The apostle knew very well that the Hebrews, to whom he wrote, were
strangely fond of the Levitical dispensation, and therefore he fills
his mouth with arguments to wean them from it; and in order thereto
proceeds in this chapter,
I. To lay low the whole of that priesthood and sacrifice,
II. He raises and exalts the priesthood of Christ very high, that he
might effectually recommend him and his gospel to them,
III. He shows to believers the honours and dignities of their state,
and calls them to suitable duties,
|The Priesthood of Christ.
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1 For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not
the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices
which they offered year by year continually make the comers
2 For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because
that the worshippers once purged should have had no more
conscience of sins.
3 But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made
of sins every year.
4 For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats
should take away sins.
5 Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice
and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me:
6 In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no
Here the apostle, by the direction of the Spirit of God, sets himself
to lay low the Levitical dispensation; for though it was of divine
appointment, and very excellent and useful in its time and place, yet,
when it was set up in competition with Christ, to whom it was only
designed to lead the people, it was very proper and necessary to show
the weakness and imperfection of it, which the apostle does
effectually, from several arguments. As,
I. That the law had a shadow, and but a shadow, of good things to come;
and who would dote upon a shadow, though of good things, especially
when the substance has come? Observe,
1. The things of Christ and the gospel are good things; they are the
best things; they are best in themselves, and the best for us: they are
realities of an excellent nature.
2. These good things were, under the Old Testament, good things to
come, not clearly discovered, nor fully enjoyed.
3. That the Jews then had but the shadow of the good things of Christ,
some adumbrations of them; we under the gospel have the substance.
II. That the law was not the very image of the good things to come. An
image is an exact draught of the thing represented thereby. The law did
not go so far, but was only a shadow, as the image of a person in a
looking-glass is a much more perfect representation than his shadow
upon the wall. The law was a very rough draught of the great design of
divine grace, and therefore not to be so much doted on.
III. The legal sacrifices, being offered year by year, could never make
the comers thereunto perfect; for then there would have been an end of
Could they have satisfied the demands of justice, and made
reconciliation for iniquity,--could they have purified and pacified
conscience,--then they had ceased, as being no further necessary, since
the offerers would have had no more sin lying upon their consciences.
But this was not the case; after one day of atonement was over, the
sinner would fall again into one fault or another, and so there would
be need of another day of atonement, and of one every year, besides the
daily ministrations. Whereas now, under the gospel, the atonement is
perfect, and not to be repeated; and the sinner, once pardoned, is ever
pardoned as to his state, and only needs to renew his repentance and
faith, that he may have a comfortable sense of a continued pardon.
IV. As the legal sacrifices did not of themselves take away sin, so it
was impossible they should,
There was an essential defect in them.
1. They were not of the same nature with us who sinned.
2. They were not of sufficient value to make satisfaction for the
affronts offered to the justice and government of God. They were not of
the same nature that offended, and so could not be suitable. Much less
were they of the same nature that was offended; and nothing less than
the nature that was offended could make the sacrifice a full
satisfaction for the offence.
3. The beasts offered up under the law could not consent to put
themselves in the sinner's room and place. The atoning sacrifice must
be one capable of consenting, and must voluntarily substitute himself
in the sinner's stead: Christ did so.
V. There was a time fixed and foretold by the great God, and that time
had now come, when these legal sacrifices would be no longer accepted
by him nor useful to men. God never did desire them for themselves, and
now he abrogated them; and therefore to adhere to them now would be
resisting God and rejecting him. This time of the repeal of the
Levitical laws was foretold by David
and is recited here as now come. Thus industriously does the apostle
lay low the Mosaical dispensation.
|The Priesthood of Christ.
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7 Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is
written of me,) to do thy will, O God.
8 Above when he said, Sacrifice and offering and burnt
offerings and offering for sin thou wouldest not, neither hadst
pleasure therein; which are offered by the law;
9 Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh
away the first, that he may establish the second.
10 By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of
the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
11 And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering
oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins:
12 But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins
for ever, sat down on the right hand of God;
13 From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his
14 For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are
15 Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us: for after
that he had said before,
16 This is the covenant that I will make with them after
those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts,
and in their minds will I write them;
17 And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.
18 Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering
Here the apostle raises up and exalts the Lord Jesus Christ, as high as
he had laid the Levitical priesthood low. He recommends Christ to them
as the true high priest, the true atoning sacrifice, the antitype of
all the rest: and this he illustrates,
I. From the purpose and promise of God concerning Christ, which are
frequently recorded in the volume of the book of God,
God had not only decreed, but declared by Moses and the prophets, that
Christ should come and be the great high priest of the church, and
should offer up a perfect and a perfecting sacrifice. It was written of
Christ, in the beginning of the book of God, that the seed of the
woman should break the serpent's head; and the Old Testament
abounds with prophecies concerning Christ. Now since he is the person
so often promised, so much spoken of, so long expected by the people of
God, he ought to be received with great honour and gratitude.
II. From what God had done in preparing a body for Christ (that is, a
human nature), that he might be qualified to be our Redeemer and
Advocate; uniting the two natures in his own person, he was a fit
Mediator to go between God and man; a days-man to lay his hand upon
both, a peace-maker, to reconcile them, and an everlasting band of
union between God and the creature--"My ears hast thou opened;
thou has fully instructed me, furnished and fitted me for the work, and
engaged me in it,"
Now a Saviour thus provided, and prepared by God himself in so
extraordinary a manner, ought to be received with great affection and
III. From the readiness and willingness that Christ discovered to
engage in this work, when no other sacrifice would be accepted,
When no less sacrifice would be a proper satisfaction to the justice of
God than that of Christ himself, then Christ voluntarily came into it:
"Lo, I come! I delight to do thy will, O God! Let thy curse fall
upon me, but let these go their way. Father, I delight to fulfil thy
counsels, and my covenant with thee for them; I delight to perform all
thy promises, to fulfil all the prophecies." This should endear Christ
and our Bibles to us, that in Christ we have the fulfilling of the
IV. From the errand and design upon which Christ came; and this was to
do the will of God, not only as a prophet to reveal the will of God,
not only as a king to give forth divine laws, but as a priest to
satisfy the demands of justice, and to fulfil all righteousness. Christ
came to do the will of God in two instances.
1. In taking away the first priesthood, which God had no pleasure in;
not only taking away the curse of the covenant of works, and canceling
the sentence denounced against us as sinners, but taking away the
insufficient typical priesthood, and blotting out the hand-writing of
ceremonial ordinances and nailing it to his cross.
2. In establishing the second, that is, his own priesthood and the
everlasting gospel, the most pure and perfect dispensation of the
covenant of grace; this is the great design upon which the heart of God
was set from all eternity. The will of God centers and terminates in
it; and it is not more agreeable to the will of God than it is
advantageous to the souls of men; for it is by this will that we are
sanctified, through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for
(1.) What is the fountain of all that Christ has done for his
people--the sovereign will and grace of God.
(2.) How we come to partake of what Christ has done for us--by being
sanctified, converted, effectually called, wherein we are united to
Christ, and so partake of the benefits of his redemption; and this
sanctification is owing to the oblation he made of himself to God.
V. From the perfect efficacy of the priesthood of Christ
By one offering he hath for ever perfected those that are
sanctified; he has delivered and will perfectly deliver those that
are brought over to him, from all the guilt, power, and punishment of
sin, and will put them into the sure possession of perfect holiness and
felicity. This is what the Levitical priesthood could never do; and, if
we indeed are aiming at a perfect state, we must receive the Lord Jesus
as the only high priest that can bring us to that state.
VI. From the place to which our Lord Jesus is now exalted, the honour
he has there, and the further honour he shall have: This man, after
he had offered one sacrifice for sins, for ever sat down at the right
hand of God, henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his
1. To what honour Christ, as man and Mediator, is exalted--to the right
hand of God, the seat of power, interest, and activity: the giving
hand; all the favours that God bestows on his people are handed to them
by Christ: the receiving hand; all the duties that God accepts from men
are presented by Christ: the working hand; all that pertains to the
kingdoms of providence and grace is administered by Christ; and
therefore this is the highest post of honour.
2. How Christ came to this honour--not merely by the purpose or
donation of the Father, but by his own merit and purchase, as a reward
due to his sufferings; and, as he can never be deprived of an honour so
much his due, so he will never quit it, nor cease to employ it for his
3. How he enjoys this honour--with the greatest satisfaction and rest;
he is for ever sitting down there. The Father acquiesces and is
satisfied in him; he is satisfied in his Father's will and presence;
this is his rest for ever; here he will dwell, for he has both desired
and deserved it.
4. He has further expectations, which shall not be disappointed; for
they are grounded upon the promise of the Father, who hath said unto
him, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy
One would think such a person as Christ could have no enemies except in
hell; but it is certain that he has enemies on earth, very many, and
very inveterate ones. Let not Christians then wonder that they have
enemies, though they desire to live peaceably with all men. But
Christ's enemies shall be made his footstool; some by conversion,
others by confusion; and, which way soever it be, Christ will be
honoured. Of this Christ is assured, this he is expecting, and his
people should rejoice in the expectation of it; for, when his enemies
shall be subdued, their enemies, that are so for his sake, shall be
VII. The apostle recommends Christ from the witness the Holy Ghost has
given in the scriptures concerning him; this relates chiefly to what
should be the happy fruit and consequence of his humiliation and
sufferings, which in general is that new and gracious covenant that is
founded upon his satisfaction, and sealed by his blood
Whereof the Holy Ghost is a witness. The passage is cited from
in which covenant God promises,
1. That he will pour out his Spirit upon his people, so as to give them
wisdom, will, and power, to obey his word; he will put his laws in
their hearts, and write them in their minds,
This will make their duty plain, easy, and pleasant.
2. Their sins and iniquities he will remember no more
which will alone show the riches of divine grace, and the sufficiency
of Christ's satisfaction, that it needs not be repeated,
For there shall be no more remembrance of sin against true believers,
either to shame them now or to condemn them hereafter. This was much
more than the Levitical priesthood and sacrifices could effect.
And now we have gone through the doctrinal part of the epistle, in
which we have met with many things dark and difficult to be understood,
which we must impute to the weakness and dulness of our own minds. The
apostle now proceeds to apply this great doctrine, so as to influence
their affections, and direct their practice, setting before them the
dignities and duties of the gospel state.
|The Consecrated Way; Cautions against Apostasy; Perseverance Inculcated.
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19 Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the
holiest by the blood of Jesus,
20 By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us,
through the veil, that is to say, his flesh;
21 And having a high priest over the house of God;
22 Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of
faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and
our bodies washed with pure water.
23 Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without
wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;)
24 And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to
25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the
manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the
more, as ye see the day approaching.
26 For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the
knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for
27 But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery
indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.
28 He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or
29 Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be
thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and
hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was
sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the
Spirit of grace?
30 For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto
me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall
judge his people.
31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living
32 But call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye
were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions;
33 Partly, whilst ye were made a gazingstock both by reproaches
and afflictions; and partly, whilst ye became companions of them
that were so used.
34 For ye had compassion of me in my bonds, and took joyfully
the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that ye have in
heaven a better and an enduring substance.
35 Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great
recompence of reward.
36 For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the
will of God, ye might receive the promise.
37 For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come,
and will not tarry.
38 Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw
back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.
39 But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of
them that believe to the saving of the soul.
I. Here the apostle sets forth the dignities of the gospel state. It is
fit that believers should know the honours and privileges that Christ
has procured for them, that, while they take the comfort, they may give
him the glory of all. The privileges are,
1. Boldness to enter into the holiest. They have access to God, light
to direct them, liberty of spirit and of speech to conform to the
direction; they have a right to the privilege and a readiness for it,
assistance to use and improve it and assurance of acceptance and
advantage. They may enter into the gracious presence of God in his holy
oracles, ordinances, providences, and covenant, and so into communion
with God, where they receive communications from him, till they are
prepared to enter into his glorious presence in heaven.
2. A high priest over the house of God, even this blessed Jesus, who
presides over the church militant, and every member thereof on earth,
and over the church triumphant in heaven. God is willing to dwell with
men on earth, and to have them dwell with him in heaven; but fallen man
cannot dwell with God without a high priest, who is the Mediator of
reconciliation here and of fruition hereafter.
II. The apostle tells us the way and means by which Christians enjoy
such privileges, and, in general, declares it to be by the blood of
Jesus, by the merit of that blood which he offered up to God as an
atoning sacrifice: he has purchased for all who believe in him free
access to God in the ordinances of his grace here and in the kingdom of
his glory. This blood, being sprinkled on the conscience, chases away
slavish fear, and gives the believer assurance both of his safety and
his welcome into the divine presence. Now the apostle, having given
this general account of the way by which we have access to God, enters
further into the particulars of it,
1. It is the only way; there is no way left but this. The first way to
the tree of life is, and has been, long shut up.
2. It is a new way, both in opposition to the covenant of works and to
the antiquated dispensation of the Old Testament; it is via
novissima--the last way that will ever be opened to men. Those who
will not enter in this way exclude themselves for ever. It is a way
that will always be effectual.
3. It is a living way. It would be death to attempt to come to God in
the way of the covenant of works; but this way we may come to God, and
live. It is by a living Saviour, who, though he was dead, is alive; and
it is a way that gives life and lively hope to those who enter into it.
4. It is a way that Christ has consecrated for us through the veil,
that is, his flesh. The veil in the tabernacle and temple signified the
body of Christ; when he died, the veil of the temple was rent in
sunder, and this was at the time of the evening sacrifice, and gave the
people a surprising view into the holy of holies, which they never had
before. Our way to heaven is by a crucified Saviour; his death is to
us the way of life. To those who believe this he will be precious.
III. He proceeds to show the Hebrews the duties binding upon them on
account of these privileges, which were conferred in such an
1. They must draw near to God, and that in a right manner. They must
draw near to God. Since such a way of access and return to God is
opened, it would be the greatest ingratitude and contempt of God and
Christ still to keep at a distance from him. They must draw near by
conversion, and by taking hold of his covenant. They must draw near in
all holy conversation, like Enoch walking with God. They must draw near
in humble adorations, worshipping at his footstool. They must draw near
in holy dependence, and in a strict observance of the divine conduct
towards them. They must draw near in conformity to God, and communion
with him, living under his blessed influence, still endeavouring to get
nearer and nearer, till they come to dwell in his presence; but they
must see to it that they make their approach to God after a right
(1.) With a true heart, without any allowed guile or hypocrisy. God is
the searcher of hearts, and he requires truth in the inward parts.
Sincerity is our gospel perfection, though not our justifying
(2.) In full assurance of faith, with a faith grown up to a full
persuasion that when we come to God by Christ we shall have audience
and acceptance. We should lay aside all sinful distrust. Without faith
it is impossible to please God; and the stronger our faith is the more
glory we give to God. And,
(3.) Having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, by a
believing application of the blood of Christ to our souls. They may be
cleansed from guilt, from filth, from sinful fear and torment, from all
aversion to God and duty, from ignorance, and error, and superstition,
and whatever evils the consciences of men are subject to by reason of
(4.) Our bodies washed with pure water, that is, with the water of
baptism (by which we are recorded among the disciples of Christ,
members of his mystical body), or with the sanctifying virtue of the
Holy Spirit, reforming and regulating our outward conversation as well
as our inward frame, cleansing from the filthiness of the flesh as well
as of the spirit. The priests under the law were to wash, before they
went into the presence of the Lord to offer before him. There must be a
due preparation for making our approaches to God.
2. The apostle exhorts believers to hold fast the profession of their
(1.) The duty itself--to hold fast the profession of our faith, to
embrace all the truths and ways of the gospel, to get fast hold of
them, and to keep that hold against all temptation and opposition. Our
spiritual enemies will do what they can to wrest our faith, and hope,
and holiness, and comfort, out of our hands, but we must hold fast our
religion as our best treasure.
(2.) The manner in which we must do this--without wavering, without
doubting, without disputing, without dallying with temptation to
apostasy. Having once settled these great things between God and our
souls, we must be stedfast and immovable. Those who begin to waver in
matters of Christian faith and practice are in danger of falling away.
(3.) The motive or reason enforcing this duty: He is faithful that
hath promised. God has made great and precious promises to
believers, and he is a faithful God, true to his word; there is no
falseness nor fickleness with him, and there should be none with us.
His faithfulness should excite and encourage us to be faithful, and we
must depend more upon his promises to us than upon our promises to him,
and we must plead with him the promise of grace sufficient.
IV. We have the means prescribed for preventing our apostasy, and
promoting our fidelity and perseverance,
&c. He mentions several; as,
1. That we should consider one another, to provoke to love and to
good works. Christians ought to have a tender consideration and
concern for one another; they should affectionately consider what their
several wants, weaknesses, and temptations are; and they should do
this, not to reproach one another, to provoke one another not to anger,
but to love and good works, calling upon themselves and one another to
love God and Christ more, to love duty and holiness more, to love their
brethren in Christ more, and to do all the good offices of Christian
affection both to the bodies and the souls of each other. A good
example given to others is the best and most effectual provocation to
love and good works.
2. Not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together,
It is the will of Christ that his disciples should assemble together,
sometimes more privately for conference and prayer, and in public for
hearing and joining in all the ordinances of gospel worship. There were
in the apostles' times, and should be in every age, Christian
assemblies for the worship of God, and for mutual edification. And it
seems even in those times there were some who forsook these assemblies,
and so began to apostatize from religion itself. The communion of
saints is a great help and privilege, and a good means of steadiness
and perseverance; hereby their hearts and hands are mutually
3. To exhort one another, to exhort ourselves and each other, to warn
ourselves and one another of the sin and danger of backsliding, to put
ourselves and our fellow-christians in mind of our duty, of our
failures and corruptions, to watch over one another, and be jealous of
ourselves and one another with a godly jealousy. This, managed with a
true gospel spirit, would be the best and most cordial friendship.
4. That we should observe the approaching of times of trial, and be
thereby quickened to greater diligence: So much the more, as you see
the day approaching. Christians ought to observe the signs of the
times, such as God has foretold. There was a day approaching, a
terrible day to the Jewish nation, when their city should be destroyed,
and the body of the people rejected of God for rejecting Christ. This
would be a day of dispersion and temptation to the chosen remnant. Now
the apostle puts them upon observing what signs there were of the
approach of such a terrible day, and upon being the more constant in
meeting together and exhorting one another, that they might be the
better prepared for such a day. There is a trying day coming on us all,
the day of our death, and we should observe all the signs of its
approaching, and improve them to greater watchfulness and diligence in
V. Having mentioned these means of establishment, the apostle proceeds,
in the close of the chapter, to enforce his exhortations to
perseverance, and against apostasy, by many very weighty
1. From the description he gives of the sin of apostasy. It is
sinning wilfully after we have received the knowledge of the
truth, sinning wilfully against that truth of which we have had
convincing evidence. This text has been the occasion of great distress
to some gracious souls; they have been ready to conclude that every
wilful sin, after conviction and against knowledge, is the unpardonable
sin: but this has been their infirmity and error. The sin here
mentioned is a total and final apostasy, when men with a full and fixed
will and resolution despise and reject Christ, the only
Saviour,--despise and resist the Spirit, the only sanctifier,--and
despise and renounce the gospel, the only way of salvation, and the
words of eternal life; and all this after they have known, owned, and
professed, the Christian religion, and continue to do so obstinately
and maliciously. This is the great transgression: the apostle seems to
refer to the law concerning presumptuous sinners,
They were to be cut off.
2. From the dreadful doom of such apostates.
(1.) There remains no more sacrifice for such sins, no other Christ to
come to save such sinners; they sin against the last resort and remedy.
There were some sins under the law for which no sacrifices were
provided; but yet if those who committed them did truly repent, though
they might not escape temporal death, they might escape eternal
destruction; for Christ would come, and make atonement. But now those
under the gospel who will not accept of Christ, that they may be saved
by him, have no other refuge left them.
(2.) There remains for them only a certain fearful looking for of
Some think this refers to the dreadful destruction of the Jewish church
and state; but certainly it refers also to the utter destruction that
awaits all obstinate apostates at death and judgment, when the Judge
will discover a fiery indignation against them, which will devour the
adversaries; they will be consigned to the devouring fire and to
everlasting burnings. Of this destruction God gives some notorious
sinners, while on earth, a fearful foreboding in their own consciences,
a dreadful looking for it, with a despair of ever being able either to
endure or escape it.
3. From the methods of divine justice with those who despised Moses's
law, that is, sinned presumptuously, despising his authority, his
threatenings and his power. These, when convicted by two or three
witnesses, were put to death; they died without mercy, a temporal
death. Observe, Wise governors should be careful to keep up the credit
of their government and the authority of the laws, by punishing
presumptuous offenders; but then in such cases there should be good
evidence of the fact. Thus God ordained in Moses's law; and hence the
apostle infers the heavy doom that will fall upon those that apostatize
from Christ. Here he refers to their own consciences, to judge how much
sorer punishment the despisers of Christ (after they have professed to
know him) are likely to undergo; and they may judge of the greatness of
the punishment by the greatness of the sin.
(1.) They have trodden under foot the Son of God. To trample
upon an ordinary person shows intolerable insolence; to treat a person
of honour in that vile manner is insufferable; but to deal thus with
the Son of God, who himself is God, must be the highest provocation--to
trample upon his person, denying him to be the Messiah--to trample upon
his authority, and undermine his kingdom--to trample upon his members
as the offscouring of all things, and not fit to live in the world;
what punishment can be too great for such men?
(2.) They have counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was
sanctified, an unholy thing; that is, the blood of Christ, with
which the covenant was purchased and sealed, and wherewith Christ
himself was consecrated, or wherewith the apostate was sanctified, that
is, baptized, visibly initiated into the new covenant by baptism, and
admitted to the Lord's supper. Observe, There is a kind of
sanctification which persons may partake of and yet fall away: they may
be distinguished by common gifts and graces, by an outward profession,
by a form of godliness, a course of duties, and a set of privileges,
and yet fall away finally. Men who have seemed before to have the blood
of Christ in high esteem may come to account it an unholy thing, no
better than the blood of a malefactor, though it was the world's
ransom, and every drop of it of infinite value.
(3.) Those have done despite unto the Spirit of grace, the
Spirit that is graciously given to men, and that works grace wherever
it is,--the Spirit of grace, that should be regarded and attended to
with the greatest care,--this Spirit they have grieved, resisted,
quenched, yea, done despite to him, which is the highest act of
wickedness, and makes the case of the sinner desperate, refusing to
have the gospel salvation applied to him. Now he leaves it to the
consciences of all, appeals to universal reason and equity, whether
such aggravated crimes ought not to receive a suitable punishment, a
sorer punishment than those who had died without mercy? But what
punishment can be sorer than to die without mercy? I answer, To die by
mercy, by the mercy and grace which they have despised. How dreadful is
the case when not only the justice of God, but his abused grace and
mercy call for vengeance!
4. From the description we have in the scripture of the nature of God's
We know that he has said, Vengeance is mine. This is taken out
Vengeance belongs unto me. The terrors of the Lord are known
both by revelation and reason. Vindictive justice is a glorious, though
terrible attribute of God; it belongs to him, and he will use and
execute it upon the heads of such sinners as despise his grace; he will
avenge himself, and his Son, and Spirit, and covenant, upon apostates.
And how dreadful then will their case be! The other quotation is from
The Lord will judge his people; he will search and try his
visible church, and will discover and detect those who say they are
Jews, and are not, but are of the synagogue of Satan; and he will
separate the precious from the vile, and will punish the sinners in
Zion with the greatest severity. Now those who know him who hath said,
Vengeance belongeth to me, I will recompense, must needs
conclude, as the apostle does
It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
Those who know the joy that results from the favour of God can thereby
judge of the power and dread of his vindictive wrath. Observe here,
What will be the eternal misery of impenitent sinners and apostates:
they shall fall into the hands of the living God; their punishment
shall come from God's own hand. He takes them into the hand of his
justice; he will deal with them himself; their greatest misery will be
the immediate impressions of divine wrath on the soul. When he punishes
them by creatures, the instrument abates something of the force of the
blow; but, when he does it by his own hand, it is infinite misery. This
they shall have at God's hand, they shall lie down in sorrow; their
destruction shall come from his glorious powerful presence; when they
make their woeful bed in hell, they will find that God is there, and
his presence will be their greatest terror and torment. And he is a
living God; he lives for ever, and will punish for ever.
5. He presses them to perseverance by putting them in mind of their
former sufferings for Christ: But call to mind the former days, in
which, after you were illuminated, you endured a great fight of
In the early days of the gospel there was a very hot persecution raised
up against the professors of the Christian religion, and the believing
Hebrews had their share of it: he would have them to remember,
(1.) When they had suffered: In former days, after they were
illuminated; that is, as soon as God had breathed life into
their souls, and caused divine light to spring up in their minds, and
taken them into his favour and covenant; then earth and hell combined
all their force against them. Here observe, A natural state is a dark
state, and those who continue in that state meet with no disturbance
from Satan and the world; but a state of grace is a state of light, and
therefore the powers of darkness will violently oppose it. Those who
will live godly in Christ Jesus must suffer persecution.
(2.) What they suffered: they endured a great fight of
afflictions, many and various afflictions united together against
them, and they had a great conflict with them. Many are the troubles of
[1.] They were afflicted in themselves. In their own persons; they were
made gazing-stocks, spectacles to the world, angels, and men,
1 Corinthians 4:9.
In their names and reputations
by many reproaches. Christians ought to value their reputation; and
they do so especially because the reputation of religion is concerned:
this makes reproach a great affliction. They were afflicted in their
estates, by the spoiling of their goods, by fines and forfeitures.
[2.] They were afflicted in the afflictions of their brethren:
Partly while you became companions of those that were so used.
The Christian spirit is a sympathizing spirit, not a selfish spirit,
but a compassionate spirit; it makes every Christian's suffering our
own, puts us upon pitying others, visiting them, helping them, and
pleading for them. Christians are one body, are animated by one
spirit, have embarked in one common cause and interest, and are the
children of that God who is afflicted in all the afflictions of his
people. If one member of the body suffers, all the rest suffer with it.
The apostle takes particular notice how they had sympathized with him
You had compassion on me in my bonds. We must thankfully
acknowledge the compassions our Christian friends have shown for us
under our afflictions.
(3.) How they had suffered. They had been mightily supported under
their former sufferings; they took their sufferings patiently, and not
only so, but joyfully received it from God as a favour and honour
conferred upon them that they should be thought worthy to suffer
reproach for the name of Christ. God can strengthen his suffering
people with all might in the inner man, to all patience and
long-suffering, and that with joyfulness,
(4.) What it was that enabled them thus to bear up under their
sufferings. They knew in themselves that they had in heaven a better
and a more enduring substance. Observe,
[1.] The happiness of the saints in heaven is substance, something of
real weight and worth. All things here are but shadows.
[2.] It is a better substance than any thing they can have or lose
[3.] It is an enduring substance, it will out-live time and run
parallel with eternity; they can never spend it; their enemies can
never take it from them, as they did their earthly goods.
[4.] This will make a rich amends for all they can lose and suffer
here. In heaven they shall have a better life, a better estate, better
liberty, better society, better hearts, better work, every thing
[5.] Christians should know this in themselves, they should get the
assurance of it in themselves (the Spirit of God witnessing with their
spirits), for the assured knowledge of this will help them to endure
any fight of afflictions they may be encountered with in this
6. He presses them to persevere, from that recompense of reward that
waited for all faithful Christians
Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompense
of reward. Here,
(1.) He exhorts them not to cast away their confidence, that is, their
holy courage and boldness, but to hold fast that profession for which
they had suffered so much before, and borne those sufferings so well.
(2.) He encourages them to this by assuring them that the reward of
their holy confidence would be very great. It carries a present reward
in it, in holy peace and joy, and much of God's presence and his power
resting upon them; and it shall have a great recompense of reward
(3.) He shows them how necessary a grace the grace of patience is in
our present state
You have need of patience, that after you have done the will of God
you might receive the promise; that is, this promised reward.
Observe, The greatest part of the saints' happiness is in promise. They
must first do the will of God before they receive the promise; and,
after they have done the will of God, they have need of patience to
wait for the time when the promise shall be fulfilled; they have need
of patience to live till God calls them away. It is a trial of the
patience of Christians, to be content to live after their work is done,
and to stay for the reward till God's time to give it them is come. We
must be God's waiting servants when we can be no longer his working
servants. Those who have had and exercised much patience already must
have and exercise more till they die.
(4.) To help their patience, he assures them of the near approach of
Christ's coming to deliver and to reward them
For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will
not tarry. He will soon come to them at death, and put an end to
all their sufferings, and give them a crown of life. He will soon come
to judgment, and put an end to the sufferings of the whole church (all
his mystical body), and give them an ample and glorious reward in the
most public manner. There is an appointed time for both, and beyond
that time he will not tarry,
The Christian's present conflict may be sharp, but it will be soon
7. He presses them to perseverance, by telling them that this is their
distinguishing character and will be their happiness; whereas apostasy
is the reproach, and will be the ruin, of all who are guilty of it
Now the just shall live by faith, &c.
(1.) It is the honourable character of just men that in times of the
greatest affliction they can live by faith; they can live upon the
assured persuasion they have of the truth of God's promises. Faith puts
life and vigour into them. They can trust God, and live upon him, and
wait his time: and, as their faith maintains their spiritual life now,
it shall be crowned with eternal life hereafter.
(2.) Apostasy is the mark and the brand of those in whom God takes no
pleasure; and it is a cause of God's severe displeasure and anger. God
never was pleased with the formal profession and external duties and
services of such as do not persevere. He saw the hypocrisy of their
hearts then; and he is greatly provoked when their formality in
religion ends in an open apostasy from religion. He beholds them with
great displeasure; they are an offence to him.
(3.) The apostle concludes with declaring his good hope concerning
himself and these Hebrews, that they should not forfeit the character
and happiness of the just, and fall under the brand and misery of the
But we are not, &c.; as if he had said, "I hope we are not of
those who draw back. I hope that you and I, who have met with great
trials already, and have been supported under them by the grace of God
strengthening our faith, shall not be at any time left to ourselves to
draw back to perdition; but that God will still keep us by his mighty
power through faith unto salvation." Observe,
[1.] Professors may go a great way, and after all draw back; and this
drawing back from God is drawing on to perdition: the further we depart
from God the nearer we approach to ruin.
[2.] Those who have been kept faithful in great trials for the time
past have reason to hope that the same grace will be sufficient to help
them still to live by faith, till they receive the end of their faith
and patience, even the salvation of their souls. If we live by faith,
and die in faith, our souls will be safe for ever.