The apostle, having treated largely of Christ, and faith, and free
grace, and gospel privileges, and warned the Hebrews against apostasy,
now, in the close of all, recommends several excellent duties to them,
as the proper fruits of faith
he then bespeaks their prayers for him, and offers up his prayers to
God for them, gives them some hope of seeing himself and Timothy, and
ends with the general salutation and benediction,
||A. D. 62.|
1 Let brotherly love continue.
2 Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some
have entertained angels unawares.
3 Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and
them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the
4 Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but
whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.
5 Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be
content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will
never leave thee, nor forsake thee.
6 So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I
will not fear what man shall do unto me.
7 Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken
unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end
of their conversation.
8 Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.
9 Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines. For
it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace;
not with meats, which have not profited them that have been
10 We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat which
serve the tabernacle.
11 For the bodies of those beasts, whose blood is brought into
the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned without the
12 Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with
his own blood, suffered without the gate.
13 Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing
14 For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to
15 By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God
continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to
16 But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such
sacrifices God is well pleased.
17 Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit
yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give
account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for
that is unprofitable for you.
The design of Christ in giving himself for us is that he may purchase
to himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. Now the
apostle calls the believing Hebrews to the performance of many
excellent duties, in which it becomes Christians to excel.
I. To brotherly love
by which he does not only mean a general affection to all men, as our
brethren by nature, all made of the same blood, nor that more limited
affection which is due to those who are of the same immediate parents,
but that special and spiritual affection which ought to exist among the
children of God.
1. It is here supposed that the Hebrews had this love one for another.
Though, at this time, that nation was miserably divided and distracted
among themselves, both about matters of religion and the civil state,
yet there was true brotherly love left among those of them who believed
on Christ; and this appeared in a very eminent manner presently after
the shedding forth of the Holy Ghost, when they had all things common,
and sold their possessions to make a general fund of subsistence to
their brethren. The spirit of Christianity is a spirit of love. Faith
works by love. The true religion is the strongest bond of friendship;
if it be not so, it has its name for nothing.
2. This brotherly love was in danger of being lost, and that in a time
of persecution, when it would be most necessary; it was in danger of
being lost by those disputes that were among them concerning the
respect they ought still to have to the ceremonies of the Mosaic law.
Disputes about religion too often produce a decay of Christian
affection; but this must be guarded against, and all proper means used
to preserve brotherly love. Christians should always love and live as
brethren, and the more they grow in devout affection to God their
heavenly Father the more they will grow in love to one another for his
II. To hospitality: Be not forgetful to entertain strangers for his
We must add to brotherly kindness charity. Here observe,
1. The duty required--to entertain strangers, both those that
are strangers to the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to our
persons, especially those who know themselves to be strangers here and
are seeking another country, which is the case of the people of God,
and was so at this time: the believing Jews were in a desperate and
distressed condition. But he seems to speak of strangers as such;
though we know not who they are, nor whence they come, yet, seeing they
are without any certain dwelling place, we should allow them room in
our hearts and in our houses, as we have opportunity and ability.
2. The motive: Thereby some have entertained angels unawares;
so Abraham did
and one of those that Abraham
entertained was the Son of God; and, though we cannot suppose this will
ever be our case, yet what we do to strangers, in obedience to him, he
will reckon and reward as done to himself.
I was a stranger, and you took me in. God has often bestowed
honours and favours upon his hospitable servants, beyond all their
III. To Christian sympathy: Remember those that are in bonds,
1. The duty--to remember those that are in bonds and in
(1.) God often orders it so that while some Christians and churches are
in adversity others enjoy peace and liberty. All are not called at the
same time to resist unto blood.
(2.) Those that are themselves at liberty must sympathize with those
that are in bonds and adversity, as if they were bound with them in the
same chain: they must fell the sufferings of their brethren.
2. The reason of the duty: As being yourselves in the body; not
only in the body natural, and so liable to the like sufferings, and you
should sympathize with them now that others may sympathize with you
when your time of trial comes; but in the same mystical body, under the
same head, and if one member suffer all the rest suffer with it,
1 Corinthians 12:26.
It would be unnatural in Christians not to bear each other's
IV. To purity and chastity,
Here you have,
1. A recommendation of God's ordinance of marriage, that it is
honourable in all, and ought to be so esteemed by all, and not
denied to those to whom God has not denied it. It is honourable, for
God instituted it for man in paradise, knowing it was not good for him
to be alone. He married and blessed the first couple, the first parents
of mankind, to direct all to look unto God in that great concern, and
to marry in the Lord. Christ honoured marriage with his presence and
first miracle. It is honourable as a means to prevent impurity and a
defiled bed. It is honourable and happy, when persons come
together pure and chaste, and preserve the marriage bed undefiled, not
only from unlawful but inordinate affections.
2. A dreadful but just censure of impurity and lewdness:
Whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.
(1.) God knows who are guilty of such sins, no darkness can hide them
(2.) He will call such sins by their proper names, not by the names of
love and gallantry, but of whoredom and adultery, whoredom in the
single state and adultery in the married state.
(3.) He will bring them into judgment, he will judge them, either by
their own consciences here, and set their sins in order before
them for their deep humiliation (and conscience, when awakened,
will be very severe upon such sinners), or he will set them at his
tribunal at death, and in the last day; he will convict them, condemn
them, and cast them out for ever, if they die under the guilt of this
V. To Christian contentment,
1. The sin that is contrary to this grace and
duty--covetousness, an over eager desire of the wealth of this
world, envying those who have more than we. This sin we must allow no
place in our conversation; for, though it be a secret lust lurking in
the heart, if it be not subdued it will enter into our conversation,
and discover itself in our manner of speaking and acting. We must take
care not only to keep this sin down, but to root it out of our souls.
2. The duty and grace that is contrary to covetousness--being satisfied
and pleased with such things as we have; present things, for
past things cannot be recalled, and future things are only in the hand
of God. What God gives us from day to day we must be content with,
though it fall short of what we have enjoyed heretofore, and though it
do not come up to our expectations for the future. We must be content
with our present lot. We must bring our minds to our present condition,
and this is the sure way to contentment; and those who cannot do it
would not be contented though God should raise their condition to their
minds, for the mind would rise with the condition. Haman was the great
court-favourite, and yet not contented--Ahab on the throne, and yet not
contented--Adam in paradise, and yet not contented; yea, the angels in
heaven, and yet not contented; but Paul, though abased and empty, had
learned in every state, in any state, therewith to be
3. What reason Christians have to be contented with their lot.
(1.) God hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee,
This was said to Joshua
but belongs to all the faithful servants of God. Old-Testament promises
may be applied to New-Testament saints. This promise contains the sum
and substance of all the promises. I will never, no, never
leave thee, nor ever forsake thee. Here are no fewer than
five negatives heaped together, to confirm the promise; the true
believer shall have the gracious presence of God with him in life, at
death, and for ever.
(2.) From this comprehensive promise they may assure themselves of help
from God: So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper; I will
not fear what man shall do unto me,
Men can do nothing against God, and God can make all that men do
against his people to turn to their good.
VI. To the duty Christians owe to their ministers, and that both to
those that are dead and to those that are yet alive.
1. To those that are dead: Remember those that have had the rule
(1.) The description given of them. They were such as had the rule over
them, and had spoken to them the word of God; their guides and
governors, who had spoken to them the word of God. Here is the dignity
to which they were advanced--to be rulers and leaders of the people, not
according to their own will, but the will and word of God; and this
character they filled up with suitable duty: they did not rule at a
distance, and rule by others, but they ruled by personal presence and
instruction, according to the word of God.
(2.) The duties owing to them, even when they were dead.
[1.] "Remember them--their preaching, their praying, their
private counsel, their example."
[2.] "Follow their faith; be stedfast in the profession
of the faith they preached to you, and labour after the grace of faith
by which they lived and died so well. Consider the end of their
conversation, how quickly, how comfortably, how joyfully, they
finished their course!" Now this duty of following the same true faith
in which they had been instructed the apostle enlarges much upon, and
presses them earnestly to it, not only from the remembrance of their
faithful deceased guides, but from several other motives.
First, From the immutability and eternity of the Lord Jesus
Christ. Though their ministers were some dead, others dying, yet the
great head and high priest of the church, the bishop of their
souls, ever lives, and is ever the same; and they should be
stedfast and immovable, in imitation of Christ, and should remember
that Christ ever lives to observe and reward their faithful adherence
to his truths, and to observe and punish their sinful departure from
him. Christ is the same in the Old-Testament day, in the gospel day,
and will be so to his people for ever.
Secondly, From the nature and tendency of those erroneous
doctrines that they were in danger of falling in with.
a. They were divers and various
different from what they had received from their former faithful
teachers, and inconsistent with themselves.
b. They were strange doctrines: such as the gospel church was
unacquainted with foreign to the gospel.
c. They were of an unsettling, distracting nature, like the wind
by which the ship is tossed, and in danger of being driven from its
anchor, carried away, and split upon the rocks. They were quite
contrary to that grace of God which fixes and establishes the heart,
which is an excellent thing. These strange doctrines keep the heart
always fluctuating and unsettled.
d. They were mean and low as to their subject. They were about
external, little, perishing things, such as meats and drinks,
e. They were unprofitable. Those who were most taken with them,
and employed about them, got no real good by them to their own souls.
They did not make them more holy, nor more humble, nor more thankful,
nor more heavenly.
f. They would exclude those who embraced them from the
privileges of the Christian altar
We have an altar. This is an argument of the great weight, and
therefore the apostle insists the longer upon it. Observe,
(a.) The Christian church has its altar. It was objected against
the primitive Christians that their assemblies were destitute of an
altar; but this was not true. We have an alter, not a material
altar, but a personal one, and that is Christ; he is both our altar,
and our sacrifice; he sanctifies the gift. The altars under the law
were types of Christ; the brazen altar of the sacrifice, the golden
altar of his intercession.
(b.) This altar furnishes out a feast for true believers, a
feast upon the sacrifice, a feast of fat things, spiritual
strength and growth, and holy delight and pleasure. The Lord's table is
not our altar, but it is furnished with provision from the altar.
Christ our passover is sacrificed for us
(1 Corinthians 5:7),
and it follows, therefore let us keep the feast. The Lord's
supper is the feast of the gospel passover.
(c.) Those who adhere to the tabernacle or the Levitical
dispensation, or return to it again, exclude themselves from the
privileges of this altar, from the benefits purchased by Christ. If
they serve the tabernacle, they are resolved to subject themselves to
antiquated rites and ceremonies, to renounce their right to the
Christian altar; and this part of the argument he first proves and then
[a.] He proves that this servile adherence to the Jewish state
is a bar to the privileges of the gospel altar; and he argues
thus:--Under the Jewish law, no part of the sin-offering was to be
eaten, but all must be burnt without the camp while they dwelt in
tabernacles, and without the gates when they dwelt in cities: now, if
they will still be subject to that law, they cannot eat at the
gospel-altar; for that which is eaten there is furnished from Christ,
who is the great sin-offering. Not that it is the very sin-offering
itself, as the papists affirm; for then it was not to be eaten, but
burnt; but the gospel feast is the fruit and procurement of the
sacrifice, which those have no right to who do not acknowledge the
sacrifice itself. And that it might appear that Christ was really the
antitype of the sin-offering, and, as such, might sanctify or cleanse
his people with his own blood, he conformed himself to the type, in
suffering without the gate. This was a striking specimen of his
humiliation, as if he had not been fit either for sacred or civil
society! And this shows how sin, which was the meritorious cause of the
sufferings of Christ, is a forfeiture of all sacred and civil rights,
and the sinner a common plague and nuisance to all society, if God
should be strict to mark iniquity. Having thus shown that adherence to
the Levitical law would, even according to its own rules, debar men
from the Christian altar, he proceeds,
[b.] To improve this argument
in suitable advices.
First, Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp; go
forth from the ceremonial law, from sin, from the world, from
ourselves, our very bodies, when he calls us.
Secondly, Let us be willing to bear his reproach, be
willing to be accounted the offscouring of all things, not worthy to
live, not worthy to die a common death. This was his reproach, and we
must submit to it; and we have the more reason because, whether we go
forth from this world to Christ or no, we must necessarily go forth in
a little time by death; for here we have no continuing city.
Sin, sinners, death, will not suffer us to continue long here; and
therefore we should go forth now by faith, and seek in Christ the rest
and settlement which this world cannot afford us,
Thirdly, Let us make a right use of this altar; not only partake
of the privileges of it, but discharge the duties of the altar, as
those whom Christ has made priests to attend on this altar. Let us
bring our sacrifices to this altar, and to this our high priest, and
offer them up by him,
Now what are the sacrifices which we must bring and offer on this
altar, even Christ? Not any expiatory sacrifices; there is no need of
them. Christ has offered the great sacrifice of atonement, ours
are only the sacrifices of acknowledgment; and they are,
1. The sacrifice of praise to God, which we should offer up to God
continually. In this are included all adoration and prayer, as well as
thanksgiving; this is the fruit of our lips; we must speak forth
the praises of God from unfeigned lips; and this must be offered only
to God, not to angels, nor saints, nor any creature, but to the name of
God alone; and it must be by Christ, in a dependence upon his
meritorious satisfaction and intercession.
2. The sacrifice of alms-deeds, and Christian charity: To do good,
and to communicate, forget now; for with such sacrifices God is well
We must, according to our power, communicate to the necessities
of the souls and bodies of men; not contenting ourselves to offer the
sacrifice of our lips, mere words, but the sacrifice of good deeds; and
these we must lay down upon this altar, not depending upon the merit of
our good deeds, but of our great high priest; and with such sacrifices
as these, adoration and alms thus offered up, God is well pleased; he
will accept the offering with pleasure, and will accept and bless the
offers through Christ.
2. Having thus told us the duty Christians owe to their deceased
ministers, which principally consists in following their faith and not
departing from it, the apostle tells us what is the duty that people
owe to their living ministers
and the reasons of that duty:
(1.) The duty--to obey them, and submit themselves to them. It is not an
implicit obedience, or absolute submission, that is here required, but
only so far as is agreeable to the mind and will of God revealed in his
word; and yet it is truly obedience and submission, and that not only
to God, but to the authority of the ministerial office, which is of God
as certainly, in all things belonging to that office, as the authority
of parents or of civil magistrates in the things within their sphere.
Christians must submit to be instructed by their ministers, and not
think themselves too wise, too good, or too great, to learn from them;
and, when they find that ministerial instructions are agreeable to the
written word, they must obey them.
(2.) The motives to this duty.
[1.] They have the rule over the people; their office, though not
magisterial, yet is truly authoritative. They have no authority to lord
it over the people, but to lead them in the ways of God, by informing
and instructing them, explaining the word of God to them, and applying
it to their several cases. They are not to make laws of their own, but
to interpret the laws of God; nor is their interpretation to be
immediately received without examination, but the people must search
the scriptures, and so far as the instructions of their minister are
according to that rule they ought to receive them, not as the word
of men, but, as they are indeed, the word of God, that works
effectually in those that believe.
[2.] They watch for the souls of the people, not to ensnare them, but
to save them; to gain them, not to themselves, but to Christ; to build
them up in knowledge, faith, and holiness. They are to watch against
every thing that may be hurtful to the souls of men, and to give them
warning of dangerous errors, of the devices of Satan, of approaching
judgments; they are to watch for all opportunities of helping the souls
of men forward in the way to heaven.
[3.] They must give an account how they have discharged their duty, and
what has become of the souls committed to their trust, whether any have
been lost through their neglect, and whether any of them have been
brought in and built up under their ministry.
[4.] They would be glad to give a good account of themselves and their
hearers. If they can then give in an account of their own fidelity and
success, it will be a joyful day to them; those souls that have been
converted and confirmed under their ministry will be their joy, and
their crown, in the day of the Lord Jesus.
[5.] If they give up their account with grief, it will be the people's
loss as well as theirs. It is the interest of hearers that the account
their ministers give of them may be with joy, and not with grief. If
faithful ministers be not successful, the grief will be theirs, but the
loss will be the people's. Faithful ministers have delivered their own
souls, but a fruitless and faithless people's blood and ruin will be
upon their own heads.
18 Pray for us: for we trust we have a good conscience, in all
things willing to live honestly.
19 But I beseech you the rather to do this, that I may be
restored to you the sooner.
20 Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our
Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood
of the everlasting covenant,
21 Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working
in you that which is wellpleasing in his sight, through Jesus
Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
22 And I beseech you, brethren, suffer the word of exhortation:
for I have written a letter unto you in few words.
23 Know ye that our brother Timothy is set at liberty; with
whom, if he come shortly, I will see you.
24 Salute all them that have the rule over you, and all the
saints. They of Italy salute you.
25 Grace be with you all. Amen.
I. The apostle recommends himself, and his fellow-sufferers, to the
prayers of the Hebrew believers
"Pray for us; for me and Timothy" (mentioned
"and for all those of us who labour in the ministry of the gospel."
1. This is one part of the duty which people owe to their ministers.
Ministers need the prayers of the people; and the more earnestly the
people pray for their ministers the more benefit they may expect to
reap from their ministry. They should pray that God would teach those
who are to teach them, that he would make them vigilant, and wise, and
zealous, and successful--that he would assist them in all their labours,
support them under all their burdens, and strengthen them under all
2. There are good reasons why people should pray for their ministers;
he mentions two:--
(1.) We trust we have a good conscience, &c.,
Many of the Jews had a bad opinion of Paul, because he, being a Hebrew
of the Hebrews, had cast off the Levitical law and preached up Christ:
now he here modestly asserts his own integrity: We trust we have a
good conscience, in all things willing to live honestly. We trust!
he might have said, We know; but he chose to speak in a humble
style, to teach us all not to be too confident of ourselves, but to
maintain a godly jealousy over our own hearts. "We trust we have a
good conscience, an enlightened and well-informed conscience, a
clean and pure conscience, a tender and faithful conscience, a
conscience testifying for us, not against us: a good conscience in
all things, in the duties both of the first and second table,
towards God and towards men, and especially in all things pertaining to
our ministry; we would act honestly and sincerely in all things."
[1.] A good conscience has a respect to all God's commands and all our
[2.] Those who have this good conscience, yet need the prayers of
[3.] Conscientious ministers are public blessings, and deserve the
prayers of the people.
(2.) Another reason why he desires their prayers is that he hoped
thereby to be the sooner restored to them
intimating that he had been formerly among them,--that, now he was
absent from them, he had a great desire and real intention to come
again to them,--and that the best way to facilitate his return to them,
and to make it a mercy to him and them, was to make it a matter of
their prayer. When ministers come to a people as a return of prayer,
they come with greater satisfaction to themselves and success to the
people. We should fetch in all our mercies by prayer.
II. He offers up his prayers to God for them, being willing to do for
them as he desired they should do for him: Now the God of peace,
In this excellent prayer observe,
1. The title given to God--the God of peace, who was found out a
way for peace and reconciliation between himself and sinners, and who
loves peace on earth and especially in his churches.
2. The great work ascribed to him: He hath brought again from the
dead our Lord Jesus, &c. Jesus raised himself by his own power;
and yet the Father was concerned in it, attesting thereby that justice
was satisfied and the law fulfilled. He rose again for our
justification; and that divine power by which he was raised is able to
do every thing for us that we stand in need of.
3. The titles given to Christ--our Lord Jesus, our sovereign, our
Saviour, and the great shepherd of the sheep, promised in
declared by himself to be so,
Ministers are under-shepherds, Christ is the great shepherd. This
denotes his interest in his people. They are the flock of his pasture,
and his care and concern are for them. He feeds them, and leads them,
and watches over them.
4. The way and method in which God is reconciled, and Christ raised
from the dead: Through the blood of the everlasting covenant.
The blood of Christ satisfied divine justice, and so procured Christ's
release from the prison of the grace, as having paid our debt,
according to an eternal covenant or agreement between the Father and
the Son; and this blood is the sanction and seal of an everlasting
covenant between God and his people.
5. The mercy prayed for: Make you perfect in every good work,
(1.) The perfection of the saints in every good work is the great thing
desired by them and for them, that they may here have a perfection of
integrity, a clear mind, a clean heart, lively affections, regular and
resolved wills, and suitable strength for every good work to which they
are called now, and at length a perfection of degrees to fit them for
the employment and felicity of heaven.
(2.) The way in which God makes his people perfect; it is by working in
them always what is pleasing in his sight, and that through Jesus
Christ, to whom be glory for ever. Observe,
[1.] There is no good thing wrought in us but it is the work of God; he
works in us, before we are fit for any good work.
[2.] No good thing is wrought in us by God, but through Jesus Christ,
for his sake and by his Spirit. And therefore,
[3.] Eternal glory is due to him, who is the cause of all the good
principles wrought in us and all the good works done by us. To this
every one should say, Amen.
III. He gives the Hebrews an account of Timothy's liberty and his hopes
of seeing them with him in a little time,
It seems, Timothy had been a prisoner, doubtless for the gospel, but
now he was set at liberty. The imprisonment of faithful ministers is an
honour to them, and their enlargement is matter of joy to the people.
He was pleased with the hopes of not only seeing Timothy, but seeing
the Hebrews with him. Opportunities of writing to the churches of
Christ are desired by the faithful ministers of Christ, and pleasant to
IV. Having given a brief account of this his letter, and begged their
attention to it
he closes with salutations, and a solemn, though short benediction.
1. The salutation.
(1.) From himself to them, directed to all their ministers who had rule
over them, and to all the saints; to them all, ministers and people.
(2.) From the Christians in Italy to them. It is a good thing to have
the law of holy love and kindness written in the hearts of Christians
one towards another. Religion teaches men the truest civility and
good-breeding. It is not a sour nor morose thing.
2. The solemn, though short benediction
Grace be with you all. Amen. Let the favour of God be towards
you, and his grace continually working in you, and with you, bringing
forth the fruits of holiness, as the first-fruits of glory. When the
people of God have been conversing together by word or writing, it is
good to part with prayer, desiring for each other the continuance of
the gracious presence of God, that they may meet together again in the
world of praise.