In this chapter the apostle pursues his former subject, the priesthood
of Christ. And,
I. He sums up what he had already said,
II. He sets before them the necessary parts of the priestly office,
III. Largely illustrates the excellency of the priesthood of Christ,
by considering the excellency of that new dispensation or covenant for
which Christ is the Mediator,
|The Priesthood of Christ.
||A. D. 62.|
1 Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We
have such a high priest, who is set on the right hand of the
throne of the Majesty in the heavens;
2 A minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle,
which the Lord pitched, and not man.
3 For every high priest is ordained to offer gifts and
sacrifices: wherefore it is of necessity that this man have
somewhat also to offer.
4 For if he were on earth, he should not be a priest, seeing
that there are priests that offer gifts according to the law:
5 Who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as
Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the
tabernacle: for, See, saith he, that thou make all things
according to the pattern showed to thee in the mount.
Here is, I. A summary recital of what had been said before concerning
the excellency of Christ's priesthood, showing what we have in Christ,
where he now resides, and what sanctuary he is the minister of,
1. What we have in Christ; we have a high priest, and such a high
priest as no other people ever had, no age of the world, or of the
church, ever produced; all others were but types and shadows of this
high priest. He is adequately fitted and absolutely sufficient to all
the intents and purposes of a high priest, both with respect to the
honour of God and the happiness of men and himself; the great honour of
all those who have an interest in him.
2. Where he now resides: He sits on the right hand of the throne of
the Majesty on high, that is, of the glorious God of heaven. There
the Mediator is placed, and he is possessed of all authority and power
both in heaven and upon earth. This is the reward of his humiliation.
This authority he exercises for the glory of his Father, for his own
honour, and for the happiness of all who belong to him; and he will by
his almighty power bring every one of them in their own order to the
right hand of God in heaven, as members of his mystical body, that
where he is they may be also.
3. What is that sanctuary of which he is a minister: Of the true
tabernacle, which the Lord hath pitched, and not man,
The tabernacle which was pitched by man, according to the appointment
of God. There was an outer part, in which was the altar where they were
to offer their sacrifices, which typified Christ dying; and there was
an interior part within the veil, which typified Christ interceding for
the people in heaven. Now this tabernacle Christ never entered into;
but, having finished the work of satisfaction in the true tabernacle of
his own body, he is now a minister of the sanctuary, the holy of
holies, the true tabernacle in heaven, there taking care of his
people's affairs, interceding with God for them, that their sins may be
pardoned and their persons and services accepted, through the merit of
his sacrifice. He is not only in heaven enjoying great dominion and
dignity, but, as the high priest of his church, executing this office
for them all in general, and every member of the church in
II. The apostle sets before the Hebrews the necessary parts of Christ's
priesthood, or what it was that belonged to that office, in conformity
to what every high priest is ordained to,
1. Every high priest is ordained to offer gifts and sacrifices.
Whatever was brought by the people to be presented to God, whether
expiatory sacrifices, or peace-offerings, or thank-offerings, must be
offered by the priest, who was to expiate their guilt by the blood of
the sacrifice, and perfume their gifts and services by his holy
incense, to render their persons and performances typically acceptable;
so then it necessarily belongs to the priesthood of Christ that he
should have somewhat to offer; and he, as the antitype, had himself to
offer, his human nature upon the altar of his divine nature, as the
great atoning sacrifice that finished transgression, and made an end of
sin once for all; and he has the incense of his own righteousness and
merits too to offer with all that his people offer up to God by him, to
render them acceptable. We must not dare to approach to God, or to
present any thing to him, but in and through Christ, depending upon his
merits and mediation; for if we are accepted, it is in the Beloved.
2. Christ must now execute his priesthood in heaven, in the holy of
holies, the true tabernacle which the Lord hath fixed. Thus the type
must be fully answered; having finished the work of sacrificing here,
he must go into heaven, to present his righteousness and to make
intercession there. For,
(1.) If Christ were on earth, he would not be a priest
that is, not according to the Levitical law, as not being of the line
of that priesthood; and so long as that priesthood continued there must
be a strict regard paid to the divine institution in everything.
(2.) All the services of the priest, under the law, as well as every
thing in that tabernacle which was framed according to the pattern in
the mount, were only exemplars and shadows of heavenly things,
Christ is the substance and end of the law for righteousness. Something
therefore there must be in Christ's priesthood that answers to the high
priest's entering within the veil to make intercession, without which
he could not have been a perfect priest; and what is this but the
ascension of Christ into heaven, and his appearance there in the sight
of God for his people, to present their prayers, and plead their cause?
So that, if he had still continued on earth, he could not have been a
perfect priest; and an imperfect one he could not be.
|The Old and New Covenant.
||A. D. 62.|
6 But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how
much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was
established upon better promises.
7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should
no place have been sought for the second.
8 For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come,
saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of
Israel and with the house of Judah:
9 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers
in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the
land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I
regarded them not, saith the Lord.
10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house
of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws
into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to
them a God, and they shall be to me a people:
11 And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every
man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me,
from the least to the greatest.
12 For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their
sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.
13 In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first
old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish
In this part of the chapter, the apostle illustrates and confirms the
superior excellency of the priesthood of Christ above that of Aaron,
from the excellency of that covenant, or that dispensation of the
covenant of grace, of which Christ was the Mediator
his ministry is more excellent, by how much he is the Mediator of a
better covenant. The body and soul too of all divinity (as some
observe) consist very much in rightly distinguishing between the two
covenants--the covenant of works and the covenant of grace; and between
the two dispensations of the covenant of grace--that under the Old
Testament and that under the New. Now observe,
I. What is here said of the old covenant, or rather of the old
dispensation of the covenant of grace: of this it is said,
1. That it was made with the fathers of the Jewish nation at mount
and Moses was the Mediator of that covenant, when God took them by the
hand, to lead them out of the land of Egypt, which intimates the great
affection, condescension, and tender care of God towards them.
2. That this covenant was not found faultless
it was a dispensation of darkness and dread, tending to bondage, and
only a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ; it was perfect in its kind,
and fitted to answer its end, but very imperfect in comparison of the
3. That it was not sure or stedfast; for the Jews continued not in
that covenant, and the Lord regarded them not,
They dealt ungratefully with their God, and cruelly with themselves,
and fell under God's displeasure. God will regard those who remain in
his covenant, but will reject those who cast away his yoke from them.
4. That it is decayed, grown old, and vanisheth away,
It is antiquated, canceled, out of date, of no more use in gospel times
than candles are when the sun has risen. Some think the covenant of
peculiarity did not quite decay till the destruction of Jerusalem,
though it was forfeited at the death of Christ, and was made old, and
was now to vanish and perish, and the Levitical priesthood vanished
II. What is here said of the New-Testament dispensation, to prove the
superior excellency of Christ's ministry. It is said,
1. That it is a better covenant
a more clear and comfortable dispensation and discovery of the grace of
God to sinners, bringing in holy light and liberty to the soul. It is
without fault, well ordered in all things. It requires nothing but what
it promises grace to perform. It accepts of godly sincerity, accounting
it gospel perfection. Every transgression does not turn us out of
covenant; all is put into a good and safe hand.
2. That it is established upon better promises, more clear and express,
more spiritual, more absolute. The promises of spiritual and eternal
blessings are in this covenant positive and absolute; the promises of
temporal blessings are with a wise and kind proviso, as far as shall be
for God's glory and his people's good. This covenant contains in it
promises of assistance and acceptance in duty, promises of progress and
perseverance in grace and holiness, of bliss and glory in heaven, which
were more obscurely shadowed forth by the promises of the land of
Canaan, a type of heaven.
3. It is a new covenant, even that new covenant that God long ago
declared he would make with the house of Israel, that is, all the
Israel of God; this was promised in
and accomplished in Christ. This will always be a new covenant, in
which all who truly take hold of it shall be always found preserved by
the power of God. It is God's covenant; his mercy, love, and grace
moved for it; his wisdom devised it; his Son purchased it; his wisdom
devised it; his Son purchased it; his Spirit brings souls into it, and
builds them up in it.
4. The articles of this covenant are very extraordinary, which are
sealed between God and his people by baptism and the Lord's supper;
whereby they bind themselves to their part, and God assures them he
will do his part; and his is the main and principal part, on which his
people depend for grace and strength to do theirs. Here,
(1.) God articles with his people that he will put his laws into
their minds and write them in their hearts,
He once wrote his laws to them, now he will write his laws in them;
that is, he will give them understanding to know and to believe his
law; he will give them memories to retain them; he will give them
hearts to love them and consciences to recognize them; he will give
them courage to profess them and power to put them in practice; the
whole habit and frame of their souls shall be a table and transcript of
the law of God. This is the foundation of the covenant; and, when this
is laid, duty will be done wisely, sincerely, readily, easily,
resolutely, constantly, and comfortably.
(2.) He articles with them to take them into a near and very honourable
relation to himself.
[1.] He will be to them a God; that is, he will be all that to them,
and do all that for them, that God can be and do. Nothing more can be
said in a thousand volumes than is comprehended in these few words:
I will be a God to them.
[2.] They shall be to him a people, to love, honour, observe, and obey
him in all things; complying with his cautions, conforming to his
commands, comporting with his providences, copying out his example,
taking complacency in his favour. This those must do and will do who
have God for their God; this they are bound to do as their part of the
contract; this they shall do, for God will enable them to do it, as an
evidence that he is their God and that they are his people; for it is
God himself who first founds the relation, and then fills it up with
grace suitable and sufficient, and helps them in their measure to fill
it up with love and duty; so that God engages both for himself and
(3.) He articles with them that they shall grow more and more
acquainted with their God
They shall all know me from the least to the greatest, insomuch
that there shall not be so much need of one neighbour teaching another
the knowledge of God. Here observe,
[1.] In the want of better instruction, one neighbour should be
teaching another to know the Lord, as they have ability and opportunity
[2.] This private instruction shall not be so necessary under the New
Testament as it was under the Old. The old dispensation was shadowy,
dark, ritual, and less understood; their priests preached but seldom,
and but a few at a time, and the Spirit of God was more sparingly given
out. But under the new dispensation there shall be such abundance of
public qualified preachers of the gospel, and dispensers of ordinances
statedly in the solemn assemblies, and so great a flocking to them, as
doves to their windows, and such a plentiful effusion of the Spirit of
God to make the ministration of the gospel effectual, that there shall
be a mighty increase and spreading of Christian knowledge in persons of
all sorts, of each sex, and of all ages. O that this promise might be
fulfilled in our days, that the hand of God may be with his ministers,
that a great number may believe and be turned to the Lord!
(4.) God articles with them about the pardon of their sins, as what
always accompanies the true knowledge of God
For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, &c. Observe,
[1.] The freeness of this pardon. It does not result from merit in man,
but from mercy in God; he pardons for his own name's sake.
[2.] The fullness of this pardon; it extends to their unrighteousness,
sins, and iniquities; to all kinds of sin, to sins highly aggravated.
[3.] The fixedness of this pardon. It is so final and so fixed that God
will remember their sins no more; he will not recall his pardon; he
will not only forgive their sins, but forget them, treat them as if he
had forgotten them. This pardoning mercy is connected with all other
spiritual mercies. Unpardoned sin prevents mercy, and pulls down
judgments; but the pardon of sin prevents judgment, and opens a wide
door to all spiritual blessings; it is the effect of that mercy that is
from everlasting, and the earnest of that mercy that shall be to
everlasting. This is the excellency of the new dispensation, and these
are the articles of it; and therefore we have no reason to repine, but
great reason to rejoice that the former dispensation is antiquated and
has vanished away.