In this chapter the apostle proceeds to persuade the Hebrews to make a
better proficiency in religion than they had done, as the best way to
prevent apostasy, the dreadful nature and consequences of which sin he
sets forth in a serious manner
and then expresses his good hopes concerning them, that they would
persevere in faith and holiness, to which he exhorts them, and sets
before them the great encouragement they had from God, both with
respect to their duty and happiness,
|Advancement in Holiness; First Principles.
||A. D. 62.|
1 Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ,
let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of
repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God,
2 Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and
of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.
3 And this will we do, if God permit.
4 For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened,
and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of
the Holy Ghost,
5 And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the
world to come,
6 If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance;
seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put
him to an open shame.
7 For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon
it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed,
receiveth blessing from God:
8 But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and
is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned.
We have here the apostle's advice to the Hebrews--that they would grow
up from a state of childhood to the fullness of the stature of the new
man in Christ. He declares his readiness to assist them all he could in
their spiritual progress; and, for their greater encouragement, he puts
himself with them: Let us go on. Here observe, In order to their
growth, Christians must leave the principles of the doctrine of Christ.
How must they leave them? They must not lose them, they must not
despise them, they must not forget them. They must lay them up in their
hearts, and lay them as the foundation of all their profession and
expectation; but they must not rest and stay in them, they must not be
always laying the foundation, they must go on, and build upon it. There
must be a superstructure; for the foundation is laid on purpose to
support the building. Here it may be enquired, Why did the apostle
resolve to set strong meat before the Hebrews, when he knew they were
but babes? Answer.
1. Though some of them were but weak, yet others of them had gained
more strength; and they must be provided for suitably. And, as those
who are grown Christians must be willing to hear the plainest truths
preached for the sake of the weak, so the weak must be willing to hear
the more difficult and mysterious truths preached for the sake of those
who are strong.
2. He hoped they would be growing in their spiritual strength and
stature, and so be able to digest stronger meat.
I. The apostle mentions several foundation-principles, which must be
well laid at first, and then built upon; neither his time nor theirs
must be spent in laying these foundations over and over again. These
foundations are six:--
1. Repentance from dead works, that is, conversion and regeneration,
repentance from a spiritually dead state and course; as if he had said,
"Beware of destroying the life of grace in your souls; your minds were
changed by conversion, and so were your lives. Take care that you
return not to sin again, for then you must have the foundation to lay
again; there must be a second conversion a repenting not only of, but
from, dead works." Observe here,
(1.) The sins of persons unconverted are dead works; they proceed from
persons spiritually dead, and they tend to death eternal.
(2.) Repentance for dead works, if it be right, is repentance from dead
works, a universal change of heart and life.
(3.) Repentance for and from dead works is a foundation-principle,
which must not be laid again, though we must renew our repentance
2. Faith towards God, a firm belief of the existence of God, of his
nature, attributes, and perfections, the trinity of persons in the
unity of essence, the whole mind and will of God as revealed in his
word, particularly what relates to the Lord Jesus Christ. We must by
faith acquaint ourselves with these things; we must assent to them, we
must approve of them, and apply all to ourselves with suitable
affections and actions. Observe,
(1.) Repentance from dead works, and faith towards God, are connected,
and always go together; they are inseparable twins, the one cannot live
without the other.
(2.) Both of these are foundation-principles, which should be once well
laid, but never pulled up, so as to need to be laid over again; we must
not relapse into infidelity.
3. The doctrine of baptisms, that is, of being baptized by a minister
of Christ with water, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of
the Holy Ghost, as the initiating sign or seal of the covenant of
grace, strongly engaging the person so baptized to get acquainted with
the new covenant, to adhere to it, and prepare to renew it at the table
of the Lord and sincerely to regulate himself according to it, relying
upon the truth and faithfulness of God for the blessings contained in
it. And the doctrine of an inward baptism, that of the Spirit
sprinkling the blood of Christ upon the soul, for justification, and
the graces of the Spirit for sanctification. This ordinance of baptism
is a foundation to be rightly laid, and daily remembered, but not
4. Laying on of hands, on persons passing solemnly from their initiated
state by baptism to the confirmed state, by returning the answer of a
good conscience towards God, and sitting down at the Lord's table. This
passing from incomplete to complete church membership was performed by
laying on of hands, which was extraordinary conveyance of the gift of
the Holy Ghost continued. This, once done, all are obliged to abide by,
and not to need another solemn admission, as at first, but to go on,
and grow up, in Christ. Or by this may be meant ordination of persons
to the ministerial office, who are duly qualified for it and inclined
to it; and this by fasting and prayer, with laying on of the hands of
the presbytery: and this is to be done but once.
5. The resurrection of the dead, that is, of dead bodies; and their
re-union with their souls, to be eternal companions together in weal or
woe, according as their state was towards God when they died, and the
course of life they led in this world.
6. Eternal judgment, determining the soul of every one, when it leaves
the body at death, and both soul and body at the last day, to their
eternal state, every one to his proper society and employment to which
they were entitled and fitted here on earth; the wicked to everlasting
punishment, the righteous to life eternal.
These are the great foundation-principles which ministers should
clearly and convincingly unfold, and closely apply. In these the people
should be well instructed and established, and from these they must
never depart; without these, the other parts of religion have no
foundation to support them.
II. The apostle declares his readiness and resolution to assist the
Hebrews in building themselves up on these foundations till they arrive
at perfection: And this we will do, if God permit,
And thereby he teaches them,
1. That right resolution is very necessary in order to progress and
proficiency in religion.
2. That that resolution is right which is not only made in the
sincerity of our hearts, but in a humble dependence upon God for
strength, for assistance and righteousness, for acceptance, and for
time and opportunity.
3. That ministers should not only teach people what to do, but go
before them, and along with them, in the way of duty.
III. He shows that this spiritual growth is the surest way to prevent
that dreadful sin of apostasy from the faith. And here,
1. He shows how far persons may go in religion, and, after all, fall
away, and perish for ever,
(1.) They may be enlightened. Some of the ancients understand
this of their being baptized; but it is rather to be understood of
notional knowledge and common illumination, of which persons may have a
great deal, and yet come short of heaven. Balaam was the man whose
eyes were opened
and yet with his eyes opened he went down to utter darkness.
(2.) They may taste of the heavenly gift, feel something of the
efficacy of the Holy Spirit in his operations upon their souls, causing
them to taste something of religion, and yet be like persons in the
market, who taste of what they will not come up to the price of, and so
but take a taste, and leave it. Persons may taste religion, and seem to
like it, if they could have it upon easier terms than denying
themselves, and taking up their cross, and following Christ.
(3.) They may be made partakers of the Holy Ghost, that is, of
his extraordinary and miraculous gifts; they may have cast out devils
in the name of Christ, and done many other mighty works. Such gifts in
the apostolic age were sometimes bestowed upon those who had no true
(4.) They may taste of the good word of God; they may have some
relish of gospel doctrines, may hear the word with pleasure, may
remember much of it, and talk well of it, and yet never be cast into
the form and mould of it, nor have it dwelling richly in them.
(5.) They may have tasted of the powers of the world to come;
they may have been under strong impressions concerning heaven, and
dread of going to hell. These lengths hypocrites may go, and, after
all, turn apostates. Now hence observe,
[1.] These great things are spoken here of those who may fall away; yet
it is not here said of them that they were truly converted, or that
they were justified; there is more in true saving grace than in all
that is here said of apostates.
[2.] This therefore is no proof of the final apostasy of true saints.
These indeed may fall frequently and foully, but yet they will not
totally nor finally from God; the purpose and the power of God, the
purchase and the prayer of Christ, the promise of the gospel, the
everlasting covenant that God has made with them, ordered in all things
and sure, the indwelling of the Spirit, and the immortal seed of the
word, these are their security. But the tree that has not these roots
will not stand.
2. The apostle describes the dreadful case of such as fall away after
having gone so far in the profession of the religion.
(1.) The greatness of the sin of apostasy. It is crucifying the Son
of God afresh, and putting him to open shame. They declare that
they approve of what the Jews did in crucifying Christ, and that they
would be glad to do the same thing again if it were in their power.
They pour the greatest contempt upon the Son of God, and therefore upon
God himself, who expects all should reverence his Son, and honour him
as they honour the Father. They do what in them lies to represent
Christ and Christianity as a shameful thing, and would have him to be a
public shame and reproach. This is the nature of apostasy.
(2.) The great misery of apostates.
[1.] It is impossible to renew them again unto repentance. It is
extremely hazardous. Very few instances can be given of those who have
gone so far and fallen away, and yet ever have been brought to true
repentance, such a repentance as is indeed a renovation of the soul.
Some have thought this is the sin against the Holy Ghost, but without
ground. The sin here mentioned is plainly apostasy both from the truth
and the ways of Christ. God can renew them to repentance, but he seldom
does it; and with men themselves it is impossible.
[2.] Their misery is exemplified by a proper similitude, taken from the
ground that after much cultivation brings forth nothing but briers and
thorns; and therefore is nigh unto cursing, and its end is to be
To give this the greater force here is observed the difference that
there is between the good ground and the bad, that these contraries,
being set one over against the other, illustrate each other.
First Here is a description of the good ground: It drinketh
in the rain that cometh often upon it. Believers do not only taste
of the word of God, but they drink it in; and this good ground bringeth
forth fruit answerable to the cost laid out, for the honour of Christ
and the comfort of his faithful ministers, who are, under Christ,
dressers of the ground. And this fruit-field or garden receives the
blessing. God declares fruitful Christians blessed, and all wise and
good men account them blessed: they are blessed with increase of grace,
and with further establishment and glory at last. Secondly,
Here is the different case of the bad ground: It bears briers and
thorns; it is not only barren of good fruit, but fruitful in that
which is bad, briers and thorns, fruitful in sin and wickedness, which
are troublesome and hurtful to all about them, and will be most so to
sinners themselves at last; and then such ground is rejected. God will
concern himself no more about such wicked apostates; he will let them
alone, and cast them out of his care; he will command the clouds that
they rain no more upon them. Divine influences shall be restrained;
and that is not all, but such ground is nigh unto cursing; so
far is it from receiving the blessing, that a dreadful curse hangs over
it, though as yet, through the patience of God, the curse is not fully
executed. Lastly, Its end is to be burned. Apostasy will be
punished with everlasting burnings, the fire that shall never be
quenched. This is the sad end to which apostasy leads, and therefore
Christians should go on and grow in grace, lest, if they do not go
forward, they should go backward, till they bring matters to this
woeful extremity of sin and misery.
|Cautions against Apostasy; The Divine Promise and Oath.
||A. D. 62.|
9 But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and
things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak.
10 For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour
of love, which ye have showed toward his name, in that ye have
ministered to the saints, and do minister.
11 And we desire that every one of you do show the same
diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end:
12 That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through
faith and patience inherit the promises.
13 For when God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear
by no greater, he sware by himself,
14 Saying, Surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I
will multiply thee.
15 And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the
16 For men verily swear by the greater: and an oath for
confirmation is to them an end of all strife.
17 Wherein God, willing more abundantly to show unto the heirs
of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an
18 That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible
for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled
for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us:
19 Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and
stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil;
20 Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made
a high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.
The apostle, having applied himself to the fears of the Hebrews, in
order to excite their diligence and prevent their apostasy, now
proceeds to apply himself to their hopes, and candidly declares the
good hope he had concerning them, that they would persevere; and
proposes to them the great encouragements they had in the way of their
I. He freely and openly declares the good hope he had concerning them,
that they would endure to the end: But beloved, we are persuaded
better things of you,
1. There are things that accompany salvation, things that are never
separated from salvation, things that show the person to be in a state
of salvation, and will issue in eternal salvation.
2. The things that accompany salvation are better things than ever any
hypocrite or apostate enjoyed. They are better in their nature and in
3. It is our duty to hope well of those in whom nothing appears to the
4. Ministers must sometimes speak by way of caution to those of whose
salvation they have good hopes. And those who have in themselves good
hopes, as to their eternal salvation, should yet consider seriously how
fatal a disappointment it would be if they should fall short. Thus they
are to work out their salvation with fear and trembling.
II. He proposes arguments and encouragements to them to go on in the
way of their duty.
1. That God had wrought a principle of holy love and charity in them,
which had discovered itself in suitable works that would not be
forgotten of God: God is not unrighteous to forget your labour of
Good works and labour proceeding from love to God are commendable; and
what is done to any in the name of God shall not go unrewarded. What is
done to the saints, as such, God takes as done to himself.
2. Those who expect a gracious reward for the labour of love must
continue in it as long as they have ability and opportunity: You
have ministered to the saints, and you do minister; and we desire that
every one of you do show the same diligence.
3. Those who persevere in a diligent discharge of their duty shall
attain to the full assurance of hope in the end. Observe,
(1.) Full assurance is a higher degree of hope, is full assurance of
hope; they differ not in nature, but only in degree.
(2.) Full assurance is attainable by great diligence and perseverance
to the end.
III. He proceeds to set before them caution and counsel how to attain
this full assurance of hope to the end.
1. That they should not be slothful. Slothfulness will clothe a man
with rags: they must not love their ease, nor lose their opportunities.
2. That they would follow the good examples of those who had gone
(1.) There are some who from assurance have gone to inherit the
promises. They believed them before, now they inherit them; they have
got safely to heaven.
(2.) The way by which they came to the inheritance was that of faith
and patience. These graces were implanted in their souls, and drawn
forth into act and exercise in their lives. If we ever expect to
inherit as they do, we must follow them in the way of faith and
patience; and those who do thus follow them in the way shall overtake
them at the end, and be partakers of the same blessedness.
IV. The apostle closes the chapter with a clear and full account of the
assured truth of the promises of God,
to the end. They are all confirmed by the oath of God, and they
are all founded in the eternal counsel of God, and therefore may be
1. They are all confirmed by the oath of God. He has not only given his
people his word, and his hand and seal, but his oath. And here, you
will observe, he specifies the oath of God to Abraham, which, being
sworn to him as the father of the faithful, remains in full force and
virtue to all true believers: When God made a promise unto Abraham,
because he could swear by no greater, he swore by himself. Observe,
(1.) What was the promise: Surely, blessing I will bless thee, and
multiplying I will multiply thee. The blessing of God is the
blessedness of his people; and those whom he has blessed indeed he will
go on to bless, and will multiply blessings, till he has brought them
to perfect blessedness.
(2.) What was the oath by which this promise was ratified: He swore
by himself. He staked down his own being and his own blessedness
upon it; no greater security can be given or desired.
(3.) How was that oath accomplished. Abraham, in due time, obtained the
promise. It was made good to him after he had patiently endured.
[1.] There is always an interval, and sometimes a long one, between the
promise and the performance.
[2.] That interval is a trying time to believers, whether they have
patience to endure to the end.
[3.] Those who patiently endure shall assuredly obtain the blessedness
promised, as sure as Abraham did.
[4.] The end and design of an oath is to make the promise sure, and to
encourage those to whom it is made to wait with patience till the time
for performance comes,
An oath with men is for confirmation, and is an end of all strife. This
is the nature and design of an oath, in which men swear by the greater,
not by creatures, but by the Lord himself; and it is to put an end to
all dispute about the matter, both to disputes within our own breasts
(doubts and distrusts), and disputes with others, especially with the
promiser. Now, if God would condescend to take an oath to his people,
he will surely remember the nature and design of it.
2. The promises of God are all founded in his eternal counsel; and this
counsel of his is an immutable counsel.
(1.) The promise of blessedness which God has made to believers is not
a rash and hasty thing, but the result of God's eternal purpose.
(2.) This purpose of God was agreed upon in counsel, and settled there
between the eternal Father, Son, and Spirit.
(3.) These counsels of God can never be altered; they are immutable.
God never needs to change his counsels; for nothing new can arise to
him who sees the end from the beginning.
3. The promises of God, which are founded upon these immutable counsels
of God, and confirmed by the oath of God, may safely be depended upon;
for here we have two immutable things, the counsel and the oath of God,
in which it is impossible for God to lie, contrary to his nature as
well as to his will. Here observe,
(1.) Who they are to whom God has given such full security of
[1.] They are the heirs of the promise: such as have a title to the
promises by inheritance, by virtue of their new birth, and union with
Christ. We are all by nature children of wrath. The curse is the
inheritance we are born to: it is by a new and heavenly birth that any
are born heirs to the promise.
[2.] They are such as have fled for refuge to the hope set before them.
Under the law there were cities of refuge provided for those who were
pursued by the avenger of blood. Here is a much better refuge prepared
by the gospel, a refuge for all sinners who shall have the heart to
flee to it; yea, though they have been the chief of sinners.
(2.) What God's design towards them is, in giving them such
securities--that they might have strong consolation. Observe,
[1.] God is concerned for the consolation of believers, as well as for
their sanctification; he would have his children walk in the fear of
the Lord, and in the comforts of the Holy Ghost.
[2.] The consolations of God are strong enough to support his people
under their strongest trials. The comforts of this world are too weak
to bear up the soul under temptation, persecution, and death; but the
consolations of the Lord are neither few nor small.
(3.) What use the people of God should make of their hope and comfort,
that most refreshing and comfortable hope of eternal blessedness that
God has given them. This is, and must be, unto them, for an anchor
to the soul, sure and stedfast, &c.,
[1.] We are in this world as a ship at sea, liable to be tossed up and
down, and in danger of being cast away. Our souls are the vessels. The
comforts, expectations, graces, and happiness of our souls are the
precious cargo with which these vessels are loaded. Heaven is the
harbour to which we sail. The temptations, persecutions, and
afflictions that we encounter, are the winds and waves that threaten
[2.] We have need of an anchor to keep us sure and steady, or we are in
[3.] Gospel hope is our anchor; as in our day of battle it is our
helmet, so in our stormy passage through this world it is our anchor.
[4.] It is sure and stedfast, or else it could not keep us so.
First, It is sure in its own nature; for it is the special work
of God in the soul. It is a good hope through grace; it is not a
flattering hope made out of the spider's web, but it is a true work of
God, it is a strong and substantial thing. Secondly, It is
stedfast as to its object; it is an anchor that has taken good hold, it
enters that which is within the veil; it is an anchor that is cast upon
the rock, the Rock of ages. It does not seek to fasten in the sands,
but enters within the veil, and fixes there upon Christ; he is the
object, he is the anchor-hold of the believer's hope. As an unseen
glory within the veil is what the believer is hoping for, so an unseen
Jesus within the veil is the foundation of his hope; the free grace of
God, the merits and mediation of Christ, and the powerful influences of
his Spirit, are the grounds of his hope, and so it is a stedfast hope.
Jesus Christ is the object and ground of the believer's hope, and so it
is a stedfast hope. Jesus Christ is the object and ground of the
believer's hope in several respects.
1. As he has entered within the veil, to intercede with God, in virtue
of that sacrifice which he offered up without the veil: hope fastens
upon his sacrifice and intercession.
2. As he is the forerunner of his people, gone within the veil, to
prepare a place for them, and to assure them that they shall follow
him; he is the earnest and first fruits of believers, both in his
resurrection and in his ascension.
3. And he abides there, a high priest after the order of Melchisedec,
a priest for ever, whose priesthood shall never cease, never fail, till
he has accomplished its whole work and design, which is the full and
final happiness of all who have believed on Christ. Now this should
engage us to clear up our interest in Christ, that we may fix our hopes
in him as our forerunner, that has entered thither for us, for our
sakes, for our safety, to watch over our highest interest and concerns.
Let us then love heaven the more on his account, and long to be there
with him, where we shall be for ever safe, and for ever satisfied.