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rent that the apostle useth an avprouvwoiv, placing himself among those unto whom he wrote, though not personally concerned in every particular spoken; a thing so usual with him, that there is scarce any of his Epistles, wherein sundry instances of it are not to be found : see 1 Cor. x. 7, 8, 9. 1 Thess. iv. 17. The like is done by Peter, 1 Epist. iv. 3. Having therefore in this place, to take off all suspicion of jealousy in his exhortation to the Hebrews unto integrity and constancy in their profession, introduced his discourse in this chapter in the same way of expression, " Therefore ought we ;” as there was no need, so there was no place for the change of the persons, so as to say you instead of us. So that on many accounts there is no ground for this objection.
4. He yet farther describes the gospel by the divine attestation given unto it, which also adds to the force of his argument and exhortation, ouvetopagTuqurtOS 78 @18. The word is of a double composition, denoting a concurring testimony of God, a testimony given unto, or together with the testimony and wit. ness of the apostles. Of what nature this testimony was, and wherein it consisted, the next words declare : “ by signs and wonders, mighty works, and distributions of the Holy Ghost." All these agree in their general nature, as being works supernatural, and in their especial end as attesting to the truth of the gospel, being wrought according to the promise of Christ, Matt. xvi. 17, 18. by the ministry of the apostles, Acts ii. 3, 4. and in especial by that of Paul himself, Roin. xv. 19. 2 Cor. xii. 12. But as to their especial differences, they are here cast un. der four heads.
The first are onpessa, ninix, signs;' that is miraculous works, wrought to signify the presence of God by his power with them that wrought them, for the approbation and confirmation of the doctrine which they taught. The second are riputa, Sinar, • prodigies, wonders,' works beyond the power of nature, above the energy of natural causes, wrought to fill men with wonder and admiration, stirring men up unto a diligent attention to the doctrine accompanied with them ; for whereas they surprise men by discovering to Isloy, ' a present divine power,' they dispose the mind to an embracing of what is confirmed by them. Thirdly, durpius, nnaan, mighty works,' wherein evidently a mighty power, the power of God, is exerted in their operation. And, fourthly, Ivivustos úgos pigioueos, w7p 777777 Dinn, ógifts of the Holy Ghost, enumerated, i Cor. xii. 7-11. Eph. iv. 7. Kaugiausta, free gifts,' freely bestowed, called pesgroueos, divisions or distributions, for the reason at large declared by the apostle, 1 Cor. xii. 7-11. All which are intimated in the following words, XATH THY Avru Yiamouy. It is indifferent whether we read mutx or arts, and refer it to the will of God, or of the Holy
Ghost himself, his own will, which the apostle guides unto, 1 Cor. xii. 11.
As we said before, all these agree in the same general nature, and kind of miraculous operations: the variety of expressions whereby they are set forth, relating only unto some different respects of them, taken from their especial end and effects. The same works were in different respects, signs, wonders, mighty works, and gifts of the Holy Ghost. But being effectual unto several ends, they received these various denominations.
In these works consisted the divine attestation of the doctrine of the apostles, God in and by them giving testimony from heaven by the ministration of his almighty power, unto the things which were taught; and shewing his approbation of the persons that taught them in their work. And this was of especial consideration in dealing with the Hebrews. For the giving of the law, and the ministry of Moses, having been accompanied with many signs and prodigies, they made great inquiry after signs for the confirmation of the gospel, 1 Cor. i. 22. which though our Lord Jesus Christ neither in his own person, nor by his apostles, would grant unto them in their time and manner, to satisfy their wicked and carnal curiosity, yet in his own way and season, he gave them forth for their conviction, or to leave them inexcusable, John s. 38.
Thirdly, The gospel being of this nature, thus taught, thus delivered, thus confirmied, there is a neglect of it supposed, ver. 3. “ If we neglect,” aueh ngartig ; the conditional is included in the manner of the expression, · If we neglect, if we regard not,' if we take not due care about it. The word intimateth an omission of all those duties which are necessary for our retaining the word preached unto our profit, and that to such a degree as utterly to reject it ; for it answers unto those transgressions of, and to that stubborn disobedience to, the law, which disannulled it as a covenant, and which were punished with excision or cutting off. “If we neglect,' that is, if we continue not in a diligent observance of all those duties which are indispensably necessary unto a holy, useful, and profitable profession of the gospel.
Fourthly, There is a punishment intimated upon this sinful neglect of the gospel : Tiws exQevžoreda, “ How shall we escape," flee from, or avoid ?, wherein both the punishment itself, and the manner of expressing it, are to be considered. For the punishment itself, the apostle doth not expressly mention it. It must therefore be taken from the words going before, “ How shall we escape ?” that is, gdixov poobarodociv, a just retribution, a meet recompence of reward.' The breach of the law was followed by sucii a retribution : a punishment suitable unto the demerit of the crime was by God assigned unto it, and in. flicted on them that were guilty. So to the neglect of the gospel a punishment is annexed, even a punishment justly deserved by so great a crime; so much greater and more sore than that designed unto the contempt of the law, as the gospel, upon the account of its nature, eífects, author, and confirmation, was more excellent than the law. Xsiqwe top.weice, a sorer punishment,' as our apostle calls it, ch. x. 29. as much exceeding it as eternal destruction under the curse and wrath of God exceeds all temporal punishments whatever. What this punishment is, see Matt. xvi. 26. ch. xxv. 46. 2 Thess. i 8. The manner of ascertaining the punishment intimated, is by an interrogation, “ How shall we escape ?" wherein three things are intended. 1. A denial of any ways or means for escape or deliverance. There is none that can deliver us, no way whereby we may escape; see 1 Pet. iv, 17, 18. And, 2. The certainty
of the punishment itself; it will, as to the event, assuredly befal . us. And, 3. The inexpressible greatness of this unavoidable evil, “ How shall we escape ?" We shall not, there is no way for it, nor ability to bear what we are liable to, Matt. xxiii. 33. 1 Pet. iv. 18.
This is the scope of the apostle in these verses, this the import of the several things contained in them. His main design and intendment is, to prevail with the Hebrews unto a diligent attendance to the gospel that was preached unto them, which he urgeth by an argument taken from the danger, vea certain ruin, that will undoubtedly ensue on the neglect of it; the certainty, unavoidableness, greatness and righteousness of this, he manifests by the consideration of the punishment assigned to the transgressions of the law, which the gospel on many accounts doth excel.
The observations for our own instruction which these verses offer unto us, are these that follow.
I. Motives unto a due valuation of the gospel, and perseve. rance in the profession of it, taken from the penalties annexed unto the neglect of it, are evangelical, and of singular use in the preaching of the word: “How shall we escape if we neglect ?”—This consideration is here managed by the apostle, and that when he had newly set forth the glory of Christ, and the greatness of the salvation tendered in the gospel, in the most persuading and attractive manner. Some would fancy, that all comminations and threatenings do belong to the law; as though Jesus Christ had left himself and his gospel to be securely despised by profane and impenitent sinners; but as they will find the contrary to their eternal ruin, so it is the will of Christ that we should let them know this, and thereby warn others to take heed of their sins and their plagues.
Now these motives, from coinminations and threatenings, I call evangelical:
1st, Because they are recorded in the gospel. There we are taught them, and by it commanded to make use of them, Matt. x. 28. ch. xxiv. 50, 51. ch. xxv. 41. Mark xvi. 16. John iji. 36. 2 Cor. ii. 15, 16. 2 Thess. i. 8, 9. and in other places innumerable. And to this end are they recorded, that they may be preached and declared as part of the gospel. And if the dispensers of the word insist not on them, they deal deceitfuily with the souls of men, and detain from them the counsel of God. And as such persons will find themselves to have a weak and an enervated ministry here, so also that they will have a sad account, for their partiality in the word, to give hereafter. Let not men think themselves more evangelical than the author of the gospel, more skilled in the mystery of the conversion and edification of the souls of men, than the apostles ; in a word, more wise than God himself, which they must do if they neglect this part of his ordinance.
2d, Because they become the gospel. It is meet the gospel should be armed with threatenings, as well as attended with promises ; and that,
1. On the part of Christ himself, the author of it. However the world persecuted and despised him whilst he was on the 7 earth, and he threatened mot, 1 Pet. ij. 23. on Liis on account; i however they continue to contemn and blaspheme his ways, and salvation, yet he lets them kuow that he is armed with power to revenge their disobedience. And it belongs unto his honour to have it declared unto them. A sceptre in a kingdom without a sword, a crown without a rod of iron, will quickly be trampled on. Both are therefore given into the hand of Christ, that the glory and honour of his dominion may be known, Psal. ii. 9-12.
2. They become the gospel on the part of sinners, yea, of all to whom the gospel is preached. And those are of two sorts.
First, Unbelievers, hypocrites, apostates, impenitent beglecters of the great salvation declared in it. It is meet on this account, that the dispensation of the gospel be attended with threatenings and comminations of punisiments. And that,
1. To keep them here in awe and fear, that they may not boldly and openly break out in contempt of Christ. These are his arrows that are sharp in the hearts of his adversaries, whereby he awes them, galls them, and in the midst of all their pride makes them to tremble sometimes at their future condition. Christ never suffers then to be so serare, but that his terrors in these threatenings visit them ever and anon. And hereby also doth he keep them within some bounds, bridles their rage, and
overpowers many of them unto some usefulness in the world, with many other blessed ends not now to be insisted on.
2. That they may be left inexcusable, and the Lord Christ be justified in his proceedings against them at the last day. If they should be surprised with fiery indignation and everlasting burnings at the last day, how might they plead, that if they had been warned of these things, they would have endeavoured to have fled from the wrath to come ? and how apt might they be to repine against his justice, in the amazing greatness of their destruction. But now by taking order to have the penal. ty of their disobedience in the threatenings of the gospel de· clared unto them, they are left without excuse, and himself is
glorified in taking vengeance. He hath told them beforehand plainly what they are to look for, Heb. x. 26, 27.
Secondly, They are so on the part of believers themselves. Even they stand in need to be reminded of the terror of the Lord; and what a fearful thing it is to fall into the hands of the living God; and that even our God is a consuming fire. And this,
1. To keep up in their hearts a constant reverence of the majesty of Jesus Christ, with whom they have to do. The threatening sanction of the gospel bespeaks the greatness, holi. ness and terror of its Author, and insinuates into the hearts of believers thoughts becoming of them. It lets them know that he will be sanctified in all that draw nigh unto him, and so calls upon them for a due reverential preparation for the performance of his worship, and unto all duties wherein they walk before him, Heb. xii. 28, 29. This influenceth them also unto a dili. gent attendance to every particular duty incumbent on them, as the apostle declares, 2 Cor. v. 11.
2. They tend unto their consolation and support under all their afflictions and sufferings for the gospel.". This relieves their hearts in all their sorrows, when they consider the sore vengeance that the Lord Jesus Christ will one day take of all his stubborn adversaries, who know not God, nor will obey the gospel, 2 Thess. i. 5–10. For the Lord Jesus is no less faithful in his threatenings than in his promises, and no less able to inflict the one, than to accomplish the other. And he is glorious unto them therein, Isa. lxiii. 1-4.
3. They give them constant matter of praise and thankfulness, when they see in them, as in a glass, that will neither flatter nor causelessly terrify, a representation of that wrath which they are delivered from by Jesus Christ, 1 Thess. i. 10. For in this way, every threatening of the gospel proclaims the grace of Christ unto their souls. And when they hear them explained in all their terror, they can rejoice in the hope of the glory that shall be revealed. And,