrible frame of spirit, some malicious enmity against the truth and holiness of Christ and the gospel, some violent love of sin and the world, that could turn off such persons as these from the faith, and blot out all that light and conviction of truth which they had received. But the least grace is a better security for heaven than the greatest gifts and privileges whatever.

These are the persons concerning whom our apostle discourseth, and of whom it is supposed by him that they may “fall away,” — καὶ παραπεσόντας. The especial nature of the sin here intended is afterwards declared in two instances or aggravating circumstances. This word expresseth the respect it had to the state and condition of the sinners themselves; they fall away, do that whereby they do so. I think we have well expressed the word, “If they shall fall away.” Our old translations render it only, “If they shall fall:” which expressed not the sense of the word, and was liable to a sense not at all intended; for he doth not say, “If they shall fall into sin,” — this, or that, or any sin whatever that can be named, suppose the greatest sin imaginable, namely, the denial of Christ in the time of danger or persecution. This was that sin (as we intimated before) about which so many contests were raised of old, and so many canons were multiplied about the ordering of them who had contracted the guilt thereof. But one example well considered had been a better guide for them than all their own arbitrary rules and imaginations, — when Peter fell into this sin, and yet was “renewed again to repentance,” and that speedily. Wherefore we may lay down this in the first place, as to the sense of the words: There is no particular sin that any man may fall into occasionally, through the power of temptation, that can cast the sinner under this commination, so that it should be impossible to renew him to repentance. It must, therefore, secondly, be a course of sin or sinning that is intended. But there are various degrees herein also, yea, there are divers kinds of such courses in sin. A man may so fall into a way of sin as still to retain in his mind such a principle of light and conviction that may be suitable to his recovery. To exclude such from all hopes of repentance is expressly contrary to Ezekiel 18:21, Isaiah 55:7, yea, and the whole sense of the Scripture. Wherefore men, after some conviction and reformation of life, may fall into corrupt and wicked courses, and make a long abode or continuance in them. Examples hereof we have every day amongst us, although it may be none to parallel that of Manasseh. Consider the nature of his education under his father Hezekiah, the greatness of his sins, the length of his continuance in them, with his following recovery, and he is a great instance in this case. Whilst there is in such persons any seed of light or conviction of truth which is capable of an excitation or revival, so as to put forth its power and efficacy in their souls, they cannot be looked on to be in the condition intended, though their case be dangerous.

3. Our apostle makes a distinction between πταίω and πίπτω, Romans 11:11, — between “stumbling” and “falling;” and would not allow that the unbelieving Jews of those days were come so far as πίπτειν, — that is, to fall absolutely: λέγω ου῏ν· ΄ὴ ἔπταισαν ἵνα πέσωσι; μὴ γένοιτο,“I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid;” that is, absolutely and irrecoverably. So, therefore, doth that word signify in this place. And παραπίπτω increaseth the signification, either as to perverseness in the manner of the fall, or as to violence in the fall itself.

From what hath been discoursed, it will appear what falling away it is that the apostle here intendeth. And, —

(1.) It is not a falling into this or that actual sin, be it of what nature it will; which may be, and yet not be a falling away.

(2.) It is not a falling upon temptation or surprisal; for concerning such fallings we have rules of another kind given us in sundry places, and those exemplified in especial instances: but it is that which is premeditated, of deliberation and choice.

(3.) It is not a falling by a relinquishment or renunciation some, though very material principles of Christian religion, by error or seduction; as the Corinthians fell, in denying the resurrection of the dead; and the Galatians, by denying justification by faith in Christ alone. Wherefore, —

(4.) It must consist in a total renunciation of all the constituent principles and doctrines of Christianity, whence it is denominated. Such was the sin of them who relinquished the gospel to return unto Judaism, as it was then stated, in opposition unto it, and hatred of it. This it was, and not any kind of actual sins, that the apostle manifestly discourseth concerning.

(5.) For the completing of this falling away according to the intention of the apostle, it is required that this renunciation be avowed and professed; as when a man forsaketh the profession of the gospel and falls into Judaism, or Mohammedanism, or Gentilism, in persuasion and practice. For the apostle discourseth concerning faith and obedience as professed; and so, therefore, also of their contraries And this avowment of a relinquishment of the gospel hath many provoking aggravations attending it. And yet whereas some men may in their hearts and minds utterly renounce the gospel, but, upon some outward, secular considerations, either dare not or will not profess that inward renunciation, their falling away is complete and total in the sight of God; and all they do to cover their apostasy in an external compliance with Christian religion, is in the sight of God but a mocking of him, and the highest aggravation of their sin.

This is the falling away intended by the apostle: — a voluntary, resolved relinquishment of and apostasy from the gospel, the faith, rule, and obedience thereof; which cannot be without casting the highest reproach and contumely imaginable upon the person of Christ himself, as is afterwards expressed.

FOURTHLY, Concerning these persons, and their thus falling away, two things are to be considered in the text:

1. What is affirmed of them.

2. The reason of that affirmation.

1. The first is, That “it is impossible to renew them again to repentance.” The thing intended is negative; — to “renew them again to repentance,” this is denied of them. But the modification of that negation turns the proposition into an affirmation: “It is impossible so to do.” ᾿αδύνατον γάρ. The importance of this word is dubious; some think an absolute, and others a moral impossibility is intended thereby. This latter most fix upon; so that it is a matter rare, difficulty, and seldom to be expected, that is intended, and not that which is absolutely impossible. Considerable reasons and instances are produced for either interpretation. But we must look further into the meaning of it.

All future events depend on God, who alone doth necessarily exist. Other things may be, or may not be, as they respect him or his will. And so things that are future may be said to be impossible, or be so, either with respect unto the nature of God, or his decrees, or his moral rule, order, and law.

(1.) Things are impossible with respect unto the nature of God, either absolutely, as being consistent with his being and essential properties: so it is impossible that God should lie: or, on some supposition, so it is impossible that God should forgive sin without satisfaction, on the supposition of his law and the sanction of it. In this sense the repentance of these apostates, it may be, is not impossible. I say, it may be; it may be there is nothing in it contrary to any essential properties of the nature of God, either directly or reductively. But I will not be positive herein. For the things ascribed unto these apostates are such, — namely, their “crucifying the Son of God afresh, and putting him to open shame,” — as that I know not but that it may be contrary to the holiness, and righteousness, and glory of God, as the supreme ruler of the world, to have any more mercy on them than on the devils themselves, or those that are in hell. But I will not assert this to be the meaning of the place.

(2.) Again; things possible in themselves, and with respect unto the nature of God, are rendered impossible by God’s decree and purpose: he hath absolutely determined that they shall never be. So it was impossible that Saul and his posterity should be preserved in the kingdom of Israel. It was not contrary to the nature of God, but God had decreed that so it should not be, 1 Samuel 15:28-29. But, the decrees of God respecting persons in particular, and not qualifications in the first place, they cannot be here intended; because they are free acts of his will, not revealed, neither in particular nor by virtue of any general rule, as they are sovereign, making differences between persons in the same condition, Romans 9:11-12. What is possible or impossible with respect unto the nature of God, we may know in some good measure from the certain knowledge we may have of his being and essential properties; but what is so one way or other with respect unto his decrees or purposes, which are sovereign, free acts of his will, knoweth no man, no, not the angels in heaven, Isaiah 40:13-14; Romans 11:34.

(3.) Things are possible or impossible with respect unto the rule and order of all things that God hath appointed. When in things of duty God hath neither expressly commanded them, nor appointed means for the performance of them, then are we to look upon them as impossible; and then, with respect unto us, they are so absolutely, and so to be esteemed. And this is the impossibility here principally intended. It is a thing that God hath neither commanded us to endeavor, nor appointed means to attain it, nor promised to assist us in it. It is therefore that which we have no reason to look after, attempt, or expect, as being not possible by any law, rule, or constitution of God.

The apostle instructs us no further in the nature of future events but as our own duty is concerned in them. It is not for us either to look, or hope, or pray for, or endeavor the renewal of such persons unto repentance. God gives law unto us in these things, not unto himself. It may be possible with God, for aught we know, if there be not a contradiction in it unto any of the holy properties of his nature; only he will not have us to expect any such thing from him, nor hath he appointed any means for us to endeavor it. What he shall do we ought thankfully to accept; but our own duty towards such persons is absolutely at an end. And, indeed, they put themselves wholly out of our reach.

That which is said to be thus impossible with respect unto these persons is, πάλιν ἀνακαινιζειν εἰς μετάνοιαν, “to renew them again to repentance,” ΄ετάνοια in the New Testament with respect unto God, signifies “a gracious change of mind,” on gospel principles and promises, leading the whole soul into conversion unto God. This is the beginning and entrance of our turning unto God, without which neither the will nor the affections will be engaged unto him, nor is it possible for sinners to find acceptance with him.

“It is impossible ἀνακαινίζειν,” “to renew.” The construction of the word is defective, and must be supplied. σέ — ‘may be added, “to renew themselves,” — it is not possible they should do so; or τινάς, that some should, that any should renew them: and this I judge to be intended. For the impossibility mentioned respects the duty and endeavors of others. In vain shall any attempt their recovery by the use of any means whatever. And we must inquire what it is to be renewed, and what it is to be renewed again.

Now our ἀνακαινισμός is the renovation of the image of God in our natures, whereby we are dedicated again unto him. For as we had lost the image of God by sin, and were separated from him by things profane, this ἀνακαινισμός respects both the restoration of our nature and the dedication of our persons to God. And it is twofold: —

(1.) Real and internal, in regeneration and effectual sanctification, “The washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Ghost:” Titus 2:5; 1 Thessalonians 5:23. But this is not that which is here intended. For this these apostates never had, and so cannot be said to be “renewed again” unto it; for no man can be renewed again unto that which he never had.

(2.) It is outward in the profession and pledge of it. Wherefore renovation in this sense consists in the solemn confession of faith and repentance by Jesus Christ, with the seal of baptism received thereon; for thus it was with all those who were converted unto the gospel. Upon their profession of repentance towards God, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, they received the baptismal pledge of an inward renovation, though really they were not partakers thereof. But this estate was their ἀνακαινισμός, their “renovation.” From this state they fell totally, renouncing Him who is the author of it, his grace which is the cause of it, and the ordinance which is the pledge thereof.

Hence it appears what it is πάλιν ἀνακαινίζειν, “to renew them again.” It is to bring them again into this state of profession by a second renovation, and a second baptism as a pledge thereof. This is determined to be impossible, and so unwarrantable for any to attempt. And for the most part such persons do openly fall into such blasphemies against, and engage (if they have power) into such persecution of the truth, as that they give themselves sufficient direction how others should behave themselves towards them. So the ancient church was satisfied in the case of Julian. This is the sum concerning what is affirmed of these apostates, namely, that “it is impossible to renew them unto repentance;” that is, so to act towards them as to bring them to that repentance whereby they may be instated in their former condition. Hence sundry things may be observed for the clearing of the apostle’s design in this discourse; as, —

(1.) Here is nothing said concerning the acceptance or refuel of any upon repentance or the profession thereof after any sin, to be made by the church, whose judgment is to be determined by other rules and circumstances. And this perfectly excludes the pretense of the Novatians from any countenance in these words. For whereas they would have drawn their warranty from hence for the utter exclusion from church communion of all those who had denied the faith in times of persecution, although they expressed a repentance whose sincerity they could not evince. Those only are intended who neither do nor can come to repentance itself, nor make a profession of it; with whom the church had no more to do. It is not said, that men who ever thus fell away shall not, upon their repentance, be admitted into their former state in the church; but that such is the severity of God against them that he will not again give them repentance unto life.

(2.) Here is nothing that may be brought in bar against such as, having fallen into any great sin, or any course in sinning, and that after light, convictions, and gifts received and exercised, desire to repent of their sins, and endeavor after sincerity therein; yea, such a desire and endeavor exempt any one from the judgment here threatened.

There is therefore in it that which tends greatly to the encouragement of such sinners. For whereas it is here declared, concerning those who are thus rejected of God, that “it is impossible to review them,” or to do any thing towards that which shall have a tendency to repentance, those who are not satisfied that they do yet savingly repent, but only are sincerely exercised how they may attain thereunto, have no concernment in this commination, but evidently have the door of mercy still open unto them; for it is shut only against those who shall never endeavor to turn by repentance. And although persons so rejected of God may fall under convictions of their sin attended with despair, — which is unto them a foresight of their future condition, — yet as unto the least attempt after repentance on the terms of the gospel, they do never rise up unto it. Wherefore the impossibility intended, of what sort soever it be, respects the severity of God, not in refusing or rejecting the greatest sinners which seek after and would be renewed unto repentance, — which is contrary unto innumerable of his promises, — but in the giving up such sinners as those are here mentioned unto that obdurateness and obstinacy in sinning, that blindness of mind and hardness of heart, as that they neither can nor shall ever sincerely seek after repentance; nor may any means, according to the mind of God, be used to bring them thereunto. And the righteousness of the exercise of this severity is taken from the nature of this sin, or what is contained in it, which the apostle declares in the ensuing instances. (6)


Verse 7-8

What the apostle had doctrinally instructed the Hebrews in before, in these verses he layeth before them under an apposite similitude. For his design herein is to represent the condition of all sorts of persons who profess the gospel, and live under the dispensation of its truths, with the various events that do befall them. He had before treated directly only of unfruitful and apostatizing professors, whom here he represents by unprofitable ground, and God’s dealing with them as men do with such ground when they have tilled it in vain. For the church is a vine or vineyard, and God is the husbandman, John 15:1; Isaiah 5:1-7. But here, moreover, for the greater illustration of what he affirms concerning such persons, he compriseth in his similitude the contrary state of sound believers and fruitful professors, with the acceptance they have with, and blessing they receive from God. And contraries thus compared do illustrate one another, as also the design of him who treateth concerning them. We need not, therefore, engage into a particular inquiry what it is which the word “for,” whereby these verses are annexed and continued unto the precedent, doth peculiarly and immediately respect, concerning which there is some difference among expositors. Some suppose it is the dealing of God with apostates, before laid down, which the apostle regards, and in these verses gives an account of the reason of it, or whence it is they come unto such a woful end. Others, observing that in his whole ensuing discourse he insists principally, if not only, on the state of sound believers and their acceptance with God, suppose he hath immediate respect unto what he had declared in the beginning of the chapter, verses 1-3, concerning his design to carry them on unto perfection. But there is no need that we should restrain his purpose to either of these intentions exclusively unto the other; yea, it is contrary to the plain scope of his discourse so to do. For he compriseth both sorts of professors, and gives a lively representation of their condition, of God’s dealing with them, and the event thereof. The reason, therefore, that he gives is not to be confined to either sort exclusively, but extends itself equally to the whole subject treated of.

Hebrews 6:7-8. γῆ γὰρ ἡ πιοῦσα τὸν ἐπ᾿ αὐτῆς πολλάκις ἐρχόμενον ὑετὸν, καὶ τίκτουσα βοτάνην εὔθετον ἐκείνοις δι᾿ οὕς καὶ γεωργεῖται μεταλαμβάνει εὐλογίας ἀπὸ τοῦ θεοῦ· ἐκφέρουσα δὲ ἀκάνθας καὶ τριβόλους ἀδόκιμος καὶ κατάρας ἐγγὺς, ἧς τὸ τέλος εἰς καῦσιν.

There is not any firing materially to be observed concerning these words in any translations, ancient or modern. They all agree, unless one or two that openly depart from the text; and which, therefore, are of no consideration. Only δι᾿ οὕς is by the Syriac rendered דְּמֶטולָתְהוּן, “propter quos,” “for whom;” all others read “per quos,” or “a quibus, “ by whom;” only ours mark “for whom” in the margin, which indeed is the more usual signification of διά with an accusative case. But that is not infrequently put for the genitive. And although this be not usual in other authors, yet unquestionable instances of it may be given, and amongst them that of Demosthen. Olynth. 1 cap. 6 is eminent: καὶ θεωρῖ τὸν τρόπον, δι᾿ ὅν μέγας γέγονεν ἀσθενὴς ὤν τοκαταρχὰς φίλιππος, “And seeth the way whereby (by which) Philip, who at first was weak became so great.” But into the proper sense of this expression in this place we must inquire afterwards.

Hebrews 6:7-8. — 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. But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned.

Some things must be observed concerning this similitude in general before we inquire into the particulars of it.

1. The ἀπίδοσις, or application of it, is left included in the πρότασις, or proposition of the similitude itself, and is not expressed. A description is given of the earth, by its culture, fruit, or barrenness; but nothing is especially added of the things signified hereby, although those are principally intended. And the way of reasoning herein, as it is compendious, so it is plain and instructive, because the analogy between the things produced in the similitude and the things signified is plain and evident, both in itself and from the whole discourse of the apostle.

2. There is a common subject of the whole similitude, branched out into distinct parts, with very different events ascribed unto them. We must therefore consider both what is that common subject, as also wherein the distinct parts whereinto it is branched do agree on the one hand and differ on the other.

(1.) The common subject is “the earth,” of the nature whereof both branches are equally participant. Originally and naturally they differ not, they are both the earth.

(2.) On this common subject, in both branches of it, the rain equally falls; not upon one more and the other less, not upon one sooner and the other later.

(3.) It is equally dressed, tilled, or manured, by or for the use of sortie; one part doth not lie neglected whilst the other is cared for.

In these things there is an agreement, and all is equal in both branches of the common subject. But hereon a partition is made, or a distribution of this common subject into two parts or sorts, with a double difference between them; and that,

(1.) On their parts;

(2.) Of God’s dealing with them. For,

(1.) The one part brings forth “herbs;” which are described by their usefulness, they are “meet for them by whom it is dressed.”’The other beareth “thorns and briers,” — things not only of no use or advantage, but moreover noxious and hurtful.

(2.) They differ in the consequent, on the part of God: for the first sort “receiveth blessing from God;the other, in opposition unto this blessing from God (whence we may also learn what is contained therein), is first “rejected,” then “cursed,” then “burned.”

Before I proceed to the particular explication of the words, inquiry must be made into the especial design of the apostle in them with respect unto these Hebrews. For here is not only a threatening of what might come to pass, but a particular prediction of what would come to pass, and a declaration of what was already in part accomplished. For by the “earth” he understands in an especial manner the church and nation of the Jews. This was God’s vineyard, Isaiah 5:7. Hereunto he sent all his ministers, and last of all his Son, Matthew 21:35-37; Jeremiah 2:21. And to them he calls, “O earth, earth, earth, hear the word of the LORD,” Jeremiah 22:29. Upon this earth the rain often fell, in the ministerial dispensation of the word unto that church and people. With respect; hereunto Christ says unto them, ποσάκις, “how often would I have gathered thy children,” Matthew 23:37; as here the rain is said to fall πολλάκις, often upon it. This was the earth wherein were the plants of God’s especial planting. And these were all now distributed into two parts. 1. Those who, believing and obeying the gospel, brought forth the fruits of repentance, faith, and new obedience. These being effectually wrought upon by the power of God in the new creation, our apostle compares to the earth in the old creation, when it was first made by God and blessed of him. Then, in the first place, it brought forth דֶּשֶׁא; that is, βότάνην, as the LXX. render the word, — “herb” meet for Him that made and blessed it, Genesis 1:11. And these were still to be continued the vineyard of God, a field which he cared for. This was that gospel church gathered of the Hebrews, which brought forth fruit to the glory of God, and was blessed of him.

This was the remnant among them according to the election of grace, which obtained mercy when the rest were blinded, Romans 11:5; Romans 11:7.

2. For the remainder of this people, the residue of this earth, it was made up of two sorts, which are both of them here cast under the same lot and condition. There were obstinate unbelievers on the one hand, who pertinaciously rejected Christ and the gospel; with hypocritical apostates on the other, who having for a season embraced its profession, fell off again unto their Judaism. All these the apostle compares unto the earth when the covenant of God with the creation was broken by the sin of man, and it was put under the curse. Hereof it is said קוֹ׃ וְדַרְדַּר תַּצְמִיחַ, Genesis 3:18; ἀκάνθας καὶ τριβόλους αυνατελεῖ, as the LXX. renders it, — the very words here used by the apostle; it “beareth thorns and briers.” Such was this church and people, now they had broken and rejected the covenant of God by their unbelief, — earth that brought forth thorns and briers. “The best of them was as a brier, and the most upright of them as a thorn hedge.” Then was the day of their prophets nigh, — the day of their visitation foretold by the prophets, their watchmen, Micah 7:4. So God threatened that when he rejected his vineyard it should bring forth briers and thorns, Isaiah 5:6.

And of these unbelieving and apostate Hebrews, or this barren earth, the apostle affirmeth three things: —

1. That it was ἀδόκιμος, “rejected,” or not approved; that is, of God. Hereof they had boasted, and herein they continued yet to pride themselves, that God owned them, that they were his people, and preferred above all others. But although God was pleased yet to exercise patience towards them, he had pronounced concerning them in general that they were not his people, that he owned them not. Thorns and briers were come upon their altars, so that both their persons and worship were rejected of God.

2. It was “nigh unto cursing.” And this curse, which it was now very nigh unto, had in it, —

(1.) Barrenness; and,

(2.) An unalterable and irrevocable destination unto destruction.

(1.) It had in it barrenness; for this church of the Jews, made up now of infidels and apostates, was represented by the fig-tree cursed by our Savior: Matthew 21:19, “He said unto it, Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever. And presently the fig-tree withered away.” After this time, the gospel having been sufficiently tendered unto them, and rejected by them, there was no more of saving faith, repentance, or obedience, nothing that was acceptable unto God in holiness or worship, ever found amongst them to this day. Many Jews were after this converted, but the church of the Jews never bare any more fruits unto God. And,

(2.) They were devoted unto destruction. The close of the Old Testament, and therein of the immediate solemn revelation of God unto that church, was, that if they received not the Lord Christ after the coming and ministry of Elijah, — that is, of John the Baptist, — God would “come and smite the earth with a curse,” Malachi 4:6. He would make it a thing anathematized, or sacredly devoted unto destruction, — מָחְרָם.

When God first brought them into his land, which was to be the seat of his ordinances and solemn worship, the first town that they came unto was Jericho. This, therefore, God anathematized, or devoted to perpetual destruction, with a curse upon him that should attempt its re-edification, Joshua 6:17. The whole land thereby was alienated from its former possessors, and devoted unto another use, and the place itself utterly destroyed. Jerusalem, and consequently the whole church, was now to be made as Jericho; and the curse denounced was now speedily to be put in execution, wherein the land was to be alienated from their right unto it, and be devoted to desolation.

3. The end of all this was, that this earth should be “burned.” A universal desolation, according to the prediction of our Savior, by fire and sword, representing the eternal vengeance they were liable unto, was to come upon them. This was now approaching, namely, the end of their church and state, in the destruction of the city, temple, and nation.

This was the especial design of the apostle with respect unto these Hebrews; and he adds this scheme or delineation of the present and approaching condition of that apostatized church, to give terror unto the commination that he gave unto unprofitable professors. But whereas all things unto the very last happened unto them as types, and the condition of the churches of the gospel is represented in their sin and punishment; and whereas the things reflected on are such as it is the common and constant concernment of all professors heedfully to consider, I shall open the words in the whole latitude of their signification, as they are peculiarly instructive unto us.

FIRST, The subject of the proposition in the similitude, is the “earth;and that which is represented thereby, is the hearts and minds of all those to whom the gospel is preached. So it is explained in that parable of our Savior wherein he expresseth the word of the gospel as preached by seed, and compares the hearers of it unto several sorts of ground whereinto that seed is cast. And the allusion is wonderfully apposite and instructive.

For, —

1. Seed is the principle of all things living, of all things that, having any kind of natural life, are capable of natural increase, growth, and fruit; and whatever they arrive unto, it is but the actuating of the vital seed from whence they do proceed. So is the word of the gospel unto all spiritual life, 1 Peter 1:23. And believers, because of their growth, increase, and fruit, from this vital principle or seed of the word, are called “vines,” “plants of God’s planting,” and the like.

2. The earth is the only fit and proper subject for seed to be put into, and alone is capable of the culture or husbandry that is to be used about it. God hath made no other matter or subject to receive the seeds of things that may bring forth fruit; no man casts seed into the air or water. It was of the earth alone that God said, “Let it bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit-tree yielding fruit after its kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth,” Genesis 11, 12. The earth alone hath a passive power to be made fruitful; it hath that matter in it which, being cultivated, disposed, excited, sowed, planted, blessed, may bring forth fruit. So it is with the souls of men with respect unto the seed of the word. Their minds, and they alone, are a subject capable of receiving of it, and improving it. They are the only meet object of divine care and culture. The faculties of our souls, our minds, wills, and affections, are meet to entertain the gospel, and to bring forth the fruits of it; whereof nothing is found in any other creatures on the earth. Hence we are θεοῦ γεώργιον, 1 Corinthians 2:9, “God’s husbandry,” the ground or field that he tilleth; as Christ mystical, comprising all professors, is the vine, and his Father is the husbandman, John 15:1, by whom it is dressed and pruned.

3. The earth by and of itself, in the state wherein it is, brings forth nothing that is good or useful. Upon its first creation it was inlaid and impregnated, by the blessing of God, with all seeds of useful herbs and fruits; but after the entrance of sin, its womb was cursed with barrenness as unto its first usefulness, and it brings forth nothing of itself but thorns, briers, and noxious weeds, — at least those in such abundance as to choke and corrupt all the remainders of useful seeds and plants in it. It is, like the field of the slothful, grown over with thorns, and nettles cover the face thereof. Especially it is condemned to utter barrenness if the rain fall not on it; whereof afterwards. And such are the hearts and minds of men by nature. They are dark, barren, unprofitable, and which, without divine culture, will bring forth no fruits of righteousness, that are acceptable unto God. All that of themselves they can bring forth are noxious weeds. Among the weeds of unmanured earth some are painted with alluring colors, but they are but weeds still; and among the fruits of unsanctified minds some may carry a more specious appearance than others, but they are all, spiritually considered, sins and vices still. So, then, the common subject of the similitude is plain and instructive. And we may in our passage observe, that, —

Obs. 1. The minds of all men by nature are universally and equally barren with respect unto fruits of righteousness and holiness, meet for and acceptable unto God.

They are all as the earth under the curse. There is a natural difference among men as unto their intellectual abilities. Some are of a far more piercing and sagacious understanding, and of a sounder judgment than others. Some have a natural temper and inclination disposing them unto gentleness, sobriety, and modesty, when others from their constitution are morose, passionate, and perverse. And hereon some make a good progress in morality and usefulness in the world, whilst others lie immersed in all vicious abominations. There are therefore, on these and the like accounts, great differences among men, wherein some are incomparably to be preferred above others. But as to the fruits of spiritual holiness and righteousness, all men by nature are equal and alike; for our nature, as unto a principle of living unto God, is equally corrupted in all. There are no more sparks or relics of grace in one than another. All spiritual differences between men are from the power and grace of God in the dispensation of the word. But we must proceed.

SECONDLY, Of this earth it is said, that it “drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it.” Something is wanting, something must be done to this barren earth to make it fruitful; and this is done by rain. And that is described by, —

1. Its communication or application unto the earth, — it falls upon it;

2. An especial adjunct thereof in its frequency: — it falls often on it;

3. By that reception which the earth is naturally fitted and suited to give unto it, — it drinketh it in.

The thing itself is rain. This is that whereby alone the earth, otherwise dry and barren, is impregnated and made fruitful. For, there is therein a communication of moisture, absolutely requisite to apply the nourishing virtue of the earth unto the radical principles of all fruits whatever; and therefore before any rain did fall God caused a vapor to arise, which supplied the use of it, and watered the earth, Genesis 2:6. So the poetexpresseth it: —

“Tum Pater omnipotens fecundis imbribus AEther,

Conjugis in greraium laetae descendit, et omnes

Magnus alit, magno commistus corpore, fetus.” — Georg, .

And μ῾ετός is a “wetting shower;” not a storm, not a violence of rain causing an inundation, which tends to barrenness and sterility; nor such as is unseasonable and spoils the fruits of the earth; but a plentiful shower is intended: for ὑετός exceeds ὄμβρος, as Aristotle observes.

1. This rain falls on the ground. And,

2. It is said to fall often or frequently, “iteratis vicibus.” The land of Canaan is commended that it was not like the land of Egypt, where the seed was sowed, and watered with the foot, but that it was “a land of hills and valleys, and did drink water of the rain of heaven,” Deuteronomy 11:10-11. And they had commonly two seasons of it, the former whereof they called יוֹרֶה, Joreh, and the latter מלְקוֹשׁ, Malcosh, Deuteronomy 11:14. The former fell about October, in the beginning of their year, when their seed was cast into the ground, and the earth, as it were, taught thereby, as the word signifies, to apply itself unto the seed, and to become fruitful. The other fell about March, when their corn was grown up, filling the straw and ear for the harvest, as the word probably signifies. Hence it is said, that “Jordan overfloweth all his banks all the time of harvest,” Joshua 2:15, 1 Chronicles 12:15; which was occasioned by the falling of Malcosh, or this latter rain. And that this was in the first month, or March, which was the entrance of their harvest, is evident from hence, in that immediately after they had passed over Jordan, during the swelling of its waters, they kept the passover at Gilgal on the fourteenth of that first month, Joshua 5:10. Whilst they had these rains in their proper seasons, the land was fruitful; and it was by withholding of them that God punished them with the barrenness of the earth, and famine thereon ensuing. Besides these, in good seasons, they had many other occasional showers; as mention is made of the “showers on the mown grass.” Hence it is here supposed that the rain falls πολλάκις, “often,” on this earth. Again, —

3. The earth is said to drink in the rain. The expression is metaphorical but common: ῾η γῆ μέλαινα πίνει. And the allusion is taken from living creatures, who by drinking take in water into their inward parts and bowels. To do thus is peculiar unto the earth. If the rain falls upon rocks or stones, it runs off from them, it hath no admission into them; but into the earth it soaks more or less, according as the condition of the ground is more or less receptive of it. And it is the nature of the earth, as it were, to suck in these moistening rains that fall upon it, until it be even inebriated: Psalms 65:9-10, “Thou visitest the earth, and waterest it, ...... Thou waterest the ridges thereof abundantly: thou settlest the furrows thereof; — תְּלָמֶיהָ רַוֵּה, “thou inebriatest (or “makest drunk”) “the furrows thereof.”

This is the πρότασις, or proposition of the similitude. The ἀπόδοσις is included in it; that is, the application of it unto the matter in hand. That by the “earth,” the minds and consciences of men are intended, was before declared; and it is as evident what is meant by the “rain.” Yet some suppose that the gifts of the Holy Ghost, before treated of, may be designed by the apostle; for in the communication of them the Holy Spirit is frequently said to be poured out; that is, as water or rain. But,

1. This rain is said to fall often on the earth (yea, upon that earth which continueth utterly barren), in one shower after another. And this can be no way accommodated unto the dispensation of the gifts of the Spirit; for they being once communicated, if they be not exercised and improved, God gives no more showers of them. It is therefore the administration of the word that is intended. And in other places the doctrine of the Scripture is frequently compared unto rain and watering: Deuteronomy 32:2,

“My doctrine shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distil as the dew; as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grass.”

And where God denies his word unto any people, he says, “Upon them shall be no rain,” Zechariah 14:17. And hence נָטַף, “to drop” as the rain doth, is an expression for prophesying or preaching, Ezekiel 21:2, Amos 7:16; the showers whereof are sometimes more soft and gentle, sometimes more earnest and pressing. And those words, יַעְטֶה מוֹרֶה גּםאּבְּרָכוֹת, Psalms 84:7, because of the ambiguity of the words, and the proportion that is between the things, are rendered by some, “The rain also filleth the pools;” and by others, “The teachers shall be filled with blessings.”

This is that whereby God watereth and refresheth the barren souls of men, that whereby he communicates unto them all things that may enable them to be fruitful; in brief, not to enlarge on the allegory, the word of the gospel is every way unto the souls of men as the rain to the barren earth.

2. This rain is said to fall often on the earth. And this may be considered either with respect unto the especial concernment of these Hebrews, which was laid open before, or unto the ordinary dispensation of the gospel. In the first way it regards and expresseth the frequent addresses made unto the people of the Jews in the ministry of the word, for their healing and recovery from those ways of ruin wherein they were engaged. And so it may include the ministry of the prophets, with the close put unto it by that of Christ himself; concerning which see our exposition on Hebrews 1:1-2. And concerning this whole ministry it is that our Savior so expostulates with them, Matthew 23:37, “How often would I have gathered your children !” And this also he at large represents in the parable of the householder and his vineyard, with the servants that he sent unto it from time to time to seek for fruit, and last of all his Son, Matthew 21:33-37. Take it in the latter way, for the dispensation of the word in general, and the manner of it, with frequency and urgency, is included in this expression. Where the Lord Christ sends the gospel to be preached, it is his will that it should be so “instantly, in season and out of season,” that it may come as abundant showers of rain on the earth.

3. This rain is said to be drunk in: “The earth drinketh in the rain.” There is no more intended in this expression but the outward hearing of the word, a naked assent unto it. For it is ascribed unto them who continue utterly barren and unhealed; who are therefore left unto fire and destruction. But as it is the natural property of the earth to receive in the water that is poured on it, so men do in some sense drink in the doctrine of the gospel, when the natural faculties of their souls do apprehend it and assent unto it, though it work not upon them, though it produce no effects in them. There are, indeed, in the earth rocks and stones, on which the rain makes no impression; but they are considered in common with the rest of the earth, and there needs no particular exception on their account. Some there are who, when the word is preached unto them, do obstinately refuge and reject it; but the hearers in common are said to drink it in, and the other sort shall not escape the judgment which is appointed for them. And thus far things are spoken in general, what is common unto both those sorts of hearers, which he afterwards distinctly insists upon.

The word of the gospel, in the preaching of it, being compared unto rain, we may observe, that, —

Obs. 2. The dispensation of it unto men is an effect of the sovereign power and pleasure of God, as is the giving of rain unto the earth.

There is nothing in nature that God assumeth more into his prerogative than this of giving rain. The first mention of it in the world is in these words, “The LORD God had not caused it to rain upon the earth,” Genesis 2:5. All rain is from the Lord God, who causeth it to rain or not to rain, at his pleasure. And the giving of it he pleads as a great pledge of his providence and goodness. “He left not himself” of old “without witness, in that he did good, and gave rain from heaven,” Acts 14:17. Our Savior also makes it an argument of his goodness that he “causeth his rain to fall,” Matthew 5:45. And whatever thoughts we have of the commonness of it, and whatever acquaintance men suppose they have with its causes, yet God distinguisheth himself, as to his almighty power, from all the idols of the world, that none of them can give rain. He calls his people to say in their hearts, “Let us fear the LORD our God, who giveth rain,” Jeremiah 5:24.

“Are there any among the vanities of the Gentiles that can cause rain? or can the heavens give showers?” Jeremiah 14:22.

And he exerciseth his sovereignty in the giving of it: Amos 4:7-8, “I caused it to rain upon one city, and not to rain upon another: one piece was rained upon, and the piece whereupon it rained not withered. So two or three cities wandered unto one city to drink water.” And thus is it absolutely as to the dispensation of the gospel to nations, cities, places, persons; it is at God’s disposal alone, and he useth a distinguishing sovereignty therein. He sendeth his word unto one people and not to another, to one city and not to another, at one time and not at another; and these are those matters of his whereof he giveth no account. Only some things we may consider, which give us a prospect into the glory of his wisdom and grace herein: and this I shall do in two instances; first, in the principle of his dispensation; secondly, in the outward means of it. As, —

1. The principal end which he designeth in his disposal of the dispensation of the gospel in that great variety wherein we do behold it, is the conversion, edification, and salvation of his elect. This is that which he aimeth to accomplish thereby; and therefore his will and purpose herein is that which gives rule and measure unto the actings of his providence concerning it. Wherever there are any of his elect to be called, or in what time soever, there and then will he cause the gospel to be preached; for the purpose of God, which is according to election, must stand, whatever difficulties lie in the way, Romans 9:11. And the election must obtain, Romans 11:7. So the Lord Christ prayed that he would take care of all those that he had given unto him, which were his own by election (“Thine they were, and thou gavest them unto me”), and sanctify them by his word, John 17:17. In pursuit of his own purpose, and in answer unto that prayer of our Lord Jesus, he will send his word to find them out wherever they are, that so not one grain of his chosen Israel shall be lost or fall to the ground. So he appointed our apostle to stay and preach at Corinth, notwithstanding the difficulties and oppositions he met withal, because “he had much people in that city,” Acts 18:9-10. They were his people by eternal designation, antecedently unto their effectual vocation; and therefore he will have the word preached unto them. And in the hard work of his ministry, the same apostle, who knew the end of it, affirms that “he endured all things for the elect’s sakes,” 2 Timothy 2:10. That they might be called and saved was the work he was sent upon. For “whom he did predestinate, them he also calleth,” Romans 8:30. Predestination is the rule of effectual vocation; all and only they are so called by the word who are predestinated. So speaks our Savior also,

“Other sheep I have, which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice,” John 10:16.

He had some sheep in that fold of the church of the Jews; to them, therefore, he preached the word, that they might be gathered unto him. But he had other sheep also, even all his elect among the Gentiles, and saith he, “Them must I gather also.” There is a necessity of it, upon the account of the purpose of God concerning them; and they are to be gathered by hearing of his voice, or the preaching of the word. In that sovereignty, therefore, which God useth in the disposal thereof, causing the rain of the doctrine of his word to fall upon one place and not upon another, at one time and not at another, he hath still this certain end before him; and the actings of his providence are regulated by the purposes of his grace. In what place or nation soever, in what time or age soever, he hath any of his elect to be brought forth in the world, he will provide that the gospel of peace be preached unto them. I will not say that in every individual place where the gospel is preached there are always some of the elect to be saved. For the enjoyments of one place may be occasioned by the work that is to be done in another, wherewith it is in some kind of conjunction: or the word may be preached in a place for the sake of some that are there only accidentally; as when Paul first preached at Philippi, Lydia only was converted, who was a stranger in those parts, belonging to the city of Thyatira in Asia, Acts 16:14-15 : and a whole country may fare the better for one city, and a whole city for some part of it, as Micah 5:7. God concealeth this secret design under promiscuous outward dispensations. For he obligeth those by whom the word is preached to declare his mind therein unto all men indefinitely, leaving the effectual work of his grace in the pursuit of his purpose unto himself; whence “they believe who are ordained to eternal life,” and “those are added to the church that are to be saved,” Acts 2:47; Acts 13:48. Besides, God hath other ends also in the sending of his word, though this be the principal. For by it he puts a restraint unto sin in the world, gives a visible control to the kingdom of Satan, and relieves mankind, by sending light into those dark places of the earth which are filled with habitations of cruelty. And by the convictions that he brings thereby on the minds and consciences of men, he makes way for the manifestation of the glory of his justice in their condetonation. Coming and speaking unto them, he leaves them without pretense or excuse, John 15:22. Yet will I not say that God sends the word for any continuance for these ends and designs only. For a short time he may do so; as our Savior, sending forth his disciples to preach, supposeth that in some place their message may be totally rejected, and thereon appointed them to “shake off the dust of their feet as a testimony against them,” or their being left without excuse. But these are but secondary and accidental ends of the word where it is constantly preached. Wherefore God doth not so send it for their sakes alone. But on the other side, I dare say, that where God doth not, by any means, nor in any degree, send his word, there are none of his elect to be saved; for without the word they can neither be called nor sanctified. And if any of them are in any such place as whereunto he will not grant his word, he will, by one providence or other, snatch them like brands out of the fire, and convey them under, the showers of it. And this we find verified by experience every day. The gospel, therefore, doth not pass up and down the world by chance, as we know in how great variety it hath visited and left nations and people, ages and times; nor is the disposal of it regulated by the wisdom and contrivance of men, whatever their work and duty may be in the dispensation of it; but all this, like the falling of the rain, is regulated by the sovereign wisdom and pleasure of God, wherein he hath respect only unto the purpose of his own eternal grace.

2. He doth, according to his sovereign pleasure, call and send persons to the preaching of it unto those to whom he will grant the privilege thereof. Every man may not upon his own head, nor can any man upon his own abilities, undertake and discharge that work. This is the eternal rule and law of the gospel: “Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” But “how shall men call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? and how shall they preach except they be sent? Romans 10:13-15, — that is, by God himself: for neither doth the apostle discourse, nor hath he any occasion in that place to discourse, concerning the ordinary call of persons unto an office in the church, whereunto the ministry of the church itself is required; but he treats of preaching the gospel in general unto all or any parts of the world, and of the love and care of God in sending of men unto that purpose, whereby others coming to hear of him, may believe in him, call upon his name, and be saved. Hence he compares the work of God herein unto that of his sending forth light and natural instructions unto all the world by the luminaries of heaven, wherein the ministry of man hath no place, verse 18. Wherefore the preaching of the gospel depends absolutely on the sovereign pleasure of God in sending men unto that work; for “how should they preach except they be sent?” And he doth send them, —

(1.) By endowing them with spiritual gifts, enabling them unto that work and duty. The gospel is “the ministration of the Spirit;nor is it to be administered but by virtue of the gifts of the Spirit. These God gives unto them whom he sends, by Jesus Christ, Ephesians 4:7-8, etc. And these gifts are a sort of especial, peculiar, yea, supernatural abilities, whereby men are fitted to and enabled for the dispensation of the gospel. It is sad to consider what woful work they make who undertake this duty, and are yet unfurnished with these abilities; that is, such who are sent of men, but are not sent of God. They harness themselves with external order, ecclesiastical mission, according to some rules agreed upon among themselves, with some other implements and ornamental accoutrements; whereon they undertake to be preachers of the gospel, as it were whether God will or no. But these vanities of the Gentiles cannot give rain; the preaching of the gospel, as unto its proper ends, depends on God’s sending alone. When they betake themselves to their work, they find themselves at a loss for God’s mission; at least they do so unto whom they pretend to be sent. I speak it not as though outward order and a due call were not necessary in a church unto the office of a teacher, but only to show that all order without a concurrence of the divine vocation is of no validity nor efficacy. Now, the dispensation of these spiritual gifts, without which the rain of the doctrine of the gospel falleth not, depends solely on the sovereignty of God. The Spirit divideth unto every one as he pleaseth, 1 Corinthians 12:11. And it is evident that he doth not herein follow the rule of any human preparation. For whereas it is most certain, that the improvement of men’s intellectual abilities, in wisdom, learning, oratory, and the like, is exceedingly subservient unto the use and exercise of these spiritual gifts, yet it is evident that God doth not always and regularly communicate them unto those who are so prepared; no, though they were acquired in a rational way, in order unto the work of the ministry. For how many may we see so qualified, and yet destitute of all relish of spiritual gifts, God preferring before them persons, it may be, behind and beneath them in those qualifications! So it was whilst all these affairs were transacted in an extraordinary manner at the first planting of the gospel. He did not choose out eminently the philosophers, the wise, the learned, the scribes, the disputers of this world, to communicate spiritual gifts unto; but generally fixed on persons of another condition and more ordinary capacity. Some were so, that none might think themselves excluded because of their wisdom and learning, — things excellent in themselves; but many of this sort, as our apostle informs us, were not called and chosen unto this work. So something in proportion hereunto may yet be observed in the distribution of the ordinary gifts of the Spirit; at least it is evident that herein God obligeth himself to no rules of such preparations or qualifications on our part. Nay, which is yet further, he walks not herein in the steps of his own sanctifying and saving grace; but as he worketh that grace in the hearts of many on whom be bestows not those gifts which are needful to enable men unto the dispensation of the gospel, so he bestows those gifts on many unto whom he will not vouchsafe his sanctifying grace. And these things make evident that sovereignty which God is pleased to exercise in his sending of persons unto the work of preaching the gospel, manifesting that the whole of it depends, like the giving of rain, absolutely on his pleasure. And when men exclusively unto this part of God’s call will keep up a ministry, and so make a preaching of the gospel, it is but a lifeless image of the true dispensation of it.

(2.) This communication of gifts unto men is ordinarily accompanied with a powerful and effectual inclination of the minds of men to undertake the work and engage in it, against those objections, discouragements, oppositions, and difficulties, which present themselves unto them in their undertaking. There is so, I say, ordinarily: for there are more instances than one of those who, having the word of prophecy committed unto them, instead of going to Nineveh, do consult their own reputation, ease, and advantage, and so tack about to Tarshish; and there are not a few who hide and napkin up their talents, which are given them to trade withal, though represented unto us under one instance only: But these must one day answer for their disobedience unto the heavenly call. But ordinarily that inclination and disposition unto this work, which accompanies the communication of spiritual gifts, is prevalent and effectual, so that the minds of men are fortified by it against the lions that are in the way, or whatever may rise up to deter them from it. So our apostle affirms, that upon the revelation of Christ unto him, and his call thereby to preach the gospel, “immediately he conferred not with flesh and blood, but went into Arabia” about his work, Galatians 1:16-17. He would not so much as attend or hearken unto cavils and exceptions against the work whereunto he was inclined and disposed; which is the way of a well-grounded, firm resolution. And something in proportion hereunto is wrought in the minds of them who undertake this work upon an ordinary call of God. And where this is not, much success is not to be expected in the work of any, nor any great blessing of God upon it. When men go out hereunto in their own strength, without a supply of spiritual gifts, and engage in their work merely upon external considerations, without this divine inclination of their hearts and minds, they may seem to cast out water as out of an engine, by violent compression, — they will never be like clouds to pour forth showers of rain. This, therefore, also is from the Lord. Again, —

Obs. 3. God ordereth things, in his sovereign, unsearchable providence, so as that the gospel shall be sent unto, and in the administration of it shall find admittance into, what places, and at what times, seem good unto himself, even as he orders the rain to fall on one place, and not on another. — We have not wisdom to search into the causes, reasons, and ends of God’s providential works in the world; and individual persons seldom live to see the issue of those which are on the wheel in their own days. But we have ground enough in the Scripture to conclude, that the principal works of divine providence in the world, and among the nations of the earth, do respect the dispensation of the gospel, either in the granting of it or the taking of it away. It were an easy matter to evince by evident instances that the principal national revolutions which have been in the earth, have been all of them subservient unto the counsel and purpose of God in this matter. And there are examples also manifesting how small occasions he hath turned unto great and signal use herein. But what hath been spoken may suffice to evince who is the Father and Author of this rain. And how this consideration may be improved unto the exercise of faith, prayer, and thankfulness, is manifest.

This rain is said to fall upon the earth; which respects the actual dispensation of the word by them unto whom it is committed. And we may thence observe, that, —

Obs. 4. It is the duty of those unto whom the dispensation of the word is committed of God, to be diligent, watchful, instant in their work, that their doctrine may, as it were, continually drop and distil upon their hearers, that the rain may fall often on the earth. So hath God provided that “the ridges of it may be watered abundantly, to make it soft” (or “dissolve it”) “with showers; and so he blesseth the springing thereof,” Psalms 65:10. In a hot, parching, and dry season, one or two showers do but increase the vehemency of the heat and drought, giving matter of new exhalations, which are accompanied with some of the remaining moisture of the earth. Of no other use is that dead and lazy kind of preaching wherewith some satisfy themselves, and would force others to be contented.

The apostles, when this work was committed unto them, would not be diverted from a constant attendance unto it by any other duty, much less any other occasion of life, Acts 6:2-4. See what a charge our apostle gives unto Timothy to this purpose, 2 Timothy 4:1-5. And a great example hereof we have in the account he gives concerning his own ministry in Asia, Acts 20:1. He declares when he began his work and ministry, — “ the first day he came into Asia,” Acts 20:18; that is, on the first opportunity: he omitted no season that he could possibly lay hold upon, but engaged into his work, as his manner was in every place that he came unto. And, 2. In what manner did he teach? He did it,

(1.) Publicly, in all assemblies of the church, and others also where he might have a quiet opportunity of speaking; and,

(2.) Privately, “from house to house,” Acts 20:20. All places were alike to him, and all assemblies, small or great, so he might have advantage of communicating unto them the knowledge of God in Christ. And,

3. What did he so declare unto them, or instruct them in? It was “the whole counsel of God,” Acts 20:27; “the gospel of the grace of God,” Acts 20:24; all things that were “profitable unto them,” Acts 20:20; in sum, “repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ,” Acts 20:21.

And, 4. How did he dispense the word unto them? It was by a declaration of the will of God, Acts 20:27; by testifying the necessity of gospel duties, Acts 20:21; by constant warnings and admonitions, to stir men up unto diligence in obedience, and to caution them of their dangers, Acts 20:31. And,

5. When, or at what season, did he thus lay out himself in the discharge of this duty? He did it “night and day,” Acts 20:31; that is, continually, upon all occasions and advantages. He was one by whom God watered his vineyard every moment. And,

6. In what outward condition was he, and with what frame of spirit did he attend his work? He was in “many temptations, which befell him by the lying in wait of the Jews,” Acts 20:19, or in continual danger of his life by the persecutions they stirred up against him. And as unto himself, and the frame of his heart in this work, he carried it on “with all humility of mind, and with many tears,” Acts 20:19; Acts 20:31. He was not lifted up with conceits of the glory, greatness, and power of his office, of the authority over all the churches committed unto him by Christ; but with lowliness of mind and meekness was as the servant of them all; with that love, tenderness, compassion, and fervency, as he could not but testify by many tears. Here is the great example for dispensers of the gospel. We have not his grace, we have not his gifts, we have not his ability and assistance, and so are not able to come up unto him; but yet certainly it is our duty to follow him though “baud passibus aequis,” and to conform ourselves unto him according to our opportunity and ability. I confess I cannot but admire to think what some men conceive concerning him, or themselves. Can they say, that from the first day of their coming into their dioceses or dignities, or parishes or places, they have thus behaved themselves? Have they so taught, so preached, so warned, and that “with tears, night and day,” all sorts of persons whom they suppose themselves to relate unto? Have they made it their work to declare the mysteries of the gospel, and “the whole counsel of God,” and this both publicly and privately, night and day, according to their opportunities? It will be said, indeed, that these things belonged unto the duty and office of the apostles, but those that succeed them as ordinary overseers of the church may live in another manner, and have other work to do. If they should carry it with that humility of mind as he did, and use entreaties with tears as he did, and preach continually as he did, they should have little joy of their office; and besides, they should be even despised of the people. These things, therefore, they suppose not to belong unto them. Yea, but our apostle gives this whole account concerning himself unto the ordinary bishops of the church of Ephesus, Acts 20:17; Acts 20:28; and in the close of it tells them, that he had showed them all things how they ought to do, Acts 20:35. And what he apprehended to be the duty of all to whom the dispensation of the word is committed, he manifests in his last solemn charge that he left with his son Timothy a little before his death: 2 Timothy 4:1-2,

“I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; preach the word, be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine;”

so 2 Timothy 4:5. He did no more himself than what he requires in Timothy, according to the proportion of his abilities. And the discharge of this work is not to be measured by particular instances of the frequency of preaching, but by that purpose, design, and frame of heart, which ought to be in ministers, of laying out themselves to the utmost in the work of the ministry on all occasions, resolving “to spend and to be spent” therein. I could easily show on how many accounts frequency and urgency in preaching of the word are indispensably required of those unto whom the work is committed, that therein the rain may fall oft upon the earth; but I must not too far digress. The command of God; the love and care of Christ towards his church; the ends of God’s patience and long-suffering; the future manifestation of his glory in the salvation of believers and the condemnation of those that are disobedient; the necessities of the souls of men; the nature and kind of the way whereby God gives spiritual supplies by the ministry of the word; the weakness of our natural faculties of the mind in receiving, Hebrews 5:11, Isaiah 28:9-10, and of the memory in retaining spiritual things, Hebrews 2:1; Hebrews 12:5; the weakness of grace, Revelation 2:2, requiring continual refreshments, Isaiah 27:3; the frequency and variety of temptations, interrupting our peace with God, nor otherwise to be repelled, 2 Corinthians 12:8-9; the design of Christ to bring us gradually unto perfection, — might all be pleaded in this case: but the law of this duty is in some measure written in the hearts of all faithful ministers, and those who are otherwise shall bear their own burdens. Again; it is common to the whole earth often to drink in the rain that falls upon it, though but some parts only of it prove fruitful, as it will appear in the following distribution of them. Whence we may observe, that, —

Obs. 5. Attendance unto the word preached, hearing of it with some diligence, and giving of it some kind of reception, make no great difference among men; for this is common unto them who never become fruitful. — This is so plainly exemplified by our Savior in the parable of the several sorts of ground that receive the seed of the word, yet on various occasions lose the power of it, and never come to fruit-bearing, that it needs no further consideration. And I intend not those only who merely hear the word, and no more. Such persons are like stones, which when the rain falleth on them it makes no impression into them; they drink it not in at all. It is no otherwise, I say, with many hearers, who seem not to have the least sense of what customarily they attend unto. But those are intended in the text and proposition who in some measure receive it and drink it in. They give it an entrance into their understandings, where they become doctrinally acquainted with the truth of the gospel; and they give it some entrance into their affections, whence they are said to “receive the word with joy;” and moreover, they allow it some influence on their conversations. — as even Herod did, who heard the preachings of John Baptist “gladly, and did many things” thereon. All these things men may do, and yet at length prove to be that part of the earth which drinks in the rain and is yet absolutely barren, and brings forth thorns and briers. There is yet wanting the “receiving of it in a good and honest heart;” which what it includes will afterwards appear. And again we may observe, that, —

Obs. 6. God is pleased to exercise much patience towards those whom he once grants the mercy and the privilege of his word unto. — He doth not presently proceed against them for and on their barrenness, but stays until the rain hath often fallen upon the ground. But there is an appointed season and period of time, beyond which he will not wait for them any more, as we shall see.

Thirdly, The distribution of this earth into several parts, with the different lots and events of them, is nextly to be considered. The first sort the apostle describes two ways:

1. By its fruitfulness;

2. By its acceptation with God. And this fruitfulness he further manifests:

(1.) From the fruit itself which it bears, — it is “herb,” or “herbs;

(2.) From the nature and use of that fruit, — it is “meet for them by whom it is dressed;

(3.) The manner of it, — it bringeth it forth.” These things we must a little open in their order, as they lie in the text: —

1. τίκτει, it “bringeth forth.” τίκτουσα βοτάνην. This word properly signifies the bringing forth of a woman that hath conceived with child: συλλήψῃ ἐν γαστρὶ, καὶ τέξῃ υἱόν, Luke 1:31. And so it is constantly used in the New Testament, and not otherwise but only in this place and James 1:15, ῾η ἐπιθμυία συλλαβοῦσα τίκτει ἀμαρτίαν. In an elegant similitude, he compareth the work of lust in temptation unto an adulterous conception in the womb of the adulteress, when at length actual sin is brought forth. The seeds of it are cast into the mind and will by temptation; where, after they are warmed, fomented, and cherished, sin, that ugly monster, comes forth into the world. So is this earth said to “bring forth,” as a womb that is naturally and kindly impregnated, in its appointed season. And therefore, when the apostle speaks of the other sort, he changeth his expression for such a word as may suit a deformed and monstrous production. But the native power of the earth, being cherished by the rain that falls on it, brings forth as from a teeming womb the fruits of those seeds it is possessed withal.

2. It” bringeth forth βοτάνην,” “generans herbam.” The Rhemists render it “grass,” causelessly and amiss. The word signifies such “green herbs” as are usually produced by careful culture, tilling, or dressing; such as are for the proper and immediate use of men, and not of their cattle. The same with דֶּשֶׁא, Genesis 1:11, — all sorts of useful green herbs, whether medicinal or for food, or beauty and ornament.

3. The nature of this herbal fruit is, that it is εὔθετος. Some render it by “opportuna,” and some by “accommoda;” “meet” answers both. Those that use the former word seem to respect the season wherein it brings forth the fruit. And this is the commendation of it, that it makes no delay, but brings forth in its proper time and season, when its owners and tillers have just ground and reason to expect and look for it. And it is an especial commendation of any thing that beareth fruit; and what is out of season is despised, Psalms 1:3. The latter word intends the usefuless and profitableness of the fruit brought forth, in what season soever it be. We may comprise both senses, and justly suppose both of them to be intended. The Syriac expresseth it by a general word, דְּחָשָׁח, “which is” or “may be of use.” And the fruits of the earth are not profitable unless they are seasonable. So James calls it τίμιον καρπὸν τῆς γῆς, “the precious fruit of the earth,” which the husbandman waiteth for, until the earth hath received the former and latter rain, James 5:7.

4. Lastly, These herbs thus brought forth are “meet ἐκείνοις δι᾿ οὕς καὶ γεωργεῖται,” “unto them by whom it is tilled,” or “even by whom;’or “by whom it is also tilled.” The particle καί is not superfluous or insignificant. It declares an addition of culture to the rain. For besides the falling of rain on the earth, there is likewise need of further culture, that it may be made fruitful, or bring forth herbs seasonably, which shall be profitable unto men. For if only the rain fall upon it, it will bring forth many things indeed; but if it be not tilled withal, for one useful herb it will bring forth many weeds; as he speaks in the case of husbandry, Virg. Georg. lib. : —

“Quod nisi et assiduis terram insectabere rastris,

Et sonitu terrebis aves, et ruris opaci

Falce premes umbras, votisque vocaveris imbrem;

Heu magnum alterius frustra spectabis acervum.”

The earth must be tilled, from its nature and the law of its creation, And therefore Adam was to have tilled and wrought the ground in the garden even before the fall, Genesis 2:15. And this is the principal concernment of him that intends to live on the field. The falling of rain upon the earth is common unto the whole. That which gives a field a peculiar relation unto any one is, that he dresseth, and fenceth, and tilleth it. Unto these dressers the herbs that are brought forth are said to be “meet;” they belong unto them, and are useful for them. δι᾿ οὕς may be rendered “for whom,” or “by whom.” In the first way, the chief owner of the ground, the lord of the field or vineyard, is signified. The ground is tilled or manured for his use, and he eats of the fruits of it. In the latter sense, those who immediately work about the ground in the tilling of it are intended. But there is no need to distinguish in this place between owner and dresser; for God as he is the great husbandman is both. He is the Lord of the vineyard, it is his, and he dresseth and pruneth the vines, that they may bring forth fruit, John 15:1-2. Again; the ground, thus made fruitful, “receiveth blessing of God.” And the blessing of God with respect unto a fruitful field is twofold, —

(1.) Antecedent, in the communication of goodness, or fruit-causing virtue to it. “The smell of my son is as the smell of a field which the LORD hath blessed,” Genesis 27:27; — a field that abounds with blossoms, flowers, and fruits, yielding a sweet savor; being so made fruitful by the singular blessing of God. But this is not the blessing here intended; for it is supposed that this field is already made fruitful, so as to bring forth useful herbs; and therefore it must be antecedently interested in this kind of blessing, without which nothing can thrive or prosper. Wherefore,

(2.) God’s benediction is taken for consequent acceptation or approbation, with care and watchfulness for a further improvement. The blessing of God is at large described, Isaiah 27:2-3.

And there are three things included in this blessing of a fruitful field: —

(1.) The owning, acceptation, or approbation of it. Such a field God owns, and is not ashamed that it should be looked on as his. And this is opposed to the rejection of the barren ground afterwards mentioned, — “is rejected.”

(2.) The care, watchfulness, and diligence that are used about it. God watcheth over such a field or vineyard to keep it night and day, that none should hurt it, watering it every moment, and purging the branches of its vines, to make them yet more fruitful; — opposed to “being nigh unto cursing;” that is, wholly neglected, or left unto salt and barrenness.

(3.) A final preservation from all evil; — opposed to the burning up of the barren earth, with the thorns and briers that grow upon it.

These things being spoken only of the ground, whence the comparison is taken, the application of them, though not expressed, unto the spiritual things intended is plain and easy. For, —

1. The ground thus dressed, thus bearing fruit, and blessed of God, is true and sound believers. So our Savior declares it to be in the interpretation of his own parable to this purpose, Matthew 13. They are such as “receive the word of God in good and honest hearts,” and bring forth fruits of it in several degrees; — such as, having been ministerially planted and watered, have an increase wrought in them by the grace of God, 1 Corinthians 2:6-7.

2. There is included herein the manner how they bring forth the fruits intended; and that is, that they bring forth in their lives what was before conceived and cherished in their hearts. They have the root in themselves of what they bring forth. So doth the word here used signify, namely, to bring forth the fruit of an inward conception. The doctrine of the gospel, as cast into their hearts, is not only rain, but seed also. This is cherished by grace as precious seed; and, as from a natural root or principle in the heart, brings forth precious fruit. And herein consists the difference between the fruit-bearing of true believers and the works of hypocrites or false professors: These latter bring forth fruits like mushrooms; — they come up suddenly, have ofttimes a great bulk and goodly appearance, but they are only a forced excrescency, they have no natural seed or root in the earth. They do not proceed from a living principle of them in their hearts.

The other sort do first conceive, cherish, and foment them in their hearts and minds; whence they bring them forth as from a genuine and natural principle. This is on either side fully declared by our Savior himself, Luke 6:43-45.

3. There are the herbs or fruits intended. These are they which elsewhere in the Scripture are called “the fruits of the Spirit,” “the fruits of righteousness,” of “holiness,” and the like. All that we do in compliance with the will of God, in the course of our profession and obedience, is of this kind. All effects of faith and love, of mortification and sanctification, that are holy in themselves and useful to others, whereby we express the truth and power of that doctrine of the gospel which we do profess, are the fruits and herbs intended. When our hearts are made holy and our lives useful by the gospel, then are we fruitful.

4. These herbs are said to be “meet for them by whom” (or “for whom”) “the earth is dressed.” As it is neither useful nor safe to press similitudes beyond their principal scope and intention, and to bring in every minute circumstance into the comparison; so we must not neglect what is fairly instructive in them, especially if the application of things one to another have countenance and guidance given it in other places of the Scripture, as it is in this case. Wherefore, to clear the application of this part of the similitude, we may observe, —

(1.) That God himself is the great husbandman, John 15:1; and all believers are “God’s husbandry,” 1 Corinthians 2:9. He is so the husbandman as to be the sovereign Lord and Owner of this field or vineyard; and he puts workmen into it to dress it. This our Savior sets out at large in his parable, Matthew 21:33, etc. Hence he calls his people his “portion,” and “the lot of his inheritance,” Deuteronomy 32:9. He speaks as though he had given up all the world besides into the possession of others, and kept his people only unto himself. And so he hath, as to the especial blessed relation which he intendeth.

(2.) It is God himself who taketh care for the watering and dressing of this field. He dealeth with it as a man doth with a field that is his own. This he expresseth, Isaiah 5:2; Matthew 21:33-34. The dispensation of the word, and the communication of the Spirit unto the church, with all other means of light, grace, and growth, depend all on his care, and are all supremely from him, as was showed before. To this end he employeth his servants to work and dress it under him, who are “laborers together with God,” 1 Corinthians 2:9; because they are employed by him, do his work, and have the same end with him.

(3.) This tilling or dressing of the earth, which is superadded to the rain, or the mere preaching of the gospel, denoted thereby, may be referred unto three heads:

[1.] The ministerial application of the word unto the souls and consciences of men, in the dispensation of all the ordinances of the gospel. This is the second great end of the ministry, as the dispensation of the word in general, or the rain, is the first.

[2.] The administration of the censures and discipline of the church. This belongs unto the dressing and purging of God’s vineyard; and of singular use it is unto that end, where it is rightly and duly attended unto. And those who, under pretense hereof, instead of purging the vineyard, endeavor to dig up the vines, will have little thanks from him for their diligence and pains.

[3.] Afflictions and trials. By these he purgeth his vine, that it may bring forth yet more fruit; that is, he trieth, exerciseth, and thereby improveth, the faith and graces of believers, 1 Peter 1:7; Romans 5:3-5; James 1:2-4.

(4.) God expecteth fruit from this field, which is so his own, and which he so careth for: “I looked for grapes,” Isaiah 5:2. He sends his servants to receive the fruits of it, Matthew 21:34. Though he stands in no need of us or our goodness, — it extends not to him, we cannot profit him as a man may profit his neighbor, nor will he grow rich with our substance, — yet he is graciously pleased to esteem the fruits of gospel obedience, the fruits of faith and love, of righteousness and holiness; and by them will he be glorified: “Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit,” John 15:8; Matthew 5:16.

(5.) These fruits, when they are brought forth, God approveth of, accepteth, and further blesseth them that bear them; which is the last thing in the words. Some think there is no use of these fruits, unless they are meritorious of grace and glory. But God’s acceptation of them here is called his benediction, his blessing of them that bring them forth. Now a blessing cannot be merited; it is an act of bounty and authority, and hath the nature of a free gift, that cannot be deserved. What doth a field merit of him by whom it is watered and tilled, when it bringeth forth herbs meet for his use? they are all but the fruits of his own labor, cost, and pains. The field is only the subject that he hath wrought upon, and it is his own. All the fruits of our obedience are but the effects of his grace in us. We are a subject that he hath graciously been pleased to work upon. Only he is pleased, in a way of infinite condescension, to own in us what is his own, and to pardon what is ours. Wherefore the blessing of God on fruit-bearing believers consists in three things: —

[1.] His approbation and gracious acceptance of them. So it is said that “he had respect unto Abel and to his offering,” Genesis 4:4. He graciously accepted both of his person and of his sacrifice, owning and approving of him, when Cain and his were rejected. So “he smelled a savor of rest” from the sacrifice of Noah, Genesis 8:21. And to testify his being well pleased therewith, he thence took occasion to renew and establish his covenant with him and his seed.

[2.] It is by increasing their fruitfulness. “Every branch” in the vine “that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit,” John 15:2. He multiplieth the seed that is sown,” and “increaseth the fruits of their righteousness,” 2 Corinthians 9:10. This is the constant way of God in his covenant-dealings with thriving, fruitful Christians; he so blesseth them as that their graces and fruits shall more and more abound, so as that they shall be flourishing even in old age, and bring forth more fruit unto the end. [3.] He blesseth them in the preparation he hath made for to give them an everlasting reward. A reward it is, indeed, of grace and bounty, but it is still a reward, “a recompence of reward.” For although it be no way merited or deserved, and although there be no proportion between our works, duties, or fruits, and it, yet, because they shall be owned in it, shall not be lost nor forgotten, and God therein testifies his acceptance of them, it is their reward.

Obs. 7. Where God grants means, there he expects fruit.

Few men consider what is the state of things with them, whilst the gospel is preached unto them. Some utterly disregard it any further than as it is suited unto their carnal interests and advantages; for the gospel is at present so stated in the world, at least in many parts of it, that great multitudes make more benefit by a pretense of it, or what belongs unto it, and have greater secular advancements and advantages thereby, than they could possibly, by the utmost of their diligence and ability in any other way, honest or dishonest, attain unto. These esteem it according to their worldly interests, and for the most part no otherwise; they are merchants of souls, Revelation 18:11-13; 2 Peter 2:3. Some look upon it as that wherein they are really concerned, and they will both take upon themselves the profession of it, and make use of it in their consciences as occasion doth require. But few there are who do seriously consider what is the errand that it comes upon, and what the work is God hath in hand thereby. In brief, he is by it watering, manuring, cultivating the souls of men, that they may bring forth fruit unto his praise and glory. His business by it is to make men holy, humble, self-denying, righteous, useful, upright, pure in heart and life, to abound in good works, or to be like himself in all things. To effect these ends is this holy means suited; and therefore God is justly said to expect these fruits where he grants this means. And if these be not found in us, all the ends of God’s husbandry are lost towards us; which what a doleful issue it will have the next verse declares. This, therefore, ought to be always in our minds whilst God is treating with us by the dispensation of the gospel. It is fruit he aims at, it is fruit he looks for: and if we fail herein, the advantage of the whole, both as unto our good and his glory, is utterly lost; which we must unavoidably account for. For this fruit God both expecteth and will require. This is the work and effect of the gospel, Colossians 1:6. And the fruit of it is threefold: —

1. Of persons, in their conversion unto God, Romans 15:16.

2. Of real internal holiness in them, or the fruits of the Spirit, Galatians 5:22-23.

3. The outward fruits of righteousness and charity, 2 Corinthians 9:10; Philippians 1:11.

These God looketh to, Isaiah 5:4; Luke 13:7; and he will not always bear with a frustration. A good husbandman will suffer thorns and barren trees to grow in the field; but if a vine or fig-tree be barren in his garden, he will cut it down and cast it into the fire. However, God will not always continue this husbandry, Isaiah 28; Amos 6:12-14.

Obs. 8. Duties of gospel obedience are fruits meet for God, things that have a proper and especial tendency unto his glory. — As the precious fruits of the earth, which the husbandman waiteth for, are meet for his use, — that is, such as supply his wants, satisfy his occasions, answer his labor and charge, nourish and enrich him, — so do these duties of gospel obedience answer all the ends of God’s glory which he hath designed unto it in the world. “Herein,” saith our Savior, “is my Father glorified, that ye bring forth much fruit.”

And we must inquire how these fruits are meet for God. For,

1. They are not so, as though he stood in any need of them unto his glory. “Our goodness extendeth not to him,” Psalms 16:2. It doth not so, as though he had need of it, or put any value on it for its own sake. Hence he rejected all those multiplied outward services which men trusted unto, as if they obliged him by them; because without them or their services he is the sovereign possessor of all created beings and their effects, Psalms 50:7-12. All thoughts hereof are to be rejected. See Job 22:2-3; Job 35:7-8.

2. They are not meet for God, as if they perfectly answered his law. For with respect thereunto, “all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags,” most unmeet to be .presented unto him, Isaiah 64:6. And if he should mark what is amiss in us or them, who could stand? Psalms 130:3.

3. Much less are they so meet for him, as that by them we should merit any thing at his hand. This foolish presumption is contrary to the very nature of God and man, with that relation between them which necessarily ensues on their very beings. For what can a poor worm of the earth, who is nothing, who hath nothing, who doth nothing that is good, but what it receives wholly from divine grace, favor, and bounty, merit of Him who, from his being and nature, can be under no obligation thereunto, but what is merely from his own sovereign pleasure and goodness?

They are, therefore, no otherwise meet for God but in and through Christ, according to the infinite condescension which he is pleased to exercise in the covenant of grace. Therein doth the Lord Christ,

1. Make our persons accepted, as was that of Abel, through faith in him; which was the foundation of the acceptation of his offering, Genesis 4:4; Hebrews 11:4. And this is of grace also; it is “to the praise of his glorious grace, wherein he maketh us accepted in the Beloved,” Ephesians 1:6. And,

2. He bears and takes away the iniquity that cleaves unto them as they proceed from us, which renders them unmeet for God. This was typed out by the plate of gold, whereon was inscribed “Holiness to the LORD,” that was on the forehead of the high priest. It was that he might “bear the iniquity of the holy things” of the people, Exodus 28:36-38. He bare it in the expiation he made of all sin, and takes it away in the sight of God. And,

3. He adds of the incense of his own mediation unto them, that they may have a sweet savor in their offering to God, Revelation 8:3. On this foundation it is that God hath graciously designed them unto sundry ends of his glow, and accepts them accordingly.

For, —

1. The will of his command is fulfilled thereby; and this tends to the glory of his rule and government, Matthew 7:21. We are to pray that the will of God may be done on earth, as it is in heaven. The glory that God hath in heaven, from the ministry of all his holy angels, consists in this, that they always, with all readiness and cheerfulness, do observe his commands and do his will, esteeming their doing so to be their honor and blessedness. For hereby is the rule and authority of God owned, avouched, exalted; a neglect whereof was the sin and ruin of the apostate angels. In like manner our fruits of obedience are the only acknowledgments that we can or do make to the supreme authority and rule of God over us, as the one lawgiver, who hath power to kill and keep alive. The glory of an earthly king consists principally in the willing obedience which his subjects give unto his laws. For hereby they expressly acknowledge that they esteem his laws wise, just, equal, useful to mankind, and also reverence his authority. And it is the glory of God, when the subjects of his kingdom do testify unto all, their willing, cheerful subjection unto all his laws, as holy, righteous, and good, by the fruits of their obedience; as also that it is their principal honor and happiness to be engaged in his service, John 15:14. Hereby is our heavenly Father glorified, as he is our great king and lawgiver.

2. There is in the fruits of obedience an expression of the nature, power, and efficacy of the grace of God, whereby also he is glorified; for he doth all things “to the praise of the glory of his grace,” Ephesians 1:6. In all the actings of lust and sin, in the drought and dust of barrenness, we represent an enmity against him, and contrariety unto him, acting over the principle of the first rebellion and apostasy from him. These things, in their own nature, tend greatly to his dishonor, Ezekiel 36:20. But these fruits of obedience are all effects of his grace, wherein he “worketh in us to will and to do of his own good pleasure.” And hereby are both the power and nature of that grace manifested and glorified. The power of it, in making fruitful the barren soils of our hearts, which, as under the curse, would of themselves bring forth nothing but thorns and briers. Wherefore, to cause our hearts to abound in the fruits of faith, love, meekness, and all holy, evangelical obedience, is that wherein the power of God’s grace is both manifested and magnified, Isaiah 11:5-8. And they also declare the nature of God. For they are all of them things good, benign, beautiful, useful to mankind; such as give peace, quietness, and blessedness unto the souls of them in whom they are; as tend to the restoration of all things in their proper order, and unto the relief of the universe, laboring under its confusion and vanity, Philippians 4:8. Such, I say, are all the fruits of holy obedience in believers; such is their nature and tendency, whereby they declare what that grace is from which they do proceed, and whose effects they are, Titus 2:11-12. And hereby is God greatly glorified in the world.

3. They are meet for God, and tend unto his glory, in that they express and manifest the efficacy of the mediation of the Lord Christ, in the obedience of his life and the sacrifice of his death. These he aimed at in them, Titus 2:14; Ephesians 5:25-27. It is in Jesus Christ that God will be glorified. And this is manifested in the effects of his wisdom and love in his mediation. For hereby do we declare and show forth τὰς ἀρετάς, the “virtues of him who hath called us,” 1 Peter 2:9; or the efficacious power of the mediation of Christ, which these fruits are the effects and products of. We do not only declare the excellency and holiness of his doctrine, which teacheth these things, but also the power and efficacy of his blood and intercession, which procure them for us and work them in us. God is glorified hereby, in that some return is made unto his goodness and love. That a creature should make any return unto God, answerable or proportionable unto the effects of his goodness, love, and bounty towards it, is utterly impossible. And yet this men ought to take care about and satisfy, before they talk of a further merit. For what can we properly merit at his hands, whose precedent bounty we come infinitely short of answering or satisfying in all that we can do? But this of fruitfulness in obedience is the way which God hath appointed, whereby we may testify our sense of divine love and goodness, and express our gratitude. And hereby do our fruits of righteousness redound unto the glory of God.

4. God in and by them doth extend his care, goodness, and love unto others. It is his will and pleasure that many who long unto himself in an especial way, and others also among the community of mankind, should sometimes be cast into, and, it may be, always be in a condition of wants and straits in this world. To take care of them, to provide for them, to relieve them, so as they also may have an especial sense of his goodness, and be instrumental in setting forth his praise, is incumbent on Him who is the great provider for all. Now, one signal way whereby he will do this, is by the fruits of obedience brought forth in others. Their charity, their compassion, their love, their bounty, shall help and relieve them that are in wants, straits, sorrows, poverty, imprisonment, exile, or the like. And so it is in all other cases. Their meekness, their patience, their forbearance, which are of these fruits, shall be useful unto others, under their weaknesses and temptations. Their zeal, their labor of love in teaching and instructing, or preaching the word, shall be the means of the conviction and conversion of others. So doth it please God, by these fruits of obedience in some, to communicate of his own goodness and love, unto the help, relief, succor, and redress of others. For those so relieved do, or at least ought to look on all as coming directly from God. For it is he who not only commands those who are the means of their conveyance unto them to do what they do, but he directly works it in them by his grace, without which it would not be. And all this redoundeth unto the glory of God. This our apostle expresseth at large, 2 Corinthians 9:12-15 : “For the administration of this service” (that is, the charitable and bountiful contribution of the Corinthians unto the poor of the church of Jerusalem) “not only supplieth the wants of the saints” themselves (the thought whereof might give great satisfaction to the minds of men benign and compassionate, namely, that they have been able to relieve others), “but is abundant also by many thanksgivings unto God.” ‘It hath this effect upon the minds of all that are concerned in it, or do know of it, to cause them to abound in thanks and praise unto God.’And he showeth both the grounds whereon and the way whereby this praise is so returned unto God. For, —

(1.) They consider not merely what is done, but the principle from whence it doth proceed: “Whilst by the experiment of this ministration they glorify God for your professed subjection unto the gospel.” This, in the first place, affects them greatly, that whereas before they had only heard it may be a report, that you, or some of you, were converted unto the faith of the gospel, they have now, by “this ministration,” — that is, the relief of bounty communicated unto them, — such an evidence and assurance, that with one consent they give praise and glory to God for the work of his grace towards you.’And, indeed, this usually is the first thing which affects the minds of any of the saints of God, in any relief that God is pleased to hand out unto them by the means of others. They admire and bless God in and for his grace towards them, by whose kindness and compassion they are relieved. So is God glorified by these fruits.

(2.) And the second ground of their praises was, the liberal distribution unto themselves, as they found by experience; and unto “all men,” as they were informed and believed. The ministration itself testified their faith and obedience unto the gospel; but the nature of it, that it was liberal and bountiful, evidenced the sincerity and fruitfulness of their faith, or “the exceeding grace of God in them,” Hebrews 6:14. They saw hereby that there was not an ordinary or common work only of grace on these Corinthians, engaging them into a common profession, and the duties of it, — which yet was a matter of great thankfulness unto God; but that indeed the grace of God exceedingly abounded in them, which produced these fruits of it in so plentiful a manner. And with respect hereunto also was praise peculiarly rendered unto God. Hereunto also the apostle adds a double way whereby God was glorified, distinct from the direct attribution of praises unto him.’ “And by their prayer for you, which long after you, for the exceeding grace of God in you.” That is, by both. these ways they glorified God, both in their prayers for a supply of divine grace and bounty to them by whom they were relieved, and in their inflamed love towards them and longing after them, which was occasioned only by their relief; but the real cause, motive, and object of it, was “the exceeding grace of God in them,” which was evidenced thereby. And by both these duties God is greatly glorified. Hence the apostle concludes the whole with that ἐπινίκιον of triumphant praise to God, “Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift.” ‘This,’saith he, ‘is a gift that cannot be sufficiently declared amongst men, and therefore God is more to be admired in it.’And the apostle presseth the occasion of their joint thankfulness in a word that may include both the grace of God given unto the Corinthians, enabling them to their duty, and the fruit of that grace in the bounty conferred on the poor saints; both of them were the gift of God, and in both of them was he glorified. And in this regard especially are the fruits of our obedience unto the gospel meet for Him by whom we are dressed; that is, have an especial tendency unto the glory of God. Hence is that caution of the apostle, Hebrews 13:16 : “But to do good and to communicate, forget not; for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.” Our prayers and praises also, as he declares in the verse foregoing, are “sacrifices unto God,” and accepted with him, verse 15. Our whole obedience is “our reasonable service,” is a sacrifice acceptable unto God, Romans 12:1; yea, but in these fruits of benignity, bounty, charity, doing good, and communicating largely and liberally, God is in a peculiar manner well pleased and satisfied, as smelling a savor of rest through Christ in such sacrifices.

And I might here justly take occasion at large to press men unto an abundant fruitfulness in this especial kind of fruit-bearing, but that the nature of our discourse will not admit it.

5. They are meet for God, because they are as the first-fruits unto him from the creation. When God took and rescued the land of Canaan, which he made his own in a peculiar manner, out of the hands of his adversaries, and gave it unto his own people to possess and inherit, he required of them, that, on their first entrance there-into, they should come and present him with the “first of all the fruits of the earth,” as an acknowledgment of his right to the land, and his bounty unto them, Deuteronomy 26:1-8, etc. The whole creation did by sin as it were go out of the possession of God; — not of his right and power, but of his love and favor: Satan became the “god of this world,” and the whole of it lay under the power of evil. By Jesus Christ he rescueth it again from its slavery and bondage unto Satan. But this he will not do all at once, only he will have some first-fruits offered unto him as an acknowledgment of his right, and as a pledge of his entering on the possession of the whole. And God is greatly glorified in the presenting of these first-fruits, at the recovery of the creation unto himself, which is a certain pledge of vindicating the whole from its present bondage. And it is believers that are these first-fruits unto God: James 1:18, “Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first-fruits of his creatures.” But we are not so but in our fruitfulness. Thereby it is that there is a revenue of glory and praise returned unto God from this lower part of the creation; without which it bears nothing but thorns and briers in his sight. In these, therefore, and the like things, consists the meetness of our fruits of obedience unto God, or his glory. Again, —

Obs. 9. Wherever there are any sincere fruits of faith and obedience found in the hearts and lives of professors, God graciously accepts and blesseth them.

Nothing is so small but that, if it be sincere, he will accept; and nothing so great but he hath an overflowing reward for it. Nothing shall be lost that is done for God; — a cup of cold water, the least refreshment given unto any for his sake, shall be had in remembrance. All we have and are is antecedently due to him, so as that there can be no merit in any thing we do; but we must take heed lest, whilst we deny the pride of merit, we lose the comfort of faith as to acceptance of our duties. It is the fruit of the mediation of Jesus Christ, that we may “serve God without fear, in righteousness and holiness all our days;” but if we are always anxious and solicitous about what we do, whether it be accepted with God or no, how do we serve him without fear? This is the worst kind of fear we are obnoxious unto, most dishonorable unto God and discouraging unto our own souls, 1 John 4:18. For how can we dishonor God more than by judging that when we do our utmost in sincerity in the way of his service, yet he is not well pleased with us, nor doth accept of our obedience? Is not this to suppose him severe, angry, always displeased, ready to take advantage, one whom nothing will satisfy? Such thoughts are the marks of the wicked servant in the parable, Luke 19:20-22. Where, then, is that infinite goodness, grace, condescension, love, compassion, which are so essential to his nature, and which he hath declared himself so to abound in? And if it be so, what use is there of the mediation and intercession of Jesus Christ? what benefit in the promises of the covenant? and what is there remaining that can encourage us in and unto duties of obedience? Merely to perform them because we cannot, we dare not do otherwise, a servile compliance with our conviction, is neither acceptable unto God nor any ways comfortable unto our own souls. Who would willingly lead such a life in this world, to be always laboring and endeavoring, without the least satisfaction that what he does will either please them by whom he is set on work, or any way turn to his own account? Yet such a life do men lead who are not persuaded that God graciously accepts of what they sincerely perform. A suspicion to the contrary riseth up in opposition unto the fundamental principle of all religion: “He that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him,” Hebrews 11:6.

This is the first principle and foundation of all religious worship; which if it be not well and firmly laid in our hearts, all our supplication will be in vain. Blow unless we do believe that he doth accept and bless our duties, we cannot believe that he is such a rewarder, or, as he expressed it in the covenant with Abraham, an “exceeding great reward.” But he hath descended to the lowest instances, of a little goat’s hair to the tabernacle, a mite into the treasury, a cup of water to a disciple, to assure us that he despiseth not the meanest of our sincere services. But this must be spoken unto again on verse 10, and therefore I shall not here further confirm it.

Some perhaps will say, ‘that their best fruits are so corrupted, their best duties so defiled, that they cannot see how they can find acceptance with so holy a God. Every thing that proceeds from them is so weak and infirm, that they fear they shall suffer loss in all.’And this very apprehension deprives them of all that consolation in the Lord which they might take in a course of holy obedience. I answer,

1. This consideration, of the defilements of sin that adhere to the best of our works or duties, excludes all merit whatever. And it is right it should do so; for indeed that cursed notion of the merit of good works hath been the most pernicious engine for the ruin of men’s souls that ever Satan made use of. For on the one hand many have been so swollen and puffed up with it, as that they would not deign in any thing to be beholden to the grace of God, but have thought heaven and glory as due to them for their works as hell is to other men for their sin, or the wages of a hireling to him for his labor, which cries to heaven against the injustice of them that detain it. Hence a total neglect of Christ hath ensued. Others, convinced of the pride and folly of this presumption, and notwithstanding the encouragement unto fruitful obedience which lies in God’s gracious acceptation and rewarding of our duties, have been discouraged in their attendance unto them. It is well, therefore, where this notion is utterly discarded by the consideration of the sinful imperfection of our best duties: so it is done by the church, Isaiah 64:6; Romans 7:21.

2. This consideration excludes all hope or expectation of acceptance ,with God upon the account of strict justice. If we consider God only as a judge pronouncing sentence concerning us and our duties according to the law, neither we nor any thing we do can either be accepted with him or approved by him. For as the psalmist says concerning our persons, “If thou, LORD, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand ?” and prays, “Enter not into judgment with thy servant, for in thy sight shall no man living be justified:so it is with respect unto all our works and duties of obedience; not any one of them can endure the trial of God as judging by the law, but would appear as a filthy thing. Whilst, therefore, persons are only under the power of their convictions, and are not able by faith to take another view of God and his dealings with them but by the law, it is impossible that they should have any comfortable expectation of the approbation of their obedience.

Wherefore, that we may be persuaded of the gracious acceptation of all our duties, even the least and meanest that we do in sincerity and with a single eye to the glory of God, and that our labor in the Lord should not be lost, we are always to have two things in the eye and view of our faith:

1. The tenor of the covenant wherein we walk with God. God hath abolished and taken away the covenant of works by substituting a new one in the room thereof. And the reason why he did so, was because of a double insufficiency in the law of that covenant unto his great end of glorifying himself in the salvation of sinners. For,

(1.) It could not expiate and take away sin; which must be done indispensably, or that end could not be obtained. This our apostle asserts as one reason of it, Romans 8:3; and proves at large in this epistle afterwards.

(2.) Because it neither did nor could approve of such an obedience as poor sanctified sinners were able to yield unto God; for it required perfection, when the best which they can attain unto in this life is but sincerity. What then? do we make void the law by faith? doth not God require perfect righteousness of us, — the righteousness which the law originally prescribed? Yes, he doth so; and without it the curse of the law will come upon all men whatever: but this also being that which in ourselves we can never attain unto, is provided for in the new covenant by the imputation of the righteousness of Christ unto them that do believe. So the apostle expressly states the matter, Romans 10:3-6. On this supposition, God in this covenant hath provided for the acceptance of sincere though imperfect obedience, which the law had no respect unto. The sum is, that his acceptance now shall be suited unto the operation of his grace. He will crown and reward all the actings of his own grace in us. Whatever duty; therefore, is principled by grace and done in sincerity, is accepted with God, according to the tenor of this covenant. This, therefore, we are always to eye and consider as the bottom of the acceptance of our imperfect, weak, unworthy services.

2. Unto the same end is the mediation of Christ to be considered in an especial manner. Without respect unto him, neither we nor any thing we do is approved of God. And a double regard is in this matter always to be had unto him and his mediation: —

(1.) That by one sacrifice he takes away all that is evil or sinful in our duties; whatever is of real defilement, disorder, self in them, whereby any guilt might be contracted, or is so, he hath borne it and taken it, as unto its legal guilt, all away. Whatever, therefore, of guilt doth unavoidably adhere unto or accompany our duties, we may by faith look upon it as so removed out of the way by the sacrifice and mediation of Christ, as that it shall be no hinderance or obstruction to the gracious acceptation of them.

(2.) Whereas all. that we do, when we have used our utmost endeavors, by the assistance of grace, and setting aside the consideration of what is evil and sinful from the principle of corrupted nature remaining in us, is yet so weak and imperfect, and will be so whilst we are but dust and ashes dwelling in tabernacles of clay, as that we cannot apprehend how the goodness which is in our obedience should extend itself to God, reach unto the throne of his holiness, or be regarded by him, the merit of our Lord Jesus Christ doth so make way for them, put such a value on them in the sight of God, as that they receive approbation and blessing from him; for in Jesus Christ we are complete, and God makes both us and our duties accepted in the Beloved. The consideration hereof, added to the former, may firmly assure the mind and conscience of every true believer concerning the gracious acceptation of the least of their holy duties that are performed in sincerity. And this they have in such a way as,

(1.) To exclude merit and boasting;

(2.) To keep them in a holy admiration of God’s grace and condescension;

(3.) To make them continually thankful for Christ and his mediation;

(4.) To yield unto themselves comfort in their duties and encouragement unto them.

Hebrews 6:8. — “But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned.”

In the foregoing verse the apostle showed how it would be and fall out with that part of the Judaical church which embraced the gospel, and brought forth the fruits of faith and obedience. God would accept of them, own them, preserve and bless them. And this blessing of God consisted in four things:

1. In his gracious acceptance of them in Christ, and the approbation of their obedience, verse 10.

2. In delivering them from that dreadful curse and judgment which not long after consumed the whole remainder of that people.

3. In making use of multitudes of them to be the means of communicating the knowledge and grace of the gospel unto other persons and nations; —

a greater blessing and honor than which they could not.. in this world be made partakers of.

4. In their eternal salvation. This being laid. down, he proceeds in his parable to declare the state and condition of the other sort of them, namely, of unbelievers, apostates from, and opposers of the gospel. And this he doth in compliance with the symbolical action of our Savior in cursing the barren fig-tree, whereby the same thing was represented, Matthew 21:19; for it was the apostate, persecuting, unbelieving church of the Jews, their estate, and what would become of them, which our Savior intended to expose in that fig-tree. He had now almost finished his ministry among them, and seeing they brought forth no fruit thereon, he intimates that the curse was coming on them, whose principal effect would be perpetual barrenness. They would not before bear any fruit, and they shall not hereafter; being hardened, by the just judgment of God, unto their everlasting ruin. So was fulfilled what was long before foretold, Isaiah 6:9-10, as our apostle declares, Acts 28:26-27. In answer hereunto, our apostle in this verse gives this account of their barrenness, and description of their end, through God’s cursing and destroying of them. And herein also the estate and condition of all apostates, unfruitful professors, hypocrites, and unbelievers, to whom the gospel hath been dispensed, is declared and expressed.

And, as it was necessary unto his design, the apostle pursues his former similitude, making an application of it unto this sort of men. And,

1. He supposeth them to be “earth,” as the other sort are, — ἐκφέρουσα; that is, ἡ γὴ ἡ ἐκφέρουσα, “that earth,” that part of the earth. So it is, and no more. It is neither better nor worse than that which proves fruitful and is blessed. All men to whom the gospel is preached are every way by nature in the same state and condition. All the difference between them is made by the gospel itself. None of them have any reason to boast, nor do they in any thing make themselves differ from others.

2. It is supposed that the rain falls often on this ground also. Those who live unprofitably under the means of grace have ofttimes the preaching of the word as plentifully, and as long continued unto them, as they that are most thriving and fruitful in obedience. And herein lies no small evidence that these things will be called over again another day, to the glory of God’s grace and righteousness. On these suppositions, two things are considerable in what is ascribed unto this earth:

1. What it brings forth;

2. How.

1. It bringeth forth ἀκάνθας, “thorns and briers.” See the opening of the words before. In general, I doubt not but all sorts of sins are hereby intended, all “unfruitful works of darkness,” Romans 6:21, Ephesians 5:2. And the principal reason why they are here compared unto thorns and briers, is with respect unto the curse that came on the earth by sin: “Cursed is the ground, ...... thorns and thistles shall it bring forth unto thee,” Genesis 2:17-18; whereunto barrenness, or unaptness for better fruits, is added, Genesis 4:12. From this curse, the earth of itself, and untilled, would bring forth nothing but; thorns and briers, at least they would be absolutely prevalent in and over all the products of it; so the heart of man by nature is wholly overrun with evil, sinful imaginations, and his life with vicious, sinful actions, Genesis 6:5, Romans 2:10-18. Wherefore the bringing forth of thorns and briers, is abounding in such actings and works as proceed from the principle of corrupted nature under the curse. In opposition hereunto, all good actions, all acts of faith and obedience, are called “herbs” and “fruit,” because they are “the fruits of the Spirit;” and such sinful works are compared to, and called “thorns and briers,” from a community of properties with them. For,

(1.) They are in their kind unprofitable, things of no use, but meet to be cast out, that room may be made for better. When a man hath a field overgrown with thorns and briers, he finds he hath no benefit by them; wherefore he resolves to dig them up or burn them. Of such and no other use are the sins of men in the world. All the “works of darkness” are “unfruitful,” Ephesians 5:2. The world is no way benefited by them never was any man the better for his own or another man’s sins.

(2.) Because they are hurtful and noxious, choking and hindering good fruits that wise would thrive in the field. So are thorns and briers represented in the Scripture as grieving, piercing, and hurtful; and things that are so called by their name, Ezekiel 28:24; Micah 7:4; Isaiah 7:25. Such are all the sins of men. All the confusion, disorders, devastations that are in the world, are from them alone. In general, therefore, it is all sorts of sins, “works of darkness,” “works of the flesh,” that are intended by these “thorns and brier,” But yet I presume that the apostle hath regard unto the sins which the obstinate Jews were then in an especial manner guilty of, and which would be the cause of their sudden destruction. Brow those, as it appeareth from this whole epistle and matter of fact in the story, were unbelief, impenitency, and apostasy. The thorns and briers, which were the fuel wherein was kindled the fire of God’s indignation unto their consumption, were their sins against the gospel. Either they would not give their assent unto its truth, or would not amend their lives according to its doctrine, or would not abide with constancy in its profession. These are the especial sins which cast those Hebrews, and will cast all that are like unto them, into the condition of danger and perdition, here described.

2. The manner of bringing forth these thorns and briers is expressed by; ἐκφέρουσα. Chrysostom puts a great mark upon the difference of the words used by the apostle. That which he applieth to the production of good fruits is which denotes a natural conception and production of any thing in due order, time, and season; but this ἐκφέρουσα, applied to the barren, cursed ground, denotes a casting of them out in abundance, not only without the use of means, but against it. The heart of man needs not to be impregnated with any adventitious seed, to make it thrust forth all sorts of sins, or to make it fruitful in unbelief and impenitency: the womb of sin will of its own accord be continually teeming with these things.

Matters being thus stated with this ground, the apostle affirms three things concerning it: —

1

1. It is ἀδόκιμος. That is said to be ἀδόκιμον, whereof trial hath been made whether, by the application of suitable means unto it, it will be made useful unto any certain end. δοκιμάζω is “to try,” to make an experiment what any thing is, and of what use; especially it is applied to the trial that is made of gold and silver by fire. τό χρυσίον ἐν πυρὶ δοκιμάζομεν, Isocrat.; “We try gold in the fire,” — that is, whether it be true and pure. Fire is the great trier and discoverer of metals, of what sort they are, Corinthians . And hence the Lord Christ, in the trial of his church, is compared to a refiner with fire, Malachi 3:2. So faith is tried, 1 Peter 1:7. And it is the word which our apostle useth when he enjoins us to try and search ourselves as unto our sincerity in faith and obedience, 2 Corinthians 13:5, Galatians 6:4; — as also to make a due inquiry into the true nature of spiritual things, Romans 12:2, Ephesians 5:10; not contenting ourselves with a bare notion of them, but endeavoring after an experience of their power in our own hearts. δοκιμή is often used by our apostle for “an experience upon trial,” Romans 5:4; 2 Corinthians 2:9; Philippians 2:22 : as δοκίμιον by Peter, 1 Epistles 1:7. Hence is δόκιμος, “one that upon trial is approved, found sound, and therefore, is accepted,” 1 Corinthians 11:19; 2 Corinthians 10:18; 2 Timothy 2:15; James 1:12. εὐάρεστος τῷ θεῷ, καὶ δόκιμος τοῖς ἀνθρώποις, Romans 14:18; — “Accepted with God, and approved with men.” Hence ἀδόκιμος is “one rejected, disapproved upon trial, reprobate,” 1 Corinthians 9:27; 2 Corinthians 13:5-6; Titus 1:16. The whole is expressed, Jeremiah 6:29-30 : “The bellows are burnt, the lead is consumed of the fire; the founder melteth in vain ....... Reprobate silver shall men call them, because the LORD hath rejected them.” All means were used to try to the utmost whether there were any true, sincere metal in them. After all, they were found ἀργύριον, “refuse silver,” mere dross; which was therefore rejected, as of no use. This ground, therefore, is supposed to have had a trial made of it, and all proper means to have been used for to make it fruitful; but whereas nothing succeeded, it is to be ἀδόκιμος, “rejected,” “disapproved,” laid aside as to any further endeavors to make it successful. Such a piece of ground the husbandman leaves caring for; he will lay out no more charges about it nor take any more pains with it, for he finds on trial that it is incurable.

2. It is said to be κατάρας ἐγγύς, “nigh unto a curse.” The husbandman doth not presently destroy such a piece of ground, but neglecting of it, lets it lie, further to discover its own barrenness and unprofitableness. But this he doth so as to declare his resolution to lay it waste, and so to cast it out of the bounds of his possession. And he doth it in three ways: —

(1.) By gathering out of it all the good plants and herbs that yet remain in it, and transplanting them into a better soil.

(2.) By casting down its fences and laying it waste, that all the beasts of the field shall lodge in it and prey upon it.

(3.) By withholding all means of doing it good, by watering or manuring of it. And hereby it becomes like to the barren wilderness as it lies under the curse, which no man careth for. It is nigh to that condition wherein it shall not be known that it was ever owned by him, or did ever belong unto his possession. So is it unto cursing. For as blessing of any thing is an addition of good, so cursing implies the taking off all kindness and all effects thereof, and therewithal the devoting of it unto destruction.

3. Lastly, It is added, ἧς τὸ τέλος εἰς καῦσιν, “whose end is unto burning,” or “to be turned.” Fire makes a total and dreadful destruction of all combustible things whereunto it is applied. Hence such desolations are said to be firing or burning, by what means soever they are effected. Things are consumed, as if they were burned up with fire. There is a burning of ground which is used to make it fruitful, as the poet expresseth it in his Georgics, lib. : —

“Saepe etiam steriles incendere profuit agros,

Atque levem stipulam crepitantibus urere flammis.”

But it is a burning of another kind that is here intended. And this is an act of positive indignation. He will not only show his dissatisfaction in such barren ground by a neglect of it, but his vengeance in its destruction. And it is thus expressed, to intimate both the temporal destruction of the obstinate Jews, and the eternal destruction of all unbelievers, — both by fire of several kinds.

Thus, therefore, the apostle declares that God, the great husbandman and owner of the vineyard, would deal with the impenitent and incredulous Hebrews.

1. He tried them, and that for a long season, by the preaching of the gospel. The rain fell oft upon them, and that for .the space now of thirty- six years, or thereabouts. God did, as it were, essay by outward means to make them fruitful, to bring them to faith, repentance, and obedience. But after this long trial, it appeared that they multiplied, as it were, under his hand the thorns and briers of their unbelief, and all sorts of provoking sins.

Wherefore God rejects them, declares that his soul had no pleasure in them, — that he would be at no further cost about them. And twice did our apostle mind his countrymen in other places that God would speedily so deal with them, Acts 13:40-41; Acts 13:46, Acts 28:25-28; as our Savior had often threatened them that the kingdom of God should be taken from them, — they should no longer enjoy the means of saving knowledge or repentance. God laid them aside, as a field no longer fit to be tilled. And this he did about the [time of the] writing of this epistle; for immediately hereon he began utterly to forsake them who were obstinate in their Judaism, and all those who apostatized thereunto from Christianity. And thus also, in proportion, he deals with all other unprofitable hearers and apostates. There is a time after which he casts them out of his care, will feed them no more, provide no more that they be rained on or dressed. And if they do any more enjoy the word, it is by accident, for the sake of some who are approved; but they shall receive no advantage by it, seeing they are no longer “God’s husbandry.”

2. On this rejection of them, they were “nigh unto cursing;” that is, they were so ordered and disposed of as that the destroying curse of God might come upon them. God had now anathematized them, or devoted them to destruction; and hereupon he gave them up unto all those ways and means whereby it might be hastened and infallibly overtake them. For,

(1.) He gathered all the good plants from amongst them; he called out and separated from them all true believers, and planted them in the Christian church. So he deals with all apostate churches before their utter destruction, Revelation 18:4.

(2.) He took away their fences, casting there out of his protection, insomuch that when they were destroyed, the general of the Roman army acknowledged that God had infatuated them, so that their impregnable holds and forts were of no use unto them.

(3.) He granted them no more use of means for their conversion. Thenceforward they fell into all manner of sins, confusions, disorders, tumults; which occasioned their ruin. After the same manner will God deal with any other people whom he rejects for their rejection of the gospel. And the world hath no small reason to tremble at the apprehension of such a condition at this day.

3. In the end, this whole barren earth was burned up. In the first place, this respects the destruction of Jerusalem, which ensued not long after, when temple and city, and people and country, were all devoured by fire and sword, Matthew 24:1-2. But yet this, like the destruction of Sodom, was but an emblem of the future judgment. Hypocrites, unbelievers, apostates, are to have another end than what they fall into in this world. An end they shall have wherein their eternal condition shall be immutably stated. And this end that they must have is to the fire, the “fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” They shall be gathered together and burned with a fire that shall never be quenched, John 15:6. And this final destruction of all unprofitable hearers, unbelievers, and apostates, is that which is principally intended in the words. And we must not let this wholesome admonition pass without some observations from it.

Obs. 1. Whilst the gospel is preached unto men, they are under their great trial for eternity.

The application that is made unto them is for an experiment how they will prove. If they acquit themselves in faith and obedience, they receive the blessing of eternal life from God. If they prove barren and unprofitable, they are rejected of God, and cursed by him. Nor shall they ever have any other trial, nor shall ever any other experiment be made of them, Hebrews 10. Their season of the enjoyment of the gospel is their “day.” When that is past, “the night cometh” on them, wherein they cannot work. When these “bellows are burned, and the lead is consumed, the founder melting in vain,” men are rejected as “reprobate silver,”’never to be tried any more. Men do but deceive themselves in their reserve of a purgatory when they are gone out of this world. If they are cast under their trial here, so they must abide to eternity. And we may do well to consider these things distinctly, because our concernment in them is very great. To this purpose observe, —

1. That we are all made for an eternal state and condition, in blessedness or woe. Men may live like beasts, and therefore wish that they might die like them also; but we are all made with another design, and must all of us “stand in our” eternal “lot at the end of the days,” Daniel 12:13.

2. That the unchangeable determination of our eternal state depends on what we do in this life. There is neither wisdom nor knowledge, duty nor obedience, in the grave, whither we are going. As the tree falls so it must lie. “It is appointed unto men once to die, and after that is the judgment.” Nothing interposeth to alter our state and condition between death and judgment. The contrivance of purgatory when we are gone hence was an invention of Satan, to delude the souls of men with hopes of relief, when all means and ways of it were past and irrecoverable.

3. The trial of our future state is made by the preaching of the gospel unto us, and our compliance with it or rejection of it. This is that which the text declares on the one hand and the other; the barren ground is rejected on this trial.

4. It was a fruit of infinite grace, condescension, and mercy, to grant a new trial unto sinners under the curse we had all cast ourselves into. There God might have left us. So he dealt with the sinning angels, whom he spared not. And had he dealt so with all mankind, who could say unto him, “What doest thou?” And it is that which we must all answer for, namely, that when we were lost and fallen under the sentence of the holy and righteous law, God would propose any terms of peace and reconciliation unto us, and give us a second trial thereon.

5. That the especial way of this trial doth most eminently set out this grace and mercy. A way it is full of infinite wisdom, goodness, love, mercy, and grace; such as wherein all the divine perfections will be eternally glorified, whether it be accepted or refused.

6. When the gospel is preached unto any, God telleth sinners that although they have destroyed themselves, and are ready every moment to sink into eternal misery, yet he will, out of infinite grace and compassion, try them once more, and that by the holy terms of the gospel. And in the preaching of the word he doth it accordingly. And although the season of this trial be determined with God, yet it is unto us uncertain, on many accounts. For,

(1.) The continuance of our lives, during which alone we are capable of enjoying it, is so.

(2.) We see that the preaching of the gospel is so also. The Lord Christ doth ofttimes remove the candlestick whilst they continue alive in the world among whom it was once fixed. And,

(3.) There is a time when a period is put unto the efficacy of the word for the conversion of some, although the outward dispensation be continued unto them, Isaiah 6:9-10. Wherefore the present season and present enjoyment of the gospel it is our duty to consider and improve. For what is the work that therein God hath in hand towards us? Is it not to give us our trial, in the use of means, as to what shall be our future condition? He hath therein undertaken us as his vineyard, as his husbandry, and causeth the rain to fall upon us; and hath done so often and long. And who almost doth consider aright how great his concernment is herein? Would men be so careless, negligent, formal, slothful, as they are for the most part under the hearing of the word, if they duly remembered that it is their trial for eternity? and they know not how soon it may be over. If we lose this season, we are gone for ever. It is, therefore, our wisdom to know whether our fruitfulness, in faith, repentance, and obedience, do answer the rain and dressing we have had by the dispensation of the word. The axe is laid at the root of the tree; — if we bring not forth good fruit we shall ere long be hewed down and cast into the fire. It is true, there is none of us do answer as we ought the love and care of God towards us herein; nor can we so do. When we have done our utmost, we are but unprofitable servants. But there is a wide difference between a defect in degrees of obedience, and the neglect of the whole. Where the first is, we ought to walk humbly in the sense of it, and labor after more perfection. And if this defect be great and notable, such as is occasioned by our lusts indulged unto, or by sloth and negligence, as we can have no evidence of our being approved of God, so it is high time to recover ourselves, by new diligence and holy endeavors, or we may be cast in our trial. But where the latter is, where men bring forth no “fruit meet for repentance,” what can they expect but to be finally and totally rejected of God? Whereas, therefore, we have been long most of us under this trial, it is assuredly high time that we call ourselves unto a strict account with respect unto it. And if, upon inquiry, we find ourselves at a loss which sort of ground we do belong unto, because of our barrenness and leanness, unless we are hardened by the deceitfulness of sin, we will give ourselves no rest until we have better evidences of our fruit- bearing. We may do well to remember, that though the earth on which the rain falls is here distributed by the apostle into two sorts, like Jeremiah’s figs, very good and very bad, to one of which every one at last must be joined; yet, as to present effects and appearances, the ground whereinto the seed of the gospel is cast is distributed by our Savior into four sorts, whereof one only brings forth fruit meet for Him by whom it is dressed, Matthew 13. There are several ways whereby we may miscarry under our trial; one only whereby we may be accepted, namely, fruitfulness of heart and life.

Obs. 2. Barrenness under the dispensation of the gospel is always accompanied with an increase of sin.

The ground which brings not forth “herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed,” thrusts forth “thorns and briers.” Let it be observed, that spiritual barrenness never goes alone. Abounding in sin will accompany it, and doth so. It may be it doth not so openly and visibly for a season; but all things will tend thereunto, and at last it will discover itself. Yea, there are no sinners like them, nor sin like theirs, by whom the means of grace are rejected, or not improved. The first generation of great provoking sinners were those of the old world before the flood. Unto these Noah had been a “preacher of righteousness,” 2 Peter 2:5. In his ministry did the Spirit of Christ “strive with them,” until God affirmed he should do so no more, Genesis 6:3. But they were disobedient and barren; 1 Peter 3:19-20. And this issued in those provoking sins which God could not bear withal, but “brought the flood upon the world of the ungodly.” The next was these Hebrews, unto whom the gospel had been preached. And they proved a generation no less wicked than that before the flood, insomuch as their own historian affirms that he verily believed that “if the Romans had not come and destroyed them, God would have poured fire and brimstone on them from heaven, as he did upon Sodom.” And the third generation of the same kind are the apostate Christian churches, whose condition and state is described in the Revelation. This is the issue of barrenness under God’s culture and watering; and it will be so. For, —

1. When men have rejected the last means of their spiritual healing and restraint of sin, what can be expected from them but an outrage in sinning? There are three ways whereby God puts a restraint upon sin. The first is by the light of a natural conscience. This is born with men in the principle of it, and grows into exercise in the improvement of reason. And where the natural workings of it are not prevented and suffocated by the horrible example of parents and relations living in cursing, lying, and all manner of profaneness, it is very useful in youth, to restrain persons from sundry sins. It is so, I say, until corruptions getting strength, and temptations abounding, custom in sinning takes away the edge of it, and weakens it in its operation. Wherefore, —

2. When this restraint is broken through, God sets up the hedge of the law before the minds of men, to deter them from sin. And this also hath a great efficacy with many unto this end, at least for a season. But neither will mere conviction from the law always give bounds unto the lusts of men. Wherefore, —

3. The gospel comes with a different design from them both. The utmost of their aim and work is but to restrain sin, but the gospel comes to convert the sinner. Their work is to set a dam before the streams of sin; that of the gospel is to dry up the spring.

But if this also, as it is in this case, be rejected and despised, what remains to set any bounds unto the lusts of men?

1. They will find themselves at liberty to act their own inclinations to the utmost, as having cast off all regard to God in all the ways whereby he hath revealed himself. Hence you may find more honesty and uprightness, a more conscientious abstinence from sin, wrongs, and injuries, more effects of moral virtue, among heathens and Mohammedans, than among professed Christians, or persons who, being unprofitable under the gospel, do thereby tacitly reject it. No fields in the world are fuller of thorns and briers, than those of people, nations, churches, who profess themselves to be Christians and are not. Suppose two fields equally barren; let one of them be tilled and dressed, and the other be let alone, left unto its own state and condition: when the field that hath been tilled shall be forsaken for its barrenness, trash of all sorts, incomparably above that which was never tilled, will rise up in it. This is that which at this day is such a scandal to Christianity, which hath broken up the flood-gates of atheism and let in a deluge of profaneness on the world. No sinners like unto barren Christians. Heathens would blush, and infidels stand astonished, at the things they practice in the light of the sun. There was sleeping in the bed of uncleanness, and drunkenness, among the heathens: but our apostle, who well enough knew their course, affirms of them, that “they who sleep, sleep in the night; and they who are drunken, are drunken in the night,” 1 Thessalonians 5:7. They did their shameful things in darkness and in secret, Ephesians 5:11-12. But, alas! among Christians who have directly and willfully despised the healing power and virtue of the gospel, these are works of the day, proclaimed as in Sodom, and the perpetration of them is the business of men’s lives. If you would see the greatest representation of hell upon the earth, go into an apostate church, or to persons that have had the word preached unto them, or have heard of it sufficiently for their conviction, but are not healed. The face of all things in Christianity at this day is on this account dreadful and terrible, and bespeaks desolation to lie at the door. The ground whereunto the waters of the sanctuary do come, and it is not healed, is left unto salt and barrenness for ever.

2. It is a righteous thing with God judicially to give up such persons unto all manner of filthy sins and wickedness, that it may be an aggravation of their condemnation at the last day. It is the way of God to do so even when inferior manifestations of himself, his word and will, are rejected, or not improved. So he dealt with the Gentiles for their abuse of the light of nature, with the revelation made of him by the works of creation and providence, Romans 1:24; Romans 1:26; Romans 1:28. And shall not we think that he will, that he doth so deal with persons, upon their unprofitableness under and rejection of the highest and most glorious revelation of himself that ever he did make, or ever will in this world, unto any of the sons of men? It may be asked, ‘How doth God thus judicially give up persons despising the gospel unto their own hearts’lusts, to do the things that are not convenient?’I answer, He doth it,

(1.) By leaving them wholly to themselves, taking off all effectual restraint from them. So spake our blessed Savior of the Pharisees: “Let them alone,” saith he; “they are blind leaders of the blind,” Matthew 15:14. ‘Reprove them not, help them not, hinder them not; let them alone to take their own course.’So saith God of Israel, now given up to sin and ruin, “Ephraim is joined to idols; let him alone,” Hosea 4:17; Ezekiel 3:27. And it is the same judgment which he denounceth against unprofitable hearers of the gospel: Revelation 22:11, “He which is unjust, let him be unjust still; and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still.” ‘Go on now in your sins and filthiness without restraint.’Now, when men are thus left unto themselves, — as there is a time when God will so leave gospel despisers, that he will lay no more restraint upon them, but withhold the influence of all consideration that should give them any effectual check or control, — it were not to be conceived what an outrage and excess of sin the cursed, corrupted nature of man will run out into, but that the world is filled with the fruits and tokens of it. And God doth righteously thus withdraw himself more absolutely from gospel despisers than he doth from pagans and infidels, whom, by various actings of his providence, he keeps within bounds of sinning subservient unto his holy ends.

(2.) God pours out upon such persons “a spirit of slumber,” or gives them up to a profound security, so as that they take notice of nothing in the works or word of God that should stir them up to amendment, or restrain them from sin. So he dealt with these unbelieving Jews: Romans 11:8, “God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see.” Although it be so come to pass, that many there are whom God’s soul loatheth, and they abhor him also, as he speaks, Zechariah 11:8, so that he will have no more to do with them; yet he doth and will continue his word in the world, and the works of his providence in the government thereof. Now, as in the word there are several warnings and dreadful threatenings against sinners, so in the works of God there are judgments full of evidences of God’s displeasure against sin, Romans 1:18. Both these in their own nature are suited to awaken men, to bring them to a due consideration of themselves, and so to restrain them from sin. But as to this sort of persons, God sends a spirit of slumber upon them, that nothing shall rouse them up, or awaken them from their sins. Though it thunders over their heads, and the tempest of judgments falls so near them, as if they were personally concerned, yet do they cry, “Peace, peace.” When the word is preached to them, or they hear by any means the curse of the law, yet they bless themselves, as those who are altogether unconcerned in it. God gives them up unto all ways and means whereby they may be fortified in their security. Love of sin; contempt and scorn of them by whom the word of God is declared, or the judgments of God are dreaded; carnal confidence, carrying towards atheism; the society of other presumptuous sinners, strengthening their hands in their abominations; a present supply for their lusts, in the pleasant things of this world, — I mean which are so to the flesh; shall all of them contribute to their security.

(3.) God absolutely and irrecoverably gives them up to extreme obstinacy, to final hardness and impenitency, Isaiah 6:9-10. This is no place to treat of the nature of divine induration. It is enough to observe at present, that where provoking sinners do fall under it, they are totally blinded and hardened in sin unto their eternal ruin. Now, when God doth thus deal with men who will not, and because they will not be healed and reformed by the preaching of the gospel, can any thing else ensue but that they will give up themselves unto all wickedness and filthiness with delight and greediness? And this wrath seems to be come upon multitudes in the world unto the utmost. So the apostle describes this condition in the Jews when they were under it, 1 Thessalonians 2:15-16 : “Who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they please not God, and are contrary to all men: forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved, to fill up their sins alway: for the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost.” And they are even blind themselves who see not this to be the condition of many in the world at this day.

3. There are especial sins that are peculiar to this sort of barren persons, and so also aggravations of sins that others contract not the guilt of. Now this state and condition, at least the utmost and highest danger of it, is so written on the foreheads of most that are called Christians in the world, that there is no need of making any application of it unto them. And although it be not for us to know times and seasons, or to set bounds and limits to the patience of Christ, yet have we just reason to dread the speedy breaking forth of his severity in judgment, spiritual or temporal, upon most nations and churches that are called by his name. But the duty it is of those who make profession of the gospel in a peculiar manner, to inquire diligently whether there be not growing in their own hearts and ways any such sins as are usually consequent unto barrenness under the word. If it prove so upon search, they may justly fear that God is beginning to revenge upon them the neglect of the gospel, and unprofitableness under it. There are degrees of this sin and its consequents, as we shall show afterwards; and the evidences and effects of God’s displeasure against it are progressive and gradual also. From some of these the sinner is recoverable by grace: from some of them he is not, at least ordinarily, but is inevitably bound over to the judgment of the great day. But the last degree is such as men ought to tremble at, who have the least care for or love unto their immortal souls. For whatever issue of things God may have provided in the purpose of his grace, the danger unto us is inexpressible. And there neither is nor can be unto any the least evidence, token, or hope, that God designs them any relief, whilst themselves are careless and negligent in the use of means for their own deliverance. It may, therefore, be inquired by what sort of sins this condition may be known in more strict professors than the common sort of Christians in the world, and how their barrenness under the gospel may be discovered thereby, as the cause by its effects and inseparable consequents. I shall, therefore, name some of those sins and ways with respect whereunto such persons ought to be exceeding jealous over themselves; as, —

(1.) An indulgence unto some secret, pleasant, or profitable lust or sin, with an allowance of themselves therein. That this may befall such persons, we have too open evidence in the frequent eruptions and discoveries of such evils in sundry of them. Some, through a long continuance in a course of the practice of private sins, are either surprised into such acts and works of it as are made public whether they will or no; or, being hardened in them, do turn off to their avowed practice. Some, under terrors of mind from God, fierce reflections of conscience, especially in great afflictions and probabilities of death, do voluntarily acknowledge the secret evils of their hearts and lives. And some, by strange and unexpected providences, God brings to light, discovering the hidden works of darkness wherein men have taken delight. Such things, therefore, there may be amongst them who make a more than ordinary profession in the world. For there are or may be hypocrites among them, — vessels in the house of God of wood and stone. And some who are sincere and upright may yet be long captivated under the power of their corruptions and temptations. And for the sake of such it is principally that this warning is designed. Take heed lest there be in any of you a growing secret lust or sin, wherein you indulge yourselves, or which you approve. If there be so, it may be there is more in it than you are aware of; nor will your delivery from it be so easy as you may imagine. God seldom gives up men unto such a way, but it is an effect of his displeasure against their barrenness. He declares therein that he doth not approve of their profession. Take heed lest it prove an entrance into the dreadful judgment ensuing.

Whatever, therefore, it be, let it not seem small in your eyes. There is more evil in the least allowed sin of a professor — I mean, that is willingly continued in — than in the loud and great provocations of open sinners. For besides other aggravations, it includes a mocking of God. And this very caution I now insist upon is frequently pressed on all professors by our apostle in this very epistle, Hebrews 3:12; Hebrews 12:15-16.

(2.) Constant neglect of private, secret duties. This also may be justly feared, lest it. be an effect of the same cause. Now by this neglect I mean not that which is universal; for it is sure hard to meet with any one, who hath so much light and conviction as to make profession of religion in any way, but that he will and doth pray and perform other secret duties, at one time or another. Even the worst of men will do so in afflictions, fears, dangers, with surprisals, and the like. Nor do I intend interruptions of duties upon unjustifiable occasions; which though a sin which men ought greatly to be humbled for, and which discovers a “superfluity of naughtiness” yet remaining in them, yet; is it not of so destructive a nature as that which we treat about. I intend, therefore, such an omission of duties as is general; where men do seldom or never perform them but when they are excited and pressed by outward accidents or occasions. That this may befall professors the prophet declares, Isaiah 43:22-23. And it argues much hypocrisy in them; the principal character of a hypocrite being that he will not pray always. Nor can there be any greater evidence of a personal barrenness than this neglect. A man may have a ministerial fruitfulness and a personal barrenness; so he may have a family usefulness and a personal thriftlessness. And hereof negligence in private duties is the greatest evidence. Men also may know when those sins are consequences of their barrenness, and to be reckoned among the thorns and briers intended in the text. They may do it, I say, by the difficulty they will meet withal in their recovery, if it be so. Have their failings and negligence been occasional, merely from the impression of present temptations? — a thorough watering of their minds and consciences from the word will enable them to cast off their snares, and to recover themselves unto a due performance of their duties. But if these things proceed from God’s dereliction of them because of their barrenness, whatever they may think and resolve, their recovery will not be so facile. God will make them sensible how foolish and evil a thing it is to forsake him under the means of fruitful obedience. They may think, like Samson, to go forth and do as at other times; but they will quickly find their locks cut, and their spiritual strength so decayed as that they have no power for what they thought would prove so easy unto them at any time. They will find their wills and affections so entangled and engaged, that without a fresh supply of grace, scarce less than that administered in their first conversion, they cannot be delivered. So is it with all lusts, sins, and negligences that are consequences of a provoking barrenness under the gospel.

(3.) A total want of some graces, both in their principle and exercise, is a great evidence of such a condition. Where there is any true saving grace, there is the root and principle of all. Some graces may be more tried and exercised than others, and so be made more evident and conspicuous; for the occasions of their exercise may much more frequently occur: but yet where there is any true grace, at least where it is kept unrusty, vigorous, and active, as it ought to be in all profiting hearers of the word, there every grace of the Spirit is so far kept alive as to be in some readiness for exercise when occasion and opportunity do occur. But if in any there are some graces that are totally wanting, that no occasion doth excite or draw forth to exercise, they have just reason to fear that either those graces which they seem to have are not genuine and saving, but mere common effects of illumination; or that, if they are true, they are under a dangerous declension, on the account of their unanswerableness unto the dispensation of the gospel. For instance, suppose a man to satisfy himself that he hath the graces of faith and prayer, and the like, but yet cannot find that he hath any grain of true zeal for the glory of God, nor any readiness for works of charity with an eye to God’s glory and love to his commands; he hath great reason to fear lest his other graces are false and perishing, or at least that he is signally fallen under the sin of barrenness. For in common grace, one single grace may appear very evident, and win great honor to the profession of them in whom it is, whilst there is a total want of all or many others: but in saving grace it is not so; for though different graces may exceedingly differ in their exercise, yet all of them are equal in their root and principle.

By these, and the like considerations, may professors try their own concernment in this commination.

Obs. 3. Ordinarily God proceeds to the rejection and destruction of barren professors by degrees, although they are seldom sensible of it until they fall irrecoverably into ruin.

This ground here is first “disapproved” or “rejected;” then it is “nigh to cursing;” — the curse ensues; after which it is “burned.” And God doth thus proceed with them,

1. In compliance with his own patience, goodness, and long-suffering, whereby they ought to be led unto repentance. This is the natural tendency of the goodness and patience of God towards sinners, though it be often abused, Romans 2:4-5. Let men and their sin be what they will, God will not deal otherwise with them than as becomes his own goodness and patience. And this is that property of God without a due conception whereof we can never understand aright his righteousness in the government of the world. Ignorance of the nature of it, and how essential it is unto the Divine Being, is the occasion of security in sinning and atheism unto ungodly men, Ecclesiastes 8:11-13; 2 Peter 3:3-4. And a great temptation it is ofttimes unto them that are godly, Habakkuk 1:12-13; Jeremiah 12:1-2; Psalms 73:11-16; Psalms 73:21-22. Wherefore, to direct our minds unto a due posture herein, we may consider, —

(1.) That the patience of God never came to a general issue with mankind but once since the creation; and that was in the flood, 1 Peter 3:20. And this one example God will have to be a sufficient warning unto all ungodly sinners of the certainty and severity of his future judgment; so that no men have just reason to be secure in their sin, 2 Peter 3:5-7. And therefore he hath engaged himself by promise, that he will no more deal so with mankind, be their sins what they will, until the consummation of all things shall come, Genesis 8:21-22. While the earth remaineth there shall be no more such a curse. But there is a limited time contained therein. The earth itself shall at length cease, and then he will execute his judgments fully on the world of ungodly sinners. Blessed be God for that public record of his purpose and patience, without which his continuance of mankind in the world would be matter of astonishment.

(2.) The patience of God shall not come to an issue with any apostate nation or church until he himself declares and determines that all due means have been used for their recovery, 2 Chronicles 36:15-17. And the judgment hereof he will not leave unto the best of men; — he would not do so unto Elijah himself.

(3.) It is a difficult, glorious, and great fruit or effect of faith, not to repine at, but to glorify God in his patience towards a wicked, provoking generation of sinners. Even the souls of the saints in heaven seem to express a little too much haste in this matter, Revelation 6:9-11. The thing which they desired was suited unto the holiness, righteousness, and faithfulness of God, and wherein he had designed to glorify himself in his appointed season, Revelation 19:1-3; but the time of it seemed long unto them: wherefore to glorify God herein is a fruit of faith, Revelation 13:10. The faith and patience of the saints are most eminent in waiting quietly until the time of the destruction of the enemies of the church be fully come. And it is so,

[1.] Because it is accompanied with self-denial, as unto all our interest in this world, and all the desires of nature.

[2.] Because the apprehension is most true and infallible, that the righteousness, holiness, and faithfulness of God, will be exceedingly glorified in the destruction of apostate, provoking, and ungodly sinners; and this will be in particular in the ruin of Babylon and its whole interest in the world. And this may make our desires inordinate, if not regulated by faith. It is therefore an eminent act of faith, to give glory unto God in the exercise of his patience towards apostate, barren professors; and that which alone can, in these latter days of the world, give rest and peace unto our own souls.

2. God will do so to evince the righteousness of his judgments, both in the hearts and consciences of them who shall be finally destroyed, “whose end is to be burned;” as also of all others who shall wisely consider of his ways. God endureth all things from the world, “that he may be justified in his sayings, and may overcome when he is judged,” Romans 3:4; that is, not only that all he doth shall be righteous and holy, — which is necessary from his own essential righteousness, whence he will not, whence he cannot do evil, — but his works shall be so wrought, so accomplished, as that the righteousness of them shall be evident, and pleadable by his people against all sayings and reflections of ungodly men. Especially, every thing shall be plain and visibly righteous that he doth in this way towards barren, unprofitable churches, which he had formerly owned and blessed. In his dealing with them, he will leave no color of calling his goodness and faithfulness into question, but will, as it were, refer the righteousness of his proceedings unto all, even unto themselves. So he doth as to his dealing with the church of the Jews when it was grown utterly barren, Isaiah 5:1-7. So did our Lord Jesus Christ, in his parable, compel the wicked Jews to subscribe unto the righteousness of God in that miserable destruction which was coming on themselves, Matthew 21:33-46. And this God doth principally by his gradual procedure with them. His precedent warnings and first degrees of judgments, spiritual or temporal, shall bear witness unto the righteousness of their total ruin. Men at present, through their blindness, hardness of heart, love of sin, do not, it may be, take notice of God’s dealing with them, and are therefore apt to complain when they are surprised with the fatal evil; but the day will come when their consciences shall be awakened unto a dreadful remembrance of all the warnings God gave them, and how slowly he proceeded in his judgments, — when their mouths shall be stopped, and their faces filled with confusion.

3. God’s dealings with barren apostates being principally in spiritual judgments, the issue whereof is the total removal of the gospel from them, he will not do it at once, because others may be yet mixed among them unto whom he will have the means of grace continued. This Abraham laid down in temporal judgments, as an unquestionable maxim of divine right, that “God would not destroy the righteous with the wicked,” Genesis 18:23; Genesis 18:25 : which rule, yet, by the way, is confined unto that kind of destruction which was to be a standing token and pledge of the last final judgment, and the damnation of all ungodly men, for in other cases it will admit of some extraordinary exception; but this is the general way of God’s procedure in all judgments, spiritual aunt temporal. Now, if when men openly manifest their barrenness, and daily bring forth thorns and briers, God should immediately remove the word, whilst there are amongst them a people also that are really fruitful unto his glory, it cannot be but that, in an ordinary course of his providence, they must suffer with the rest, and that before God hath fulfilled the whole work of his grace towards them. This was that wherewith he satisfied and quieted the mind of Elijah, when, in a transport of zeal, he complains of the horrible apostasy of the church of Israel, making, as the apostle speaks, “intercession against them;” and he applieth it unto all other seasons of the church, Romans 11:2-5. And we are taught in that example, that when the patience of God towards a highly provoking people seems to interfere with his threatening and the ordinary course of his providence, we should believe that there are yet among them many whose hearts are sincere for God, though for many reasons they are unknown to us. And this should stir us up unto continual prayers for the whole world. When the long-suffering of God is abused by the most, and turned into an increase of their security, yet he hath a blessed end in it towards his own among them, 2 Peter 3:3-4; 2 Peter 3:9. And this was the state of God’s present dispensation towards these Hebrews. The most of them were obstinate unbelievers, and many of them barren apostates; but yet God continued for a while to exercise patience towards them, and to tender the gospel, unto them. And this he did because there was a “remnant” amongst them “according to the election of grace,” which were to “obtain,” whilst “the rest were hardened,” as our apostle declares, Romans 11. And this patience of God the hardened wretches despised and scoffed at. But yet still God went on in his way and method, because of those amongst them whom, through that patience and long-suffering, he intended to bring to repentance and the acknowledgment of the truth.

Further to clear up this whole matter, it may be inquired what are those degrees in spiritual judgments whereby God doth ordinarily proceed against barren professors, which are here intimated in general. And, 1. In such cases God doth usually restrain the influence of men’s light upon their own consciences and affections. Their light and knowledge which they have attained may in their notions remain with them, but they are not at all affected with what they know, or guided by it as unto their practice. There is a time when light and knowledge, not improved, do lose all their efficacy. God suffers such an interposition to be made between it and their consciences, by the acting and pride of their lusts, that it is of no use unto them. Whereas formerly, under their convictions, every thing they knew of the mind of God or the gospel pressed on them to endeavor after some conformity unto it; now it hath no power upon them, but only floats in their fancies and memories. And this we see accomplished every day. Men under a barren, apostatizing state, do yet retain some of their light and notions of truth; which they are sensible of no power from, nor have any use of, unless it be to enable them to be the greater scoffers and deriders of others. Now, although this comes to pass through their own sins and lusts as the immediate cause of it, yet it is a spiritual judgment of God also upon them. for their sins. For he withholdeth all the working of his Spirit in and by that light, which alone renders it effectual. His Spirit shall not strive any more therein; and then it is easy for them to “rebel against the light” they have, as he speaks, Job 24:13. And let all men hence take heed, when they begin to find that their light and convictions from the word have not the same power with them and efficacy upon them as formerly they have had; for it is greatly to be feared lest it be a beginning of God’s displeasure upon them. See Hosea 9:12.

2. God deprives them of all the gifts which formerly they received. Gifts are an ability for the due exercise of gospel light and knowledge in the duties of a public concern. These they may be made partakers of who yet prove barren and apostates. But God will not suffer them to be long retained under a course of backsliding. As men neglect their exercise, so God deprives them of them, and makes that very neglect a means of executing this judgment on them. The talent that was but laid up in a napkin was taken away. And this we see exemplified both in whole churches and in particular persons. They lose, or are deprived of the gifts which they had, or which were among them; and are commonly filled with enmity unto and scorn of them by whom they are retained.

And in these two things consists the first act of God’s judgment, in the rejection of the barren ground. Hereby he evidenceth that it is ἀδόκιμος, and such as he will regard no more.

The next is, that they make approaches towards the curse; and this is done two ways:

1. God having evidenced his rejection of them, he gives them up unto the temptation of the world, and the society of ungodly men, whereunto they are engaged by their pleasures or profit. “Men gather them,” saith our Savior, John 15:6. Their lusts being let loose from under the power of their light and convictions, especially their love unto the world, they cast themselves into the society of profane and wicked men. Among them they wax worse and worse every day, and learn, in an especial manner, to hate, despise, and blaspheme the good ways of God, which before they had known, owned, and professed. And God will so order things in his providence, as that temptations suited unto their most prevalent lusts shall, on all occasions, be presented unto them, whereby they shall be further ensnared.

2. God casts them out of the hearts and prayers of his people. This of all other things they least value, yea, they most despise; but it is one of the greatest effects of God’s severity towards them. So he commanded his prophet not to pray for the people, when his heart would not be towards them, Jeremiah 7:16; Jeremiah 11:14; Jeremiah 14:11. And in like cases, though not by express command, yet by his secret providence, he takes off the hearts of his people from them whom he hath designed to ruin for their sins. And we may observe, that our apostle himself, who a long time labored with unspeakable zeal and most fervent supplications to God for the incredulous Hebrews, as he expresseth himself, Romans 9:2-3; Romans 10:1, at length speaks of them as those whom he no more regarded, but looked on as enemies of Christ only, 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16. And this sets them forward in their way towards the fatal curse.

Thirdly, the curse itself ensues, which consists in three things. For,

1. God takes off their natural restraints from sin. The rebukes of a natural conscience, fear, shame, and the like afflictive affections, shall have no more power on them. So he dealt with them that sinned against the light of nature, Romans 1:26-27; and they became like those described, Ephesians 4:18-19. No men are so visibly under God’s curse as those who, having broken through the bonds of nature, modesty, fear, and shame, do give up themselves unto open sinning in the face of the sun.

2. God judicially hardens them; which contains the life and the power of the curse here intended, for hereby are men secured unto their final destruction and burning.

3. Ofttimes God signifies this curse in this world, by wholly casting out such persons from any interest in the dispensation of the word. He doth either utterly take away the preaching of the gospel from them, or give them up unto the conduct of those who, under a pretense thereof, shall cause them to err with lies and delusions; which further seals them up unto their future ruin, 2 Thessalonians 2:11-12.

And these are some of the ways whereby God dealeth with barren ground, with fruitless and provoking professors, even whilst they are in this world. It is true, these judgments being spiritual, and they being now become wholly carnal, they are for the most part little sensible of them. God, indeed, doth sometimes cause the dread and terror of his wrath so to fall upon the consciences of some of them, as that in this world they are made a spectacle of divine vengeance; but for the most part, being filled with their lusts, and sins, and pleasures, they carry it out bravingly to the end. Howbeit few of them escape such reflections on themselves as makes them sometimes to shrink and groan. But suppose they should be able to carry it out stoutly in this world, so that themselves should neither much feel nor others much observe the curse of God upon them here, yet the day is hastening wherein actual burning, and that for ever, will be their portion.


Verses 9-12

Expositors generally agree in giving these verses as an instance of the great wisdom and prudence used by the apostle in his dealing with these Hebrews. Chrysostom in especial insists upon it, making observations unto that purpose on all the considerable passages in the context. What is really of that nature will occur unto us, and shall be observed in our progress. His design in general is twofold: —

First, To mollify the severity of the preceding commination, and prediction contained therein, that it might not have an effect on their minds beyond his intention. He knew that, all circumstances considered, it was necessary for him to make use of it; but withal he was careful that none of them who were sincere should be terrified or discouraged. For if men are disanimated in the way wherein they are engaged, by those on whose guidance they depend, and unto whose judgment they are to submit, it makes them despond and give over thoughts of a cheerful progress. Wherefore in all cases our apostle was exceeding careful not in any thing to make heavy or sorrowful the hearts of his disciples, unless it were in case of extreme necessity. Hence is his apology or excuse, as it were, to the Corinthians for having put them to sorrow by some severe reproofs in his former letter to them, 2 Corinthians 2:1-2 :

“But I determined this with myself, that I would not come again unto you in heaviness. For if I make you sorry, who is he then that maketh me glad, but the same which is made sorry by me?”

He lets them know, that whatever sorrow he had put them to, it was so unto himself no less than unto them, seeing they were the chiefest causes of his joy and gladness. And thus dealeth he in this place with the Hebrews. Lest they should be amazed with the terror of the preceding commination, and the prediction therein contained of the inevitable and dreadful ruin of slothful apostates and hypocrites, he lets them know that he did no way therein determine or pass a judgment on them, their state and condition. But having far other thoughts and hopes concerning them, and the end of their profession, he yet judged it necessary to excite them unto that diligence which some among them had neglected to use, by declaring the miserable end of those who always abide unfruitful under, or do apostatize from, the profession of the gospel. Herein doth he steer a direct and equal course between the extremes in admonition. For he neither useth so much lenity as to enervate his reproof and warning, nor so much severity as to discourage or provoke those who are warned by him. In a word, he layeth weight upon things, and spareth persons; the contrary whereunto is the bane of all spiritual admonition.

Secondly, He maketh use of this discourse for a transition unto the second part of his design. And this was, to propose unto them who were true believers such encouragements and grounds of consolation as might confirm and establish them in their faith and obedience; which are the subjects of the remaining part of this chapter. Wherefore, as, to make way for the severe threatenings which he hath used, it was necessary for him to describe the persons unto whom they did in an especial manner belong, so it was no less requisite that he should describe those also unto whom the ensuing promises and consolations do pertain; which he doth in these verses.

Hebrews 6:9. πεπείσμεθα δὲ περὶ ὑμῶν, ἀγαπητοί, τὰ κρείττονα καὶ ἐχόμενα σωτηρίας, εἰ καὶ οἵ τω λαλοῦμεν.

πεπείσμεθα, “persuasi sumus,” “confidimus.” Bez., “persuasimus nobis,” “we are persuaded.” ᾿αλαπητοί. Syr., אֲחַי, “my brethren.” Vulg., “dilectissimi.” Rhem., “we confidently trust of you, my best beloved.” τὰ κρείττονα, “meliora.” Syr., אֵילֵין דְּשַׁפִירֵין, “ea quae sunt bona, pulchra;” “the things that are good or comely.” καὶ ἐχὸμενα σωτηρίας. Syr., וְקַרַיְבָן לְחַיֵּא, “and such as draw near to life;” that is, eternal. Vulg. Lat., “et viciniora saluti.” Rhem., “and nearer to salvation.” Others generally, “et cum salute conjuncta.” Ours, “and such as accompany salvation;” very properly.

Hebrews 6:9. — But we are persuaded of you, beloved, better things, and such as accompany salvation, although we thus speak.

The especial design of the apostle, in this and the following verses, is to declare his good-will towards the Hebrews, his judgment of their state and condition, the reasons and grounds of that judgment, with the proper use and end of the commination before laid down, that neither theft might be neglected nor themselves discouraged. This verse contains,

1. An expression of his love and good-will towards them;

2. His judgment of them;

3. The reason of his present declaration of both these, with respect unto what he had spoken before unto them, namely, that although he had spoken it unto them, he did not speak it of them.

1. His love and good-will he testifies in his compellation, ἀγαπητοί, “beloved.” It is an expression of most entire affection, and is never used in the Gospels but to express the love of God the Father unto his Son Jesus Christ, Matthew 3:17; Matthew 12:18; Matthew 17:5; Mark 1:11; Mark 9:7; Mark 12:6; Luke 3:22; Luke 9:35; Luke 20:13. By the apostles in their epistles it is frequently applied unto believers, especially by Paul, in all those written by him: we might therefore pass it over, as that word which it was usual with him to express his sincere affection by towards all saints. But there seems to be a twofold reason of its especial introduction in this place, both of them respected in the wisdom of our apostle.

(1.) Perhaps these Hebrews were ready enough to entertain jealousies concerning him, that he had not that affection for them which he had for others. For he had now spent a long time with and among the Gentiles, for their conversion and edification. Among them he had planted very many churches, and that on one point contrary to the judgment of most of these Hebrews, namely, in a liberty from the law and the ceremonies of Moses. In this long converse and work, they might suspect that he had lost his natural love to his countrymen, as is usual in such cases, and as he was much accused to have done. To root this evil surmise out of their minds, as he useth frequently other affectionate compellations in this epistle, so he here calls them his “beloved;” than which he had used no expression of greater endearment towards any of his Gentile converts. And notwithstanding all the provocations and injuries he had received from them, he gave on all occasions the highest demonstration of the most intense affection towards them; never opposing them nor reflecting on them with any severity, but only then and wherein they opposed the gospel and the liberty thereof. This affection was such for them, as his countrymen and kinsmen in the flesh, as that he could willingly have died that they might be saved, Romans 9:2-3. And for this he prayed continually, Romans 10:1. And the addition of love that was made in him upon their conversion cannot be expressed. (2.) He hath respect unto his preceding severe expressions, as is plain from the close of this verse, “though we thus speak.” As if he had said,

‘Notwithstanding this severe admonition, which I have, upon the consideration of all circumstances, been forced to use, yet my heart stands no otherwise affected towards you but as towards my countrymen, brethren, and saints of God.’And thus, —

Obs. 1. It is the duty of the dispensers of the gospel to satisfy their hearers in and of their love in Jesus Christ to their souls and persons.

2. The apostle expresseth his judgment concerning these Hebrews, “We are persuaded better things of you, and such as accompany salvation;wherein we have, first, the act of his mind in this matter: πεπείσμεθα, “We are persuaded.” Chrysostom insists much on the force of this word. The apostle, as he observes, doth not say, ‘We think,’or ‘We hope;’but he was fully “persuaded.” He lets them know that he was fully satisfied in this matter. And he useth not this word anywhere in his epistles (as he useth it often), but he intends a full and prevalent persuasion. Now this a man may have in spiritual things on three grounds:

(1.) By especial revelation; so he was certain of the truth of the gospel that was revealed unto him, which he discourseth of, Galatians 1:7-8.

(2.) By the evidence of faith; when any thing is believed on grounds infallible, namely, the revelation of the mind of God in the Scripture, or the promises of the gospel. So he useth this word, Romans 8:38, πεπείσμεθα γάρ, — “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life,” etc. This he believed, and had an infallible certainty thereof, because God had so promised. So also, 2 Timothy 1:12 : οι῏δα γὰρ ᾧ πεπίτεωκα, καὶ πέπεισμαι ὅτι δυνατός ἐστι τὴν παρακαταθήκην μου φυλάξαι — “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed to him.” He useth the same expression in matter of faith, Romans 14:14.

(3.) There is a certain persuasion of mind, that is founded on moral arguments, such as may bring a man to a full satisfaction in his mind, but yet so as it is possible he may be deceived. Of this nature is that persuasion, that trust or confidence, which we have of the good condition of other men. So our apostle speaks of Timothy and his faith, 2 Timothy 1:5 : “The faith that dwelt in thy mother Eunice, πέπεισμαι δὲ ὅτι καὶ ἐν σοί,” — “and I am persuaded in thee also.” He was not persuaded of any sincere faith in Timothy by especial revelation, nor was it the object of his faith from any express word of Scripture, but he was satisfied of it upon such unquestionable grounds and motives as left no room for doubt about it. Some urge to the same purpose Philippians 1:6, πέποιθὼς αὐτὸ τοῦτο, — “Being confident of this very thing,” (persuaded of it), “that he who hath begun a good work in you, will perform it to the day of Jesus Christ.” But this persuasion, being built on a supposition that a good work was begun in them, was an act of faith infallible, built on the promises of God and the changeableness of his covenant. His persuasion here concerning the Hebrews was of this latter kind, even that which he had satisfactory reasons and grounds for, which prevailed against all contrary objections. In like manner he speaks of the Romans, Romans 15:14. πέποιθὼς αὐτὸ τοῦτο, — “And I myself am persuaded of you, my brethren, that ye are full of goodness.” The grounds of this persuasion with respect unto the Hebrews, he expresseth in the next verse, where we shall consider them.

Obs. 2. It is our duty to come unto the best satisfaction we may in the spiritual condition of them with whom we are to have spiritual communion.

There is not any thing of our mutual duties that the gospel more presseth, or more supposeth. And it is necessary both unto ministers and private Christians. For the former, they are concerned in the advice of the wise man, Proverbs 27:23, “Be thou diligent to know the state of thy flocks.” They are not only to provide good pasture and feeding for them, but they must know their state and condition, that what they provide for them may be suitable and seasonable. And unto this end there were at first some in the church who had the immediate inspection of the state and walking of the members of it, and were thereby enabled, as Moses said to his father-in-law, Numbers 10:31, to be “instead of eyes” unto the teachers, to look into the condition of all sorts of persons. Nor can they without it discharge any one duty of their office in a due manner. For ministers to walk towards their people at “peradventure,” and to “fight uncertainly, as men beating the air,” without an acquaintance with their state, and especial consideration of their condition, and what therein is suited unto their edification (as is the manner of many), will leave them at a great uncertainty how to give in their account. See Hebrews 13:17. Unless a man have some good satisfaction concerning the spiritual condition of those that are committed unto his charge, he can never approve himself among them “a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth,” to give unto all their proportion. And the work of the ministry is not by any means more evacuated and rendered ineffectual, than when men have not a certain design to deal with their hearers according unto what they are persuaded that their spiritual state doth require. How shall they instruct, how shall they warn, how shall they comfort any, but on a supposition of an acquaintance with the state and condition wherein they are? A general preaching at random, without a special scope, directed by the persuasion mentioned, turns the whole work for the most part, both in preachers and hearers, into a useless formality. In brief, this persuasion principally regulates the whole work of the ministry. He that is a physician unto the bodies of men, must acquaint himself with the especial state and condition of his patients, as also of their distempers, wherein his skill and judgment are especially to be exercised. Without that, let him be furnished with the greatest store of good medicines, if he give them out promiscuously unto all comers, all that he doth will be of little use. It may be, his medicines being safe, they will do no harm; and it is as probable they will do as little good. Nor will it be otherwise with the physicians of souls in the like case.

Four things are required to make the dispensation of the word proper and profitable; a good spring, a safe rule, a distinct design, and enlivening affections.

(1.) The first is the dispenser’s own light and experience. He is to see in his work with his own eyes, and not those of other men. And when he is by his own light as a scribe instructed unto the kingdom of God, it is out of the good treasure of his own heart that he is to bring forth good things, new and old.

(2.) His safe rule is the infallible word of truth. This must be the touchstone of his light and experience. And it is suited unto his whole work, unto all the duties of it, 2 Timothy 3:16-17. In nothing but what is regulated hereby are any to be attended unto, Isaiah 8:20.

(3.) His distinct design lies in the due consideration of the spiritual state and condition of them unto whom the word is to be dispensed. And herein consists the greatest part of the ministerial skill. This is that which secretly differenceth the constant ministerial dispensation of the word from the occasional exercise of the gifts of any. And this doth God make use of to convey unexpected relief or repose unto the souls of men, wherewith they are surprised and affected. If we have not this scope continually before us, we may run apace, but never know whether we are in or out of the way.

(4.) The enlivening affections that ought to accompany the dispensation of the word, are zeal for the glory of God and compassion for the souls of men. But these things must not here be insisted on. And for private Christians among themselves, their mutual duties are referred unto love and the fruits of it. That special love which ought to be among the disciples of Christ as such, takes up, in the description, injunctions, and directions of it, a great part of the writings of the New Testament. Nothing doth the Lord Christ himself and his apostles so urge upon them as this of mutual love. Upon the right discharge of this duty he frequently declares that his honor in them and by them in this world doth principally depend. And whatever we have besides this, our apostle declares that it is nothing, or of no use in the church of God, 1 Corinthians 13. And the greatest evidence of the degeneracy of Christianity in the world, consists in the open loss of this love amongst those who make profession thereof.

[1.] Now this love is founded in our persuasion concerning the spiritual state and condition of each other. I mean, that especial mutual love is so which ought to be among the disciples of Christ as such. For although we are on other grounds obliged unto a love towards all mankind, whether friends or enemies, yet that peculiar love which the gospel so chargeth on the disciples of Christ is an effect of, and is built upon their common and mutual interest in Christ. They are to love one another as members of rite same mystical body, and united unto the same spiritual Head. Whatever love there may be on other accounts among any of them, which doth not arise from this spring and fountain, it is not that gospel love which ought to be among believers. And how can this be in us, unless we have a good persuasion concerning our mutual interest and in-being in Christ? God forbid that any should press that peculiarly intense love that ought to be among the members of the body of Christ, to take off or derogate from that general love and usefulness which not only the law of our creation but the gospel also requireth of us in an especial manner towards all men; yea, he who professeth love unto the saints, that peculiar love which is required towards them, and doth not exercise love in general towards all men, — much more if he make the pretense of brotherly love the ground of alienating his affection from the residue of mankind, — can have no assurance that the love he so professeth is sincere, incorrupt, genuine, and without dissimulation. But this special love is the special duty of us all, if we believe the gospel, and without which foundation well laid we can rightly discharge no other mutual duty whatever. Now this, as is evident, we cannot have unless we have a persuasion of the only ground of this love, which is our mutual relation unto Jesus Christ. And to act this love aright as to its object, as grounded on this persuasion, take heed of “evil surmises;” — these are the bane of evangelical love, though some seem to make them their duties. Those concerning whom we hear that they make profession of faith and obedience towards our Lord Jesus Christ, and know not that they any way contradict their profession by wicked works, we are obliged to bear the same love towards as if we knew them sincere. For “charity hopeth all things,” namely, that are good, if we have no certain evidence to the contrary. And thus in general we may have this persuasion concerning “all that in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours.” We have no obligation, indeed, hereunto, towards such as visibly and evidently walk unworthy of that high calling whereby we are called. For concerning such our apostle assures us, that whatever they profess, they are

“enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is their shame, who mind earthly things,” Philippians 3:18-19.

It is a dishonor, a reproach to Christ and the gospel, that we should persuade ourselves that they are his disciples, and members of his mystical body, whom we see to walk after the manner of the world, and to have their conversation in the lusts of the flesh. These we are still to love, as those who once had, and are yet capable of the renovation of, the image of God upon them; but they proclaim themselves destitute of all those qualifications which are the formal object and reason of this peculiar love.

[2.] The Lord Christ hath, by his institution, secured us as to a certain rule of this persuasion and love, by the disposal of his disciples into church societies upon such grounds as are a sufficient warranty for it. Thus our apostle, in all his epistles unto the churches, salutes, esteems, judgeth them all to be “saints, and called in Christ Jesus.” For although some of them might not be so really and in the sight of God, yet his persuasion and his love being directed according to the rule, were acceptable unto Christ. And whereas our Lord Jesus hath commanded that all his disciples should join themselves unto and walk in such societies, were there not great confusion brought into the world in and about gospel institutions, we should not be atloss about this persuasion and love; for we should be obliged unto them towards all that are called Christians, until they had openly declared themselves to be “enemies of the cross of Christ.” But we are yet suffering under the confusion of a fatal apostasy, which God in his good time will deliver his churches from.

[3.] As we cannot direct our love aright without this persuasion, no more can we exercise any of the duties or fruits of it in a due manner. The fruits of mutual love among Christians are either in things spiritual, which concern edification; or in things temporal, which concern outward relief. Of the first sort, are admonition, exhortation, instructions, and consolations, mutually administered. Now, how can any man order or make use of these in a right manner, unless he have some directive persuasion of the spiritual condition of them unto whom he doth administer? It is true he may sometimes be therein mistaken; yet it is far better so to be than never to consider what is meet and requisite with respect thereunto. And as for the fruits of the same love in outward things, although they ought to be brought forth in the temporal supplies of all, according to our opportunities and abilities, yet without this persuasion they will want the quickening form and soul of them; which is a design to place our love in them ultimately on Jesus Christ.

Obs. 3. We may, as occasions require, publicly testify that good persuasion which we have concerning the spiritual condition of others, and that unto themselves.

Our apostle here acquaints these Hebrews with his good persuasion concerning them; and likewise in all his epistles he still declares his hope and confidence of their blessed interest in Christ unto whom he wrote; and spares not to give them all the titles which really belong only to elect believers. Now, as this is not to be done lightly, not in a way of flattering compliance, not but upon just and firm grounds from Scripture, least of all to give countenance unto any to continue in an evil way or practice; yet in three cases it is warrantable and requisite: —

(1.) When it is done for their due encouragement. Gracious persons, through their temptations, fears, and sense of sin; yea, whole churches, upon occasion of trials, distresses, and backslidings among them; may so be cast down and despond, as to be discouraged in their duties and progress. In this case it is not only lawful, but expedient, yea necessary, that we should testify unto them that good persuasion which we have concerning their state and condition, with the grounds thereof, as the apostle doth in this place. So in like case testified our Savior himself concerning and unto the church of Smyrna: “I know thy poverty,” what thou complainest of, and art ready to sink under; “but thou art rich,” Revelation 2

(2.) It may and ought to be done for their just vindication. The disciples and churches of Christ may be falsely accused and charged, and yet it may be with so much probability, or at least appearance of evil, as that they may greatly suffer in their just reputation, whereby the holy name of the Lord Christ is also dishonored. He who falsely accuseth all the brethren before God continually, wants not instruments to fix calumnies upon them among men here below. In such a case it is our indispensable duty to testify our good persuasion concerning them, be they persons or churches, who are so traduced. And if we do it not, we have a copartnership in the guilt of their enemies’false accusations.

(3.) When we have any necessary duty to discharge towards them, which this testification of our persuasion concerning them may render more effectual, or prevent it having another end than what we aim at, or remove any prejudice out of its way. This was the very case wherein the apostle testifieth his persuasion concerning them unto these Hebrews. His design was to admonish them of some faults, sins, and miscarriages, that had already been among them; and, moreover, to charge them with a care about apostasy from the gospel, which the way wherein some of them were seemed to have a tendency unto. But lest this his dealing with them, which had an appearance of much severity, should have begotten prejudices in their minds against his person and ministry on the one hand, or too much dejected and cast them down on the other, he secures his procedure on both sides with this testification of his confidence concerning their spiritual condition; thereby at once assuring them of his love, and evidencing the necessity of his admonition. And herein hath he, in the example of the wisdom bestowed on him for this end, given us an inviolable rule of our proceeding in like cases.

Obs. 4. The best persuasion we can arrive unto concerning the spiritual condition of any, leaves yet room, yea, makes way for, gospel foreatenings, warnings, exhortations, and encouragements. There is nothing more common than to charge the ways of some, that, by persuading men of their regeneration and saintship, they render them secure, and the threatenings of the gospel in an especial manner unuseful unto them. Neither is there any question but that this, as all other ways of God and his grace, may be abused. But those who manage the charge in general may do well to fix it in the first place on the apostles. For there are not any of them but testify the same persuasion concerning all them to whom they wrote; and there is no doubt but that their way of preaching and writing was the same. But yet this hindered them not from the use of all sorts of evangelical comminations, exhortations, and encouragements; from whence we are to take our example and warranty for the same practice. This, therefore, lies evident in their procedure, which is our instruction and rule, namely, that looking on men as believers, or being persuaded of their good spiritual condition, we yet ought to apply unto them all the means appointed by Christ for the begetting, increase, and continuance of grace in them. And the reasons hereof are evident; for,

(1.) Although that persuasion which men may have of their spiritual condition, or which others may have or declare concerning them, may strengthen their peace, yet it neither doth nor ought to incline them unto security. “Thou standest by faith,” saith the apostle; “be not high-minded, but fear,” Romans 11:20; — ‘Take the peace and comfort of thy faith, but be neither proud nor secure.’Where there is any such effect hereof, towards a Laodicean security, there is a just ground to suspect that the persuasion itself is a pernicious mistake. And it is the duty of all professors to give heed diligently lest any such “root of bitterness” spring up amongst them and defile them. If once a persuasion of this good condition begins to influence towards security and a neglect of duty, then ought they to be in the highest jealousy concerning their condition itself.

(2.) Whatever men’s state and condition be under the gospel, they are still obliged unto the means appointed for their edification and preservation. Amongst all the vain imaginations about religious things vented in these latter days, there is none savours more rankly of satanical pride and human folly than that of such a state of perfection attainable in this life, wherein, as it is phrased, men should be “above ordinances;” that is, should be “vainly puffed up in their fleshly minds,” above the authority, and wisdom, and truth of God. Whilst we are in the way, under the conduct of the gospel, we need all the advantages it affords in our progress. Of this sort are all the threatenings, promises, exhortations, encouragements, contained in it. And the proper use of gospel threatenings in particular, such as that here insisted on by our apostle, I have declared at large on the first and second verses of the fourth chapter, and shall not here again insist thereon.

It followeth hence,

(1.) That whatever be the state and condition of them unto whom we dispense the word, or whatever we may conceive it to be, we are not, with respect thereunto, to baulk or waive the delivery and pressing of any evangelical warning, or the severest threatening contained in the gospel, much less encouragements and motives unto faith and obedience, though we are persuaded they both believe and obey. For as it is not impossible but that both they and we may be mistaken in their condition, and that the severest menaces may be their proper portion in the world; so, be their condition what it will, all these things have not only their proper use towards them, but are necessary for them in their several kinds. For although they, every one of them as singly laid down, are of the same signification in themselves, yet in their application unto men they have a sense suited unto their condition. For instance: — the same threatening, as applied unto unbelievers, tends to beget dread, terror, and fear of wrath in them, to fill them with evidences of God’s displeasure: as applied unto believers, it tends only to fill them with reverential fear of God, care to avoid the sin threatened, and to excite diligence in the use of means for its avoidance. All of them are good for all. As, therefore, if we should always, in the dispensation of the word, insist on the threatenings of the law and gospel, — whose denunciation multitudes do certainly stand need of, — we might weaken and discourage those whom God would not have to be discouraged; so, on the other hand, if, out of an apprehension that our people or congregations are made up of believers, we should continually insist on the promises of the gospel, with the like springs of consolation, seldom or never pressing on them the threatenings and severe menaces thereof, we should certainly defraud them of a blessed means which God hath ordained for their edification and preservation in faith. The holy intermixture of all these things in the Scripture itself is to be our rule, and not any imagination of our own.

(2.) That others should not think themselves severely dealt with, when they are pressed on and urged with the severest threatenings of the gospel. Let them not say or think in their hearts, ‘This preacher looks upon us as persons unregenerate, or hypocrites; perhaps out of ill-will unto us.’It is certain that on such occasions men are apt to give place to such surmises; for an apprehension thereof is the reason why the apostle maketh as it were this apology for the use of the foregoing severe commination. As if he had said, ‘Do not you entertain any hard thoughts or evil surmises concerning me or my dealing with you in this matter. There are other reasons of my thus dealing with you; for as unto your personal interest in the grace of Christ, I have as yet a good persuasion, although I thus speak.’And let others take heed lest they fall into any such apprehension, which will certainly defeat them of the wholesome fruit of the word. Sharp frosts are needful to make the ground fruitful, as well as the clearest sunshine. And if a tree be not sometimes pressed on by the wind, it will never well firm its roots in the ground. Sharp reproofs, and earnestness in pressing gospel comminations, are sometimes as needful for the best of us as the administration of the richest and most precious promises, Hosea 10:11.

3. Having considered in general the good persuasion of the apostle concerning those Hebrews, we may consider in especial his expression of the things which he was so persuaded to be in them. And this is double:

(1.) τὰ κρείττονα, — “Better things;”

(2.) ᾿εχόμενα σωτηρίας, — “Such as accompany salvation.”

(1.) He was persuaded concerning them τὰ κρείττονα, — “better things.” There seems to be a comparison included in this expression, and not only an opposition unto what was [formerly] spoken. If so, then there is a supposition of some good things granted unto those [formerly] treated of. This therefore cannot refer unto the verses immediately before, which express only their barrenness and destruction, but it must relate unto verses 4-6, where the spiritual gifts collated on them are enumerated. They are “good things” in themselves, but yet such good things as may perish, and they also on whom they are bestowed. Those who enjoy them may yet be barren ground, and so cursed and burned. But the apostle is persuaded “better things” of those to whom he speaks, namely, “such things as accompany salvation;” — such as whosoever is made partaker of shall never perish eternally. Or τὰ κρείττονα may be put for τὰ χρηστά, “good things,” as Chrysostom supposeth. But yet neither is there any need of supposing an impropriety in the expression; for it is usual to express excellent things in words of the comparative degree, although no comparison be included, especially when they are made mention of with respect unto others who have no interest in them. However, here is certainly an opposition unto what was before affirmed concerning others. And that may be reduced unto two heads:

[1.] That they were barren and destitute of all saving grace and fruits.

[2.] That they should in the end be destroyed. These “better things” must be opposed to the one or other of these, or unto them both. If they are opposed unto the first, then especial saving grace and fruit-bearing, such as are peculiar unto God’s elect, proceeding from the real sanctification of the Spirit, such as no perishing gifted hypocrites can be partakers of, are intended. If unto the latter, then those “better things” respect not their qualification, but their condition; that is, freedom from the curse and wrath of God, and from perishing under them: ‘I am persuaded it will go better with you than with such apostates.’It may be both are included; but the first is certainly intended, namely, that these Hebrews were not barren, but such as brought forth the saving fruits of the Spirit of grace.

(2.) For of these things it is added, καὶ ἐχόμενα σωτηρίας, — “Such as accompany salvation:” literally, “such as have salvation;” that is, such as have saving grace in them, and eternal salvation infallibly annexed unto them, — things that are not bestowed on any, such as are not wrought in any, but those that shall be saved; that is, in brief, true faith and sincere obedience. For in whomsoever these are found, they shall be saved, by virtue of the faithfulness of God in the covenant of grace. And we may observe hence, —

Obs. 5. That among professors of the gospel some are partakers of “better things” than others.

They were all professors concerning whom the apostle discourseth in this and the preceding verses; and yet, notwithstanding any good things that some might have had, or might be supposed to have had, others of them had better things than they. And this difference may be observed, first in the degrees, and secondly in the kinds of the things intended: —

(1.) Spiritual gifts are of one kind. For although there are several sorts of them, yet they have all the same general nature; they are all gifts, and no more. The difference, therefore, that is amongst them being not to be taken from their own especial nature, but their use and tendency unto the common end of them all, I take it only to be gradual. For instance, to speak with tongues and to prophesy, are two gifts of different sorts; but whereas they are both gifts of the Spirit, and are designed unto the furtherance of the gospel and edification of the church, the true difference between them is to be taken from their usefulness unto this end. Those, therefore, who have only gifts in the church, as they have different gifts, so they have some of them better gifts than others; some as to the especial kinds of gifts, but mostly as to the degrees of their usefulness unto their proper end. Hence our apostle, having reckoned up the various and manifold gifts of the Spirit, adds this advice unto the Corinthians, upon the consideration of them, ζηλοῦτε δὲ τὰ χαρίσματα τὰ χρείττονα, 1 Corinthians 12:31; “Covet earnestly the best gifts,” — those that tend most to the edification of the church. Thus ever it was, and ever it will be, in the church of God; some have had, and some have better gifts than others. And as the whole church is hence to learn to acquiesce in, and submit to the sovereignty of the Spirit of God, “who divideth unto every man severally as he will;” so those who have received these better and differing gifts, either in their especial nature or degrees of usefulness, have some duties singularly incumbent on them, and whose discharge will be required at their hands: as, —

[1.] To walk humbly, with a constant care that a sense of their gifts and abilities do not in their minds puff them up, fill them with conceits of themselves, as though they were somewhat, and so make them exalt themselves above their brethren, in the apostolical and primitive church, when there was nothing of that secular grandeur, promotion, preferments, dignities, amongst the ministers of the church, as now-a-days fill the world with pride and domination, all the danger of a hurtful elation of mind in one above another was from the eminency of gifts which some had received above others. And it cannot be denied but that the abuse hereof laid the foundation of all that swelling secular pride and cursed domination, or lordly rule, which afterwards pestered the church. The two things which the apostle Peter in one place cautions and chargeth the elders and guides of the church against, became their ruin, namely, filthy lucre, and love of domination over the Lord’s heritage, 1 Peter 5:2-3. And, indeed, it is a very hard and difficult matter for men totally to suppress those insinuations of a good conceit of themselves, and preferring themselves before others, which gifts singular in their use and kind will suggest. Neither will it be effected without a constant exercise of grace. For this cause the apostle would not have a “novice” called to the ministry, or public exercise of spiritual gifts, namely, “lest he be puffed up with pride, and fall into the condemnation of the devil,” 1 Timothy 3:6. Afflictions and temptations for the most part, are a needful balance for eminent gifts. This, therefore, the Scripture hath provided against, both warning us that knowledge, which is the matter of all spiritual gifts, will puff up; and forbidding us to boast in them, because they are things which are freely bestowed on us, without respect unto any thing of good or worth in ourselves, 1 Corinthians 4:7. And, if we reckon aright, those of us whose gifts are inferior unto those of other men, — provided we use and improve what we have received unto the best advantage we are able, — have no reason to envy them whose gifts outshine ours. For, if they are gracious, they have work enough cut out for them to keep them watchful over themselves unto humility; where yet it is to be feared that things do not always so well succeed, but that, by sinful surprisals of self-elating imaginations, there is work made for repentance and trouble. Yea, he who is eminently gifted, if he be not eminently humble, hath but an unquiet life within doors. And if such a person be not truly gracious, he is in the ready way to “fall into the condemnation of the devil.” Such a person is a prey to every temptation, and will also seduce himself into all evil.

[2.] It is required of such persons, as to be humble, so in an especial manner to be thankful. The things whereof they are partakers are gifts, and not to be thankful for gifts, is the most proper ingratitude.

[3.] A fruitfulness proportionable unto the excellency of their gifts. He who had received five talents was not only obliged to trade with them, but to get five talents more. The increase of one or two talents would not have served his turn. To whom much is given, of him not somewhat, but much is required. The hiding of many talents is a sin whereof there is no instance in the Scripture; it is a sin that hath a greatness in it not to be supposed; and those who may be concerned in it ought to tremble with the apprehensions of it. Our Lord is coming, and, alas! there is none of us who have traded with his talents as we ought to have done. We hope that, in his infinite mercy and compassion, he will spare and pardon, and accept of that little which we have endeavored after in sincerity; but in the. meantime we ought always to consider that labor and fruitfulness ought to be proportioned unto what we have received. But yet these are not the “better things” here directly intended. For from them, or any thing that is in the best of them, no such conclusion can be made as that here by our apostle, seeing he had showed before that they might all perish and be lost.

(2.) There are spiritual things which differ in their whole kind and nature from other things, and are better than they as to their essence and being. Such is all saving grace, with all the fruits of it. I shall not now stay to prove that true saving grace differs specifically from all common grace, however advanced in its exercise by the company and help of spiritual gifts, much less to wrangle about what doth formally constitute a specifical difference between things. But this I say plainly, which I can prove assuredly, that true gospel faith and sincere obedience are better things than the most glorious hypocrite or most reformed unregenerate person was ever made partaker of. In the visible professing church all things outwardly seem to be equal. There are the same ordinances administered unto all, the same profession of faith is made by all, the same outward duties are attended unto, and scandalous offenses are by all avoided. But yet things are not internally equal. “Many are called, but few are chosen.” “In a great house there are vessels of wood and stone,” as well as of “gold and silver.” All that eat outwardly in ordinances of the bread of life, do not feed on the hidden manna. All that have their names enrolled in the church’s book may not yet have them written in the Lamb’s book. There are yet. “better things” than gifts, profession, participation of ordinances, and whatever is of the like nature. And the use hereof, in one word, is to warn all sorts of persons that they rest not in, that they take not up with an interest in or participation of, the privileges of the church, with a common profession, which may give them a name to live; seeing they may be dead or in a perishing condition in the meantime.

Obs. 6. There are, according to the tenor of the covenant of grace, such things bestowed on some persons as salvation doth infallibly accompany and ensue upon; better things, and such as have salvation accompanying of them. — This assertion is founded on the nature of the covenant of grace. In the first covenant it was not so. The best things bestowed by virtue of it might perish, and did so. Many excellent things were bestowed on us when we were created in the image of God: but they were all such things as we might lose, and did lose; and thereby came short of that glory of God which we were created for. But in the covenant of grace there is such a disposal and concatenation of spiritual things, that a real participation of some of them doth infallibly conclude unto an indefeasible interest in them all. This doth the apostle assure us in an express enumeration of them, Romans 8:29-30. For instance, there is a saving faith of this nature. For,

(1.) It is an effect of God’s immutable purpose of election. If that, therefore, cannot be changed, this cannot utterly fail and be lost. “Whom he did predestinate, them he also calleth;” that is, to saving faith by Jesus Christ. Faith is of God’s elect; and they only believe truly who are “ordained to eternal life.”

(2.) The Lord Christ intercedeth that this faith may never fail, or be utterly lost, John 17:9; John 17:11; John 17:15, etc.

(3.) The power of God is engaged in the preservation of it, 2 Peter 1:3;1 Peter 1:5; Ephesians 1:19-20.

(4.) The promises of the covenant are expressly multiplied unto this purpose, Jeremiah 31:31-34; Jeremiah 32:38-40. And the like may be said of all other saving graces. And on this ground doth the apostle call those “better things” that these Hebrews were made partakers of, being “such as accompany salvation.”

Obs. 7. It is the duty of all professors strictly to examine themselves concerning their participation of those “better things which accompany salvation.” — Their condition is deplorable, who, under an outward profession, do satisfy themselves with those common gifts, graces, and duties, which are separable from salvation. Yet that it is so with many in the world, who thereon cry, “Peace, peace, whilst sudden destruction is coming upon them,” is openly manifest. See the advice of the apostle express to this purpose, 2 Corinthians 13:5.

We may yet further observe how variously the apostle treats these Hebrews. Sometimes he styles them “holy brethren,” affirming them to be “partakers of the heavenly calling;” so also, that they had those “better things” in them “which accompany salvation.” Sometimes he tells them that they were “dull” and “slothful,” and “had need to be taught again what are the principles of the oracles of God;” and sets before them the final destruction of apostates, to ingenerate a fear and apprehension of the terror of the Lord in them. Now this variety in the apostle’s treating of them proceeds not from present commotions, nor from any rhetorical artifice, but from a regular and steady judgment concerning the condition of the whole church. For,

(1.) There were, indeed, several sorts of professors among them, answering the several descriptions he gives of them. He spake, therefore, to the whole community indefinitely, leaving the especial application of what he speaks unto themselves in particular, according as their different conditions did require. And this is the only safe and prudent way for ministers to deal with their flocks. For when any conceive themselves by other circumstances to be singled out for reproof and threatening, they commonly draw forth disadvantage to themselves thereby.

(2.) The best of the hearers of the gospel may have much to be blamed in them, although their sincerity in general ought to be highly approved.

(3.) Severe threatenings in the dispensation of the gospel are usually proposed unto them who yet are not absolutely liable to the penalty threatened. They do not predict what will come to pass, but warn what is to be avoided.


Verse 10

οὐ γὰρ ἄδικος ὁ θεὸς, ἐπιλαθέσθαι τοῦ ἔργου ὑμῶν, καὶ τοῦ κόπου τῆς ἀγάπης, ἧς ἐνεδείξασθε εἰς τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ, διακονήσαντες τοῖς ἀγίοις και διακονοῦντες.

The Syriac renders ἄδικος by עָוָּל, “perversus,” “iniquus.” It omitteth κόπου also, as doth the Vulgar Latin; but expresseth τῆς ἀγάπης emphatically, — וְתוּבְכוּן הָו, and “that your love.” Other material differences among translators there are not. (7)

Hebrews 6:10. — For God is unrighteous, to forget your work, and the labor of that love which you have [evidently] shewed towards his name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister.

The expositors of the Roman church do greatly perplex themselves and others in their comments on this text. They generally agree in an endeavor from hence to prove the merit of works against Protestants, because the council of Trent applies this text to that purpose. And none are more confident herein than our Rhemists; who, after their usual reproaches of Protestants, affirm, ‘That good works are meritorious, and the very cause of salvation; so that God should be unjust if he rendered not heaven for the same.’But they are greatly divided among themselves about the state of the persons and kind of the works here intended. Some contend that the apostle speaks to and of such as were fallen out of a state of justification into a state of deadly sin. And the works of which it is said that God will not forget them, are those which they wrought in that estate from whence they were now supposed to be fallen. For on the account of those former works God will spare them, and not destroy them. And although there be no present merit in these works, whilst those who wrought them are in a state of deadly sin, yet when they shall be recovered by penance, these works, which were before mortified by their falling from grace, and so became of no use as to present merit, shall recover their former meritorious virtue, as if they had never been forfeited by deadly sin. This, therefore, is the sense which these persons would affix unto these words: ‘Where any have been in a state of justification, and have wrought good works therein, meritorious of eternal life, if they fall into deadly sin, they immediately lose all the merit and benefit of those works. But notwithstanding, God in his righteousness keeps the remembrance of these works, so that when such sinners return again by penance into their first estate, these works shall revive into a condition of merit.’This sense is opposed by others. For they think those mentioned are justified persons, and the apostle expresseth the merit of their present works, with respect unto the righteousness of God. The reader who desires to see such chaff tossed up and down, may find these things debated in Aquinas, Adamus, Estius, a Lapide, Ribera, Maldonatus, de Tena, and others of them on the place.

1. How foreign these discourses are to the text and context is evident to every impartial considerer of it. They are only chimeras hatched out of the proud imaginations of the merit of their works, that these men’s minds are prepossessed withal. For,

(1.) Our apostle treats of those whom he supposeth and judgeth to be in a present good spiritual condition. For with respect thereunto he ascribeth unto them “things that accompany salvation,” and prescribeth no other duty unto them, for the actual enjoyment of it, but only those of faith and love, and ministration unto the saints; which at present he commendeth in them. What they did formerly, that he affirms them to continue in the performance of: “You have ministered, and you do minister.”

(2.) The apostle expressly distinguisheth them concerning whom he now speaks from those who were now fallen off from the profession of the gospel, or that state of justification which the Romanists suppose.

(3.) He doth not direct these persons to seek after a recovery out of the condition wherein they were, but encourageth them unto a continuance therein, and to “show the same diligence” unto that purpose as formerly, “to the end,” verse 11. Nothing, therefore, is more fond than to suppose that any thing is here taught concerning the mortification of good works as to their merit by deadly sin, and the recovery thereof by penance, — a fiction which these men dream of to no purpose.

2. Neither is countenance given unto the other imagination in general, concerning the merit of works, in these words. For, first, the design of the apostle is only to let them know that their labor in the work of the Lord, that their obedience unto the gospel, should not be lost, or be in vain. And hereof he gives them assurance from the nature of God, with whom they had to do, with respect unto that covenant whereinto he takes them that do believe. They had been sedulous in the discharge of the great duty of “ministering unto the saints,” in particular upon the account of the name of Jesus Christ that was upon them. These duties had been attended with trouble, danger, and charge. And it was needful to confirm them in a persuasion that they should not be lost. This they might be two ways:

(1.) If themselves should fall away, and not persist in their course unto the end.

(2.) If God should overlook, or forget, as it were, all that they had done.

Against both these apprehensions the apostle secures them. From the first, in that the works mentioned having been truly gracious works, proceeding from faith and love, they evidence their persons to be in that state of grace wherein they should be effectually preserved unto the end, by virtue of God’s faithfulness in covenant; which he further pursues towards the end of the chapter. Nor, secondly, had they the least reason to doubt of their future reward. For who was it that called them to these duties, and on what account? Is it not God, and that according unto the tenor of the covenant of grace? and hath he not therein promised to accept their persons and their duties by Jesus Christ? If now he should not do so, would he not be unrighteous, must he not deny himself, and not remember his promise? Wherefore the righteousness of God here intended, is his faithfulness in the promises of the covenant. And he is not said to be righteous in rewarding or not rewarding, but in not forgetting: “He is not unrighteous to forget.” Now, to forget any thing doth not reflect immediately on distributive justice, but upon fidelity in making good of some engagement. But, not to engage into disputations in this place, let men acknowledge that the new covenant is a covenant of grace; that the constitution of a reward unto the obedience required therein is of grace; that this obedience is not accepted on its own account, but on account of the mediation of Christ; that all men’s good works will not make a compensation for one sin; that we are to place our trust and confidence in Christ alone for life and salvation, because he is “the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth;” and let them please themselves for a while in the fancy of the merit of their works, at least of the high and necessary place which they hold in their justification before God; — after all their wrangling disputes it will be Christ and his grace alone that they will betake themselves unto, or their case will be deplorable. These things I have premised, that we may have no cause to divert unto them in the ensuing exposition of the words. The apostle in this verse gives an account of the grounds of his persuasion concerning these Hebrews, expressed in the verse foregoing. And these he declares unto them partly for encouragement, and partly that they might be satisfied of his sincerity, and that he did not give them fair words to entice or allure them by. And the reasons he gives to this purpose may be reduced unto two heads: —

1. The observation which he had made concerning their faith and love, with the fruits of them.

2. The faithfulness of God in covenant, whereon the final preservation of all true believers doth depend.

These are the grounds of that persuasion concerning their state and condition which he expressed in the foregoing words. Hence that persuasion of his was of a mixed nature, and had something in it of a divine faith, and somewhat only of a moral certainty. As he drew his conclusion from, or built his persuasion on, God’s faithfulness or righteousness, so there was in it an infallible assurance of faith, that could not deceive him; for what we believe concerning God, as he hath revealed himself, is infallible. But as his persuasion had respect unto the faith, love, and obedience, which he had observed in them, so it was only a moral assurance, and such as in its own nature might fail; for God only is καρδιογνώστης and we who judge by the outward evidences of invisible things may be deceived. The proposition from God’s faithfulness is of infallible truth; the application of it unto these Hebrews of moral evidence only. Such a persuasion we may have in this case, which is prevalent against all objections, a certain rule for the performance of all duties on our part towards others; and such had the apostle concerning these Hebrews.

FIRST, That which in the first place he confirms his persuasion with, is τὸ ἔργον, “their work: “God is not unrighteous, to forget your work.” It is not any singular work, but a course in working which he intends, And what that work is, is declared in that parallel place of the same apostle, 1 Thessalonians 1:3, ΄νημονεύοντες ὑμῶν τοῦ ἔργου τῆς πίστεως, καὶ τοῦ κόπου τῆς ἀγάπης — (the same expressions with those in this place, which may be reckoned unto the multitude of other instances of coincidences of expressions in this and the other epistles of the same writer, all peculiar unto himself, arguing him to be the author of this also,) — “Remembering your work of faith, and labor of love.” The work here intended is the “work of faith,” the whole work of obedience to God, whereof faith is the principle and that which moves us thereunto. Hence it is called “the obedience of faith,” Romans 16:26.

And this obedience of faith according to the gospel is called there, τὸ ἔργον, “their work.”

1. Because it was their chief employment, their calling lay in it. They did not attend unto it occasionally, or when they had nothing else to do, as is the manner of some. Religion was their business, and gospel obedience their daily work. This was their “whole,” even to “fear God, and keep his commandments,” as it is expressed in the Old Testament.

2. Because there is work and labor in it, or great pains to be taken about it. For hereunto our apostle in the next verse requires their “diligence,” verse 11; as Peter doth “all diligence,” 2 Peter 1:10. And we may observe in our way, —

Obs. 1. That faith, if it be a living faith, will be a working faith.

It is the “work of faith” which the apostle here commends. This case is so stated by James that it needs no further confirmation: James 2:20, “Wilt thou know,” (or “knowest thou not,”) “O vain man, that faith without works is dead?” He is a most vain man who thinks otherwise, who hopes for any benefit by that faith which doth not work by love. Satan hath no greater design in the world than to abuse gospel truths. When the doctrine of free justification by faith, through the imputation of the righteousness of Christ, was first fully revealed and declared, his great design then was to persuade men that there was no need of obedience; and so they could attain any manner of persuasion of the truth of the gospel, or make profession thereof, they might live in sin as they pleased, and neglect all good works and duties of obedience. And although this be now condemned by all, yet indeed is it no more but what upon the matter most do practice according unto. For they suppose, that by being of this or that religion, Papists, or Protestants, or the like, they shall be saved, whatever their ways and works are. So Papists, for instance, are indeed the greatest Solifidians in the world. For to own the faith of the church is enough with them to secure the salvation of any. This abomination having been early started, was seasonably suppressed by the writings of James and John. For the former directly and plainly lays open the vanity of this pretense, declaring that that faith which they professed and boasted of was not the faith whereby any should be justified before God, nor of the same kind with it. For this faith is living, operative, and fruitful, and evidenceth itself unto all by its works and fruits; whereas that faith, whereof vain men living in their sins did boast, was so far from being a grace of the Spirit of God, that it was no other but what was in the devils themselves, and which they could not rid themselves of if they would. The latter, without expressing the occasion of it, spends his first epistle in declaring the necessity of love and obedience, or keeping the commandments of Christ. Wherefore the enemy of our salvation being defeated in this attempt, he betook himself unto the other extreme; contending that the works of faith had the same place in our justification with faith itself. ‘And why should they not? Are not faith and they equally acts of obedience in us? are not faith and they equally required by the gospel? why may they not be supposed to have an equal influence into our justification, — at least in the same kind, though faith on some considerations may have the pre-eminence?’I say these things are speciously pleaded; but in short, the design is not to advance works into an equality with faith, but to advance them into the room of Christ and his righteousness. For when we say we are justified by faith only, we do not say that faith is our righteousness, but as it apprehends the righteousness of Christ, as he is the end of the law for righteousness unto them that do believe. And this is the use that God hath designed faith unto, and which in its own nature it is suited for. But bring in the works of obedience into the same place, and they are of no use but to be imputed unto us for righteousness, and so to possess the place of Christ and his righteousness in our justification, unto their exclusion. But all this trouble might have been spared, if men had not been too ready and prone to receive impressions from the crafty actings of Satan against the purity and simplicity of the gospel. For nothing is more evidently expressed and taught therein than are these two things: —

1. That we are justified freely by faith, through the redemption that is in the blood of Christ, and so by the imputation of his righteousness unto us.

2. That the faith which hath this effect, which is of this use, is living, operative, fruitful, and will evidence itself by works, in obedience unto the commands of God. And this is that which here we contend for, namely, that a living faith will be a working faith. And he is a vain man that deceives himself with any thing else in the room thereof. And yet this is the course of multitudes. But yet men do not deceive themselves herein notionally, but practically. I never yet met with any man in my life who professed it as his judgment, that so he believed aright, he might live as he pleased, follow his lusts, and neglect all good works or holy duties of obedience; for this implies a contradiction. So to believe, is so far from believing aright, as that it contains in it a total rejection of the gospel. But practically we see that the generality of men content themselves with that knowledge they have of religion, and that faith which they suppose they have in Christ, without once endeavoring after amendment of life or fruitfulness in good works. Now this is not from any conclusions they draw from any doctrines which they profess to believe, but from the power of darkness and the deceitfulness of sin that ruleth in them. And it is no otherwise among them who are taught to believe that they are justified by their works. For there is not a race of greater and more flagitious sinners than, for the most part, are the men of that persuasion. Only, for their relief, their leaders have provided them with a commutation of some other things instead of their good works, which shall do the deed for them, as penances, pardons, purgatory, confessions, pilgrimages, and the like. But be men’s persuasion what it will, right or wrong, where sin is predominant they will be wicked; and whatever be the object of their faith, if it be not living in the subject, it cannot work nor be fruitful.

Obs. 2. We ought to look on obedience as our work, which will admit neither of sloth nor negligence.

Here lies the occasion of the ruin of the souls of many who profess the gospel. The duties of profession are a thing out of course unto them, and that which lies without the compass of their principal work and business in the world. This makes their profession serve to no other end but to make them secure in a perishing condition. Now, that our obedience may indeed be our work, it is required,

1. That the carrying of it on, the attendance unto it, and furtherance of it in order unto the glory of God, be our principal design in the world. That is a man’s ἴδιον ἔργον, his “proper work,” which is so. God severely threateneth those which walk with him at peradventures: Leviticus 26:21, וְאִםאּתֵּלְכוּ עִמִּי קֶרִי, — “If you shall walk with me fortuito, at haphazard;” that is, ‘without making it your principal design, and using your utmost diligence and care to proceed in it in a right manner: וְהָלַכְתּי אַף־אָנִי עִמָּכֶם בְּקֶרִי, Leviticus 26:24, “then will even I myself walk with you at all adventures;” ‘though I continue with you, as one walking with you, in my outward ordinances and institutions, yet will I have no regard unto you, as to do you any good, yea, I will sorely punish you notwithstanding the appearance of our walking together,’as it follows in the place. Yet is this the course of many, who please themselves in their condition. They walk with God in outward appearance, by the performance of duties in their times, course, and order; but they walk “at all adventures,” as unto any especial design of their minds about it. Barnabas exhorted the disciples at Antioch, that “with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord,” Acts 11:23; τῇ προθέσει τῆς καρδίας, — that is, with a firm resolution to abide in and pursue the obedience they were called unto. So Paul tells Timothy, that he “knew his doctrine, manner of life, and purpose,” 2 Timothy 3:10; namely, how his principal aim, design, and resolution, were to abide in and carry on his course of faith and obedience. And then is any thing the object of our purpose and principal design,

(1.) When we subordinate all other things and occasions unto it, that they may not jostle, nor interfere, nor stand in competition with it; when to us to live is Christ, or he is the chief end of our life. When men do usually and ordinarily suffer other things to divert them from duties of obedience in their season, obedience is not their principal design.

(2.) When it possesseth the chiefest place in our valuation and esteem. And this it doth absolutely where we attain that frame, that whilst the work of faith. and obedience thrives in our hearts and lives, we are not much moved with whatever else befalls us in this world. This was the frame of our apostle, Acts 21:13; Philippians 3:7-8. But because of the weakness and engagement of our natural affections unto the lawful comforts of this life, some are not able to rise unto that height of the undervaluation and contempt of these things, whilst the work of our obedience goes on, which we ought all to aim at. Yet we must say, that if there be any sincerity in making our obedience the principal design of our lives, there will be a constant preference of it unto all other things. As when a man hath many particular losses, he may be allowed to be sensible of them; yet if he have that still remaining wherein his main stock and wealth doth consist, he will not only be relieved or refreshed, but satisfied therewith. But if a man who pretends much unto a great stock and trade in another country, gives up all for lost upon some damages he receiveth at home in his house or shop, it is plain he hath no great confidence in the other treasure that he pretended unto. No more have men any especial interest in the work of obedience, which, whilst they suppose it to be safe, do yet lose all their comforts in the loss of other things. (3.) When any thing is the object of our chief design, the principal contrivances of our minds will be concerning it. And this makes the great difference in profession and duties. Men may multiply duties in a course of them, and yet their spirits not be engaged in and about them as their business. Consider how most men are conversant about their secular affairs. They do not only do the things that are to be done, but they beat, as we say, their heads and minds about them. And it is observed, that however industrious in their way many men may be, yet if they have not a good contrivance and projection about their affairs, they seldom prosper in them. It is so also in things spiritual. The fear of the Lord is our wisdom; it is our wisdom to keep his commandments and walk in his ways. Now the principal work of wisdom is in contriving and disposing the ways and methods whereby any end we aim at may be obtained. And where this is not exercised, there obedience is not our work. How temptations may be avoided, how corruptions may be subdued, how graces may be increased and strengthened, how opportunities may be improved, how duties may be performed to the glory of God, how spiritual life may be strengthened, peace with God maintained, and acquaintance with Jesus Christ increased, are the daily thoughts and contrivances of him who makes obedience his work.

2. Actual diligence and watchfulness is required in our obedience, if we do make it our work. And,

3. A due consideration of what doth and will rise up in position unto it, or unto us in it: which things being commonly spoken unto, I shall not here enlarge upon them.

The second thing whereon the apostle grounds his confidence concerning these Hebrews, is their “labor of love,” — καὶ τοῦ κόπου τῆς ἀγάπης ἀγάπης: for the words express a distinct grace and its exercise, and are not exegetical of the preceding expression. It is not, “Your work, that is, your labor of love;” but this “labor of love” is distinguished from their “work” in general, as an eminent part or instance of it This the copulative conjunction after ὑμῶν evinceth: τοῦ ἔργου ὑμῶν, καὶ τοῦ κόπου τῆς ἀγάπης·

of “your work,” that is, of obedience in general, the work of faith; “and of your labor of love,” namely, in particular and eminently. κόπου, as we observed, is passed by in some translations, but without cause; the original copies are uniform in it, and the parallel place doth expressly require it, 1 Thessalonians 1:3. There is in the remaining part of this verse, which depends on these words: —

1. What the apostle ascribes unto these Hebrews; which is the “labor of love.”

2. The way whereby they evidenced this labor of love; they “showed” it.

3. The object of it; and that is the “saints.”

4. The formal reason and principal motive unto it; which is the “name of God,” for his name’s sake.

5. The way of its exercise; it was by ministration, both past and present; “in that you have ministered, and do minister.”

In the first of these the apostle observes the grace itself, and its exercise, — their “love,” and its “labor.” This grace or duty being excellent and rare, and its exercise in labor being highly necessary and greatly neglected, and both in conjunction being a principal evidence of a good spiritual condition, of an interest in those “better things which accompany salvation,” I shall a little divert unto the especial consideration of them: —

First, ᾿αγάπη, “love,” is the second great duty of the life of God which is brought to light by the gospel. It is faith that gives glory to God on high, and love that brings peace on the earth; wherein the angels comprised the substance of our deliverance by Jesus Christ, Luke 2:14. Neither is there any thing of it in the whole world but what is derived from the gospel.

All things were at first made in a state of love. That rectitude, order, peace, and harmony, which were in the whole creation, was an impression from and an expression of the love of God. And our love towards him was the bond of that perfection, and the stability of that state and condition. The whole beauty of the creation below consisted in this, namely, in man’s loving God above all, and all other things in him and for him, according as they did participate of and express his glory and properties. This represented that love which was in God towards all his creatures, which he testified by declaring them to be all “very good.”

When man by sin had broken the first link of this chain of love, when thereby we lost the love of God to us, and renounced our own love unto him, all things fell into disorder and confusion in the whole creation, — all things were filled with mutual enmity and hatred. The first instance of mutual love among the creatures was that between angels and men, as those which were in the nearest alliance, and made for the same end, of the glory of God. For as the angels rejoiced in the whole creation of God, when those “morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy,” Job 38:7; so man, being the most capable object of their love, was their especial delight: and man being made to love God above all, and all other things in him and for him, his principal love must be fixed on those who had the most of the image, and made the most glorious representation of God. But the bond of love being dissolved, mutual enmity succeeded in the room thereof. And the first act of angelical obedience we read of, was their keeping man from a return into Eden, and eating of the tree of life, Genesis 3:24; and man could look on them only as flaming swords, ready to execute the wrath of God and the curse upon him. And this state would have continued unto eternity, had not God gathered all things again into one, both which are in heaven and which are in earth, even in Christ Jesus, Ephesians 1:10. There could never more have been any love, nor any duties of love, between angels and men, had not God restored all things by Jesus Christ. This is the only foundation of the whole ministry of angels in love, Hebrews 1:14. For men themselves, mutual enmity and hatred possessed them; and he who first acted in that frame and spirit which came upon them was a murderer, and slew his brother. And this the apostle proposeth as the instance and example of that hatred and enmity which is among men under the curse, 1 John 3:11-12. And there is no greater evidence of any person’s being uninterested in the restoration of all things by Christ, than the want of that love which was again introduced thereby. So the apostle, describing the condition of men in their unregenerate condition, affirms that they “live in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another,” Titus 3:3. There ensued also an enmity between man and all the creation here below. The sin of man had brought all things into a condition of vanity and bondage; which they groan to be delivered from, Romans 8:20-22. And the earth, the common mother of them all, as it were to revenge itself on man, brings forth nothing but thorns and thistles, Genesis 3:18; and yields not her strength to his labor, Genesis 4:12. Hence is all that vanity, vexation, and sore travail, which the life of man is filled withal. After the entrance of this disorder and confusion there was nothing of true original love in the world, nor was it by any means attainable; for it all arose from the love of God, and was animated by our love unto him. But now all things were filled with tokens and evidences of the anger, displeasure, and curse of God for sin; and men were wholly alienated from the life of God. No new spring or life could be given unto love, but by a new discovery that God was love, and had a love for us. For so the apostle tells us, “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins,” 1 John 4:10. But “if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another,” verse 11. No love could there be, until a fresh revelation was made that “God is love;” for the first which he had made, in the creation, was utterly lost. And this was done by Jesus Christ.

There was some stop made unto that confusion which ensued on the loss of this universal love, by the first promise; without which the whole lower creation would have been a hell, and nothing else. This was the spring of all that love which was in the old testament, because it was a new discovery that there was yet love in God towards fallen mankind. And whatever in the world may pretend thereunto, yet if it proceed not from the new revelation and discovery that “God is love,” it is nothing of that divine love which is required of us. And this is only in Christ; in him alone the χρηστότης and φιλανθρωπία, the “benignity and love of God unto mankind,” appeared, Titus 3:4. And here is a foundation laid and a spring opened of a love far more excellent than that which our nature was furnished and adorned withal in the first creation. For the love of God being the cause and fountain of ours, which is a compliance with the manifestation of it, the more eminently the love of God is manifested the more eminent is that love which is the fruit thereof. And God’s love is far more gloriously displayed in Christ than it was in all the works of his hands. In him alone we know not only that God hath love, but that he is love; that he hath love for sinners, and that such a love as, in the spring, means, and effects of it, is every way ineffable and incomprehensible.

The whole of what I intend is expressed by the apostle John, 1 John 4:7-12 :

“Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is horn of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not, knoweth not God; for God is love. In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.”

All that we have before affirmed, and much more, is here declared by the apostle. It is God’s being love himself which is the eternal spring of all love in us. Neither could we have any thing of it, or interest in it, without some glorious effect and manifestation of the love of God; which he also gave in “sending his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” And the love which proceeds from hence hath all the glorious properties here ascribed unto it. Wherefore there is no such way and means whereby we may express the distinguishing light, grace, and power of the gospel, no such evidence of the reality of our interest in God, as love; or in the love of God by Christ, as by and in our own love to him and his.

The mystical body of Christ is the second great mystery of the gospel. The first is his person, that “great mystery of godliness, God manifest in the flesh.” In this mystical body we have communion with the Head, and with all the members; with the Head by faith, and with the members by love. Neither will the first complete our interest in that body without the latter. Hence are they frequently conjoined by our apostle, not only as those which are necessary unto, but as those which essentially constitute, the union of the whole mystical body, and communion therein, Galatians 5:6; Ephesians 6:23; 1 Thessalonians 1:3; 1 Timothy 1:14; 1 Timothy 6:11; 2 Timothy 1:13; 2 Timothy 2:22 : wherefore without love we do no more belong to the body of Christ than without faith itself. And in one place he so transposeth them in his expression, to manifest their inseparable connection and use unto the union and communion of the whole body, as that it requires some care in their distribution unto their peculiar objects: Philemon 1:5, “Hearing of thy love and faith, which thou hast toward the Lord Jesus, and toward all saints.” Both these graces are spoken of as if they were exercised in the same manner towards both their objects, Christ and the saints. But although Christ be the object of our love also, and not of our faith only, yet are not the saints so the object of our love as to be the object of our faith also. We believe a communion with them, but place not our trust in them. There is therefore a variation in the prepositions prefixed unto the respective objects of these graces, — πρὸς τὸν κύριον ᾿ιησοῦν, and εἰς πάντας τοὺς ἀγίους. And this directs us unto a distribution of these graces in their operations unto their distinct objects; — faith towards the Lord Jesus, and love to the saints. But they are so mixed here, to declare the infallible connection that is between them in the constitution of the mystical body of Christ. This, therefore, is the form, life, and soul, of all mutual duties between the members of Christ’s mystical body. Whatever passeth between them in outward works, wherein they may be useful and beneficial unto one another, if it spring not from this principle of love, if it be not quickened and animated thereby, there is nothing of evangelical communion in it.

Whereas, therefore, this grace and duty is the peculiar effect and glory of the gospel, the form and life of the mystical body of Christ, the pledge and evidence of our interest in those “better things which accompany salvation,” I shall briefly declare the nature of it, and show the reason of the necessity of its diligent exercise.

Mutual love among believers is a fruit of the Spirit of holiness, and effect of faith, whereby, being knit together in the bond of entire spiritual affection, on the account of their joint interest in Christ, and participation of the same new, divine, spiritual nature from God, they do value, delight, and rejoice in one another, and are mutually helpful in a constant discharge of all those duties whereby their eternal, spiritual, and temporal good may be promoted.

1. It is a fruit of the Spirit of holiness, of the Spirit of Christ, Galatians 5:22. It is no more of ourselves than faith is; it is the gift of God. Natural affections are inlaid in the constitution of our beings. Carnal affections are grown inseparable from our nature as corrupted. Both, excited by various objects, relations, occasions, and interests, do exert themselves in many outward effects of love. But this love hath no root in ourselves, until it be planted in us by the Holy Ghost. And as it is so, it is the principal part of the renovation of our natures into the image of God, who is love. This “love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God,” 1 John 4:7. You are taught of God to love one another.

2. It is an effect of faith. “Faith worketh by love,” Galatians 5:6. Hence, as we observed before, “love to the saints” is so frequently added unto “faith in our Lord Jesus Christ,” as the effect and pledge of it. And although it proceeds in general from faith as it respects the commands and promises of God, yet it derives immediately from faith as acted on the Lord Jesus Christ. For he being the head of the whole mystical body, it is faith in him that acts itself by love towards all the members. Holding him, the head, by faith, the whole body edifies itself in love, Ephesians 4:15-16. And the more sincere, active, and firm our faith in Christ is, the more abundant will our love be towards all his saints. For faith in Christ doth first excite love unto him; from whom, as it were, it descends unto all that it finds of him in any others. And our love of the saints is but the love of Christ represented and exhibited unto them in us. The Papists tell us that love, or charity, is the form or life of faith, without which it is dead. It is so far true, that, according to the apostle James, where it is not, there faith is dead. Not that it is the life of faith, but that faith, wherever it is living, will work by love. Faith, therefore, is the life, the quickening, animating principle of love, and not on the contrary. And that love which proceedeth not from, which is not the effect of, which is not enlivened by faith, is not that which the gospel requireth.

3. Believers are knit together in an entire affection. This is that cement whereby the whole mystical body of Christ is “fitly joined together and compacted,” Ephesians 4:16. This mutual adherence is by the uniting, cementing efflux of love. It is but an image of the body, or a dead carcass that men set up, where they would make a bond for professors of Christianity, consisting of outward order, rules, and methods of duties. A church without it is a heap of dead stones, and not living stones, fitly compacted and built up a temple unto God. Break this bond of perfection, and all spiritual church-order ceaseth; for what remains is carnal and worldly. There may be churches constituted in an outward, human order, on supposed prudential principles of union, and external duties of communion, which may continue in their order, such as it is, where there is no spiritual, evangelical love in exercise among the members of them; but where churches have no other order nor bond of communion but what is appointed by Christ, wherever this love faileth, their whole order will dissolve.

4. This mutual love among believers springs from and is animated by their mutual interest in Christ, with their participation of the same divine nature thereby. It is from their union in Christ, the head, that all the members of the body do mutually contribute what they derive from him unto the edification of the whole in the exercise of love. Hereby are they all brought into the nearest relation to one another; which is the most effectual motive and powerful attractive unto love. For as the Lord Christ saith of every one that doth the will of God, “The same is my brother, and sister, and mother,” Matthew 12:50, — he is dearly beloved by him, as standing in the nearest relation unto him: so are all believers, by virtue of their common interest in Christ their head, as brothers, sisters, and mothers to each other; as members of the same body, which is yet nearer; whence the most intense affection must arise. And they have thereby the same new spiritual nature in them all. In love natural, he that doth most love and prize himself commonly doth least love and prize others. And the reason is, because he loves not himself for any thing which is common unto him with others, but his self-love is the ordering and centring of all things unto his own satisfaction. But with this spiritual love, he that loves himself most, — that is, doth most prize and value the image of God in himself, — doth most love others in whom it is. And we may know whether we cherish and improve grace in our own hearts, by that love which we have unto them in whom it doth manifest itself, 1 John 5:1.

This love in the first place acts itself by valuation, esteem, and delight. So the psalmist affirms that “all his delight was in the saints, and in the excellent in the earth,” Psalms 16:3. The apostle carries this unto the height, in that instance wherein “we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren,” 1 John 3:16. For whereas life is comprehensive of all that is dear or useful unto us in this world, what we ought, if called thereunto, to part with our lives for, we ought to value and esteem above them all. It is true, the cases wherein this is actually required in us do not frequently occur, and they are such alone wherein the glory and interest of Christ are in an especial manner concerned; but such a love as will always dispose, and when we are called enable us unto this duty, is required to be in us, if we are disciples of Christ. So are we to prize and value them, as at least to be ready to share with them in all their conditions. For, —

6. This love acts itself by all means, in all ways and duties whereby the eternal, spiritual, and temporal good of others may be promoted. And it would require a long discourse to go over but the principal heads of those ways and duties which are required unto this end. Something will be spoken afterwards to that purpose. At present I have aimed only at such a description of this love as may distinguish it from that cold, formal pretense of it in some outward duties, which the most satisfy themselves withal.

This is that love which the gospel so earnestly commendeth unto, and so indispensably requireth in, all the disciples of Christ. This, with its exercise and effects, its labor and fruits, is the glory, life, and honor of our profession; without which no other duties are accepted with God.

And the reason is manifest, from what hath been spoken, why the apostle giveth this as a ground of his good persuasion concerning these Hebrews, or that they had an especial interest in those better things from which salvation is inseparable. For if this love in general be so a grace of the gospel, if it so spring and arise from the love of God in Christ, as that there neither ever was nor can be the least of it in the world which is not an emanation from that love; and if in its especial nature it so particularly relates unto the Spirit of Christ, and our union with him; it must needs be among the principal evidences of a good spiritual condition. And the same will yet further appear if we consider the grounds whereon it is enforced in the gospel, which are principally these that follow: —

1. As the head of all other considerations, the Lord Christ expresseth it as that which was to be the great evidence unto the world of the truth and power of the gospel, as also of his own being sent of God: John 17:21, “That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.” It is true, there is another especial principle of the union of believers, as they are one in God and Christ. This is that one Spirit whereby they are all united unto him, as their mystical head. But this alone is not here intended, as being that which the world can no way discern, nor consequently be convinced by. He intends, therefore, their unity among themselves; the life, and spirit, and bond whereof is this love, as hath been declared. There is no other kind of unity which may be among Christians that carrieth the least conviction with it of the divine mission, truth, and power of Christ. For they may be all carnal, from carnal principles and for carnal ends; wherein the world can see nothing extraordinary, as having many such unities of its own. Herein, therefore, doth the testimony consist which we give to the world that Jesus Christ was sent of God. And if we fail herein, we do what we can to harden the world in its impenitency and unbelief. To see believers live in love, according to the nature and acting the duties of it before mentioned, was in ancient times a great means of the conviction of the world concerning the truth and power of the gospel; and will be so again, when God shall afresh pour down abundantly that Spirit of light and love which we pray for. And in some measure it doth so at present; for whosoever shall consider the true church of Christ aright, will find the evidences of a divine power in this matter. For it doth, and ever did, consist of all sorts of persons, in all nations and languages whatever. High and low, rich and poor, Jews, Greeks, barbarians, Scythians, men of all interests, humors, oppositions, dividing circumstances, at distances as far as the east is from the west, do constitute this body, this society; yet is there among all these, known to each other or unknown, an ineffable love, ready to work and exercise itself on all occasions, in all the ways before insisted on. And this can be from no other principle but the Spirit and divine power of God giving testimony thereby unto the Lord Christ, whose disciples they are.

2. Our right unto, our privilege in, and evidence of our being the disciples of Christ, depend on our mutual love: John 13:34-35,

“A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”

This especial commandment of Christ concerning mutual love among his disciples is here and elsewhere called “a new commandment.” When mankind by sin fell off from the love of God and out of it, from loving him and being loved of him, they fell into all manner of discord and enmity among themselves, “living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another,” Titus 3:3. And from the same root still springs all contention:

“From whence come wars and fightings? come they not hence, even from your lusts?” James 4:1.

In the former revelations of the will of God, as in the law, there was mutual love commanded; envy, hatred, and revenge, being forbidden. But yet there was a great defect and weakness in this matter; partly in the obscurity of the law; partly out of some forbearances which God was pleased to exercise towards that carnal people, by reason of the hardness of their hearts; and partly out of their darkness, that they did not understand the spirituality and holiness of the commands. But the principal imperfection of the law in this matter was, that it gave no example of that love which is necessary to restore us into that condition of the love of God and one another which we fell from. This was reserved for Christ, “that in all things he might have the pre-eminence.” Until he set us the example of it in his inexpressible love to us, which is so frequently proposed unto our imitation, we could not know what kind of love it was wherewith we ought to love one another. So saith he here, John 13:34, “That ye love one another, as I have loved you.” See 1 John 3:16. Hence the commandment of love becomes “a new commandment;” not only because it was newly revived by Christ in an especial manner, when the doctrine of the duties of it was cast under Pharisaical corruptions, Matthew 5, and the practice of it in the wickedness of the world; nor only because it was more plainly and clearly given by him than it had been under the law; nor only because he had revealed the love of God unto us; but principally because it was now founded, established, and animated by the example of the love of Christ himself, which gave it a new life and nature, making it “a new commandment.” And the first observation of it is the first evidence of the renovation of all things by Jesus Christ. He came to restore and renew all things; but the work whereby he doth it is for the most part secret and invisible, in the souls of men. What evidence and token of this great work is there given unto the world? It is principally this, the bringing forth of the practice of that love, which is in a manner the fulfilling of that original law of our creation which we broke, and from which we fell. For so he adds, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” ‘The great example which I have set you being that of love; the new commandment which I have given you being that of love; the design I have to accomplish in and by you being the renovation of love; how shall or can men otherwise know you to be my disciples but by your mutual love?’Without this, therefore, we can no way evidence ourselves to be the disciples of Christ. And this one consideration is of more weight with me than a thousand wrangling disputes that would furiously drive men into such outward forms and compliances as they call love.

3. This mutual love is that wherein the communion of saints doth consist. How great a thing that communion is, appears from the place which the acknowledgment of it hath always had in the ancient creeds of the church. I do not say this communion doth consist solely therein. There belong unto it a common participation of the same sanctifying Spirit, and a common interest in the same spiritual head, Christ Jesus, as to its principles, and common participation of the same ordinances as to its exercise. But herein doth this communion among themselves principally consist. That it hath no concernment in an outward compliance with certain rites and ceremonies, that are invented, not for the life of unity, but for a show of uniformity, I suppose all men are well enough satisfied. But this is the order of the communion of saints: The foundation of it is laid in a joint participation of the same quickening Spirit, and union with Christ thereby; it is acted and exercised by love arising from this spring; and it is expressed in our joint participation of the same ordinances of worship. Hence it is apparent, that where this love is not, there is no communion of saints, nor any thing belonging thereunto. For our participation together in the same ordinances is no part thereof, unless the influence of our original communion, in the participation of the same Spirit, be conveyed thereunto by love, by which alone it is acted. This the apostle fully expresseth, Ephesians 4:15-16 :

“But speaking the truth in love, we may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: from whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.”

There is not a more eminent description of the communion of saints, especially as united in church order, in the whole Scripture. And we see that it begins and ends in love, and so is carried on from first unto last. The spring and fountain of it lies in our relation unto and union, with Christ, the head. And we are said to “grow up into him in all things,” when we expressly derive all from him and direct all to him; when, in the increase of every grace, our union with him is more express and confirmed, and our likeness with, nearness to him is enlarged. From him, as from the head, the whole body, and every member thereof, have all those spiritual supplies whereby their union with him is expressed, and their communion among themselves is acted and carried on, For the union and communion of the church do not consist in things of outward order and supposed decency, but in the fit joining and compacting of all the members in the same body, by an effectual communication of spiritual supplies from Christ, the head, which do naturally cast every part of the body into that place and use which is designed unto them. But what do the saints themselves, as members of this body? Why, “every joint,” every principal person, on the account of gifts, grace, or office, yea, every “part,” every member, contributes to the edification of the whole, and the increase of grace in it; which is the end of all this communion. But how is this done, how is their part acted? Saith the apostle, it is done by love. The foundation of it lies in their “speaking the truth in love,” — ἀληθεύοντες ἐν ἀγάπῃ: holding, believing, professing the truth, so as to exercise mutual love thereby. In whatsoever we manage the truth, in all that we have to do in the profession of it, in speaking, preaching, conference, instruction, it is all to be managed in love to the whole body, or we had as good let it alone. And the end of all is “edification in love;” — that is, either “by love,” ( ἐν for διὰ, which is frequent,) or “in love,” seeing in the increase or enlargement thereof doth our edification principally consist. For as “love edifieth,” 1 Corinthians 8:1, is the principal means of the edification of the church; so it is itself in its increase a principal part of edification. A church abounding in love, is a church well built up in its faith. And this also further evinceth the necessity of this duty and grace. The communion of saints in any thing else without this is a deceitful figment.

4. Without this love we are of no use in the church of God. Some men seem to be very useful by their gifts, — and I wish that none do pride themselves in them, or bear themselves high upon them, for of themselves they are apt to puff us up, — but the very truth is, that without this love, and the constant exercise of it, they are of little or no use unto the true spiritual edification of the church. This our apostle doth not only plainly affirm, but also so largely argue, as we need not further insist upon it, 1 Corinthians 13. For he doth not only compare the most excellent gifts of the Spirit with it, preferring it above them all; but also declares that without it no man, by virtue of those gifts, is of any better use in the church than a little “sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal,” verses 1-3. Wherefore we may consider, —

5. That whatever grace any man seems to have, whatever profession he makes, of whatever use he appears to be, if he have not this love, if he live not in the exercise of it, he hath indeed no grace in truth, nor any real interest in the benefits of the gospel. Faith, where it is sincere, worketh by love, Galatians 5:6; and that which doth not so is vain, dead, and useless, James 2:14-17. If we love one another, we are born of God, and know God; if we do not, we know not God, whatever we pretend, for “God is love,” 1 John 4:7-8. And many other considerations of the like nature might be called over; from whence it is manifest what ground the apostle had to lay so great weight as he doth on that love which he had observed among the Hebrews.

I cannot pass by this subject wholly without a little further pressing the necessity of the obtaining and due exercise of this grace. I know not how it comes to pass, but so it is, that men are harassed continually about want of love, with writings keen and invective; yet little fruit do we see to come thereof. And the plain reason of it is, because the love which men so contend for is confined to that practice in and of ecclesiastical communion whose measures they have fixed to themselves. If you will do thus and thus, go in such or such ways, so or so far, leave off such ways of fellowship in the gospel as you have embraced and think according unto the mind of God, then you have love; else you have none at all! How little either unity or love hath been promoted by such principles and practices is now evident; yea, how much divisions, animosities, and mutual alienations of mind and affections, have been increased by them. For my part, I should be sorry that any man living should outgo me in earnest desires that all the people of God were agreed and united, as in faith and love, so also in the same way of worship, in all things. However, I know my desires unto that end are sincere. But that there can be no love, or no due exercise of it, until that be accomplished, I am not persuaded, I do not believe; yea, I judge that if ever it be, it will rather be the effect and fruit of love than the. cause of it. Let us therefore all lay hold on the present season, and not lose the exercise of love whilst we contend about it. I know no way wherein I judge that any who fear God in the world do walk at this day, that is in and of itself inconsistent with gospel love, or a real obstruction to the exercise of it. If any such there be, it is really to be abhorred. And the more semblance there is of such an evil in any opinion, way, or practice, the more it is to be suspected. But to charge this upon the gathering of professors of the gospel and obedience unto Christ into particular congregations, or especial societies for church administrations, hath an appearance at least of envy, ill-will, and ignorance. For none of the institutions of Christ, such as this is, can, either directly or by any just consequences, obstruct that love which he requireth of his disciples, and which, indeed, they are all suited to promote. And this of particular churches is an effect of the wisdom of Christ, providing a way for the constant and due exercise of that love towards some which is to be extended unto all as opportunities are offered. And those who would persuade us to forsake these assemblies, and to break up these societies, that, returning into the larger communion of the many, we may have and exercise love, do but persuade us to cast away our food that we may be strong, and to throw away our clothes that we may be warm.

Let us, therefore, not wait for other seasons, nor think any outward thing previously necessary unto the due discharge of this great duty of the gospel. We are in our way, let us go about our work. And I shall only at present give a few cautions against the common hinderances of it, because it must yet be spoken unto again immediately: —

1. Take heed of a froward natural temper. Wherever this is predominant, it either weakens love or sullies the glory of its exercise. Some good persons have naturally so much of the Nabal in them, that a man scarce knows how to converse with them. They mingle all the sweet fruits of love with so much harshness and sourness, as makes them ungrateful unto those who most need them. I think it is a mistake, that grace only subdues our sinful corruptions; it will, if cared for and used as it ought, cure our natural dispositions, so far as any evil or occasion of evil is as it were incorporated with them. If it make not the froward meek, the angry patient, the peevish and morose sweet and compliant, how doth it make the “wolf dwell with the lamb, and the leopard lie down with the kid?” Isaiah 11:6. And it is not enough considered how great a lustre is put upon the exercise of love, when it is accompanied with a natural condescension, compliance, and benignity.

2. Watch against the disadvantages of an outward condition. Those of high degree are usually encompassed with so many circumstances of distance, that they know not how to break through them unto that familiarity of love that ought to be among believers. But as the gospel on all civil or secular accounts leaves unto men all their advantages, of birth, education, offices, power, manner of converse, free and entire, so with respect unto things purely spiritual it lays all level among believers. In Jesus Christ “there is neither Greek nor Jew, barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free,” but “all are one in him;” and it is the new creature alone that makes the difference. Hence, in all affairs of the church, we are forbidden to have any respect unto the outward state and condition of men, James 2:1-5. We all serve the same common Lord and Master, who, “though he was rich, for our sakes became poor.” And if we for his sake lay not aside the consideration of all our riches, with that distance of mind and conversation from the poorest saints, we are not acting as his disciples. I speak not now of the laying out of men’s wealth for the use of the poor, but of lowliness of mind, in condescending unto a brotherly communion in love with the meanest of them. Let, therefore, the greatest know, that there is no duty of spiritual love that unbecomes them. And if their state and condition keeps them from that communion of love which is required of all believers, it is their snare and temptation. If they converse not familiarly with the lowest of them as they have occasion, if they visit them not when it is requisite, if they bear them not in their hearts and minds, as their especial church relation requires, they sin against the law of this holy love.

3. Watch against provocations. Whilst we and others are encompassed with the body of our infirmities, we shall meet with what we may be prone so to esteem. Where men are apt to turn every infirmity, every failing, every neglect, and, it may be, every mistake, into a provocation, and to take offense thereat, never expect anything of love from such persons. For as their frame is a fruit of pride and self-conceit, so it is diametrically opposite unto all the principal actings of love described by our apostle, 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.

4. Take heed of resting satisfied in the outward duties of love, without the inward workings of it; as also in an apprehension of inward affections, without outward fruits. Men may have a conviction that all the outward duties of love, in warning, admonishing, comforting, relieving with outward supplies, are to be attended unto, and may accordingly be exercised in them, and yet exercise little real love in them all. Hence our apostle supposeth that a man may give all his goods to feed the poor, and yet have no charity, 1 Corinthians 13:3. All fruit partakes of the nature of the root. If the good we do in these kinds proceed only from conviction of duty, and not from fervent love, it will prove but hay and stubble, that will burn in its trial.

Secondly, With this love, as an eminent adjunct of it, the apostle expresseth the labor of it, the “labor of love,” — κόπος τῆς ἀγάπης. “Laboriosa charitas,” “laborious love,” saith Beza. “Laboris ex charitate suscepti,” Erasmus, “the labor undergone on the account of love;” that is, in the exercise of it. κόπος is such a kind of labor as is attended with much difficulty and trouble, a “painful labor.” A lazy love, like that described by the apostle James, James 2:15-16, and which most men satisfy themselves withal, is no evidence of a saving faith. But we are here taught, that love, if it be true, is laborious and diligent; or, great and difficult labor is required unto love in its due exercise. It is not unto love itself absolutely, but unto its exercise, that this “labor” is required; yet this exercise is such as is inseparable from the grace itself. And this is necessary upon the account of the difficulties that lie in its way, and the oppositions that it meets withal. These make a work laborious and painful. Faith and love are generally looked on as easy and common things; but it is by them who have them not. As they are the only springs of all obedience towards God, and usefulness towards men, so they meet with the greatest oppositions from within and from without. I shall name some few of those which are most effectual and least taken notice of; as, —

1. Self-love. This is diametrically opposed unto it. Self-love is the making a man’s self his own center, the beginning and ending of all that he doth. It makes men grudge every drop of good that falls besides themselves; and whoever is under the power of it will not willingly and cheerfully do that for another which he thinks he can do for himself. This is the measure of self: Whatever is added unto it, it doth not satisfy, — it would still have more; and whatever goeth from it, on one account or other, it is too much, it doth not please. Unless this be in some good measure subdued, mortified, and cast out, there can be no exercise of love. And hereunto “labor” is required. For man being turned off from God, is wholly turned into himself; and without a holy violence unto all our affections as naturally depraved, we can never be freed from an inclination to center all in self. And these things are directly contradictory. Self-love, and love of the saints, are like two buckets; proportionably unto the rising of the one the other goeth down. Look unto what degree soever we rise in self-love, whatever else we do, and whatever our works may be, to the same proportion do we sink in Christian love.

2. Evil surmises rise up with no small efficacy against the exercise of love. And they are apt on various accounts to insinuate themselves into the minds of men when they are called unto the discharge of this duty. One thing or other, from this depraved affection which our nature is obnoxious unto, shall be suggested to weaken our hearts and hands in what we are about. And it requires no small spiritual labor to cast out all such surmises, and to give up ourselves to the conduct of that charity which “suffereth long and is kind; ...... which beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things,” 1 Corinthians 13:4; 1 Corinthians 13:7.

3. Distrust of God’s promises as to supplies for ourselves. Men are afraid that if they should enlarge themselves in a way of bounty towards others, — which is one duty of love, — they may in time be brought even to want themselves, at least as unto that proportion of supplies which they judge necessary. It were endless to recount the sacred promises which give assurance of the contrary. Nor can any one instance in the whole world be produced unto this purpose. But these are looked upon as good words by the most, but are not really believed. Yea, men are apt to deceive their souls, in supposing they believe the free promises of God concerning grace and mercy, whilst they believe not those which are annexed unto duty. For he who believeth not any promise of the gospel, believeth none. Faith doth as equally respect all God’s promises, as obedience doth all his commands. And it was a good design in a reverend person, who wrote a discourse to prove from the Scripture and experience, ‘That largeness in charity is the best and safest way of thriving in this world.’

4. Where the objects of this exercise of love are multiplied, weariness is apt to befall us, and insensibly to take us off from the whole. The wisdom and providence of God do multiply objects of love and charity, to excite us to more acts of duty; and the corruption of our hearts, with self-love, useth the consideration of them to make us weary of all. Men would be glad to see an end of the trouble and charge of their love, when that only is true which is endless. Hence our apostle in the next verse expresseth his desire that these Hebrews should not faint in their work, but “show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end.” See Galatians 6:9. And if we faint in spiritual duties because of the increase of their occasions, it is a sign that what we have done already did not spring from the proper root of faith and love. What is done in the strength of nature and conviction, however vigorous it may be for a season, in process of time will decay and give out. And this is the reason why so many fail in the course of their profession. All springs of obedience that lie in convictions, and the improvement of natural abilities under them, will at one time or other fade and dry up. And where we find ourselves to faint or decay in any duties, our first inquiry should be after the nature of their spring and principle. Only the Spirit of God is living water that never fails. So the prophet tells us, that “even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fail,” Isaiah 40:30. They who seem to be the strongest and most vigorous in the performance of any duties, yet if they have nothing but their own strength, the ability of nature under convictions, to trust unto, they will and shall faint and utterly fail; for that such are intended is manifest from the opposition in the next words: “But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; they shall walk, and not faint,” verse 31. If our strength and duties be derived by faith from God, the more we engage in them the more it will be increased. “The way of the LORD is strength to the upright,” Proverbs 10:29. When we are upright in the way of God, the very way itself will supply us with new strength continually; and we shall “go from strength to strength,” Psalms 84:7, from one strengthening duty unto another, and not be weary. But hereunto diligence and labor also are required. From these and the like considerations it is that the apostle here mentioneth the industrious “labor of love” that was in the Hebrews, as an evidence of their saving faith and sincerity.

The next thing expressed in these words is the evidence they gave of this labor of love, and the means whereby the apostle came to know it. They showed it: ᾿ενεδείξαθε, — “Ye have showed,” or “manifested it.” The same word that James useth in the same case, δεῖξόν, James 2:18; “Show me thy faith by thy works,” — ‘declare it,’‘make it manifest.’And a man may show a thing two ways:

1. By the doing of it;

2. By declaring what he hath done.

He that works visibly in his calling, shows his work by what he doth; and he who works in secret may declare it as he hath occasion. It is in the first sense that the Hebrews showed their labor of love, and that James requires us to show our faith and works. The things themselves are intended, which cannot but be manifest in their due performance. To show the labor of love, is [so] to labor in the duties of it as that it shall be evident. Yet this self-evidencing power of the works of love is a peculiar property of those that are some way eminent. When we abound in them, and when the duties of them are above the ordinary sort and rate, then are we said to show them; that is, they become conspicuous and eminent. To that purpose is the command of our Savior, Matthew 5:16,

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”

Not only “let it shine,” but “let it so shine,” which respects the measure and degree of our obedience; and herein are we required so to abound that our works may be evident unto all. If they will take no notice of them for their good, if they will revile us and reproach us for our good works, as though they were evil works, — which is the way of the world towards most duties of gospel obedience, — they themselves must answer for their blindness; our duty it is so to abound in them, as that they may be discerned and seen of all who do not either shut their eyes out of prejudice against what we are, or turn their faces from them out of dislike of what we do. Nothing is to be done by us that it may be seen; but what may be seen is to be done, that God may be glorified. Wherefore these Hebrews showed the work of faith, and the labor of love, by a diligent attendance unto, and an abundant performance of the one and the other.

The end, or reason, or cause of their performance of these duties, which gives them spirit and life, rendering them truly Christian and acceptable unto God, is added: εἰς τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ, — “Towards his name.” Some would have εἰς τὸ ὄνομα to be put for ἐν τῷ ὀνόματι, “in his name;” which also may bear the sense here intended. But “towards his name” is more emphatical. And we may observe,

1. That in this place it respects not the whole work of these Hebrews, the work of faith before mentioned, but it is peculiarly annexed unto the labor of love, — the “labor of love towards his name.”

2. That it was the saints that were the immediate object of that love, as is declared in the words ensuing, “In that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister.” Wherefore it is a love unto the saints on the account of the name of God that is intended.

And this love unto the saints is towards the name of God on three accounts:

1. Objectively; because the name of God is upon them. They are the family that is called after his name. “Of him the whole family” of them “in heaven and earth is named,” Ephesians 3:15. They are the family of God, or “household of God,” Ephesians 2:19; the “saints of the Most High,”

Daniel 7:27. The name of God is upon them; and therefore what is done unto them is done towards the name of God, whether it be good or evil.

2. Formally; because their relation unto God was the reason why they labored in love towards them. This is that which gives this love its especial nature, when it is exercised towards any merely on the account of their relation unto God, because they are his, because his name is called on them.

3. Efficiently. The name of God is his authority and will. God requires this labor of love of us; it is his will and command: and therefore whatever we do in the discharge of it, we do it towards his name; that is, with a due reverence of and regard unto his will and authority. The whole, therefore, of this duty, rightly performed, begins and ends with the name of God. Hence we may observe; that, — spirituality, and acceptance, unto all the duties of love which we perform towards others.

Great things have been done in the world, with a great appearance of love, which yet have been all lost, as to the glory of God and the spiritual advantage of them by whom they have been done. Some have been lost from a principle of superstition; some, from a design of merit; some, from vain-glory or a desire of reputation, by being seen of men. And many other ways there are whereby men may lose the benefit of what they have wrought. Now, whereas this labor of love is a duty which hath so many difficulties attending it, as we have before declared, it is of the highest concernment unto us to take care that what we do therein be not lost. Unless it be done with respect unto the command of God, and so be a part of the obedience of faith; unless it be influenced with a regard of their relation unto God, and his peculiar concernment in them towards whom our love is exercised; it will not endure the trial, when the fire of it shall consume all hay and stubble. What we do in this kind, is so to be done as that the Lord Christ may own it as done unto himself in the first place.

Again; there is the object of this love in its exercise, and they are οἱ ἅγιοι,“the saints.” And they are considered either as to their general condition and qualification, which is expressed, — they are “saints;” or as unto their particular state and circumstances, — they are such as stand in need to be “ministered unto.”

1. They are “saints.” There is nothing more evident than that all true believers, and all those who upon their profession are presumed so to be, are in the New Testament styled saints. For ἅγιοι are the same with κλητοί, Romans 1:7; ἀ῾γιαζόμενοι, Hebrews 2:11; ἡγιασμένοι ἐν χριστῷ, 1 Corinthians 1:2. “Saints” are the same with “called,” and “sanctified in Christ Jesus.” Every believer is sanctified; and every one who is not sanctified is no true believer: so that “believers” and “saints” are the same. But the atheism of this age hath made it a reproach among many once to use the name; and with some this appellation is restrained unto such as are canonized or deified by themselves. Chrysostom is express to our purpose on this place: ταῦτα ἀκούοντες, παρακαλῶ, διακονῶμεν τοῖς ἁγίοις. πᾶς γὰρ πιστὸς ἅγιος, καθʼ ὃ πιστός ἐστι· κᾄν κοσμικὸς ᾖ τις, ἅγιός ἐστιν· — “Hearing these things, I beseech you let us minister unto the saints. For every believer, inasmuch as he is a believer, opposition to their imagination who confined saintship unto monks), “he is a saint;” which he proves by testimonies that they are sanctified. These “saints,” therefore, were the disciples of Christ, professors of the gospel; presumed in charity to be true believers, and therefore real saints.

2. They are supposed to be in such an outward condition as to stand in need of being administered unto; they were in some kind of wants or distresses. And such was in an especial manner the condition of the saints at that time among the Hebrews. Their poverty was such as that our apostle in many places, — perhaps in all where the gospel had success, — made collections for them. And as he pressed the Gentile believers unto a contribution unto this purpose with weighty arguments, Romans 15:25-27, so he looked on his duty herein as of so great importance that he earnestly requests that his discharge of it might be accepted with God and by the poor saints themselves, verses 30, 31. And where any churches had largely ministered in this kind he rejoiceth in it, as that which would tend unto the unspeakable advancement of the glory of God’s grace, 2 Corinthians 9:11-15. And this duty was the apostle most careful in, as that wherein he gave a testimony unto the change of the church estate of the old testament. All the Jews before, all the world over, did send their oblations in things dedicated, silver and gold, unto the temple. And if they maple any proselytes among the Gentiles, the first thing they did was to cause them to acknowledge their obedience by sending gifts to the. treasury of the temple; and that this was done from all parts of the Roman empire was known and complained of. Wherefore our apostle thus declares that the old church state was now changed, and that the believing saints were become the only temple of God. And therefore, from all those whom he made proselytes of, or won to the faith of Christ, he calleth a benevolence for that temple, or the poor saints in Judea. This, therefore, was an eminent duty in that place and at that season. For this poverty and these exigencies they were cast under on many accounts. For at that time they were under great oppressions and devastations, by the covetousness and rapine of their rulers, or the Roman governors of them. And the whole nation was every day vexed by seditious persons, and prevailing multitudes of robbers. And these things were common unto them with others. But, moreover, they were exposed in particular, for the profession of the gospel, unto great persecution, wherein in an especial manner their goods were spoiled, and their persons brought under various distressing calamities, as our apostle declares, Hebrews 10:32-34. Besides, generally those who gave up their names unto Christ were of the lower sort of the people, the poor among them receiving the gospel. All these things declare their wants to have been great, besides other incidents of life that might befall them unto their distress. These were they unto whom the Hebrews ministered, whose condition put an eminency on that duty.

But it may be said, that if this were their state, how could any of them, or how could the church in general, thus labor in love, by administering unto the wants of others, when they themselves were even overwhelmed with their own? I answer,

(1.) We do not, I fear, sufficiently understand what was the frame and spirit of those first believers, and out of how very little of their own they would administer unto the greater necessities of others, that there might be no lack in the body. So the apostle tells us that in the church of Macedonia, when they were under trials, afflictions, persecutions, “their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality,” 2 Corinthians 8:2. In their own great poverty, and under persecution, they contributed largely unto the necessity of others. For us, who are apt to think that there are so many things necessary that we may minister unto the poor saints, — as so much wealth at least, so much provision for our own families, peace and some kind of quietness in what we enjoy, — it is no wonder if we cannot so easily understand what is affirmed of that labor of love which was among the primitive believers. They gave freely and liberally, out of their poverty and amidst their troubles; — we can scarce part with superfluities in peace.

(2.) It is not improbable but that there might be some in the church who, escaping the common calamities of the most, were able to contribute bountifully to the necessity of others; and their discharge of duty is reckoned by the apostle unto the whole church, whilst in the rest there was a willing mind; whence they were judged and accepted “according to what they had, and not according to what they had not.” And those who have ability in any church would do well to consider, that the honor and reputation of the whole church, in the sight of God and man, depend much on their dilligence and bounty in the discharge of this duty. Hence is that peculiar direction of our apostle unto Timothy with respect unto this sort of persons:

“Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not high- minded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; that they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate,” 1 Timothy 6:17-18.

(3.) The contribution of outward things is but one way of ministration unto the saints, but one part of this duty. There are spiritual aids and assistances, in visiting, exhorting, comforting, that belong thereunto. And herein all may be sedulously conversant, though poor and low in the world.

(4.) It is very probable that the whole church was very careful and diligent in looking out for help and assistance, when it was needed beyond what they had ability to supply. And hereby did they no less exercise their love than in what they did personally themselves. For it is an ordinance of Christ, that where churches are disenabled, through persecution or poverty, to minister unto the necessities of the poor among them, they should seek for relief from other persons or churches walking in the same profession of the faith and order of the gospel with themselves. Wherefore,

(5.) The intendment of this expression is, that they industriously exercised love towards all the saints, every one according to his ability and capacity; and more is not required.

Lastly, The especial manner of the exercise of this labor of love is called “ministration;” and the especial object thereof is the saints, of whom we have spoken already. And concerning this ministration, the apostle ascribes it unto them with respect unto what was past, and what they did at present; both which were necessary to found the judgment on which he made concerning them: “You have ministered, and you do minister.”

διακονία is a laborious and industrious ministry. And this in the church is twofold: 1. Of especial office; 2. Of common love and charity. The rise, occasion, and institution of an especial office or ministry towards the poor, is at large declared, Acts 6; and mentioned afterwards by our apostle as an abiding ordinance, Romans 12:8; 1 Timothy 3:8-13. And this ministration is comprised herein, though not solely intended. For what is done by these deacons, being done in the name, and by the appointment, and out of the charity of the church, is to be esteemed the ministration of the church itself. And though there be a peculiar faithfulness and diligence required in the persons called unto this ministration, yet the ministration itself will abound or be straitened according as the whole church dischargeth its duty. But the common ministration of brotherly love, what every one doth or ought to do in his own person, is here intended. And therein six things may be considered, not here to be insisted on; as,

1. The root, spring, and cause of it, which is love.

2. The manner of its performance, which is with labor and diligence.

3. The object of it, or the saints in wants, troubles, straits, or necessities.

4. The acts of it, which are many and various; the chief whereof are,

(1.) Visiting of them;

(2.) Advice and counsel;

(3.) Consolation;

(4.) Supplies of their wants by outward things.

5. Endeavors in the use of means for their full relief;

(1.) With God, in continual prayers and supplications;

(2.) With men, according unto our interests and advantages, not being ashamed nor afraid to own them in their poverty, distresses, and sufferings.

6. The rule of this ministration is every man’s

(1.) Opportunity,

(2.) Ability,

(3.) Especial call by objective circumstances. But these things I must not here enlarge upon.

This is that on the observation whereof the apostle grounds his persuasion concerning these Hebrews, expressed in the verse foregoing. And herein he gives us the true character of a church of sound believers. They are such a society as, being called into the fellowship and order of the gospel, do walk in faith, expressing it in fruits of obedience, carefully and diligently exercising love towards one another on the account of the name of God, especially with a continual regard unto them who suffer or are in any distress. These are the things indeed which accompany salvation. And we may observe in our passage, —

Obs. 1. That it is the will and pleasure of God, that many of his saints be in a condition in this world wherein they stand in need of being ministered unto. Hereof, as to the distinction of persons, why these shall be poor, afflicted, tempted, tried in the fire, and not others, no direct reason can be given but the sovereignty of God, which is to be submitted unto. And those whose especial lot it is to be thus exercised may do well to consider always,

1. That this will and pleasure of Goal is accompanied with infinite wisdom and holiness, so as that there is no unrighteousness therein.

2. That they shall not be final losers by their poor, afflicted condition. God will make all up unto them, both here and to eternity. And if there were no more in it but this, that they are brought thereby unto a clearer foresight of, and more earnest longings after eternal rest and glory, they have a sufficient recompence in their hands for all their sufferings.

3. That God might have put them with others into rich pastures here, only to have been fatted against the day of slaughter. Let them but consider how much spiritual and eternal mercies, wherein they are interested, do exceed things temporal, they will find they have no cause to complain.

4. Whereas it is for the glory of God, and the benefit of the church, that some should be peculiarly in an afflicted condition, they ought even to rejoice that God hath chosen them, to use them as he pleaseth unto these ends.

But for the thing itself, the reasons of it are revealed and manifest. For,

1. God hereby gives testimony unto all, that the good things, as they are esteemed, of this world, are no tokens or pledges of his love, and that he hath better things in store for them whom he careth for. He doth hereby cast contempt on the desirable things of the world, and testifieth that there are better things, to be received even in this life, than whatever is of the number of them. For had not God “better things” to bestow on his saints in this world than any the world can afford, he would not withhold these from them, so far at least as that they should be straitened in their want. Wherefore, in this dispensation of his providence he doth testify unto all, that internal, spiritual mercies, such as his saints enjoy, are incomparably to be preferred above all things of that kind wherein he keeps them short, 2 Samuel 23:5.

2. He maketh way hereby for the vigorous, fruitful exercise of all the graces of his Spirit, namely, in the various conditions whereinto the members of the church are cast. And let every one look to it and know, that according unto his outward condition in the world, whether it be of want or abundance, there is a peculiar exercise of grace, unto the glory of God, required of him. It is expected from all that are high or low, rich or poor, free or in distress, not only that they live in the exercise of all grace in general, but also that they diligently endeavor an abounding fruitfulness in those graces whose exercise their especial condition calleth for. And, secondly, we are here taught, that, —

Obs. 2. The great trial of our love consists in our regard unto the saints that are in distress. — That is the foundation of the commendation of the love of these Hebrews; they “ministered unto them.” Either love or at least an appearance of love will be easily preserved, where we have little or no need of one another. But when the exercise of it proves costly, when it puts us unto charge or trouble, or into danger, — as it doth more or less when it is exercised towards them that are in distress, — then is it brought unto its trial. And in such a season we have experience that the love of many is so far from bringing forth more fruit, as that the very leaves of it fall off, and they give over its profession. Wherefore, —

Obs. 3. It is the glory and honor of a church, the principal evidence of its spiritual life, when it is diligent and abounds in those duties of faith and love which are attended with the greatest difficulties.

From hence doth the apostle commend these Hebrews, and firmly persuades himself that they were endued with those “better things which accompany salvation.” For hereby, as we might show,

1. God is singularly glorified;

2. The gospel is peculiarly promoted;

3. An especial lustre is put upon the graces of the Spirit; and,

4. All the ends of Satan and the world in their persecutions are utterly frustrated.

And these things have we spoken concerning the first ground of the apostle’s persuasion of the good spiritual estate at present of these Hebrews, and their future eternal safety, namely, that “work of faith and labor of love” which he had observed in them.

SECONDLY, The other ground of his persuasion is taken from the righteousness of God: “God is not unrighteous, to forget your work.” I intimated before that the word used by the apostle to express the frame of his mind in this matter, — πεπείσμεθα, “we are persuaded,” Hebrews 6:9, — is applied sometimes to denote the infallible certainty of faith, and. sometimes the moral certainty of charity. In this place it hath respect unto a double object or reason; first, what was in the professing Hebrews, their faith and love. Hereof he could have no assurance or certainty beyond a moral persuasion, or the satisfaction of a charitable judgment. But on this supposition, his persuasion had another object, namely, the righteousness of God in the stability of his promises; whence he had infallible assurance, or did conclude infallibly, unto what he was persuaded of.

The righteousness of God sometimes denotes the absolute rectitude and perfect goodness of his nature; and hereunto all other acceptations of the word, as applied unto God, are to be reduced. Sometimes the equity of the holy dispensations of his justice, whereby he renders unto every one what is their due, according unto the nature of things and his holy appointments, is so called; and sometimes particularly his vindictive justice, whereby he avengeth sin and punisheth sinners, is so expressed. Sometimes, yea frequently, the fidelity of God in keeping and accomplishing his promises is called his righteousness; for it belongeth unto the absolute rectitude of his nature so to do. So saith the apostle, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins,” 1 John 1:9. The forgiveness of sins is on all accounts an act of mercy, which is contradistinguished unto righteousness in judgment, strictly so called, James 2:13 : wherefore that righteousness which is exercised in the pardon of sin, is no other but the faithfulness of God in the promises of the covenant. He hath promised that “he who confesseth and forsaketh his sins shall find mercy.” Hence it is just with God to forgive their sins who do so. And this is the righteousness that is here principally intended. For the righteousness whereby God rewardeth the works that are wrought in men by his own grace, is the same with that whereby he forgiveth their sins, equally respecting the covenant and the promises thereof: for without the consideration hereof, in strict or exact righteousness could he neither pardon sin nor reward our works; which being imperfect, do no way answer the rule which it doth or can proceed by. In this sense is God here said “not to be unrighteous to forget their work;” that is, to be righteous so as not to forget it. He will have that respect unto it which he hath graciously promised in the covenant, because he is righteous; that is, faithful in his promises. And that no other righteousness can be here intended is evident from hence, because no work of ours doth answer the rule of any other righteousness of God.

Again; we must inquire what it is “not to forget their work. And this may respect either the preserving of it for the present, or the future rewarding of it.

1. It is not an unfrequent temptation unto believers, that God so far disregards them as not to take care of graces or duties in them, to cherish and preserve them. See the complaints of the church to this purpose, Isaiah 40:27-28; Isaiah 49:14, “My Lord hath forgotten me.” This is here denied. God is not unrighteous, to forget us or our work, so as not to cherish and preserve it. So the apostle presseth the same persuasion concerning the Philippians as he doth here of the Hebrews: Philippians 1:6, “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you, will preserve it until the day of Jesus Christ.” He is not unrighteous to forget it. ‘God hath in the covenant of grace promised to preserve the faith and love of his people, that they should not perish or be lost. Wherefore, having “begun a good work,” and you having made some good progress in compliance with his grace, he is “not unrighteous,” so as to forget his covenant engagement, but will preserve you and your graces in you unto the end;’— which is the sum of that great prayer of the apostle for all believers, 1 Peter 5:10.

2. Respect may be had herein to the future and final reward of the faith, love, and works of believers. For this also belongs unto God’s covenant; and it is so of grace, as that the righteousness of God wherein it is due unto us can be no other but that of his faithfulness in his promises. For neither we nor our works are capable of an eternal reward by the way of merit; that is, that the reward should be reckoned unto us not of grace, but of debt, Romans 4. And that which utterly overthrows such an apprehension is, that God himself is our eternal reward, Genesis 15:1. And I leave it unto others to consider how they can deserve that reward. Whether these senses he will embrace, the reader is left to determine for himself. The former seems to me more suited to the design of the apostle and scope of the place. For he is satisfying these Hebrews that he made another judgment of them than of those apostates whose condition he had before described. And this he doth on two grounds: first, that they were actually made partakers of sincere saving grace, and therein “things that accompany salvation;” and then, that God in his faithfulness would preserve and secure that grace in them against all oppositions unto the end. Following this sense of the words we may learn, that, —

Obs. 4. Our perseverance in faith and obedience, though it requires our duty and constancy therein, yet depends not on them absolutely, but on the righteousness of God in his promises. — Or if we had rather embrace the other sense of the words, then are we sufficiently instructed, that, —

Obs. 5. Nothing shall be lost that is done for God, or in obedience unto him. “He is not unjust, to forget our labor of love.” And, —

Obs. 6. The certainty of our future reward, depending on the righteousness of God, is a great encouragement unto present obedience.


Verse 11

᾿επιθυμοῦμεν δὲ ἓκαστον ὑμῶν τὴν αὐτὴν ἐνδείκνυσθαι σπουδὴν πρὸς τὴν πληροφορίαν τῆς ἐλπίδος ἄχρι τέλους.

There is not much difficulty as to the signification of these words, and therefore both ancient and modern translations generally are agreed in the interpretation of them. The Vulg. Lat. renders ἐνδείκνυσθαι σπουδήν by “ostentare sollicitudinem.” But “ostentare” is most frequently used for

“ostendere gloriandi causa,” as Festus saith; though properly it seems to be a frequentative, to “show often,” and is improper in this place. Nor doth “sollicitudinem” well answer σπουδήν, which the Syriac renders by חֲפִיטוּתָא, “sedulity,” “diligence,” “industry.” “Studium ostendere,” say most, and most properly. τὴν πληροφορίαν τῆς ἐλπίδος. Syr., לְשׁוּמְלָיָא, “ad complementum; “to the completing” or “perfection of hope.” Vulg. Lat., “ad expletionem spei;” which our Rhemists render by the “accomplishing of hope;” the fulfilling of hope. Beza, “ad certain spei persuasionem;” whereunto answers our translation, “to the full assurance of hope.” Others, “ad plenam spei eertitudinem,” most properly ᾿᾿επιθυμέω is “earnestly to desire;” whence is ἐπιθυμία, “concupiscence,” “libido,” an “earnest,” and mostly an “impetuous desire.” So the philosopher defined ὀργή, that it was ἐπιθυμία τιμωρίας; which Cicero renders, “ira, libido puniendi:” both from the original derivation of it, a “desire that invades the mind,” an “earnest, vehement desire.”

δέ we render “and,” — “and we desire;” “but yet,” or “moreover.” The same with what is more largely expressed, 2 Peter 1:5, καὶ αὐτὸ τοῦτο δέ, — “And besides all this,” besides what is past.

᾿ενδείκνυσθαι, to” manifest;” that is, evince it unto all by the same performance of duties; that no decay in faith or love might be observed in them, or suspected of them.

σπουδή is rendered “study,” “diligence,” “endeavor.” But it is such a diligence as hath an earnestness accompanying it; that is, as it were making haste in pressing towards the end and accomplishment of any thing or business. And it doth always denote great and earnest diligence, with study and desire. It is used to this purpose, 2 Peter 1:5. πληροφορία is, saith Hesychius, βεβαιότης, “firmitas,” “certitudo;” “stability.” It is “plena fides,” “plena persuasio,” “certa fides;” “a sure, stable, firm, certain faith or persuasion.” The Vulgar Latin constantly renders this word, as also the verb πληροφορέω, by some word denoting filling or completing, taking its signification from the first part in the composition. But whatever be the native signification of the single words whereof it is compounded, or with respect unto what allusion soever the signification was first fixed, it is certain that in the best authors, as in the Scripture, it expresseth a full, satisfactory persuasion of mind, or the highest assurance in any thing which, from the nature of it, we are capable of.

Hebrews 6:11. — And we [earnestly] desire that every one of you do manifest the same diligence, unto the full assurance of hope, unto the end.

Although the apostle, in these words and those ensuing, as is usual with him, taketh a prospect towards his farther progress, making way by them and in them unto his discourse concerning Melchisedec, which he hath intermitted (whence some would here begin the third part of the chapter), yet he plainly pursues his former argument, and gives an express account of his whole design therein. For, first, he manifests directly what was his intention in proposing unto them that terrible commination and prediction concerning apostates, verses 4-8. Although for certain ends he spoke those things unto them, yet he lets them know that he spake them not of them. He thought not that they were such at present as he had described, nor that that would be their future lot or portion which he had threatened and foretold. As he had freed them from any fears or apprehensions of that nature in the two verses foregoing, so in this he declareth what was his certain purpose and intention in the use of that commination. Now this was solely thereby to excite and provoke them unto a diligent, persevering continuance in faith and love, with their fruits and effects; which is the first and principal end whereunto the proposal of such threatenings is designed and sanctified of God. ‘All that I have said is unto this end.’

Again; he had newly given an account of his real thoughts and judgment concerning them and their spiritual condition. And upon his satisfaction therein, as that which was attended with “things which accompany salvation,” he had given them assurance of a blessed issue of their faith and profession, from the faithfulness of God; making therein an application of the promises of the gospel unto them. Hereon he lets them know what, by the appointment of God and the law of our obedience, is required of them, that they might answer the judgment which he had made concerning them, and be brought unto the enjoyment of the promises proposed unto them. And this was that diligent progress in faith and obedience unto the end which he describes in this and the next verse.

And herein the apostle, with great wisdom, acquaints these Hebrews with the proper end and use of gospel threatenings and promises; wherein men are apt to be mistaken, and so to abuse the one and the other. For threatenings have been looked on as if they had no other end or use but to terrify the minds of men, and to cause them to despond, — as if the things threatened must unavoidably come upon them. Hence some have fancied that they belong not unto the dispensation of the gospel as it is to be preached unto believers; and few have known how to make a due application of them unto their consciences. And it is to be feared that the end and use of God’s promises have been so far mistaken, that some have suffered themselves to be imposed on by the deceitfulness of sin, and to be influenced by the consideration of them into carelessness and security, as though, do what they would, no evil could befall them. But our apostle here discovereth the joint end of them both towards believers, or professors of the gospel; which is to stir up and encourage them unto their utmost, constant, persevering diligence in all duties of obedience. And it is no small part of the duty and wisdom of the ministers of the gospel to instruct their hearers in, and press upon them the proper use and due improvement of the promises and threatenings of God.

In this verse, or the words of it which are an exhortation unto duty, we may observe,

1. The connection of it unto the former discourse.

2. The duty exhorted unto: “The same diligence.”

[3. The persons exhorted.]

4. The manner of its performance: “That they would manifest” or

“show it.”

5. The end aimed at in that duty: “The full assurance of hope.”

6. The continuation of it: “Unto the end.”

7. The manner of his exhortation unto it: “We desire.” But though the words may be thus resolved, I shall open the parts of them in that order wherein they lie in the text: — occasion of this discourse, in the particle δέ, it hath been spoken unto already. It is not here adversative, but rather illative, as was before declared.

2. The next thing occurring in the words is the manner of the exhortation: ᾿επιθυμοῦμεν, — “We desire.” Chrysostom is large in this place on the consideration of this word, and the wisdom of the apostle in the use of it. From him OEcumenius observes a difference between ἐπιθυμοῦμεν and βουλόμεθα. For they suppose that the word here used includeth both intense affections, and earnest, diligent, actual desire. And that it doth intend an earnest desire, we showed in the foregoing consideration of the word. And the word is never used in the New Testament but either in a bad sense, to express the impetuous acting of lust, as Matthew 5:28, Galatians 5:17, Romans 7:7; or a most fervent desiring of any thing that is good, Luke 15:16; Luke 16:21; Luke 17:22; Luke 22:15. And such ought to be the desire of ministers towards the profiting of their people. There will be a dead, cold, lifeless administration of the word, where ministers have not ardent desires after the profiting and stability of the hearers. How were it to be wished that all who are called unto the care and charge of the souls of men would continually propose unto themselves the example of this apostle! Do we think that the care, solicitude, watchfulness, tender love and affection, earnest and fervent desires for their good, expressed in prayers, tears, travails, and dangers, which he everywhere testifieth towards all the churches under his care, were duties prescribed unto him alone, or graces necessary for him only? Do we not think that they are all of them required of us, according unto our measure and the extent of our employment? The Lord help men, and open their eyes before it be too late; for either the gospel is not true, or there are few who in a due manner discharge that ministry which they take upon them.

I say, without this earnest and fervent desire after the profiting and salvation of our people, we shall have a cold and ineffectual ministry among them. Neither is it our sedulity or earnestness in preaching that will relieve us, if that be absent. And this desire proceeds from three principles; and that which pretends thereto, and doth not so, is but an image and counterfeit of it. And these are,

(1.) Zeal for the glory of God in Christ;

(2.) Real compassion for the souls of men; respect unto its nature, trust, end, and reward.

These are the principles that both kindle and supply fuel unto those fervent desires for the good of our people which oil the wheels of all other duties, and speed them in their course. According as these principles flourish or decay in our minds, so will be the acceptable exercise of our ministry in the sight of Christ, and the profitable discharge of it towards the church. And we have as much need to labor for this frame in our hearts, as for any thing in the outward discharge of our duty. We must, in the first place, “take heed unto ourselves,” if we intend to “take heed to the flock” as we ought, Acts 20:28. And herein especially do we, as we are charged, “take heed to the ministry we have received, that we do fulfill it,” Colossians 4:17.

3. The persons exhorted unto the duty following are expressed by ἕχαστος ὑμῶν, — “every one of you.” He had so a care of the whole flock, as to be solicitous for the good of every individual person among them. As our Lord Jesus Christ gives an account unto his Father, that of all those who were committed unto his personal ministry in this world, he had not lost any one, — only the son of perdition, he who was designed to destruction; so our apostle labored that, if it were possible, not one of those whom he watched over should miscarry. And it is of great advantage when we can so manage our ministry that no one of those that are committed unto us may have any just cause to think themselves disregarded. And moreover, he shows hereby that the argument here insisted on concerned them all. For he doth not suppose that any of them were in such a condition of security and perfection as not to stand in need of the utmost diligence for their preservation and progress; nor that any had so fallen under decays, but that, in the use of diligence, they might be recovered. So should the love and care of ministers be extended unto all the individuals of their flocks, with an especial regard unto their respective conditions, that none on the one hand grow secure, nor any on the other hand despond or be discouraged.

4. The duty exhorted unto, wherewith we must take, —

5. The manner of its performance is, that they would “show the same diligence.

᾿ενδεικςυσθαι, “ostentare, Vulg. Lat.; that is, to “make show of:” “ostendere,” “to show forth,” to manifest.’… Praestare, Eras., to act, to perform; so the word is sometimes used: John 10:32, πολλὰ καλὰ ἔργα ἔδειξα ὑμῖν — “Many good things have I showed you;” that is, ‘wrought and performed among you.’ 2 Timothy 4:14, ᾿αλέξανδρος ὁ χαλκεὺς πολλά μοι κακὰ ἐνεδειξατο, — “Alexander the coppersmith showed me many evils;” ‘did the much evil.’It is so to do any thing, as that the doing of it may be evident and manifest. And the apostle respects not only the duty itself, but the evidence of its performance, whereon his judgment and persuasion of them was grounded. ‘Continue in the performance of these duties, to give the same evidence of your state and condition as formerly.’

And the duty itself he expresseth by τὴν αὐτὴν σπουδήν, — “idem studium;” the same diligent endeavor. Chrysostom much insists on the apostle’s wisdom in this expression, “the same diligence;” for by it he both insinuates his approbation of what they had done already, and manifests that he required nothing of them to secure their future condition but what they had already experience of. ‘You have used diligence in this matter; continue so to do:’which yet is not so to be interpreted as though the apostle limited them unto their former measures; but warning them to remit in nothing which before they had engaged into, he encourageth them to proceed and grow therein. That, indeed, which the apostle approves in them, and exhorts them unto a continuance in, is the “work of faith and labor of love, in ministering unto the saints;” but here he expresseth the manner wherein they had attended unto these duties, and which they must continue in, unless they intended to desert the duties themselves, — namely, with diligence and alacrity of mind. For such were the oppositions and difficulties that they would assuredly meet withal, as we have before declared, that unless they used all diligence and watchfulness, they would more or less faint in their duty. And we may observe, that, —

Obs. 1. Our profession will not be preserved, nor the work of faith and love carried on unto the glory of God and our own salvation, without a constant studious diligence in the preservation of the one and the exercise of the other.

The reasons hereof are manifest from what hath been discoursed before, concerning the greatness and difficulty of this work, and the opposition that is made unto it. Our apostle knew nothing of that lazy kind of profession which satisfies the generality of Christians at this day. They can show all diligence in their trades, in their callings, in their studies, it may be in their pleasures, and sometimes in the pursuit of their lusts; but for a watchful diligence, an earnest, studious endeavor in and about the duties of religion, the work of faith and love, they are strangers unto it, yea, cannot be persuaded that any such thing is required of them or expected from them. For the duties of divine worship, they will attend unto them out of custom or conviction; for some acts of charity, they may perhaps be sometimes drawn into them, or for their reputation they may do like others of their quality in the world: but to project and design in their minds how they may glorify God in the duties of faith and love, as “the liberal man deviseth liberal things;” to keep up an earnest bent and warmth of spirit in them; to lay hold on and rejoice in all opportunities for them, — all which are required unto this diligence, — they utterly reject all such thoughts. But what do we imagine? Is there another way for us to go to heaven than what was prescribed unto the primitive believers? Will God deal with us on more easy terms, or such as have a further compliance with carnal ease and the flesh, than those that were given to them of old? We shall but foolishly deceive ourselves with such imaginations. But let no man mistake; these two principles are as certain and as sacred as any thing in the gospel:

(1.) Unless there be in us a work of faith in personal holiness, and a labor of love towards others, there is nothing in us that accompanies salvation, or will ever bring us thereunto. Let profane persons deride it whilst they please, and worldlings neglect it, and careless professors fancy to themselves an easier way unto a blessed eternity, this will be found to be the rule whereby they must all stand or fall for ever.

(2.) That this work of faith and labor of love will not be persisted in, nor carried on, without studious diligence and earnest endeavors. Now unto this diligence is required,

[1.] The exercise of our minds with respect unto the duties of faith and love;

1st. In studying the rule of them, which is the word of God, wherein alone the matter of them all and the manner of their performance are declared;

2dly. In studying and observing the occasions and opportunities for their exercise.

[2.] Watchfulness against oppositions, difficulties, and temptations, is also a part of this duty; for the reasons whereof our observations on the preceding verse may be considered.

[3.] Readiness to conflict with and to go through the dangers and troubles which we may meet withal in the discharge of these duties. And, as it is evident, all these argue a frame of mind continually intent upon a design to glorify God, and to crone unto the end of our course, in rest with him. That nominal Christianity which despiseth these things will perish with the real author of it, which is the devil.

Again; the apostle exhorts them to show the same diligence which they had done, and which they continued in the exercise of; whence it appears, that,—

Obs. 2. Ministerial exhortation unto duty is needful even unto them who are sincere in the practice of it, that they may abide and continue therein.

It is not easy to be apprehended how God’s institutions are despised by some, neglected by others, and by how few duly improved; all for want of taking right measures of them. Some there are who, being profoundly ignorant, are yet ready to say that they know as much as the minister can teach them, and therefore it is to no purpose to attend unto preaching. These are the thoughts, and this is too often the language, of persons profane and profligate, who know little, and practice nothing of Christianity. Some think that exhortations unto duties belong only unto them who are negligent and careless in their performance; and unto them indeed they do belong, but not unto them only, as the whole Scripture testifieth. And some, it may be, like well to be exhorted unto what they do, and do find satisfaction therein. But how few are there who look upon it as an ordinance of God whereby they are enabled for and kept up unto their duty; wherein, indeed, their use and benefit doth consist. They do not only direct unto duty, but, through the appointment of God, they are means of communicating grace unto us for the due performance of duties.

6. The immediate end of the exercise of this diligence is, that we may attain εἰς πληροφορίαν τῆς ἐλπίδος, — “to the full assurance of hope.” And three things we must consider, to come unto the mind of the apostle in these words:

(1.) What is that hope which he intends.

(2.) What is the full assurance of this hope.

(3.) How it is attainable in the exercise of this diligence: —

(1.) The hope here intended, is a certain assured expectation of good things promised, through the accomplishment of those promises, accompanied with a love, desire, and valuation of them. Faith respects the promise; hope, the thing promised: wherefore it is a fruit and effect of faith, it being the proper acting of the soul towards things believed as good, absent, and certain. Wherefore, where our faith begets no hope, it is to be feared it is not genuine; and where our hope exceeds the evidence or assurance of our faith, it is but presumption. Now this hope concerns things absent and future; for, as our apostle saith, if we already enjoy any thing, why do we hope for it?” Romans 8:24. And this is the order of these things: —

God hath in his promises declared his goodness, purpose, and grace, in the great things he will do unto all eternity for believers; namely, that they shall be perfectly delivered from every thing that is grievous or evil in sin or trouble, and be brought into the full enjoyment of everlasting glory with himself. In these promises faith resteth on the veracity and power of God. Hereon the soul considereth those “good things” which are so promised, and now secured by faith, as yet absent and unenjoyed. And the actings of the soul towards them, in desire, love, valuation, and a certain expectation of them as believed, is this hope. There may be a pretense of great hope where there is no faith, as it is with the most; and there may be a profession of great faith where there is no true hope, as it is with many: but in themselves these things are inseparable and proportionable. It is impossible we should believe the promises aright, but that we shall hope for the things promised; nor can we hope for the things promised, unless we believe the promises. And this discards most of that pretended hope that is in the world. It doth not proceed from, it is not resolved into, faith in the promises; and therefore it is presumption. Yea, none have greater hopes, for the most part, than such as have no faith at all.

The great use, benefit, and advantage which believers have by this grace, is the supporting of their souls under the troubles and difficulties which they meet withal upon the account of the profession of what they do believe, Romans 5:4-5; 1 Corinthians 15:19; 1 Thessalonians 1:3. Hence in our Christian armor it is called the helmet: Ephesians 6:17, “The helmet of salvation;” that is, the hope of salvation, as it is expounded 1 Thessalonians 5:8, “And for an helmet the hope of salvation.” And this is because it bears off and keeps us from being wounded with the sharpness and weight of those strokes which do and will befall us, in troubles, persecutions, and afflictions. And hence it is manifest, that a valuation and esteem of the things hoped for are of the essence of hope. For whatever expectation we have of them, if we do not so value them as to find a satisfactory relief in them in all our troubles, and that which may outbalance our present sufferings, our hope is not genuine and truly evangelical. And this was now the condition of the Hebrews. They were exposed unto much tribulation upon the account of the profession of the gospel; and the apostle foresaw that they were yet to be exercised with things more grievous and terrible. That which they had to relieve themselves in this condition, to lay in the balance against all the evils they suffered or had to conflict withal, were the things that were promised by Christ unto them that believe and obey him. Wherefore, an assured expectation of these things, so infinitely above and beyond what they lost or underwent at present, was absolutely necessary, as to their supportment, so unto their encouragement unto a continuance in their profession. This alone was able to preserve them from fainting and despondencies under a confluence of evils; which also God himself directs unto, Isaiah 35:3-4. Wherefore this duty our apostle frequently exhorts the Hebrews unto in this epistle, as that which was peculiarly suited unto them, and necessary for them in their present condition. And he lets them know, that in its due exercise, it would not only relieve and support them, but enable them, in the midst of all their troubles, to rejoice and glory; as hath been declared on Hebrews 3:6.

(2.) There is the πληροφορία of this hope, — the “full assurance” of it. Hope hath its degrees, as faith hath also. There is a weak or a little faith, and a strong or great faith. So there is an imperfect and a more perfect hope. This “full assurance” is not of the nature or essence of it, but an especial degree of it in its own improvement. A weak, imperfect hope, will give but weak and imperfect relief under trouble; but that which riseth up unto the full assurance will complete our relief. Wherefore, as hope itself is necessary, so is this degree of it, especially where trials do abound. Yet neither is hope in this degree absolute, or absolutely perfect. Our minds in this world are not capable of such a degree of assurance in spiritual things as to free us from assaults to the contrary, and impressions of fear sometimes from those assaults: but there is such a degree attainable as is always victorious; which will give the soul peace at all times, and sometimes fill it with joy. This, therefore, is the assurance of hope here intended; such a fixed, constant, prevailing persuasion, proceeding from faith in the promises concerning the good things promised, our interest in them, and certain enjoyment of them, as will support us and carry us comfortably through all the difficulties and troubles we have to conflict withal. And without this it is not possible that we should carry on our profession to the glory of God and the gospel, in the times of affliction and persecution. For although the least degree of sincere hope will preserve from utter apostasy, yet unless it be confirmed and fortified, and so wrought up unto this full assurance, it cannot be but that great and sore trials, temptations, and persecutions, will at one time or other take such impression on our minds, as to cause a manifold failing in the duties of profession, either as to matter or manner, as it hath fallen out with not a few sincere believers in all ages.

(3.) It is to be inquired how the “diligence” before described tends unto this assurance of hope. And it doth so three ways:

[1.] It hath its efficacy unto this purpose from God’s institution. God hath appointed this as the way and means whereby we shall come to this assurance. So is his will declared, 2 Peter 1:10-11 :

“Give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things ye shall never fall: for so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

It is the same diligence with that here in the text which is intended, as is evident by the verses foregoing. And this hath God appointed as the means to secure unto ourselves our “calling and election,” which the good things we hope for do infallibly accompany. And hereby we shall be carried through all difficulties into the kingdom of God and of glory.

[2.] It hath a proper and natural tendency unto this end; for by the use of this diligence grace is increased in us, whereby our evidences of an interest in the promises of the gospel are cleared and strengthened. And herein doth our assurance of hope consist.

[3.] By our diligent attendance unto the duties of faith and love, every sin will be prevented whereby our hope would be weakened or impaired. 7. The last thing expressed in the words is the continuance in this duty which is required of us; and that is ἄχρι τέλους, — “unto the end.” For these words belong not unto them that go immediately before, namely, the “assurance of hope;” which some supposing, have rendered them harshly and improperly, “unto its perfection,” “the assurance of hope unto perfection,” or “until it be perfected:” but the words plainly belong unto the precept itself, “Showing the same diligence ..... unto the end.” There is no time nor season wherein we may be discharged from this duty; no condition to be attained in this life wherein this diligence will not be necessary for us. We must therefore attend unto it until we are absolutely discharged of this whole warfare. And he who is discouraged because he cannot have a dispensation from this duty in this world, he hath a heart that “draweth back,” and “his soul is not upright in him.” And we may observe, —

Obs. 3. Whereas there are degrees in spiritual saving graces and their operations, we ought continually to press towards the most perfect of them. — Not only are we to have “hope,” but we are to labor for the “assurance of hope.” It is one of the best evidences that any grace is true and saving in its nature and kind, when we labor to thrive and grow in it, or to have it do so in us. This the nature of the new creature, whereof it is a part, inclineth unto; this is the end of all the ordinances and institutions of the gospel, Ephesians 4:13. Hereby alone do we bring glory to God, adorn the gospel, grow up into conformity with Christ, and secure our own eternal welfare.

Obs. 4. Hope, being improved by the due exercise of faith and love, will grow up into such an assurance of rest, life, immortality, and glory, as shall outweigh all the troubles and persecutions that in this world may befall us, on the account of our profession or otherwise.— There is nothing in the world so vain as that common hope whereby men living in their sins do make a reserve of heaven, when they can continue here no longer. The more it thrives in the minds of any, the more desperate is their condition, it being only an endless spring of encouragements unto sin. Its beginnings are usually, indeed, but small and weak; but when it hath been so far cherished as to be able to defeat the power of convictions, it quickly grows up into presumption and security. But this hope, which is the daughter, sister, and companion of faith, the more it grows up and is strengthened, the more useful is it unto the soul, as being a living spring of encouragements unto stability in obedience. For it being once fully confirmed, it will, on every occasion of trial or temptation, give such a present existence in the mind unto future certain glories, as shall deliver it from snares and fears, and confirm it in its duty. But this also must be spoken unto afterwards.


Verse 12

῞ινα μὴ νωθροὶ γένησθε, μιμηταὶ δὲ τῶν διὰ πίστεως καὶ μακροθυμίας κληρονομούντων τὰς ἐπαλλελίας.

νωθροί, “segnes;” “slothful,” “dull.” γένησθε, “sitis,” “efficiamini;” “be” or “become,” or be made. Syr., וַדְלָא תֶּתְקַטַע, “ut non praecidatur,” “ut non abseindatur;” “that it be not cut off:” which interpreters refer unto the diligence before mentioned. The translation in the Polyglot renders it, “neque torpeseatis,” as following the translation in the Jayan Bibles, without choice or alteration. Indeed, קְטַע. is used sometimes in the same sense with to be “weary,” to “loathe,” to be affected with trouble, Habakkuk 2:3; whence sloth and neglect of diligence ensues: but its proper and usual signification is to “cut off;” the same with the Hebrew גָּדַע, “that you be not slothful.” ΄ιμηταὶ δέ, “imitatores;” and so the Rhemists render it “imitators:” which being a word not much in use among us, and when it is used commonly taken in an ill sense, “followers” doth better, as yet, with us express what is intended. “Who by faith καὶ μακροθυμίας.”Syr., בְּנגִירוּת רוּתָא, “in length of spirit;” “longanimitatem,” “patientiam,” “patientem animum,” “lenitatem;” “longanimity,” “patience,” “a patient mind,” “forbearance.” It is plain that the same grace is intended in all these various expressions; whose nature we shall inquire into. κληρονομούντων τὰς ἐπαγγελίας. Syr., יָרְתֵא דְּמוּלְכָנָא חֲוַו“fuerunt haeredes promissionis,” “were heirs of the promise;” referring it to believers under the old testament. Vulg. Lat., “haereditabunt promissiones,” “who shall inherit the promises;” which must respect present, sincere, persevering believers. Beza, “haereditario jure obtinent promissionem.” Others, “obtinent promissam haereditatem,” and “haereditatem accipiunt promissionis;” which Schmidius chooseth as most exact, though without reason. That of Beza is proper, for κληρονομεῖν is “jure haereditario obtinere.” See our exposition on Hebrews 1:4. We, “inherit the promises.”

Hebrews 6:12. — That you be not slothful, but followers of them [their example] who through faith and patient long-suffering inherit the promises. This verse puts a full close to the former exhortation, built on the description given of unprofitable and apostate professors. And here is withal an entrance made into a discourse of somewhat another nature, but intended and applied unto the same end and purpose. We may therefore consider it as a continuation of the former exhortation, enforced with a new argument of great importance.

For, —

1. The apostle gives a caution against an evil or vice directly opposite unto the duty he had been pressing unto, and which, if admitted, would obstruct its discharge: “That you be not slothful.” And therein the series of that discourse hath its connection with the beginning of verse 11: “We desire that you be diligent,” and “that you be not slothful;” diligence and sloth being the opposite virtue and vice, which are the matter of his exhortation.

2. He gives a new direction and encouragement unto them for the performance of the duty exhorted unto, which also guides them in the manner of its performance. And herein he coucheth an introduction to a discourse of another nature which immediately ensues, as was observed: “But be ye followers.”

3. ‘This direction and encouragement consists in the proposal of an example of others unto them, who performed the duty which he exhorts them unto. And as for their direction he declares unto them how they did it, even by faith and patience; so for their encouragement he minds them of what they obtained thereby, or do so, — they inherited the promises of God.

First, The apostle cautions the Hebrews against that which would, if admitted, frustrate his exhortation, and effectually keep them off from the duty exhorted unto: ῞ινα μὴ γένησθε νωθροί, — “That you be not segnes,” “molles,” “ignavi;” “heavy” and “slothful.” He had before charged them that they were νωθροὶ ταῖς ἀκοαῖς, Hebrews 5:11, — “dull” or “slothful in hearing:” not absolutely, but comparatively; they were not so diligent or industrious therein as they ought to have been; or the reproof concerned some of them only. Here he warns them not to be νωθροὶ τοῖς πράγμασι, “slothful in works” or working in practical duties. We are slothful in hearing, when we do not learn the truths of the gospel with diligence and industry, when we do not take them into our minds and understandings by the diligent use of the means appointed unto that end. And we are slothful in practice, when we do not stir up ourselves unto the due exercise of those graces, and discharge of those duties, which the truth wherein we are instructed directs unto and requires of us. And this sloth is opposed τῇ σποῦδῃ, verse 11, — to a “diligent and sedulous endeavor” in the performance of our duty: “Show diligence, and be not slothful.” And this vice our holy apostle, according to his great wisdom and care, frequently warns the Hebrews against in this epistle. For he knew that the utmost intension of our spirits, and the utmost diligence of our minds and endeavors of our whole souls, are required unto a useful continuance in our profession and obedience. This God requireth of us, this the nature of the things themselves about which we are conversant deserveth, and necessary it is unto the end which we aim at. If we faint, or grow negligent in our duty, if careless or slothful, we shall never hold out unto the end; or if we do continue in such a formal course as will consist with this sloth, we shall never come to the blessed end which we expect or look for. The oppositions and difficulties which we shall assuredly meet withal, from within and without, will not give way unto faint and languid endeavours. Nor will the holy God prostitute eternal rewards unto those who have no more regard unto them but to give up themselves unto sloth in their pursuit. Our course of obedience is called running in a race, and fighting as in a battle; and those who are νωθροί on such occasions will never be crowned with victory. Wherefore upon a due compliance with this caution depends our present perseverance and our future salvation. For, —

Obs. 1. Spiritual sloth is ruinous of any profession, though otherwise never so hopeful.

The apostle was persuaded of “good things, and such as accompany salvation,” concerning these Hebrews; but yet he lets them know, that if they intended to enjoy them they must not be slothful. Sloth is a vicious affection, and one of the worst that the mind of man is subject unto; for where it takes place and is prevalent, there is no good principle or habit abiding. There is not any thing, any vice amongst men, that the heathen, who built their directions on the light of nature, and the observation of the ways of men in the world, do more severely give in cautions against. And indeed it were easy to manifest, that nothing more increaseth the degeneracy of mankind than this depraved affection, as being an inlet into all sordid vices, and a perfect obstruction unto all virtuous and laudable enterprises. But what shall he say who comes after the king? Solomon hath so graphically described this affection, with its vile nature and ruinous effects, in sundry passages of the Proverbs, that nothing need or can be added thereunto. Besides, it is spiritual sloth only that we have occasion to speak unto: —

1. Spiritual sloth is a habitual indisposition of mind unto spiritual duties in their proper time and season, arising from unbelief and carnal affections, producing a neglect of duties and dangers, remissness, carelessness, or formality in attendance unto them or the performance of them. The beginning of it is prejudicing negligence, and the end of it is ruining security: —

(1.) It is in general an indisposition and unreadiness of mind, and so opposed unto the entire principle of our spiritual warfare. Fervency in spirit, alacrity of mind, preparation with the whole armor of God, — and therein girding up the loins of our minds, endeavoring to cast off every weight, and the sin that doth so easily beset us, — are required to be in us constantly, in the course of our obedience. But this sloth is that which gives us an indisposition of mind, in direct opposition unto them all. So it is described, Proverbs 26:15. A person under the power of this vicious distemper of mind is indisposed to every duty, which makes them grievous unto him.

(2.) When it comes unto the height of it, it is habitual. There is no man but may be occasionally indisposed unto spiritual duties. The most healthy and athletic constitution is subject unto the incursion of some distempers. Sometimes bodily infirmities may indispose us, sometimes present temptations may do so. Such was the indisposition which befell the disciples in the mount, Matthew 26:40-41; which yet was not without their sin, for which they were reproved by our Savior. But where these things are occasional, when those occasions are endeavored to be prevented or removed, persons overtaken with them may not be said to be absolutely slothful. There may be many actual faults where there is not a habitual vice.

(3.) But there is this sloth in a dangerous degree, —

[1.] When this is generally the frame of the mind, when it hath such an unreadiness unto holy duties as that it either neglects them or is cold and formal in the performance of them. This was the temper of Laodicea, Revelation 3:15. She did enough outwardly to satisfy herself, but insuch a way and manner as all that she did was disapproved by Christ. Lukewarmness is the soul and form of sloth.

[2.] When persons are generally uncompliant with such outward means as they cannot but acknowledge do contain warning from this and invitation unto another frame. So the spouse acknowledgeth that it was the voice of her Beloved that knocked, saying, “Open to me, my spouse, my love, my dove, my undefiled; for my head is filled with dew, and my locks with the drops of the night,” Song of Solomon 5:2. Both the voice, and the love, and the long waiting of Christ, were manifest unto her; and yet she complies not with him, but makes her excuses, Song of Solomon 5:2-3. And the sloth of persons will be reckoned in proportion unto the means of diligence which they do enjoy. Some may not be sleepy, worldly, careless, slothful, at as cheap a rate of guilt as others, though it be great in all.

[3.] When persons are as it were glad of such occasions as may justify them and satisfy their minds in the omission of duties or opportunities for them. This casts off the duty prescribed unto us, Hebrews 12:1; which yet is indispensably necessary unto the attaining of the end of our faith. When men will not only readily embrace occasions offered unto them to divert them from duty, but will be apt to seek out and invent shifts whereby they may, as they suppose, be excused from it; — which corrupt nature is exceedingly prone unto, — they are under the power of this vicious habit. Especially is this so when men are apt to approve of such reasons to this end, as, being examined by the rules of duty, with the tenders of the love of Christ, are lighter than vanity. So it is added of the slothful person, who hides his hand in his bosom, that he is “wiser in his own conceit than seven men that can render a reason,” Proverbs 26:15-16. He pleaseth himself with his foolish pretences for his sloth above all the reasons that can be given him to the contrary. And such is the reason pleaded by the spouse when overtaken with this frame for a season, Song of Solomon 5:3.

[4.] When there is a great neglect of our own prayers, when at any time we have been enabled to make them. So the spouse, in whom we have an instance of a surprisal into this evil, prays earnestly for the coming and approach of Christ unto her in the holy dispensations of his Spirit, Song of Solomon 4:16; but when he tenders himself unto her desire, she puts off the entertainment of him. So do men pray for grace and mercy sometimes; but when the seasons of the communication of them do come, they are wholly regardless in looking after them. They put off things unto another season, and meet ofttimes with the success mentioned, Song of Solomon 5:6.

[5.] When, in conflicts about duties, the scale is often turned on the side of the flesh and unbelief. Sometimes it is so when duties are considered as future, and sometimes as present. When duties are considered as future, difficulties and objections against them, as for matter or manner, time or season, or degree, one thing or other, will be suggested by the flesh. Grace in believers will move for an absolute compliance. If the contrary reasons, insinuations, and objections, prevail, the soul “consulteth with flesh and blood,” and is under the power of spiritual sloth. And so are men, by frivolous pretences and arguings from self and the world, kept off from the most important duties. And sometimes there is a conflict in the entrance of the duties of God’s worship, as praying, hearing the word, and the like. Grace stirs up the soul to diligence, spirituality, and vigor of spirit. The flesh in all things is contrary unto it. Usually to give place unto the flesh, so as to be brought under the power of a cold formality, is an evidence of a prevalent sloth.

2. Although this sloth may have various causes and occasions, yet the principal of them are those which I have mentioned, namely, unbelief and carnal affections: —

(1.) Unbelief is the principal cause of it, as faith is of that diligence and watchfulness which are opposed unto it. Yea, by faith alone are we excited unto the acting of all other graces, and the performance of all other duties. As it is in its nature to quicken us unto them, so it alone takes in all other motives unto vigorous obedience. Wherefore all indispositions unto duty arise from unbelief. This weakens the efficacy of every thing that should excite us unto it, and increaseth every difficulty that lies in the way of it. As faith will remove mountains out of our way, or help us to conquer the greatest oppositions, so unbelief will make mountains of mole-hills, — it will make every hinderance like an unconquerable difficulty. The soul made slothful by it, cries, “There is a lion in the way, a lion in the streets,” Proverbs 26:13. And its whole way “is as an hedge of thorns,”

Proverbs 15:19; that is, so grievous and troublesome that he cares not to take one step in it. Hence is the opposition in these words, “That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith,” etc. If we grow slothful, it is an assured evidence of the decay of faith.

(2.) Carnal affections do variously promote this evil frame of mind. Love of ease, wealth, profit, pleasure, will quickly make men spiritually slothful. Where these are prevalent, every thing in the way of holiness and obedience is difficult and irksome. Strange representations will be made unto the mind of all duties, if not in general, yet in all instances that offer themselves. They are difficult, or tedious, or unseasonable, or needless, or the loss we make at present may be retrieved at another time. Every prevalent carnal affection will be heard in the case, and hath something to offer to deter the mind from its duty. And the secret aversation of the flesh from communion with Christ in duties works in all of them. Wherefore, if we see a man slothful, negligent, careless in the duties of religion, we may be sure that one carnal affection or other is powerful in him.

3. As to the general effects of this spiritual sloth, they may be reduced unto these three heads: —

(1.) A neglect of known duties, in, matter or manner. Known duties of professors are either public or private; and I call them known, because they are both acknowledged by all so to be, and themselves are under the conviction of their so being. But where this sloth is predominant, clear duties will be debated. What more clear duty than that we should open our hearts unto Christ when he knocketh; or diligently receive those intimations of his love and his mind which he tendereth in his ordinances? Yet this will a soul dispute about and debate on, when it is under the power of sloth, Song of Solomon 5:2-3. And it doth so actually when it doth not take diligent heed unto the dispensation of the word. Wherefore, omission of duties in their seasons and opportunities, whether public or private, whether of piety or charity, of faith or love, or the performance of them without life and delight, merely to comply with custom, or satisfy convictions, is an evidence of a soul growing up under a sinful sloth unto a ruining security.

(2.) Regardlessness of temptations, and dangers by them, is another general effect hereof. These beset us on every hand; especially they do so with reference unto all duties of obedience. In watchfulness against them, a conflict with them, and prevalency over them, doth our warfare principally consist. And without a due regard unto them, we can neither preserve the life nor bring forth the fruits of faith. Herein spiritual sloth will make us careless. When men begin to walk as if they had no enemies, as if in their course of life, their converse, their callings and occasions, there were no snares nor temptations, spiritual sloth hath possessed their minds.

(3.) Weariness and heartless despondencies in a time of troubles and difficulties is another effect hereof. — And unto these heads may all its particular pernicious effects and consequences be reduced.

And this brief description of spiritual sloth, in its nature, causes, and effects, is a sufficient eviction of our assertion, so that I need to give no further confirmation.

Secondly, In the positive direction given, and the encouragement adjoined, there is an example proposed, and a duty enjoined with respect thereunto. The persons whose example is prescribed are mentioned here only indefinitely, “Be followers of them;” which in the ensuing verse he brings down to the instance of Abraham. For dealing with them who greatly gloried in having Abraham for their father, no example more pertinent and cogent could be proposed unto them, to let them know that Abraham himself obtained not the promises any other way than what he now proposeth unto them. And as our Savior had told them, that if they would be the children of Abraham they must do the works of Abraham, otherwise their boast of his being their father would stand them in no stead; so our apostle shows them the like necessity of his faith and patience in particular. Besides, he was in the next chapter of necessity to prefer Melchisedec, as a type of Christ, before him and above him; and therefore, as he had in an alike case before dealt with Moses, he would take the advantage hereof, giving him his due commendation, that he might not seem to derogate any thing from him. And this he doth in that instance wherein he came to have his greatest honor, or to become “the father of the faithful.”

The persons therefore included in the particle τῶν, τῶν κληρονομοῦντων, are the patriarchs of the old testament. It is true, it is so expressed as that those who were at present real, sincere, sound believers, might be intended, or those who had fallen asleep in the faith of the gospel; but as he deals on all occasions, with these Hebrews, with instances and examples out of the Old Testament, as we have seen and considered it at large in the third chapter, so his immediate expressing of Abraham as the principal of those which he intended, confines his design unto those under that dispensation. Plainly he designs those whom unto the same purpose he enumerates afterwards in particular, with the instances of their faith, Hebrews 11. Nor is there any difficulty in the variety of his expressions concerning them. Of those in the 11th chapter he says, that “all died in faith, and obtained a good report on the account thereof,” but “received not the promise,” verses 13, 39; of those in this place, that “through faith and patience they inherited the promises.” But it is one thing to “receive the promises,” and another to “inherit the promises.” By “receiving” the promises, Hebrews 11, the apostle respects the actual accomplishment of the great promise concerning the exhibition of Christ in the flesh. This they neither did nor could receive who died before his incarnation. But the “inheriting” of the promises, here intended, is a real participation of the grace and mercy proposed in them, with eternal glory. This they all received, being saved by faith, even as we, Acts 15:10-11; Hebrews 4:2.

Concerning these persons, he proposeth to them the way that they took, and the end that they attained. The way they took was “by faith and patience,” or “long-suffering.”

Some think that here is an ἕν διὰ δυοῖν, and that a constant, enduring faith is only intended. But their faith, and the constant exercise of it against oppositions, are rather proposed unto them under the name of faith. For that by μακροθυμία a distinct grace or duty is intended, is manifest from verse 15, where Abraham’s carriage upon his believing and receiving the blessing is expressed by οὕτω μακροθυμήσας, “after he had patiently endured.”

What was that faith, or of what kind, which is here ascribed unto the patriarchs, is evident from the context. For it was that faith which had the especial promise of God in Christ for its object; — not a general, not a common faith, but that which respected the promise given from the foundation of the world, and expressly renewed unto Abraham. Some amongst us wholly deny this kind of faith, and beyond the belief of the truth or veracity of God in general, will not allow an especial faith with respect unto the covenant and the promise of grace in Christ Jesus; whereas indeed there is no other faith true, useful, saving, and properly so called in the world. It is true, this especial faith in the promise supposeth faith in general with respect unto the truth and veracity of God, nor can be without it. But this may be, and is in many where the other is not, yea, where it is despised. This, therefore, was the faith which was here recommended and proposed unto us, The especial object of it was the Messiah, or Christ himself, as a Savior from sin; with this especial limitation, as to come afterwards. The formal reason of it was the truth of God in his promises, with his unchangeableness and infinite power to give them an accomplishment. And the means of ingenerating this faith in them was the promise itself. By this faith were they justified and saved, Genesis 15:6. But it may be inquired how this faith could be proposed unto us for an example, seeing it respected the future exhibition of Christ, and we are to respect him as long since come in the flesh. But this circumstance changeth nothing in the nature of the things themselves; for although, as to the actual exhibition of the Messiah, they looked on it as future, yet as to the benefits of his mediation, they were made present and effectual unto them by the promise. And the faith required of us doth in like manner respect the Lord Christ and the benefits of his mediation; and by his actual exhibition in the flesh is not changed in its nature from what theirs was, though it be exceedingly advantaged as to its light.

The next thing ascribed unto them is μακροθυμία. “Patience,” say we; that is, ὑπομονή. But these graces are expressly distinguished, 2 Timothy 3:10, τῇ πίστει τῇ μακροθυμίᾳ, τῇ ὑπομονῇ, — “faith, long- suffering, patience.” So plainly Colossians 1:11, εἰς πᾶσαν ὑπομονὴν καὶ μακροθυμίαν, — “Unto all patience and long-suffering.” And in very many places it is recommended as a special grace and duty, 2 Corinthians 6:6; Galatians 5:22; Ephesians 4:2; Colossians 3:12. And it is often also ascribed unto God, Romans 2:4; Romans 9:22; to Christ, 1 Timothy 1:16. ΄ακρόθυμος is properly אֶרֶךְ אַפַיִם “longanimis:” or, as James speaks, βραδὺς, James 1:19, — “slow to anger;” opposed unto ὀξύθυμος, “hasty,” “soon angry,” “bitter in spirit.” It is a gracious, sedate frame of soul, a tranquillity of mind, on holy, spiritual grounds of faith, not subject to take provocations, not to be wearied with opposition. Wherefore, although the apostle saith in like manner in another place, that “we have need of patience, that, after we have done the will of God, we may receive the promise,” Hebrews 10:36; yet the longanimity here intended is distinct from it. For as patience is a gracious, submissive quietness of mind in undergoing present troubles and miseries; so this μακροθυμία, or “longanimity,” forbearance, tolerance, or long-suffering, is a sedate, gracious disposition of mind, able to encounter a series of difficulties and provocations without being exasperated by them so as to desert, or cease from the course wherein we are engaged. So where it is ascribed unto God, it signifies that goodness of his nature, and purpose of his will, that, notwithstanding their manifold provocations, and, as it were, daily new surprisals, yet he will bear with sinners, and not divert from his course of goodness and mercy towards them. And with us it hath a twofold object. For,

1. In the course of our faith and profession we shall meet with many difficulties and oppositions, with many scandals and offenses. These men are apt to take distaste at, to dislike, and so to be provoked as to leave the way wherein they meet with them. Upon various surprising occasions, they “fret themselves to do evil,” Psalms 37:8. So David was ὀξύθυμος, very short-spirited, when, upon the breach that God righteously made on Uzza, it is said that the thing which God had done displeased David. But this is that grace whereby the soul (if a believer is kept from taking offense, or admitting sinful provocations from cross accidents, oppositions, injuries, scandals, disappointments. So is the duty of it prescribed unto us in particular with respect unto one another, Ephesians 4:2. Besides,

2. There are sundry things in the promises of God whereof believers earnestly desire, if it were possible, a present accomplishment, or a greater degree of evidence in their accomplishment, or a greater speed towards it. Such are the full subduing of their corruptions, success against or freedom from temptations, deliverance of the church from troubles, and the like. Now, when these things are delayed, when the heart is ready to be made sick by the deferring of its hopes, the soul is apt to despond, to give over its expectations; and if it do so, it will quickly also forsake its duties. The grace which keeps us up in a quiet waiting upon God for the fulfilling of all that concerns us in his own time and season, that preserves us from fainting and sinful despondencies, is this μακροθυμία, this “long-suffering” or forbearance.

These were the ways whereby they came to inherit the promises. The heathen of old fancied that their heroes, or patriarchs, by great, and, as they were called, heroic actions, — by valor, courage, the slaughter and conquest of their enemies, usually attended with pride, cruelty, and oppression, — made their way into heaven. The way of God’s heroes, of the patriarchs of his church and people, unto their rest and glory, unto the enjoyment of the divine promises, was by faith, patience, long-suffering, humility, enduring persecution, self-denial, and the spiritual virtues generally reckoned in the world unto pusillanimity, and so despised. So contrary are the judgments and ways of God and men even about what is good and praiseworthy. Observe, as we pass on, that, —

Obs. 2. Faith and patient long-suffering are the only way whereby professors of the gospel may attain rest with God in the accomplishment of the promises. — It is a sad consideration, which way and by what means some men think to come to heaven, or carry themselves as if they did so. They are but few who think so much as a naked profession of these things to be necessary thereunto; but living avowedly in all sorts of sins, they yet suppose they shall inherit the promises of God! But this was not the way of the holy men of old, whose example is proposed to us. Some think faith at least to be necessary hereunto; but by faith they understand little more than that they profess the true religion, about which there are so many contests in the world.

This was not the faith of Abraham; that is, this alone was not so. Wherein it consisted, and how it was acted, we shall have occasion afterwards to declare. But what do men think of the long-suffering before described? Their relief against it, is to trust in such a faith as stands in no need of it. For that common faith which most men content themselves withal, seldom or never puts them upon the exercise of patient long-suffering. It is against the actings of a lively faith that those oppositions arise which the exercise of that other grace is needful to conflict withal. And I shall give some few instances of it, wherein the necessity of it will be made to appear; for if I should handle it at large, all the difficulties that lie in the way of our profession would fall under consideration. Of faith we shall treat afterwards. And,—

1. It is necessary with respect unto those reproaches which the profession of a saving faith will expose men unto. It hath done so always, and will do so whilst this world continues. And they are usually cast on believers in so great variety, on all sorts of occasions, as that it would be a long work to call over the principal of them; for they are the chief effects of the endeavors of Satan as he is “the accuser of the brethren.” I shall instance only in those of one kind; and they are those which, on their straits, difficulties, and temptations, the world reflects upon, as if their profession of faith in God were vain, false, and hypocritical. When men said unto David, “Where is now thy God?” or ‘What is become of thy religion and profession, thy pretended trust in God?’he says it was as “a killing sword in his bones;” it pierced deep, and pained greatly, Psalms 42:10. And it is spoken in the person of our Savior, “Reproach hath broken my heart, and I am full of heaviness,” Psalms 69:20. And this was the reproach that was cast upon him on the cross, as the next words manifest, “They gave me gall for my meat; and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink,” verse 21. And this reproach was that which we instance in, “They shook the head at him, saying, He trusted on the LORD that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighteth in him,” Psalms 22:7-8; Matthew 27:43. And what befell the Lord Christ on the cross, teacheth the church what it is to expect under it. In this condition patient long- suffering is our only relief. If that be not in exercise, we shall either faint and despond, or “fret ourselves to do evil,” or say in our hearts, ‘We will do unto others what they have done unto us.’But hereby is the soul delivered. It is not made stupid and senseless of the sharpness and evil of them. David was not so, nor was Christ himself; nor is it the will of God that we should put them off with a careless regardlessness. The glory and honor of God and the gospel are so far concerned in them, and God so designs them for the exercise of our faith, as that they are not to be despised. But it will give a quietness and evenness of spirit under them, so that no duty shall be obstructed, nor that satisfaction. which we have in the ways of God be any way impeded. And in this case this patient long- suffering worketh three ways:

(1.) By committing our whole cause to God; as it did in Christ, 1 Peter 2:23.

(2.) By patient waiting for the pleading of our cause, under a sense of our own sin, and an acknowledgment of the righteousness of God, Micah 7:9-10.

(3.) By supporting the soul with a testimony of its own sincerity, 1 Corinthians 4:3-4.

2. With respect unto violence and persecutions. These also, that faith which tends to the enjoyment of the promises will expose men unto. And they prove great trials, sometimes from their violence, and sometimes from their continuance. Some come with the fury of a storm, as if they would bear down all before them; such were the primitive persecutions, and that at this day in many places under the papal power. Others, by their long duration in wasting, vexing, consuming troubles, are designed gradually to “wear out the saints of the Most High,” Daniel 7:25. And what; havoc hath been made in all ages by them, of the one sort and of the other, is known unto all. The number of apostates in such seasons hath for the most part exceeded that of martyrs. And many have insensibly withered and grown utterly weary under troubles of a long duration, when they could apprehend no end of them. Here we have need of patient long-suffering, if we intend to inherit the promises. This is that grace which calmeth and supporteth the soul under all these pressures:

(1.) By keeping and preserving it from darkening, disturbing affections and passions of anger, worldly sorrow, carnal fear, and the inordinate love of present things. Hereby “in patience we possess our souls,” Luke 21:19; which if disorderly affections do as it were once carry out of our power, and possess the conduct of them, we shall quickly be at a loss in our profession.

(2.) By enabling us to take a sedate prospect of eternal things, of the good things promised, and their glorious excellency in comparison unto what here we suffer in, 2 Corinthians 4:16-18.

(3.) By preserving of us from all irregular ways and attempts for deliverance. For without this grace we shall choose either not to suffer, and so disinherit ourselves of the promises; or shall not suffer in a due manner, unto the glory of God or our own advantage; or shall turn aside unto unlawful reliefs.

3. It is necessary with respect unto our waiting for the accomplishment of many great promises concerning the kingdom of Christ and interest of the gospel in this world. That there are such promises on record in the Scripture, and as yet unfulfilled, is, I suppose, generally granted. However, I speak of them who are satisfied in their minds beyond all hesitation that such there are; and of such as lived before the accomplishment of some of them, who are proposed for our example. For so did the fathers under the old testament, who lived before the coming of Christ in the flesh. In these promises and their accomplishment believers find themselves greatly concerned; and those who are not so, do disavow an interest in the spiritual body of Christ and his glory in the world. Now, because their accomplishment is deferred beyond the desires and expectations of men, as was of old the promise of the coming of Christ, many temptations do ensue thereon. And not a few have there been on the one hand, who have, in sad instances, made haste and antedated the accomplishment in unwarrantable practices; pretending unto faith, they have renounced patient long- suffering. And not fewer have cast away all expectation of them on the other hand, as though they would never be fulfilled. Herein, therefore, we have also need of patient long-suffering. Without it we shall fall into one of the extremes mentioned, both of which are attended with dangers ruinous unto profession. See Habakkuk 2:1-4. With respect unto these things, the days of the gospel are the time of “the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ,” Revelation 1:9. He hath begun to set up his kingdom; and it shall never be prevailed against, Daniel 7:27. But yet many things that belong thereunto, especially unto its tranquillity and extent, are as yet unfulfilled; and whilst they are so, many outrages are committed in the world against his rule and interest. Wherefore it is at present the time of his patience as well as of his reign. And therefore are we required to “keep the word of his patience” Revelation 3:10; or to abide in the faith of those things concerning which he exerciseth patience in the world. So is it said with respect unto the judgments which God in his own time will execute on the antichristian, persecuting world,

“He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity; he that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and faith of the saints,” Revelation 13:10.

While these things are accomplishing, and until they are accomplished, during that large season until their end be, the saints must exercise patient long-suffering, added unto faith in the promises, or they will not see the end of them. And this patient long-suffering with respect unto the accomplishment of these promises produceth these four effects:

(1.) A quiet resignation of all times and seasons unto the sovereignty of God. The soul possessed of it quiets itself with this, ‘It is not for me to know the times and seasons, which God hath put in his own hand,’ Deuteronomy 29:29.

(2.) A due valuation of present enjoyments; which is especially required, since the coming of Christ in the flesh.

(3.) A ready application of mind unto present duties, John 21:22.

(4.) Waiting in prayer for what we have not yet received.

4. It is necessary also with respect unto our own personal obedience and all the principal concerns of it. There are three things which believers principally aim at in the course of their obedience:

(1.) That their corruptions may be thoroughly subdued.

(2.) That their graces may be quickened and strengthened unto all fruitfulness.

(3.) That, temptations being removed, their spiritual consolations may abound. These are the things which they are continually pressing after, longing for, and endeavoring. And sometimes in some, if not all of them, they seem to have made so great a progress as to be ready for an entrance into perfect rest. But yet again they find new storms arise; corruptions grow strong, and grace is under decays; temptations abound, and consolations are far away. Yea, and it may be they are frequently exercised with these changes and disappointments. This fills them with many perplexities, and ofttimes makes them ready to faint. Unless this patient long-suffering accompany us in our whole course, we shall not finish it with glory to God, or comfort to our own souls.

But it may be inquired, on what grounds and for what reasons the apostle doth propose unto these Hebrews the example of their predecessors in this matter. Wherefore he doth it, or he might do it, for these ends: — that they might know that he exhorted them,

1. Unto nothing but what was found in them who went before them, whom they so loved and admired; and this he afterwards, unto the same end, confirms with many instances:

2. Unto nothing but what was needful unto all who were to inherit the promises; for if these things were required of their progenitors, persons so high in the love and favor of God, unto that end, how could they imagine that they might be dispensed withal as to their observance?

3. Unto nothing but what was practicable, which others had done, and was therefore possible, yea easy for them, through the grace of Christ, to comply withal.

Thirdly, The apostle, for their encouragement unto the duties mentioned, expresseth the end which those others attained in the practice of them. κληρονομούντων τὰς ἐπαγγελίας — “Who inherit the promises.” He speaks in the present tense, but principally intends those who lived before, as we have declared. And the apostle here expresseth the way whereby, in the use of the means, we come to the enjoyment of the promises. And this is by “inheritance.” We neither merit it nor purchase it, but inherit it. And how come we to inherit it? By the same way as any other comes to an inheritance, namely, by being the true heirs unto it. And how do we become heirs of this inheritance? Merely by God’s gratuitous adoption; so our apostle declareth fully this whole matter, Romans 8:15-17,

“Ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God. And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ.”

God, by free and gratuitous adoption, makes us his children. All God’s children are heirs; he hath an inheritance for them all. This inheritance is promised unto them; and therefore their enjoyment of it is called “inheriting of the promises.” Wherefore the grace of adoption is the foundation, cause, and way of our receiving promised grace and glory. And with respect hereunto it is that God is said not to be unrighteous in our reward, verse 10. For having freely adopted us, and made us heirs, it belongs unto his faithfulness and righteousness to preserve us unto our inheritance. Only we are such heirs as have means assigned unto us for the attaining of our inheritance, which it is our duty to apply ourselves unto.

They inherited ἐπαγγελίας, “the promises.” Cameron and Grotius on this text observe, that where the fathers under the old testament are spoken of in this matter, there “the promises” are mentioned; but where believers under the new testament are spoken of, there it is called “the promise,” in the singular number. I shall not give their reasons why it is so, because they are certainly mistaken in their observation: for both is “the promise” on the one hand mentioned with respect unto them, as Hebrews 11:39; and “the promises” frequently with respect unto us, 2 Corinthians 7:1;2 Peter 1:4. Wherefore these expressions are used promiscuously, as is evident by our apostle, Hebrews 11:13; Hebrews 11:39. Because they all sprang from one original promise, and all centred in Him in whom and by whom they were to be accomplished and made effectual, being “all yea and amen in him;” and because that one which concerned his person and mediation did virtually include all the rest, they are all of them frequently intended and included under the name of “the promise,” in the singular number. But. because God was pleased to let out, as it were, sundry rivulets of grace and bounty, originally stored in the first great promise, by several particular grants and instances, partly for the representation of that fullness of grace which he intended to exhibit thereby, partly for the encouragement of our faith, and its direction in the application of the grace promised, on various particular occasions; and because he was pleased frequently to renew the same great original promise, as to Abraham and David; there are many of them, and they are called “the promises:” and, by reason of their union in the same covenant, whoever is really interested in any one of them, is so in all.

By “the promises” here, the things promised are intended. To “inherit the promises,” is to be made partaker of the things promised. And the matter of these promises, was all grace and glory. That which is here especially regarded, is their full complement in everlasting glorious rest with God by Christ. This is proposed unto the Hebrews; and they are encouraged to expect it by the examples of those who went before them in faith and patience. Wherefore he requires, —

Lastly, That they should be μιμηταί, “imitatores eorum.” “Imitators” is not often used in our language; and when it is, it rather signifies mimics, or contains some reflection of blame or weakness, than what it is here applied unto. Wherefore we render it “followers;” — that is, in doing what they did, treading and “walking in their steps,” as our apostle expresseth it, Romans 4:12; as we are to “follow the steps of Christ,” 1 Peter 2:21. It is to think we hear them saying unto us what Abimelech said to his soldiers, Judges 9:48, ‘What you have seen us do, make haste and do as we have done.’

Obs. 3. All believers, all the children of God, have a right unto an inheritance. — How they came by this right was before declared. It is by that adoption whereby they are made children of God; and all God’s children are heirs, as the apostle affirms. And this inheritance is the best and the greatest, on the account of security and value.

1. Let an inheritance be never so excellent and valuable, yet if it be not secure, if a man’s title unto it be not firm and unquestionable, if he may be defeated of it by fraud or force, — which things all earthly rights and titles are obnoxious unto, — it takes off the worth of it. But this inheritance is conveyed, settled, and secured, by the promise, covenant, and oath of God, 2 Samuel 23:5; Romans 4:16. These secure this inheritance from all possibility of our being defeated of it.

2. The value of it is inexpressible. It is a “kingdom,” Matthew 25:34; James 2:5; “salvation,” Hebrews 1:14; the “grace of life,” 1 Peter 3:7; “eternal life,” Titus 3:7; God himself, who hath promised to be our reward, Romans 8:17.

Obs. 4. The providing of examples for us in the Scripture, which we ought to imitate and follow, is an effectual way of teaching, and a great fruit of the care and kindness of God towards us.

The use of examples to be avoided in sin and punishment, the apostle declared and insisted on in the third chapter; which we have also improved as we are able. Here he proposeth those which we are to comply with and conform ourselves unto; which afterwards, Hebrews 11, he further presseth in very many particular instances. And as there is a great efficacy in examples in general, — which hath been spoken unto on Hebrews 3,— so there are many advantages in those which are proposed unto our imitation in the wisdom of the Holy Spirit. For, —

1. The things and duties which we are exhorted unto are represented unto us as possible, and that on terms not uneasy or grievous. Considering all the difficulties and oppositions, from within and without, that we have to conflict withal, we may be ready to think it impossible that we should successfully go through with them, and come off safely at the last. To obviate this despondency is the design of the apostle in that long series of examples which he gives us Hebrews 11; for he undeniably demonstrates, by instances of all sorts, that faith will infallibly carry men through the greatest difficulties they can possibly meet with in the profession and obedience of it. There is no more required of us than such and such persons, by the testimony of God himself, have successfully passed through. And if we follow them not, it is nothing but spiritual sloth, or the love of the world and sin, that retards us.

2. Great examples do naturally stir up and animate the minds of men, who have any thing of the same spirit with them by whom they were performed, to do like them, yea, to outdo them if it be possible. So Themistocles said that Miltiades’victory against the Persians would not let him sleep. Being a person of the same kind of courage with him, it stirred him up, in a noble emulation, to equal him in a hazardous and successful defense of his country. But then it is required, that there be the same spirit in us as was in them whose examples are proposed unto us. Let the examples of persons valiant and heroical, in their great and noble actions, be set before men of a weak and pusillammous nature or temper, and you will amaze or affright, but not at all encourage them. Now the spirit and principle wherewith the worthies of God whose example is set before us were acted withal, was that of faith. In vain should we encourage any one unto a following of imitation of them, who hath not the same spirit and principle. This the apostle requireth hereunto, 2 Corinthians 4:13 :

“We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak;”

— ‘Had we not the same spirit of faith with them, we could not do as they did.’And we may take a trial hereby whether our faith be genuine or no. For if their examples move us not, excite us not unto the like duties of obedience with them, it is an evidence that we have not the same spirit of faith with them; — as the courage of a valiant man is inflamed by a noble example, when a coward shrinks back and trembles at it. On this supposition there is great force in that direction, James 5:10 :

“Take, my brethren, the prophets who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience.”

Let a minister of the gospel who is made partaker in his measure of the same spirit, consider how Elijah, Jeremiah, Peter, Paul, and the rest of those holy souls who spake in the name of the Lord, carried themselves under their afflictions and trials; and it will inflame his heart to engage cheerfully in the like conflicts.

3. These examples are so represented unto us, as plainly to discover and point out where our dangers lie on the one hand, and where our assistance and relief lie on the other. These two, rightly considered and understood in all our duties, will give us the best directions we can possibly receive. When we know our dangers and our reliefs aright, we are half way through our difficulties. When these are out of mind, when we know them not, on every occasion we fall under surprisals and troubles. Now, in the examples proposed unto us there is withal, through the wisdom and care of the Spirit of God, represented unto us the temptations which befell those who are so our patterns, — the occasions of them, their advantages, power, or prevalency; wherein they missed it, or failed, exposing themselves unto the power of their spiritual enemies: and on the other hand, what course they took for relief, what application they made unto God in their difficulties and distresses, and wherein alone they reposed their confidence of success. These things might be confirmed by manifold instances.

4. There is in them also made known what interveniencies and disturbances in our course of obedience may befall us; which yet ought not to make us utterly despond, and give over our profession as fruitless and hopeless. I confess, great wisdom and caution are to be used in the consideration of the sins and falls of the saints under the old testament, that they be no way abused to give countenance unto sin, either before or after its commission. We know not their circumstances, their light, their grace, their temptations, their repentance, nor what was the indulgence of God towards sinners, before the fullness of the dispensation of grace came by Jesus Christ. But this is certain, in general, that if every great sin or fall, when any is overtaken therein by the overpowering of temptations, were absolutely inconsistent with that course of obedience which leads unto the inheritance of the promises, the Holy Ghost would not, without any particular exception as to their persons, have recorded such things in the lives of them whom he proposeth for our example.

5. The certain end of a course of holy obedience is in them proposed unto us. All those holy souls that are now at rest with God in glory, as having inherited the promises, were some time as we are, conflicting with corruptions and temptations, undergoing reproaches and persecutions, laboring in duties and a constant course of obedience unto God. If, therefore, we follow them in their work, we shall not fail to partake with them in their reward.


Verses 13-16

In the close of the foregoing verse the apostle expresseth the end of all his exhortations, what they tended unto, and what would be the advantage of all that complied with them in faith and obedience; and. this was, the inheriting of the promises, or the enjoyment of the things promised by God unto them that believe and obey. Of all that intercourse that is between God and sinners, the promise on the part of God is the sole foundation. Thereby doth God express his goodness, grace, truth, and sovereign power, unto men. Herein all supernatural religion and all our concernments therein are founded, and not on any thing in us And on our part, the inheritance of the promises, in the effects of these holy properties of God towards us, is the end of what we look for and aim at in all our obedience. Wherefore the apostle having arrived, in the series of his discourse, unto the mention of this great period of his whole design, he stays a while to consider and explain it in these verses.

Hebrews 6:13-16. τῷ γὰρ ἀβραὰμ ἐπαγγειλάμενος ὁ θεὸς, ἐπεὶ κατʼ οὐδενὸς εἷχε μείζονος ὀμόσαι, ὤμοσε καθʼ ἑαυτοῦ, λέγων· ἦ μὴν εὐλογῶν εὐλογήσω σε, καὶ πληθύνων πληθυνῶ σε, καὶ οὕτως μακροθυμήσας ἐπέτυχε τῆς ἐπαγγλιας. ἄνθρωποι μὲν γὰρ κατὰ τοῦ μείζονος ὀμνύουσι, καὶ πάσης αὐτοῖς ἀντιλογίας πέρας εἰς βεβαίωσιν ὁ ὅρκος.

τῷ γαο ἀβραὰμ ἐπαγγειλάμενος. Syr., כַּד מְלַךְ לֵהּ, “when He promised unto him.” Vulg. Lat., “Abrahae namque promitten,” “for promising to Abraham.” Most, “Deus enim pollicitus Abraham,” “for God promising unto Abraham;” which expresseth the sense intended: and that word, “when,” which we add, is included in ἐπαγγειλάμενος.

᾿επεὶ κατ᾿ οὐδενὸς ει῏χε μείζονος ὀμόσαι, ad verbum; “quoniam per neminem ha-buit majorem jurare;” “seeing by none he had a greater to swear.” Vulg. Lat., “quoniam neminem habuit, per quem juraret majorem.” Rhem., “because he had none greater by whom he might swear.” Erasm., Bez., “cum non possit per quemquam majorem jurare.” Ours, “because he could swear by no greater.” ᾿επεί is rather “quum” than “quoniam.” To make up the sense, “se” may be added, “none greater than himself.” And so the Syriac reads, לֵהּ דְּרַב מֶנֵהּ דְּיִאמֵא בֵהּ מֶטוּל דְּלַית חֲוָא“quoniam non erat ipsi qui major prae se ut juraret perilium;” or, in the neuter gender, “majus” and “illud:” “seeing there was nothing to him greater than himself that he might swear by it.” All to the same purpose.

῎ωμοσε καθ᾿ ἑαυτοῦ, “juravit per semet ipsum.” Syr., יִמָא בְּנַפְשֵׁהּ, “he sware “by his soul;” which though it may be an Hebraism, yet we shall find that God sometimes in his oath makes mention of his soul.

῏η μὴν εὐλογῶν. The Syriac omits the particles ἧ μήν, which yet are the only note of asseveration in the words. The Vulg. Lat. renders it by “nisi,” “unless;” which is retained by Erasmus; the sense whereof we shall afterwards inquire into. “Certe,” “surely,” Arab., — “I have sworn assuredly: benedicens,” or” benedicendo benedieam;” “blessing I will bless.”

΄ακροθυμήσας. Syr., אֲגָר רוּחֵהּ, “he restrained his spirit;” preserved himself by faith from being hasty, or making haste.

᾿επέτυχε τῆς ἐπαγγελίας, “adeptus est,” “nactus est,’ “assequutus est,” “obtinuit,” “consecutus est;” all which words are used by interpreters. Syr., קבֵל, “he received;” “promissum,” “promissionem,” “repromissionem;” “he obtained the promise.”

῞ανθρωποι. Syr., בְּנַי נָשָׁא, ,”the sons of men;” men of all sorts. κατὰ τοῦ μείζονος. Vulg. Lat., “per majorem sui.” “Sui” is added if not needlessly, yet barbarously.

Hebrews 6:13-16. — For when God made promise to Abraham, [God promising unto Abraham,] because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself, saying, Surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee; and so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise. For men verily swear by the greater; and an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife. γάρ, “for.” Expositors agree that this causal connection doth not infer a reason or enforcement of the preceding exhortation unto faith, and directly; but it gives an account wherefore he proposed unto them the examples of their forefathers, as those who through faith and patience inherited the promises. For that they did so really and truly, he proves by an instance above all exception, producing the example of one which he knew would be most forcible and prevalent with them: ‘It is evident that they by faith and patience obtained the promise, for so did Abraham;’the grounds whereof he particularly declares.

But this, in my judgment, compriseth not the whole scope and design of the apostle in the introduction of this example. He hath yet a farther aim in it, which we must inquire into. Wherefore,

1. Having carried on his parenetical discourse concerning fruitfulness in profession, with constancy in faith and patience, unto a declaration of the end of all graces and duties, which is the enjoyment of the promise, he takes occasion thence to declare unto them the nature of the gospel, and the mediation of Christ therein proposed unto them, unto constancy in the faith and profession whereof he had so exhorted them. To this end he lets them know, that they were nothing but the accomplishment of the great promise made unto Abraham; which as themselves acknowledged to be the foundation of all their hopes and expectations, so also that it had not been before perfectly fulfilled. In that promise both the great blessing of Christ himself and the whole work of his mediation were included. Wherefore on this account doth he insist so largely on this promise, and the confirmation of it, and issueth his discourse in the introduction of Christ according unto it.

2. He further designs to manifest, that the promise, as to the substance of it, belongs no less unto all believers than it did to Abraham, and that all the benefits contained therein are by the oath of God secured unto them all.

There is in the words, observing as near as we can their order in the text, in the distribution,

1. The person unto whom the promises were made, and who is proposed for the example of the Hebrews; which is Abraham.

2. The promise made unto him; which is that of Christ himself and the benefits of his mediation. 3. The confirmation of that promise by the oath of God; “God sware.”

4. The especial nature of that oath; “God sware by himself.”

5. The reason hereof; because he had none greater by whom he might swear.

6. The end of the whole on the part of Abraham; he obtained the promise by patient waiting, or enduring.

7. The assurance of the promise on the part of God as confirmed by his oath, by a general maxim of things among men, grounded on the light of nature and received in their universal practice; “for verily men swear by the greater,” etc.

First, The person to whom the promise was made is Abraham.” He was originally called “Abram,” אבְרָם, — “pater excelsus,” “a high” or “exalted father.”’God changed his name, upon the most signal renovation of the covenant with him, into אבְרָהָם, “Abraham,” Genesis 17:5. The reason and added signification whereof are given in the next words, “For a father of many nations have I made thee,” — כִּי אַבאּהֲמוֹן גּוֹיִם נְתַתִּיךָ הֲמוֹןis a “multitude;” and God now declaring that Abraham should not only be the father of all the nations that should proceed naturally from his loins, but of all the nations of the world that should afterwards embrace and imitate his faith, interserts the first letter of הֲמוֹן, a “multitude,” into his name; that it might be unto him a perpetual memorial of the grace and favor of God, as also a continual confirmation of his faith in the promises, the truth and power of God being always suggested unto him by the name that he had given him.

Now Abraham was the most meet, on many accounts, to be proposed as an example unto this people. For,

1. Naturally he was the head of their families, — their first, peculiar, famous progenitor, in whose person that distinction from the rest of the world began which they continued in throughout all their generations; and all men are wont to pay a great reverence and respect to such persons.

2. It was he who as it were got them their inheritance, which was first conveyed unto him, and they came in upon his right.

3. Because the promise, now accomplished, was first signally given unto him, and therein the gospel declared, in the faith whereof they are now exhorted to persevere.

4. The promise was not given him merely on his own account, or for his own sake, but he was singled out as a pattern and example for all believers. And hence he became the “father of the faithful,” and “heir of the world.”

Secondly, That which is affirmed concerning this person is, that “God made promise unto him,” — . Of the nature of divine promises I have treated, Hebrews 4:1-2. In general, they are express declarations of the grace, goodness, pleasure, and purpose of God towards men, for their good and advantage. That here intended was that, for the substance of it, which God made unto Abraham, Genesis 12:2-3 :

“I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: and I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed.”

And this same promise was confirmed unto him by the way of a covenant, Genesis 15:3-5; and more solemnly, Genesis 17:1-6. For Genesis 15, it is only promised that he should have a natural seed of his own, and that a stranger should not be his heir; but here [Genesis 17] his name is changed into “Abraham,” he is made “heir of the world,” and “many nations” are given to be his spiritual posterity. But because, together with the promise, our apostle designs to give an account and commendation both of the faith and obedience of Abraham, he calls not out that grant of this promise which was preventing, renewing, and calling, antecedent unto all his faith and obedience, and communicative of all the grace whereby he was enabled thereunto, as expressed Genesis 12; but he takes it from that place where it was renewed and established unto him after he had given the last and greatest evidence of his faith, love, and obedience, Genesis 22:16-18 : בִּי נִשְׁבַּעְתִּי, — “By myself have I sworn, saith the LORD, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not Withheld thy son, thine only son,” כִּיאּבָרֵךְ אֲבָרֶכְךָ וְהַרְבָּה אַרְבֶּה אֶתאּזַרְעֲךָ, — “that in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed.” Thus God gave out unto him the fullness of the promise by degrees. First he mentions only his own person, without any declaration how the promise should be fulfilled in his seed, Genesis 12:2-3; then he expressly adds the mention of his seed, in the way whereby the promise should be accomplished, but no more, Genesis 15:5; and at length he lets him know the extent of his seed, unto believers of all nations, Genesis 17:5. To all which a further confirmation by the oath of God, and the extent of the promise, are added, Genesis 22:15-18. So are we to embrace and improve, as he did, the first dawnings of divine love and grace. It is not full assurance that we are first to look after, but we are to wait for the confirmation of our faith, in compliance with what we have received. If we either value not, or improve not in thankful obedience, the first intimations of grace, we shall make no progress towards greater enjoyments. And in the apostle’s expression of this promise we may consider, —

1. The manner of the expression;

2. The nature and concernments of the promise itself.

1. In the manner of the expression there are the affirmative particles, ἦ μήν, — “certe,” “truly.” They answer only directly unto כִּי in the Hebrew; but the apostle includes a respect unto what was said before, בִּי נִשְׁבַּעְתִּי, — “In myself have I sworn.” And כִּי is sometimes used for אָכֵן, that is, “truly,” in way of an asseveration: Job 34:31, אֶחְבֹּל כִּי אֶלאּאֵל הֶאָמַר נָשָׂאתִי לֹא; which we render,’Surely it is meet to be said unto God, I have borne, I will not offend;” and that properly. And ἦ μήν was of common use in the Greek tongue in assertory oaths. So Demosthenes,

ὥμνυε ἦ μὴν ἀπολωλέναι φίλιππον, — “He sware ( ἦ μήν) that he would destroy Philip.” The Vulgar Latin renders it by “nisi;” that is, εἰ μή, contrary to the sense of the ancients, Chrysostom, OEcumenius, and Theophylact, as some of the expositors of the Roman church do acknowledge. But yet that manner of expression denotes a sense not unusual in the Scripture; for there is an intimation in it of a reserved condition, rendering the saying ensuing a most sacred oath: ‘Unless I bless thee, let me not be trusted in as God,’or the like. But the formality of the oath of God is neither in Genesis nor here expressed; only respect is had unto what he affirms, “By myself have I sworn.” ‘Surely,’‘undoubtedly.’

The promise itself is expressed in these words, εὐλογῶν εὐλογήσω, etc., — “Blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee.” Our apostle renders the words of Moses exactly, Genesis 22:17. Only, while it is said there, “I will multiply thy seed,” he expresseth it by “I will multiply thee;” which is all one, or to the same purpose, for he could be no way multiplied but in his seed: and he proceedeth no farther with the words of the promise, as being not concerned in what followeth. For although his seed was actually multiplied, yet it was Abraham himself who was blessed therein. The Vulgar Latin in this place reads, “benedicens benedicam,” “blessing I will bless;” but in Genesis it hath only “benedicam” and “multiplicabo.” Hence divers of the Roman expositors, as Ribera, Tena, and others, give sundry reasons why the apostle changed the expression from what was used in Moses, where it is only said, “I will bless thee,” into “blessing I will bless thee.” And, which I cannot but observe, Schlichtingius, who followeth in this place the exposition of Ribera, complies with him also in that observation: “Aliis quidem verbis,” saith he, “promissionem hanc apud Mosem extulit.” But all this is but the mistake of the Vulgar interpreter on Genesis 22 : for the words in the original have the reduplication rendered by the apostle; which the LXX. also observe. And this reduplication is a pure Hebraism, vehemently affirming the thing promised, and hath in it the nature of an oath. It also intends and extends the matter promised: “Blessing I will bless thee;” — ‘I will do so without fail; I will do so greatly, without measure, and eternally, without end.’And this kind of asseveration is common in the Hebrew: Genesis 2:17, בְּיוֹם אֲכָלְךָ מִמֶּנּוּ מוֹת תָּמוּת; — “In the day thou eatest thereof dying thou shalt die;” ‘thou shalt assuredly die, be certainly obnoxious unto death.’It may be also that the double death, temporal and eternal, is included therein. See Genesis 37:33; 2 Kings 2:23; 1 Samuel 23:22-23; Joshua 24:10; Jeremiah 23:17; Daniel 11:10.

Obs. 1. We have need of every thing that any way evidenceth the stability of God’s promises to be represented unto us, for the encouragement and confirmation of our faith.

As God redoubled the word at the first giving out of the promise unto Abraham, for the strengthening of his faith, so is the same here expressed by the apostle, that it might have the same effect upon us. And two things especially God seems to impress upon our minds in this vehemency of expression:

(1.) The sincerity of his intentions, without reserve.

(2.) The stability of his purposes, without alteration and change.

It is to signify both these, that such emphatical, vehement expressions are used even among men; and both these unbelief is apt to question in God. “He that believeth not God, maketh him a liar,” 1 John 5:10. He is a liar, who in his promises intendeth not what his words signify, but hath other reserves in his mind; and he who, having promised, changeth without cause. Both these doth unbelief impute to God; which makes it a sin of so heinous a nature. The first time God used this kind of reduplication, it was in his threatening of death unto the transgression of the command, Genesis 2:17, “In the day thou eatest thereof dying thou shalt die.” And that which Satan deluded our first parents by, was in persuading them that there was not sincerity in what God had said, but that he had reserved to himself that it should be otherwise. The serpent said unto the woman, מוֹת תְּמֻותוּן, — “Dying ye shall not die,” Genesis 3:4. But this being directly contrary unto what God had expressly affirmed, how could Satan imagine that the woman would immediately consent unto him, against the express words of God? Wherefore he useth this artifice to prevail with her, that although God had spoken those words, yet he had a reserve to himself that it should not be unto them indeed as he had spoken, verse 5. By these means unbelief entered into the world, and hath ever since wrought effectually in the same kind. There is no promise of God so plainly expressed, but unbelief is ready to suggest innumerable exceptions why it should have such reserves accompanying of it as that it doth not belong unto us. Most of these exceptions we gather from ourselves; and were it not for them we suppose we could believe the promise well enough. But the truth is, when we are called to believe, when it is our duty so to do, when we pretend that we are willing and desirous to do so were it not for such and such things in ourselves, it is the sincerity of God in his promises we call in question; and we think that although he proposeth the promise unto us, and commandeth us to believe, yet it is not his intention and purpose that we should do so, or that we should be made partakers of the good things promised. By the purpose of God, I do not here intend the eternal purpose of his will concerning the effects and events of things, about which we are called to exercise neither faith nor unbelief, until they are manifested. But the whole rule of our duty is in God’s command; and the faith required of us consists in this, that if we comply with what God prescribeth, we shall enjoy what he promiseth, — if we believe, we shall be saved. And herein to question the truth or sincerity of God, is a high effect of unbelief. This distrust, therefore, God removes by the reduplication of the word of the promise, that we might know he was in good earnest in what he expressed. The like may be spoken concerning the stability of the promises, with respect unto change; which because it must be particularly afterwards spoken unto, shall be here omitted. And these things we have need of. If we think otherwise, we know little of the nature of faith or unbelief, of our own weakness, the efficacy of the deceits of Satan, or the manifold oppositions which rise up against believing.

2. For the promise itself here intended, or the matter of it, it may be considered two ways:

(1.) As it was personal unto Abraham, or as the person of Abraham was peculiarly concerned therein;

(2.) As it regards all the elect of God and their interest in it, of whom he was the representative: —

(1.) As this promise was made personally unto Abraham, it may be considered,

[1.] With respect unto what was carnal, temporal, and typical;

[2.] Unto what was spiritual and eternal, typed out by those other things: —

[1.] As unto what was carnal and typical, the things in it may be referred unto two heads:

1st. His own temporal prosperity in this world. God’s blessing is always תוספת טובה, — an “addition of good” unto him that is blessed. So it is said, Genesis 24:1, “The LORD had blessed Abraham in all things;” which is explained verse 35, in the words of his servant, “The LORD hath blessed my master greatly, and he is become great; and he hath given him flocks, and herds, and silver, and gold.” God increased him in wealth, riches, and power, until he was esteemed as “a mighty prince” by the people among whom he dwelt, Genesis 23:6. And this in the blessing was a type and pledge of that full administration of grace and spiritual things which was principally intended.

2dly. What concerned his posterity, wherein he was blessed. And herein two things were in the promise, both expressed at large:

(1st.) The greatness of their number; they were to be “as the stars of heaven,” or as “the sand by the sea-shore,” that is, innumerable.

(2dly.) Their success and prosperity; that “they should possess the gates of their enemies,” — which principally respected the mighty successes which they had, and conquests which they made under the conduct of Joshua, and afterwards of David. In both these things were they typical of the more numerous subjects of the kingdom of Christ, and of his spiritual conquest for them and in them of all their spiritual adversaries. See Luke 1:70-75.

In these two branches of the promise the faith of Abraham was greatly exercised, as unto the accomplishment of them. For as unto the first, or multiplication of his posterity, though he lived after this about seventy years, yet he never saw any more than two persons, Isaac and Jacob, that were interested in this promise. For although he had other children and posterity by them, yet “in Isaac only was his seed to be called,” as to this promise. He had, therefore, during his own days, no outward, visible pledge or appearance of its accomplishment; and yet, however, he lived and died in the faith thereof. And as unto the latter, of their prosperity and success, he was told before that they should be in affliction and bondage for four hundred years. Yet, looking by faith through all these difficulties, in its proper season he inherited the promise.

And he was a great example herein unto all believers under the new testament; for there are many promises remaining as yet unaccomplished, and which at present, as in other ages, seem not only to be remote from, but, as unto all outward means, to be cast under an impossibility of accomplishment. Such are those concerning the calling of the Jews, the coming in of the fullness of the Gentiles, with the enlargement and establishment of the kingdom of Christ in this world. Concerning all these things, some are apt to despond, some irregularly to make haste, and some to reject and despise them. But the faith of Abraham would give us present satisfaction in these things, and assured expectation of their accomplishment in their proper season.

[2.] The peculiar interest of Abraham in this promise as to the spiritual part of it may also be considered; and hereof in like manner there were two parts: —

1st. That the Lord Christ should come of his seed according to the flesh. And he was the first person in the world, after our first parents, to whom in the order of nature it was necessary, to whom the promise of the Messiah to spring from him was confirmed. It was afterwards once more so confirmed unto David; whence, in his genealogy, he is said in a peculiar manner to be “the son of David, the son of Abraham.” For unto these two persons alone was the promise confirmed. And therefore is he said in one place to be “the seed of David according to the flesh,” Romans 1:3; and in another, to have “taken on him the seed of Abraham,” Hebrews 2:16. Herein lay Abraham’s peculiar interest in the spiritual part of this promise, he was the first who had this privilege granted unto him by especial grace, that the promised Seed should spring from his loins. In the faith hereof “he saw the day of Christ, and rejoiced.” This made him famous and honorable throughout all generations.

2dly. As he was thus to be the natural father of Christ according to the flesh, whence all nations were to be blessed in him, or his seed; so, being the first that received or embraced this promise, he became the spiritual father of all that do believe, and in them the “heir of the world” in a spiritual interest, as he was in his carnal seed the heir of Canaan in a political interest. No men come to be accepted with God but upon the account of their faith in that promise which was made unto Abraham; that is, in Him who was promised unto him. And we may observe, that, —

Obs. 2. The grant and communication of spiritual privileges is a mere act or effect of sovereign grace. — Even this Abraham, who was so exalted by spiritual privileges, seems originally to have been tainted with the common idolatry which was then in the world. This account we have, Joshua 24:2-3, “Your fathers dwelt on the other side of the flood in old time, Terah, the father of Abraham, and the father of Nachor; and they served other gods. And I took your father Abraham from the other side of the flood.” It is true, the charge is express against Terah only; but it lying against their “fathers” in general “on the other side of the flood,” and it being added that God “took Abraham from the other side of the flood,” he seems to have been involved in the guilt of the same sin whilst he was in his father’s house, and before his call. Nor is there any account given of the least preparation or disposition in him unto the state and duties which he was afterwards brought into. In this condition, God, of his sovereign grace, first calls him to the saving knowledge of himself, and by degrees accumulates him with all the favors and privileges before mentioned. Hence, in the close of his whole course, he had no cause to glory in himself, neither before God nor men, Romans 4:2; for he had nothing but what he gratuitously received. Indeed there were distances of time in the collation of several distinct mercies and blessings on him. And he still, through the supplies of grace which he received under every mercy, so deported himself as that he might not be unmeet to receive the succeeding mercies whereof he was to be made partaker. And this is the method of God’s communicating his grace unto sinners. His first call and conversion of them is absolutely gratuitous. He hath no consideration of any thing in them that should induce him thereunto; neither is there any thing required unto a condecency herein. God takes men as he pleaseth, some in one condition and posture of mind, some in another; some in an open course of sin, and some in the execution of a particular sin, as Paul. And he, indeed, at the instant of his call, was under the active power of two of the greatest hinderances unto conversion that the heart of man is obnoxious unto. For first, he was zealous above measure of the righteousness of the law, seeking earnestly for life and salvation by it; and then he was actually engaged in the persecution of the saints of God. These two qualifications, — constant resting in legal righteousness, with rage and madness in persecution, than which there are not out of hell more adverse principles unto it, — were all the preparations of that apostle unto converting grace. But after that this grace, which is absolutely free and sovereign, is received, there is an order in God’s covenant which for the most part he observeth in the communication of ensuing graces and privileges; namely, that faith and obedience shall precede the increase and enlargement of them. Thus was it with Abraham, who received his last great, signal, promise and privilege, Genesis 22, upon that signal act of his faith and obedience in offering up his son upon God’s command. As it was with Abraham, so is it with all those who in any age are made partakers of grace or spiritual privileges.

(2.) The promise here intended, as to the spiritual part of it, may be considered with respect unto all believers, of whom Abraham was the representative. And two things are contained therein: —

[1.] The giving and sending of the Son of God, to take on him the seed of Abraham. This was the life and soul of the promise, the ancient and first- expressed regard of divine grace unto sinners: “In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed;” that is, “The seed of the woman shall break the serpent’s head.” ‘The incarnation of the Son of God, promised from the foundation of the world, shall be fulfilled in thy seed; he shall take on him the seed of Abraham.’So our apostle argues, Galatians 3:16 : “Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.” For the promise which is made concerning Christ in one sense, is made unto him in another. As to the benefit and effects of the coming of Christ, it was made concerning him unto Abraham and all his seed; but as unto the first grant, intention, and stability of the promise, it was made unto Christ himself, with respect unto that everlasting covenant which was between the Father and him, in his undertaking the work of mediation. Or, the Lord Christ may be considered either as the undertaker of the covenant with God, and so the promise was made unto him; or as the accomplishment of the terms of it for us, so the promise was concerning him.

[2.] The nature of the benefit which is to be received by Christ thus promised; and that in general is a blessing, “In thy seed shall they be blessed.” And two things are comprised in this blessing, as the springs of other mercies innumerable; — the promise of Christ himself was the fountain, and all other promises were particular streams from it, especial explications and applications of that promise:

1st. The removal of the curse of the law, which was come on all men by reason of sin. The curse could not be removed but by a blessing; and that which doth it is the greatest of blessings, as that was the greatest of curses and miseries.

2dly. The bringing in of a blessed righteousness, on the account whereof we might be accepted with God. See Galatians 3:13-14.

Before we proceed we may observe two things in general concerning this promise:

[1.] That this was the life of the church of the old testament, the spring of its continuance unto its appointed season, which could never be dried up. How many times were that whole people, the posterity of Abraham, at the very brink of destruction! For sometimes they fell generally into such terrible provoking sins, as that their utter casting off might have been justly expected by angels and men; sometimes they were, in the just judgment of God, given up unto such wasting desolations in their captivities, as that they were wholly like dry bones on the face of the earth, without hope of a resurrection. Yet mercy, patience, and power, wrought through all, and preserved them in a church-state until this promise was accomplished. This it was alone, or the faithfulness of God therein, whence all their healing and recoveries did proceed. And when this promise was once fulfilled, it was beyond the power of all the world to keep them unto their former condition. All depended on the issue of this promise, on whose fulfilling all things were to be cast into a new mould and order.

[2.] This was that which preserved the spirits of true believers among them from ruining despondencies in the times of the greatest apostasies, calamities, and desolations of the people. They had this promise still to plead, and rested therein, notwithstanding all the interveniencies which ofttimes seemed to render the case of that people very desperate. See their faith expressed, Micah 7:18-20; Isaiah 7:13-15; Isaiah 53; Luke 1:70-75. And I would hope there is mercy lies treasured in the bowels of this promise, not yet brought forth, toward the remainders of the posterity of Abraham according to the flesh. Who knows but that, by virtue of the engaged love and faithfulness of God, declared in this promise, these withered branches may revive, and these dead bones rise again? Our apostle placeth the hopes of it on this ground alone, that, “as touching the election they were beloved;” they were “beloved for the fathers’sake,”

Romans 11:28. As to profession, they were then visibly falling off; but as to election, as to God’s purpose concerning them, the love which he bare to their fathers, engaged unto Abraham in this promise, will one day find them out, and bring them in unto a plentiful share in this blessing.

Wherefore, on all accounts, the instance chosen by the apostle was of singular use unto the Hebrews, and singularly suited unto their present condition. For as they received many advantages from his personal privileges who was their father according to the flesh, so they succeeded unto him in the spiritual part of the promise; and therefore, as the like duties of faith, and obedience, and perseverance, were required of them as of him, so they, in the performance of them, had assurance given them in his success that they also should inherit the promise. So the apostle applies his discourse, Hebrews 6:17-18.

Obs. 3. Where the promise of God is absolutely engaged, it will break through all difficulties and oppositions unto a perfect accomplishment.

No promise of God shall ever fail, or be of none effect. We may fail, or come short of the promise by our unbelief, but the promises themselves shall never fail. There have been great seasons of trial in many ages, wherein the faith of believers hath been exercised to the utmost about the accomplishment of the promises; but the faithfulness of God in them all hath hitherto been ever victorious, — and it will be so for ever. And this trial hath arisen partly from difficulties and oppositions, with all improbabilities of their accomplishment on rational accounts, or with respect unto visible means; partly from a misunderstanding of the nature of the promises, or of the season of their accomplishment. Thus, in the first great promise given unto our parents after the fall, how soon was their faith exercised about it! When they had but two sons, the one of them slew the other, and the survivor was rejected and cursed of God. From whom should now the promised Seed be expected to proceed and spring? Is it not probable that they were ofttimes ready to say, “Where is the promise of his coming?” And yet indeed this, which seemed to overthrow and disannul the promise, was only a means of its further confirmation; for the death of Abel, upon his offering his acceptable sacrifice, was a type of Christ and his suffering in his mystical body, 1 John 3:12. When the wickedness of the world was come unto that height and fullness that God would not spare, but destroyed all the inhabitants of it excepting eight persons, the very destruction of the whole race of mankind seemed to threaten an annihilation of the promise. But this also proved unto its confirmation; for after the flood, God established it unto Noah, accompanied it with a covenant, and gave a visible pledge of his faithfulness therein, to abide for ever, Genesis 9:11-13. For although that covenant in the first place respected temporal things, yet, as it was annexed unto the first promise, it represented and assured the spiritual things thereof, Isaiah 54:8-10. This great promise was afterwards limited unto the person of Abraham, namely, that from him should spring the blessed Seed. Yet after it was given unto him, many and many a year passed over him before he saw the least hope of its accomplishment. Yea, he lived to see all natural ways and means of fulfilling it utterly to fail; Sarah’s womb being dead, and his body also: so that he was past and beyond all hope of having it fulfilled in the ordinary course of nature. And the faith which he had, or hope, was against hope, Romans 4:18-19. Hence he complained, that after all his long and wearisome pilgrimage he went childless, Genesis 15:2; and fell into no small mistakes in the matter of Hagar and Ishmael. Yet, after all, the promise made its way unto its own accomplishment; and, by the signal victory it had herein against all oppositions, assured itself unto the faith of all succeeding generations, as is here expressed by the apostle. Afterwards, when the promise was confined unto Isaac, by that word, “In Isaac shall thy seed be called,” and Abraham was now drawing apace towards the grave, he is commanded to slay this Isaac, and offer him in sacrifice unto God. This indeed was the greatest appearance under the old testament of the absolute disannulling and frustration of the promise. And Abraham had no relief for his faith under this trial but only the omnipotency of God, which could produce effects that he could no way apprehend, as raising of him up again from the dead, or the like. But this also proved in the issue so great a confirmation of the promise, as that it never received any thing of the like nature, before nor after, until its actual accomplishment. For hereon was it confirmed by “the oath of God,” whereof we shall treat immediately; the sacrifice of Christ was illustriously represented; and an instance given of the infallible victorious success of faith, whilst against all difficulties it adheres unto the truth of the promise. What was the condition with the faith of the best of men when the Lord Christ was in the grave? At how great a loss they were, and. how their faith was shaken to the utmost, the two disciples expressed unto the Lord Christ himself, as they went to Emmaus: Luke 24:21, “We trusted that it had been he who should have redeemed Israel.” And for what they had heard then reported of his resurrection, they said they were astonished at it, but could not arrive at any positive actings of faith about it. And this befell them when they were speaking to Christ himself, in whom the promise had received its full accomplishment. After this, also, when the gospel began to be preached in the world, it appeared that it was rejected by the generality of the Jews; and that they also thereon were rejected from being the people of God. This made a great hesitation in many about the promise made unto Abraham concerning his seed and posterity, as though it were of none effect. For now, when the full accomplishment was declared, and innumerable persons came in unto a participation of it, those unto whom it was peculiarly made neither would be nor were sharers of it. This great objection against the truth of the promise our apostle lays down, Romans 9:6, “Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect;” — in answer whereunto he spends the three ensuing chapters. And he doth it by letting us know that the objection was grounded on a mistake as to the persons unto whom the promise did belong; which were not the whole carnal seed of Abraham, but only the elect of them and of all nations whatever. And there are yet promises of God on record in the Scripture not yet fulfilled, that will and do exercise the faith of the strongest and most experienced believers, concerning whose accomplishment our Lord Jesus Christ says, “When the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” The faith, hope, and expectation of most, will be at an end before they are fulfilled; and that because of the insuperable difficulties that seem to lie in the way of their accomplishment. Such are those which concern the destruction of antichrist, the calling of the Jews, the spreading of the gospel unto all nations, and the flourishing of the church in peace and purity. These things, as to all outward appearance, seem as remote from accomplishment as they were the first day the promise was given; and the difficulties against it increase continually. And yet, notwithstanding, the promise shall break through all difficulties: at the end it shall speak, and not lie. “The LORD will hasten it in his time,” Isaiah 60:22. Before its proper time, its appointed season, it will not be; but then the Lord will hasten it, so that no opposition shall be able to stand before it.

From this state of the promises three things have fallen out:

[1.] That in all ages the faith of true believers hath been greatly and peculiarly exercised; which hath been to the singular advantage of the church: for the exercise of faith is that whereon the flourishing of all other graces cloth depend. And from hence hath there been a treasure of fervent prayers laid up from the beginning, which shall in their proper season have a fruitful return. In that faith and patience, in those supplications and expectations, wherein in every age of the church the faithful have abounded, with respect unto the difficulties that have lain in the way of the promise, hath God been exceedingly glorified; as also, they were the means of drawing forth new encouragements and assurances, as the comfort of the church did require.

[2.] Hence it was that in most ages of the church there have been mockers and scoffers, saying,

“Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as from the beginning of the creation,” 2 Peter 3:4.

The fathers were they who received the promises, especially that of the coming of Christ. These they preached and declared, testifying that they would be accomplished, and that great alterations should be wrought in the world thereby. The sum of what they so declared was, that the elect of God should be delivered, and that judgment should be executed on ungodly men, by the coming of the Lord, Jude 1:14-15. ‘But what now is become of these fathers, with all their great promises, and preachments upon them? Things go on in the same course as they did in the beginning, and are like to do so to the end of the world; what, we pray, is this promise of his coming you have so talked of?’Such scoffers have most ages abounded withal, and I think none more than that wherein our lot is fallen. Observing that all things are in a most unlikely posture, to an eye of carnal reason, for the accomplishment of the great promises of God that are upon record in the word, they scoff at all who dare to own an expectation thereof.

[3.] Some, through haste and precipitation, have fallen into manifold mistakes of the promise on the same account. Some have feigned to themselves other things than God ever promised; as the generality of the Jews looked for a carnal rule, glory, and dominion, at the coming of the Messiah; which proved their temporal and eternal ruin: and it is to be feared that some are still sick of the same or like imaginations. And some have put themselves on irregular courses for the accomplishment of the promises, walking in the spirit of Jacob, and not of Israel But whatever of this or any other kind may fall out, by the unbelief of men, all the promises of God are “yea and amen,” and will make their way through all difficulties unto an assured accomplishment in their proper season.

Thus it is also with respect unto our faith in the promises of God, as unto our own especial and personal interest in them. We find so many difficulties, so many oppositions, that we are continually ready to call in question the accomplishment of them; and indeed few there are that live in a comfortable and confident assurance thereof. In the times of temptation, or when perplexities arise from a deep sense of the guilt and power of sin, and on many other occasions, we are ready to say, with Zion, “The LORD hath forsaken us; our judgment is passed over from him; as for our part, we are cut off.”

In all these cases it were easy to demonstrate whence it is that the promise hath its insuperable efficacy, and shall have its infallible accomplishment, but it must be spoken unto under the particular wherein the confirmation of the promise by the oath of God is declared. Again, —

Obs. 4. Although there may be privileges attending some promises that may be peculiarly appropriated unto some certain persons, yet the grace of all promises is equal unto all believers.

So Abraham had sundry personal privileges and advantages communicated unto him in and by this promise, which we have before recounted; yet there is not the meanest believer in the world but is equally partaker of the spiritual grace and mercy of the promise with Abraham himself. They are all by virtue hereof made “heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ,” whose is the inheritance.

Thirdly, The next thing considerable in the words, is the especial confirmation of the promise made to Abraham, by the oath of God: “For God ...... when he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself.” And sundry things we must inquire into in this peculiar dispensation of God unto men, namely, in swearing to them: —

1. The person swearing is said to be God, “God sware by himself;” and Hebrews 6:17, in the application of the grace of this promise unto believers, it is said that “God interposed himself by an oath.” But the words here repeated are expressly ascribed unto the angel of the Lord, Genesis 22:15-16 : “And the angel of the LORD called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time, and said, By myself have I sworn, saith the LORD.” So it is said before, Genesis 22:11, “The angel of the LORD called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham;” and he adds in the close of Genesis 22:12, “Thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son, from me.” He is called an angel that speaks, but he still speaks in the name of God. Three things are insisted on to assoil this difficulty:

(1.) Some say that he spake, as a messenger and ambassador of God, in his name, and so assumed his titles, although he was a mere created angel; for so a legate may do, and use the name of him that sends him. But I do not see a sufficient foundation for this supposition. An ambassador, having first declared that he is sent, and from whom, may act in the name and authority of his master; but not speak as if he were the same person. But here is no such declaration made, and so no provision laid in against idolatry. For when one speaks in the name of God, not as from God, but as God, who would judge but divine honor and religious worship were due unto him? which yet are not unto angels, however gloriously sent or employed, Revelation 19:10; Revelation 22:9. Wherefore,

(2.) It is said that this angel doth only repeat the words of God unto Abraham, as the prophets were wont to do. And those of this mind countenance their opinion with those words used by him, Genesis 22:16, נְאֻםאּיְהוֹה, — “saith the LORD” the words whereby the prophets solemnly ushered in their messages. But yet neither will this solve the difficulty. For these words, “saith the LORD,” are often used in the third person, to express Him unto us whom in all our duties we regard, when God himself is introduced speaking. See Genesis 18:19; Zechariah 2:8-9. And he who called unto Abraham the second time, Genesis 22:15, is the same with him who first called unto him, Genesis 22:11-12; and he speaks expressly in the name of God: “Thou hast not withheld thy son from me.” Besides, in each place this angel is said to “speak from heaven;” which expresseth the glory of the person that spake. Wherever God makes use of created angels in messages unto the children of men, he sends them unto the earth; but this speaking from heaven is a description of God himself, Hebrews 12:25. Therefore,

(3.) By this angel no other angel is to be understood but the great Angel of the covenant, the second person of the Trinity, who thus appeared unto the fathers under the old testament. See this proved at large in our tenth Exercitation, in the first volume of our Exposition on this Epistle. He it was that spake, and sware by himself; for when a mere angel sweareth, he swears always by one greater than himself, according to the rule of our apostle in this place, Daniel 12:7; Revelation 10:5-6.

2. It may be inquired when God did thus swear: ἐπαγγειλάμενος ὤμοσε; — “Promising he sware.” He did not first promise, and afterwards confirm it with his oath. He gave his promise and oath together; or gave his promise in the way of an oath. Yet are they distinctly considered, nor is it the mere vehemency of the promise that is intended: for in the next verse the apostle calls the promise and the oath “two things,” — that is, distinct from one another; δύο πράγματα, two acts of God. But although he hath respect principally unto that especial promise which was given with an oath, yet by the same oath were all the promises of this kind given before unto Abraham equally confirmed; whence it may be applied unto all the promises of God, as it is in the following verses. That which is directly intended is that whereof the story is expressed, Genesis 22:15-18, upon his obedience in offering up his son. And this was the last time that God immediately and solemnly made promise unto him, after he had gone through all sorts of trials and temptations (whereof the Jews give ten particular instances), and had acquitted himself by faith and obedience in them all. Thus did God, in his infinite goodness and wisdom, see good to give him the utmost assurance of the accomplishment of the promise whereof in this life he was capable. And although it was an act of sovereign grace, yet had it also the nature of a reward, whence it is so expressed, “Because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son.” Of the same nature are all those assurances of divine love and grace, with the peace and joy that accompany them, which believers do receive in and upon the course of their obedience.

3. The expression of this oath may be also considered. The apostle only mentions the oath itself, with respect unto the ancient record of it, but expresseth not the formal terms of it: “He sware by himself, saying.” The expression of it, Genesis 22:16, is בִּי נִשְׁבַּעְתִּי; — “By myself have I sworn, saith the LORD.” And we may consider two things concerning the oath of God:

(1.) Why he sware;

(2.) How he swears: —

(1.) For the first of these, whereas all the oaths of God are in the confirmation of his promises or his threatenings, the reason and nature of those which respect his threatenings have been declared at large on Genesis 3; and that which concerns the promises will return unto us, Genesis 3:17, where it must be spoken unto.

(2.) How he swears; wherein also two things are comprised:

[1.] The manner of his swearing; and

[2.] The nature of his oath: —

[1.] The manner of swearing is twofold:

1st. That which positively expresseth and engageth what is sworn by; and, idly. That wherein an imprecation or execration is implied or expressed. The first the Latins express by per, — “per Deum;” the Greeks by μά and νή, to the same purpose; the Hebrews propose the letter ב unto the thing sworn by. So here, בִּי; ִ that is, “by myself.” Sometimes there is no expression to that purpose, only God affirms that he hath sworn; for he is every way his own witness: 1 Samuel 3:14, “I have sworn unto the house of Eli.” So Psalms 132:11; Isaiah 14:24. Sometimes he expresseth some of the properties of his nature; as Psalms 89:36, נִשְׁבַּעתִּי בְקָדְשִׁי. “Juravi per sanctitatem meam; — I have sworn by my holiness.” So Amos 4:2. “By myself,” Isaiah 45:23, Jeremiah 22:5; Jeremiah 49:13; “By his right hand, and the arm of his strength,” Isaiah 62:8; “By his great name, Jeremiah 44:26; “By his soul,” Jeremiah 51:14; and “By the excellency of Jacob,” Amos 8:7; — that is himself only; for all the holy properties of God are the same with his nature and being. For that form of an oath wherein an imprecation is used, the expression of it is always elliptical in the Hebrew tongue, whereas other languages abound with cursed and profane imprecations. And this elliptical form of expression by אִם, “si,” is often used by God himself: 1 Samuel 3:14, “I have sworn unto the house of Eli; אִםאּיִתְכַּפֵּר עֲוֹן בֵּיתאּעֵלִי,” — “if the iniquity of the house of Eli be purged.” Psalms 89:36, “I have sworn unto David by my holiness; אִםאּלְדָוִד באֲכַזֵּב,” — “if I lie unto David.” So also Psalms 95:11; Psalms 132:2-3; Isaiah 14:24. And this kind of expression is retained by our apostle, Hebrews 3:2, “To whom I sware in my wrath, εἰ εισελεύσονται εἰς τὴν κατάπαυσίν μου, — “If they shall enter into my rest.” As also it is made use of by our Savior, Mark 8:12, ᾿αμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν, εἰ δοθήσεται τῇ γενεᾷ ταύτη σημεῖον, — “Verily I say unto you, If a sign shall be given unto this generation.” There is herein a rhetorical ἀποσιώπησις, where something, for honor or reverence’sake, is restrained, silenced, and not uttered; as, ‘If it be so, then let me not be trusted, believed, or obeyed.’

[2.] For the nature of this oath of God, it consists in an express engagement of those holy properties whereby he is known to be God unto the accomplishment of what he promiseth or threateneth. By his being, his life, his holiness, his power, is he known to be God; and therefore by them is he said to swear, when they are all engaged unto the fulfilling of his word.

Fourthly, There is a reason added why God thus sware by himself. It was “because he had none greater whereby he might swear.” And this reason is built upon this maxim, that the nature of an oath consisteth in the invocation of a superior in whose power we are. For two things we design in that invocation of another:

1. A testimony to be given unto the truth we assert;

2. Vengeance or punishment of the contrary upon us. Wherefore we do ascribe two things unto him whom we invocate in an oath:

1. An absolute omnisciency, or infallible knowledge of the truth or falsehood of what we assert;

2. A sovereign power over us, whence we expect protection in case of right and truth, or punishment in case we deal falsely and treacherously. And this respect unto punishment is that alone which gives force and efficacy unto oaths among mankind. There is a principle ingrafted in the minds of men by nature, that God is the supreme rector, ruler, and judge of all men and their actions; as also, that the holiness of his nature, with his righteousness as a ruler and judge, doth require that evil and sin be punished in them who are under his government. Of his omnipotent power, also, to punish all sorts of transgressors, the highest,, greatest, and most exempt from human cognizance, there is an alike conception and presumption. According as the minds of men are actually influenced by these principles, so are their oaths valid and useful, and no otherwise. And therefore it hath been provided, that men of profligate lives, who manifest that they have no regard unto God nor his government of the world, should not be admitted to give testimony by oath. And if, instead of driving all sorts of persons, the worst, the vilest of men, on slight, or light, or no occasions, unto swearing, none might be in any case admitted thereunto but such as evidence in their conversations such a regard unto the divine rule and government of the world as is required to give the least credibility unto an oath, it would be much better with human society. And that inroad which atheism hath made on the world in these latter ages, hath weakened and brought in a laxation of all the nerves and bonds of human society. These things belong unto the nature of an oath amongst men, and without them it is nothing. But wherefore, then, is God said to swear, who, as the apostle speaks, can have no greater to swear by, no superior unto whom in swearing he should have respect? It is because, as to infinite omniscience, power, and righteousness, — the things respected in an oath, — God is that essentially in and unto himself which he is in a way of external government unto his creatures. Wherefore, when he will condescend to give us the utmost security and assurance of any thing which our nature is capable of antecedent unto actual enjoyment, in and by the express engagement of his holiness, veracity, and immutability, he is said to swear, or to confirm his word with his oath.

The end and use of this oath of God is so fully expressed, Hebrews 6:17, that I must thither refer the consideration of it.

Fifthly, The event of this promise-giving and oath of God, on the part of Abraham, is declared, Hebrews 6:15, “And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise.” καὶ οὕτω, “and so;” — ‘This was the way and manner of God’s dealing with him; and this was the way, on the other side, how he carried it towards God.’And the manner of his deportment, or the way whereby he attained the end proposed, was μακροθυμήσας, — “he patiently endured;” “after he had patiently endured,” or rather, “patiently enduring.”

The word hath been spoken unto before. ΄ακρόθυμος, אַפַּיִםlonganimus,” “lentus,” “tardus ad inum;” — one that is not quickly provoked, not easily excited unto anger, hasty resolutions, or any distempered passion of mind. And sundry things are intimated in this word: —

1. That Abraham was exposed to trials and temptations about the truth and accomplishment of this promise. If there be not difficulties, provocations, and delays in a business, it cannot be known whether a man be μακρόθυμος or no, he hath no occasion to exercise this longanimity.

2. That he was not discomposed or exasperated by them, so as to wax weary, or to fall off from a dependence on God. The apostle explains fully the meaning of this word, Romans 4:18-21 :

“Against hope he believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be. And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about aft hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sarah’s womb: he staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; and being fully persuaded that what he had promised he was able also to perform.”

Continuing in a way of believing, as trusting to the veracity and power of God against all difficulties and oppositions, was his μακροθυμία, or “patient endurance.”

3. That he abode a long season in this state and condition, waiting on God and trusting unto his power. It is not a thing quickly tried, whether a man be μακρόθυμος, one that will “patiently endure,” or no. It is not from his deportment under one or two trials that a man can be so denominated. The whole space of time from his first call to the day of his death, which was just a hundred years, is here included. Wherefore this word expresseth the life and spirit of that faith of Abraham which is here proposed to the Hebrews as their example. The end of the whole was, that ἐπέτυχε τῆς ἐπαγγελίας, “compos factus est promissionis,” “obtinuit promissionem;” “he obtained” or “enjoyed the promise.” Sundry expositors refer this obtaining of the promise to the birth of Isaac, a son by Sarah, which he so long waited for, and at length enjoyed; for this was the principal hinge whereon all other privileges of the promise did depend. But Isaac was upwards of twenty years old at that time, when the promise which the apostle had respect unto was confirmed by the oath of God. It cannot therefore be that his birth should be the thing promised. Besides, he twice informs us, Hebrews 11:13; Hebrews 11:39, that the ancient patriarchs, among whom he reckoneth Abraham as one, “received not the promises.” That which he there intends is their full accomplishment, in the actual exhibition of the promised Seed. It is not, therefore, a full, actual enjoyment of the thing promised that is here intended; as it would be, if it respected only the birth of Isaac. Wherefore Abraham’s obtaining the promise, Was no more but his enjoyment of the mercy, benefit, and privilege of it, in every state and condition, whereof in that state and condition he was capable.

If, therefore, we take a view of the promise as it was before explained, we shall see evidently how Abraham obtained it; that is, how it was every way made good unto him, according as the nature of the thing itself would bear. For as unto his own personal blessing, whether in things typical or spiritual, he obtained or enjoyed it. As things were disposed in the type, he was blessed and multiplied, in that increase of goods and children which God gave unto him. Spiritually, he was justified in his own person, and therein actually enjoyed all the mercy and grace which by the promised Seed, when actually exhibited, we can be made partakers of. He who is freely justified in Christ, and therewithal made partaker of adoption and sanctification, may well be said to have obtained the promise. And hereon dependeth eternal glory also, which our apostle testifieth that Abraham obtained. For that part of the promise, that he should be the “heir of the world, and the father of all that believe,” it could not be actually accomplished in his own days; wherefore therein he obtained the promise, in the assurance he had of it, with the comfort and honor which depended thereon. As a pledge of all these things, he saw the posterity of Isaac, in whom they were all to be fulfilled. Some things, therefore, there were in the promises which could not be actually accomplished in his days; such were the birth of the blessing Seed, the numerousness and prosperity of his children according to the flesh, the coming in of a multitude of nations to be his children by faith. These things he obtained, in that assurance and comfortable prospect which he had of them through believing. They were infallibly and unchangeably made sure unto him, and had their accomplishment in their proper season, Isaiah 60:22. And we may observe, that, —

Obs. 5. Whatever difficulty and opposition may lie in the way, patient endurance in faith and obedience will infallibly bring us unto the full enjoyment of the promises.

Obs. 6. Faith gives such an interest unto believers in all the promises of God, as that they obtain even those promises, — that is, the benefit and comfort of them, — whose actual accomplishment in this world they do not behold.

Hebrews 6:16. — “For men verily swear by the greater; and an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife.”

Sixthly, The apostle in these words confirms one part of his intention, the stability of a divine promise confirmed with an oath, by a general maxim concerning the nature and use of an oath among men; and withal makes a transition into the second part of his discourse, or the application of the whole unto the use of them that believe. And therefore sundry things, an observation whereof will give us the sense and explication of them, are to be considered; as,—

1. The reason why God, in his gracious condescension unto our infirmities, is pleased to confirm his promise with an oath, is introduced by the particle γάρ, “for;” which gives an account of what was spoken, verse 13. And the reason intended consists herein, that by the light of nature, witnessed unto by the common consent and usage of mankind, the ultimate, supreme, and most satisfactory way of giving assurance unto, or confirming what is spoken or promised, is by an oath. And the apostle argueth not merely from what men do by common consent as it were among themselves, but from what the law and order of all things, in subjection unto God, doth require. For whereas men do or ought to acknowledge his supreme rule and government over all, when their own rights and concerns cannot be determined and peaceably fixed by reason, or testimony, or any other instrument whereof they have the use, it is necessary that an appeal be made unto God for his interposition; wherein all must acquiesce. This, therefore, being amongst men the highest assurance and ultimate determination of their thoughts, the holy God, intending the like assurance in spiritual things, confirms his promise by his oath, that we may know, from what we center in as to our own occasions, that there can be no accession of security made thereunto.

2. There is in the words the internal manner and form of swearing amongst men; “they swear by a greater,” — a nature above them, superior unto them, in whose power and at whose disposal they are; which hath been spoken unto.

3. The use of an oath among men is declared; and therein the subject- matter of it, or what is the occasion and subject which it respects. And this is ἀντιλογία; which we have rendered “strife,” “contradiction” between two or more. When one party avers one thing, and another another, and no evidence ariseth from the matter controverted about, nor any of its circumstances, there must of necessity be amongst them ἀντιλογία ἀπείρατος, an “endless strife,” and mutual contradiction; which would quickly bring all things to violence and confusion. For if, in matters of great concernment and especial interest, one man positively asserts one thing, and another another, and no evidence arise from circumstances to state aright the matter in difference, it must come to force and war, if there be no other way of bringing all parties unto an acquiescency: for he who hath peremptorily asserted his right, will not afterwards voluntarily forego it; not only because of the loss of his just claim, as he apprehends, but also of his reputation, in making an unjust claim thereunto. In such cases an oath is necessary unto the government and peace of mankind, as without which strifes must be perpetuated, or ended by force and violence. This the apostle respects when he saith, “An oath amongst men is an end of strife.” There is therefore required, unto a lawful oath,

(1.) A just occasion, or a strife amongst men otherwise undeterminable.

(2.) A lawful rule, or government with power to propose and to judge about the difference on the evidence thereof; or a mutual consent of persons concerned.

(3.) A solemn invocation of God, as the supreme governor of the world, for the interposition of his omniscience and power, to supply the defects and weaknesses that are in the rules and rulers of human society.

4. This brings in the end of an oath among men; and that is, to be πέρας ἀντιλογίας, — that is, to put bounds and limits to the contentions and mutual contradictions of men about right and truth not otherwise determinable, to make an end of their strife.

5. The way whereby this is done, is by interposing the oath εἰς βεβαίωσιν,: for the “avowing of the truth,” rendering it firm and stable in the minds of men which did before fluctuate about it.

If this be the nature, use, and end of an oath amongst men; if, under the conduct of natural light, they thus issue all their differences, and acquiesce therein; certainly the oath of God, wherewith his promise is confirmed, must of necessity be the most effectual means to issue all differences between him and believers, and to establish their souls in the faith of his promises, against all oppositions, difficulties, and temptations whatever, as the apostle manifests in the next verses.

As these words are applied unto, or used to illustrate the state of things between God and our souls, we may observe from them, —

Obs. 7. That there is, as we are in a state of nature, a strife and difference between God and us.

Obs. 8. The promises of God are gracious proposals of the only way and means for the ending of that strife.

Obs. 9. The oath of God, interposed for the confirmation of these promises, is every way sufficient to secure believers against all objections and temptations, in all straits and trials about peace with God through Jesus Christ.

But there is that in the words, absolutely considered, which requires our further inquiry into, and confirmation of the truth therein. There is an assertion in them, that “men use to swear by the greater,” and thereby put an end unto strife and contentions between them. But it may yet be inquired, whether this respect matter of fact only, and declare what is the common usage among men; or whether it respect right also, and so expresseth an approbation of what they do; and moreover, whether, upon a supposition of such an approbation, this be to be extended to Christians, so that their swearing in the cases supposed be also approved. This being that which I affirm, with its due limitation, I shall premise some things unto the understanding of it, and then confirm its truth. An oath in the Hebrew is called שְׁבוּעָה; and there are two things observable about it: — that the verb, “to swear,” is never used but in Niphal, a passive conjugation, נִשְׁבַּע. And as some think this doth intimate that we should be passive in swearing, — that is, not do it unless called, at least from circumstances compelled thereunto; so moreover it doth, that he who swears hath taken a burden on himself, or binds himself to the matter of his oath. And it is derived from שֶׁבַע, which signifies “seven;” because, as some think, an oath ought to be before many witnesses. But seven being the sacred, complete, or perfect number, the name of an oath may be derived from it because it is appointed to put a present end unto differences. The Greek calls it ὅρκος; most probably from εἵργειν, as it signifies “to bind” or “strengthen,” for by an oath a man takes a bond on his soul and conscience that cannot be loosed ordinarily. And the Latin words, “juro” and “jusjurandum,” are plainly derived from “jus;” that is, “right and law.” It is an assertion for the confirmation of that which is right; and therefore loseth its nature, and becometh a mere profanation, when it is used in any other case but the confirmation of what is just and right.

And the nature of an oath consists in a solemn confirmation of what we affirm or deny, by a religious invocation of the name of God, as one that knoweth and owneth the truth which we affirm. As far as God is thus invocated in an oath, it is part of his worship, both as required by him and as ascribing glory to him; for when a man is admitted unto an oath, he is as it were so far discharged from an earthly tribunal, and by common consent betakes himself to God, as the sole judge in the case. By what particular expression this appeal unto God and invocation of him is made, is not absolutely necessary unto the nature of an oath to determine. It sufficeth that such expressions be used as are approved and received signs of such an invocation and appeal among them that are concerned in the oath: only it must be observed, that these signs themselves are natural, and not religious, unless they are approved of God himself. Where any thing pretends to be of that nature, the authority of it is diligently to be examined. And therefore that custom which is in use amongst ourselves, of laying the hand on the Book in swearing, and afterwards kissing of it, if it be any more but an outward sign which custom and common consent have authorized to signify the real taking of an oath, is not to be allowed. But in that sense, though it seems very inconvenient, it may be used until somewhat more proper and suited unto the nature of the duty may be agreed upon; which the Scripture would easily suggest unto any who had a mind to learn.

The necessary qualifications of a lawful and a solemn oath are so expressed by the prophet as nothing needs to be added to them, nothing can be taken from them: Jeremiah 4:2, “Thou shalt swear, The LORD liveth,” (that is, interpose the name of the living God when thou swearest,) “in truth, in judgment, and in righteousness.”

1. Truth is required in it, in opposition unto falsehood and guile. Where this is otherwise, God is called to be a witness unto a lie: which is to deny his being; for he whom we serve is the God of truth, yea, truth itself essentially.

2. It must be in judgment also that we swear; not lightly, not rashly, not without a just cause, — that which is so in itself, and which appears unto us so to be; or, by “judgment,” the contest itself, unto whose determination an oath is interposed, may be intended: ‘Thou shalt swear in such a case only as wherein something of weight comes to be determined in judgment.’ Without this qualification, swearing is accompanied with irreverence and contempt of God, as though his name were to be invocated on every slight and common occasion.

3. In righteousness we must also swear; which respects the matter and end of the oath, namely, that it be right and equity which we intend to confirm; or else we avouch God as giving countenance unto our wickedness and injustice.

These things being premised, I do affirm, that where matters are in strife or controversy among men, the peace and tranquillity of human society, in general or particular, depending on the right determination of them, it is lawful for a Christian, or a believer, being lawfully called, to confirm the truth which he knows by the interposition or invocation of the name of God in an oath, with this design, to put an end unto strife. For our apostle in this place doth not only urge the common usage of mankind, but he layeth down a certain maxim and principle of the law of nature, whose exercise was to be approved amongst all. And if the practice hereof had not been lawful unto them unto whom he wrote, — that is, Christians who obeyed the gospel, — he had exceedingly weakened all that he had designed from his discourse concerning the oath of God, by shutting it up with this instance, which could be of no force unto them, because in that which was unlawful for them to practice, or to have an experience of its efficacy. Wherefore I shall manifest these two things:

1. That a solemn oath is a part of the natural worship of God, which the light of nature leads unto; and is not only lawful, but in some cases a necessary duty unto Christians, and positively approved by God in his word.

2. That there is nothing in the Gospel that doth contradict or control this light of nature and divine institution, but there is that whereby they are confirmed: —

1. For the first, we have,

(1.) The example of God himself, who, as we have seen, is said sundry times to swear, and whose oath is of signal, use unto our faith and obedience. Now, if men had not had a sense and understanding of the nature, lawfulness, and obligation from the light of nature, of an oath, this would have been of no use nor signification unto them. It is true, that God did expressly institute the rite and use of swearing in judgment among his people at the giving of the law, and gave directions about the causes, manner, and form of an oath, Deuteronomy 6:13; Deuteronomy 10:20; Exodus 22:8-11; from thence the use of an oath, and consequentially of the oath of God, might be known. But the most solemn swearing of God was before the law, as in that instance which our apostle insists upon of his oath unto Abraham. The nature and force hereof could no otherwise be discovered but by the light of nature, wherein God further enlightened and instructed men by his own example.

(2.) In compliance herewith, holy men, and such as walked with God before the giving of the law, did solemnly swear when occasion did require it, and they were lawfully called. So Abraham sware to Abimelech, Genesis 21:22-24; and gave an oath unto his servant, Genesis 24:3; Genesis 24:9. So Jacob sware with Laban, Genesis 31:53. And Joseph sware unto his father, Genesis 47:31. And these had no respect unto any legal institution, so that their practice should be thought to be reproved in those passages of the Gospel which shall be mentioned afterwards.

(3.) That oaths were in use and approved under the law and administration thereof, is not to be denied; and they are commended who did solemnly practice according to the command, Isaiah 65:16, Psalms 63:11 : which of itself doth sufficiently evidence that there is no evil in the nature of it; for God did never permit, much less approve, any thing of that kind. And those who judge an oath to be unlawful under the new testament, do suppose that the Lord Christ hath taken away the principal instrument of human society, the great means of preserving peace, tranquillity and right, though in its own nature good and every way suited to the nature of God and man.

2. There is in the New Testament nothing against this practice, yea, there is much to confirm it; although, considering the foundations whereon it is built, it is sufficient that there is not any thing in the Gospel contrary unto it as it was a positive institution, nor can there be any thing in the Gospel contrary unto it as it is a dictate of the light of nature. But, —

(1.) That prophecy, Isaiah 45:23, doth belong and is expressly applied unto believers under the new testament: “I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, That unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear.” See Romans 14:11. This hath respect unto what God had of old prescribed, Deuteronomy 6:13, “Thou shalt fear the LORD thy God, and serve him, and shalt swear by his name.” ‘This now,’saith the prophet, ‘shall in the days of the gospel be observed throughout the world;’which it could not be in case it were not lawful for Christians in any case to swear by that holy name. And that, in like manner, is a promise concerning the calling and conversion of the Gentiles under the new testament, Jeremiah 12:16 :

“And it shall come to pass, if they will diligently learn the ways of my people, to swear by my name, The LORD liveth, (as they caused my people to swear by Baal;) then shall they be built in the midst of my people.”

Now this can be no direction, no encouragement unto the converts of the Gentiles, if it be not lawful for them so to swear, if it be not their duty when lawfully called thereunto. Yea, if God promiseth that they shall swear by his name, and the gospel should forbid them so to do, where should they find rest and assurance unto their obedience?

(2.) The apostle Paul doth solemnly swear unto the truth of his own affirmations concerning himself, and his sincerity in them, Romans 9:1;2 Corinthians 1:23. It was not concerning any doctrines he taught that he did swear. They needed no confirmation by his oath, as deriving all their authority and assurance from divine revelation. But it was concerning his own heart and purpose, whereof there might be much doubt and hesitation, yea, presumption contrary to the truth; when yet it was of great concernment to the church to have them truly known and stated. And in this case he confirms his assertion by an oath; which wholly takes off all pretense of a general rule that an oath is unlawful under the new testament, with those who will not make the apostle a transgressor.

(3.) Had an oath been unlawful under the new testament, God would not have continued the use of it in any kind, lest Christians should thereby be drawn to act against the rule and his command. But this he did in that of the angel who “lifted up his hand unto heaven, and sware by him who liveth for ever and ever,” Revelation 10:5-6. To give a great and an approved example of that which in no case we may imitate, doth not become the wisdom of God, and his care towards his church.

Add unto all these considerations the express approbation given in this place by our apostle unto the practice of solemn swearing among men, to confirm the truth and to put an end unto strife, and the lawfulness of an oath will be found sufficiently confirmed in the New Testament as well as the Old.

There are two places in the New Testament which are usually pleaded in opposition unto this liberty and duty. The first is in the words of our Savior, Matthew 5:33-37, “Ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths. But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne; nor by the earth, for it is his footstool; neither by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black:

but let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil:” And unto these words of our Savior the apostle James hath respect, James 5:12,

“But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea be yea, and your nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation.”

Ans. It is evident that this place of James is derived from, and hath respect unto the words of our Savior; it being an express inculcation of his precept and direction, on the same reason. The same answer, therefore, will serve both places; which will not be difficult, from the observation of the reasons and circumstances of our Savior’s discourse. And to this end we may observe, —

[1.] That all things prohibited by our Savior, in that sermon to the Jews, were in themselves, and by virtue of the law of God, antecedently unlawful. Only, whereas the Pharisees, by their traditions and false interpretations of the Scripture, in a compliance with their own wickedness and covetousness, had persuaded the body of the church, and brought them into the practice of much lewdness and many sins; and by their ignorance of the true spiritual nature of the law, had led men unto an indulgence unto their internal lusts and corruptions, so they brake not forth into open practice; our Savior rends the veil of their hypocrisy, discovers the corruption of their traditions and interpretations of the law, declares the true nature of sin, and in sundry instances shows how and wherein, by these false glosses, the body of the people had been drawn into soul- ruining sins: whereby he “restored the law,” as the Jews speak, “unto its pristine crown.” Let any one of the particulars mentioned by our Savior be considered, and it will be found that it was before unlawful in itself, or declared so in the positive law of God. Was it not evil, to be “angry with a brother without a cause,” and to call him “raca,” and “fool?” verse 22. Was it not so, to “look on a woman to lust after her?” or were such unclean desires ever innocent? That, therefore, which is here prohibited by our Savior, “Swear not at all,” was somewhat that was even then unlawful, but practiced on the false glosses of the Pharisees upon the law. Now this was not solemn swearing, in judgment and righteousness, which we have proved before not only to have been lawful, but appointed expressly by God himself.

[2.] Our Savior expressly limiteth his precept unto our communication, “Let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay,” verse 37. There was then amongst men, and that countenanced by the Pharisees, a cursed way of mixing oaths with men’s ordinary communication. This blasphemous wickedness, as it was a direct violation of the third commandment, so it was frequently rebuked by the prophets. But, as other public sins, it grew and increased among the people, until their corrupt leaders, in compliance with them, began to distinguish what oaths in common communication were ]awful and what were unlawful, what were obligatory and what were not. To eradicate this cursed practice, our Savior gives this general prohibition unto all that would be his disciples, “Swear not at all,” — that is, in communication; which is the first design of the third commandment. And as there is nothing which more openly proclaims a contempt of Christ and his authority, among many who would be esteemed Christians, than their ordinary, customary swearing and cursing by the name of God, and other hellish imprecations which they have invented, in their daily communication; so possibly the observation of the greatness of that evil, its extent and incurableness, hath cast some on the other extreme. But it is no property of a wise man, by avoiding one extreme, to run into another.

[3.] The direction and precept of our Savior is given in direct opposition unto the corrupt glosses and interpretations of the law, introduced by tradition, and made authentic by the authority of the Pharisees. This is evident from the express antithesis in the words, “Ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time: ......but I say unto you.” Now these were two.

1st. That there was no evil in an oath at any time, but only in swearing falsely. This they gathered (as they fathered their most absurd apprehensions on some pretext of Scripture) from Leviticus 19:12,

“Ye shall not swear by my name falsely, neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God.”

From hence they concluded that God’s name was not profaned in swearing, unless a man sware falsely; that is, forsware himself. And this also they restrained principally unto promises by oaths, or vows to be performed unto God; which turned to their advantage, who had the disposal of things sacred and devoted. This they judged to comprise the whole of the prohibition in the third commandment: but most falsely, and unto the hazard of the souls of men; for not only the using or interposition of the name of God in a false matter, which is perjury, but also the using of it “in vain,” — that is, without just cause, or reason, or call, lightly and vainly, — is expressly forbidden. Herein our Savior interposeth his divine interpretation, and, in opposition unto the corrupt exposition of the Pharisees, declares that not only false swearing by the name of God, in judgment or otherwise, is forbidden in the command, but also that vain interposition of the name of God in our “communication” is utterly prohibited. And it is hence evident unto me, that no man ought voluntarily to take an oath, unless the matter in controversy be undeterminable without it, and the authority be lawful that requires it.

2dly. Aiming to comply with the lusts and corruptions of men (as the great artifice of all false teachers consists in the accommodation of doctrines to the blindness and prevalent sins of men), they had found out a way how they might swear, and swear on, without the guilt of perjury, did they swear never so falsely. And this was, not to swear by the name of God himself, — which if they did, and sware falsely, they were perjured, — but by the heavens, or by the earth, or Jerusalem, or the temple, or the altar, or their own heads; for such kind of oaths and execrations were then, as also now, in use in the ordinary communication of men. But herein also the filthy hypocrites had a farther reach, and had insinuated another pestilent opinion into the minds of men, tending to their own advantage. For they had instructed them, that they might freely swear by the temple, but not by the gold of it; and by the altar, but not by the gift that was upon it, Matthew 23:16-19. For from the gold offered in the temple, and the gift brought unto the altar, did advantage arise unto these covetous hypocrites; who would therefore beget a greater veneration in the minds of men towards them than to the express institutions of God themselves. In opposition unto this corruption, our Savior declares that in all these things there is a tacit respect unto God himself; and that his name is no less profaned in them than if it were expressly made use of. These are the things alone which our Savior intendeth in this prohibition; namely, the interposition of the name of God in our ordinary communication, without cause, call, warrant, or authority, when no necessity requireth us thereunto, — where there is no strife otherwise not to be determined, or which by consent is to be so ended; and the usage of the names of creatures, sacred or common, in our oaths, without mentioning of the name of God. And there are two rules, in the interpretation of the Scripture, which we must in such cases always carry along with us:

[1.] ‘That universal affirmations and negations are not always to be universally understood, but are to be limited by their occasions, circumstances, and subject-matter treated of.’So, where our apostle affirms that he “became all things unto all men,” if you restrain not the assertion unto things indifferent, false conclusions may be drawn from it, and of evil consequence. So is the prohibition of our Savior here to be limited unto rash and temerarious swearing, or it would be contrary to the light of nature, the appointment of God, and the good of human society.

[2.] It is a rule also of use in the interpretation of the Scripture, ‘That where any thing is prohibited in one place, and allowed in another, that not the thing itself absolutely considered is spoken unto, but the different modes, causes, ends, and reasons of it, are intended.’So here, in one place swearing is forbidden, in others it is allowed, and examples thereof are proposed unto us: wherefore it cannot be swearing absolutely, that is intended in either place; but rash, causeless swearing is condemned in one, and swearing in weighty causes, for just ends, with the properties of an oath before insisted on, is recommended and approved in the other. I shall shut up the discourse with three corollaries from it: —

Obs. 10. That the custom of using oaths, swearing, cursing, or imprecation, in common communication, is not only an open transgression of the third commandment, which God hath threatened to revenge, but it is a practical renunciation also of all the authority of Jesus Christ, who hath so expressly interdicted it.

Obs. 11. Whereas swearing by the name of God, in truth, righteousness, and judgment, is an ordinance of God for the end of strife amongst men; perjury is justly reckoned among the worst and highest of sins, and is that which reflects the greatest dishonor on God, and tendeth to the ruin of human society.

Obs. 12. Readiness in some to swear on slight occasions, and the ordinary impositions of oaths on all sorts of persons, without a due consideration on either hand of the nature, ends, and properties of lawful swearing, are evils greatly to be lamented, and in God’s good time among Christians will be reformed.


Verses 17-20

In this last part of the chapter two things are further designed by the apostle:

1. An explication of the purpose and end of God in his promise, as it was confirmed by his oath; and therewithal and from thence he makes application of the whole unto all believers, seeing the mind and will of God was the same towards them all as they were towards Abraham, to whom the promise so confirmed was made in particular.

2. A confirmation of the whole privilege intended, by the introduction of the interposition of Christ in this matter; and this is expressed in a transition and return unto his former discourse concerning the priesthood of Christ.

Hebrews 6:17-20. ᾿εν ᾧ περισσότερον βουλόμενος ὁ θεὸς ἐπιδεῖξαι τοῖς κληρονόμοις τῆς ἐπαλλελίας τὸ ἀμετάθετον τῆς βουλῆς αὐτοῦ, ἐμεσίτευσεν ὅρκῳ, ἵνα διὰ δὺο πραγμάτων ἀμεταθέτων, ἐν οἷς ἀδύνατον ψεύσασθαι θεὸν, ἰσχυρὰν παράκλησιν ἔχωμεν οἱ καταφυγόντες κρατῆσαι τῆς προκειμένης ἐλπίδος ἥν ὡς ἄγκυραν ἔχομεν τῆς ψμχῆς ἀσφαλῆ τε καὶ βεβαίαν, καὶ εἰσερχομένης εἰς τὸ ἐσώτερον τοῦ καταπετάσματος, ὅπου πρόδρομος ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν εἰσῆλθεν ᾿ιησοῦς, κατὰ τὴν τάξιν ΄ελχισεδὲκ ἀρχιερεὺς γενόμενος εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα.

εν ᾧ, “in quo,” “qua in re.” Syr., מֶטוּל חָנָא, “propter hoe,” “qua propter.” Some have respect unto the thing itself spoken of, some unto the reasons of things spoken.

περισσότερον βουλόμενος, “abundantius volens,” “volens ex abundanti.” Syr., יַתִּירָאִית צְבָא“maxime voluit,” “abunde voluit;” “would abundantly.”

᾿᾿επιδεῖξαι. Manuscript [A] ἐπιδείξασθαι, “ostendere;” “manifestly to set forth.” τὸ ἀμετάθετον τῆς βουλῆς. “Immutabilitatem consilii,” Bez. “Immobilitatem,” An., Vulg. Lat., Rhem.; “the stability;” which answers neither of the words used which are more emphatical Syr. דְּשׁרּוְדיֵהּ לָא מֶשְׁתַּחֲלַף “that his promise should not be changed.”

᾿αμετάθετον is that which cannot be altered nor transposed into any other state.

᾿εμεσίτευσεν ὅρκῳ. “Intervenit juramento,” An. “Fidejussit jurejurando,’ Bez. “Interpositionem fecit jurejurando,” “interposuit jusjurandum,” Vulg. Lat. Rhem., “he interposed an oath.” Not properly, for ἐμεσίτευσεν is, “he himself came between, or in the midst; he interposed himself, and gave his oath.” From μέσος is μεσίτης, “interventor,” “fidejussor,” “interpres,” εἰρηνοποίος, “pacificator.” Thence is μεσιτεύω, “mediatorem ago, pacificatoris partes ago;” “to interpose a man’s self by any means to confirm and establish peace;” which was here done ὅρκῳ, with “an oath.” The word is used in this place only in the New Testament, as μεσίτης is nowhere used but by Paul, Galatians 3:19-20; 1 Timothy 2:5; Hebrews 8:6; Hebrews 9:15, Hebrews 12:24.

διὰ δύο πραγμάτων ἀμεταθέτων, “ut per duas res immutabiles,” or “immobiles.” Rhem., “that by two things unmovable.” Syr., “which are not changed,” or ought not to be. “By two immutable things.” ᾿ισχυρὰν παράκλησιν ἔχωμεν, “fortem consolationem habeamus,” “fortissimum solarium,” “validam consolationem habeamus,” “haberemus.” בּוּיָאָא רַבָּא יֶהְוֵא לַן, Syr., “that great consolation should be to us.” ᾿ισχυράν denotes such a power and strength in that which is denominated by it as is prevalent against oppositions and difficulties; which is most proper in this place.

οἱ καταφυγόντες, “confugientes, “qui confugimus.” “Qui cursum eo corripimus,” Bez.; “who have hastened our course” or “flight.” “Qui hue confugimus.” Ours, “who have fled for refuge.” And indeed καταφεύγω with εἰπί, εἰς, or πρός, is not used but for “to flee to a shelter, refuge, or protection.” Hence καταφυγή is “refugium,” a refuge that any one betakes himself unto in time of danger.

κρατῆσαι τῆς προκειμένης ἐλπίδος, “ad tenendum propositam spera;” “to hold the proposed hope.” “Obtinere,” to obtain. Syr., וְנֵאחוּד“that we may hold.” “Ut spem propositam retineumus,” Bez. “Ad obtinendam spem propositam.” Ours, most properly, “to lay hold upon;” for κρατῆσαι, is, “injecta manu fortiter tenere” or “retinere.” ῞ην ὡς ἄγκυραν ἔχομεν τῆς ψυχῆς ἀσφαλῆ τε καὶ βεζαίαν, “safe and firm,” “firm and stable.” Syr., דַּלְבִיךְ בְּנַפְשָׁן דְּלָא תְּתְזִיעִי“which holds our soul, that it be not moved;” expressing the effect, and not the nature or adjuncts of the means spoken of.

εἰσερχομένην εἰς τὸ ἐσώτερον τοῦ καταπετάσματος, “et incedentem,” “ingredientem,” “introeuntem usque ad interlora velaminis.” Vulg.,”ad interius velaminis.” “Usque in ea quae sunt intra velum,” Bez. Some respect the place only, some the things within the place. “Which entereth into that within the veil.” Syr., וְעָאֵל לגַו מֵן אַפַי תַּיְעָא, “and entereth into the faces of the gate;” so that interpreter always calleth the veil, “the faces of the gate,” port, or entrance of the temple, namely, the most holy place, because it was as a face or frontispiece unto them that were to enter. See Matthew 27:51.

Hebrews 6:17-20. — Wherein God, willing more abundantly to manifest unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, interposed himself by an oath: that by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to deceive, we might have strong [prevailing] consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold on the hope set before us: which we have as an anchor of the soul, both safe and steadfast, and which entereth into that within the veil; whither the forerunner is for us entered, Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.

Sundry things are observable in these words.

1. The introduction unto the application of the foregoing discourse to the use of all believers. Wherein [we have],

2. The design of God in the confirmation of his promise by his oath; which was to “manifest the immutability of his counsel.” And this is amplified,

(1.) By the frame, purpose, or mind of God therein; he was “willing.”

(2.) By the manner how he would declare his mind herein; “more abundantly,” — namely, than could be done by a single promise. It gave not a further stability unto his word, but manifested his willingness to have it believed.

3. The persons are described unto whom God was thus willing to show the immutability of his counsel; who are “the heirs of promise,” — that is, all and only those who are so.

4. The way is expressed whereby God would thus manifest the immutability of his counsel; namely, “by two immutable things,” — that is, his promise and his oath: which,

5. Are proved to be sufficient evidences thereof, from the nature of him by whom they are made and given; it was “impossible that God should lie.”

6. The especial end of this whole design of God, with respect unto all the heirs of promise, is said to be that “they might have strong consolation.”

7. And thereon they are further described by the way and means they use to obtain the promise and the consolation designed unto them therein; they

“flee for refuge to the hope set before them.”

8. The efficacy whereof is declared from the nature of it, in comparison unto an anchor; “which we have as an anchor:” further amplified,

(1.) From its properties, — it is “sure,” or “safe and steadfast;” and also,

(2.) From its use, — “it enters into that within the veil.”

9. And this use is so expressed that occasion may be thence taken to return unto that from which he had digressed Hebrews 5:11, namely, the priesthood of Christ. And,

10. The mention thereof he so introduceth, according to his usual manner, as also to manifest the great benefit and advantage of our entering by hope into that within the veil; namely,

(1.) Because Christ is there;

(2.) Because he is entered thither as “our forerunner;”

(3.) From the office wherewith he is there vested, “made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec,” as he had declared, Hebrews 5:10, all which must be opened as they occur in the text.

1.