Hebrews 2As if our apostle had said, Seeing Christ is so excellent in his person, and seeing the gospel has such a glorious author as the blessed Jesus let us take great heed that we esteem his person, revere his authority, reverence his ministry and message, and that our memories be not like leaking vessels, suffering the word at any time to slip and run from us.
Learn hence, 1. The consideration of the revelation of the gospel of the Son of God, is a powerful motive to an high estimation of it, Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed; that is, knowing the excellency of his person, and the sublimity of his doctrine.
2. The true and only way of honouring our Lord Jesus Christ as the Son of God, is by diligent attendance and obedience to his word: where there is no faith in, nor love unto, Jesus Christ, the author and dispenser of the gospel.
3. There are sundry times and seasons wherin, and several ways and means whereby, men are in great danger of losing the word, if they attend not diligently to its preservation. Lest at any time; some lose the word in a time of prosperity, others in a time of persecution, some in a time of temptation.
4. The word heard is not lost without great sin, as well as with the inevitable ruin of the souls of men. If we suffer the word to slip out of our memories, that we forget it; out of our hearts, that we despise it; out of our lives, that we are disobedient to it; it is lost as to us, and will end in our loss, yea, in our ruin at the last.
5. The only way to prevent this sin and danger, under the word, is by a very diligent attendance upon it, and giving mor earnest heed to the things contained in it: we are to attend to the word before we hear, to bring us to it; to attend upon it in hearing, that it may be remembered by us; and after we have heard it, that it may be practised by us.
This consideration, that it is the word of Christ, the great an mighty God, the wisdom of the Father, that we are going forth to hear, will engage us to give the more earnest heed to the things we hear, lest at any time we should let them slip.
The apostle having set forth the transcendant dignity of Christ's person and office, and shown that he was a more excellent priest than Aaron, a more excellent king than Melchizedek, hereupon he infers, that such as despise the gospel, the doctrine of this blessed Jesus, are far mare inexcusable than those that were the transgressors of the law of Moses.
If the word spoken by angels were steadfast; that is if the law given by the ministry of angels was firm and inviolable, and all the transgressors of it were justly and severely punished; how can we escape perishing, if we neglect the gospel, which makes a discovery of that great salvation which was purchased by Christ for lost sinners?
The apostle's argument is drawn (a minoriad majus) from the less to the greater. Thus, if Almighty God was so severe against the violation of a far meaner institution, to wit the law given by the ministry and dispensation of angels; how can we escape that neglect to hear and obey the gospel, which makes a tender, yea, the only tender of salvation to a lost world?
Note here, 1. The great care which God Almighty takes to make lost sinners happy, namely by offering them a great salvation.
Note, 2. The great care which every one of us ought to take in order to our own happiness and salvation, and that is, not to neglect it.
Note, 3. The great guilt which they contract, and the inevitable punishment God will inflict on such as do neglect this great salvation, How shall they escape?
Learn hence, 1. That there is salvation; great in its author, Christ Jesus; great in the price paid for it, the blood of Jesus; great in regard of the evils it saves us from, sin, Satan, the curse of the law, death and hell; great in respect of the gracious privileges it interests believers in.
Learn, 2. That notwithstanding this salvation is so great, yet there are some that neglect it.
Learn, 3. That it is impossible for such neglecters to escape.
Quest. 1. What shall they not escape?
Ans. The curse of the law, the wrath of God, the sentence of Christ denounced and the sentence of Christ inflicted.
Quest. 2. Why shall they not escape?
Ans. Because such persons sin against the remedy, the only remedy, which the wisdom of God hath found out for man's recovery; nad accordingly the mouth of God hath spoken it, the hand of God hath written it, and the oath of God hath confirmed it, that such sunners shall not escape: such as sin against the remedy, must perish without the remedy.
Here we have a special reason assigned, why such as reject the gospel cannot escape divine wrath, because the gospel was first published and delivered by Jesus Christ; it was clearly, plainly, sweetly, and persuasively preached by himself first. The law was promulgated by angels, the gospel proclaimed by the Son of God, and afterwards by his apostles; and God confirmed their testimony by signs and wonders, by miraculous powers and gifts of the Holy Ghost: All which did signify God's approbation of their doctrine, and gave the world a confirmation of the truth and excellency of it, and consequently gave credibility to it.
Here note, That as the law of Moses was confirmed by miracles, so was the gospel of Jesus also: nay, herein this was superior to that. Moses wrought signs and wonders, but the gifts of the Holy Ghost were peculiar to the times of the Messiah, and were the proper confirmation of the gospel dispensation.
Yet note farther, That though the apostles had a power to work miracles, yet it was according to God's will, and not at their own pleasure; they could not work miracles when they pleased, not what they pleased: whence it was evident that not they, but God was the worker of them. And the more God's over-ruling will was seen in the miracles then, the greater confirmation have we of the doctrine now: Which (gospel) was at first spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by divers miracles and gifts of the Holy Ghost.
Still our apostle prosucutes his former design, which was to persuade the Hebrews, that more heed is to be given to the word of Christ, the doctrine of the gospel, than to the word or law delivered by angels, because God had given a greater authority to Christ than ever he did to the angels, as appears by putting the world to came in subjecton to Christ, and not to angels; yea, inasmuch as angels themselves are to be in subjection unto Christ, as a part of his kingdom, Unto the angels hath he not put into subjection the world to come? That is, the world of believers gathered out of all nations by the preaching of the gospel, is put under Christ's immediate power, and subject not to angels, but to Christ himself.
Learn hence, That it is the great privilege of the gospel-church, that it depends upon Christ as its immediate and only Head, and is not put in subjection to any other, either angels or men. The gospel-church was not put in subjection to angels in its first erection or institution, nor was it put into subjection unto angels, as to the rule and government of it when erected; but angels and saints are equally subjected unto Christ, who is both an head of vital influence, as also an head of authority, rule, and government to the whole church, and every member thereof.
Observe next, The proof which the apostle brings for this out of the Psalms, Ps 8:1-9 in which David breaks forth into admiration and wonder, at that glory and honour which God the Father put upon man at first in the work of creation, and next in the work of redemption: When the Son of God took the nature of man upon him, well might it then be said, Lord! What is man, that thou wert thus mindful of him, and the sons of men, that thy dear and only son did thus visit them:
Learn hence, 1. That such was the inconceivable love of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, towards the sons of men, that he was free and willing to condescend unto any condition for their benefit and salvation: He that was the Creator of angels, was willing, for our sakes, to be made lower than the angels, a little lower, that is, for a little time lower than the angels, namely, during the time of his humiliation.
Learn, 2. That this wonderful condescension of Christ to take the nature of man, his respect and care, his love and eternal admiration. Oh! What is man that thou art mindful of him, and crownest him with dignity and glory.
We had an account of the depth of our Lord's humiliation before, of the height of his exaltation now, all things are and shall be put under him: for though God has given Christ dominion over all things, and all things are subject to his power, yet he hath not as yet exercised his complete power in ruining all his enemies, and reducing all his people to subjection; and this will not be seen until the last saint to be converted, and until death, the last enemy, be destroyed.
But yet, in the mean time, Christ is exalted with great triumph to his kingdom in heaven, and there crowned with dignity and honour, and glory in heaven. It is easy to believe, that every thing shall be put under him that riseth up against him, in his own appointed time.
Observe here, 1. The wonderful humiliation and abasement, the examination and deep depression of the glorious Jesus; he was made for a little time lower than the angels; that is, he was made man, and mortal, and did suffer death.
Observe 2. The manner of our Lord's death, He tasted it, that is he died really and not in appearance only, he tasted it. Implying that he underwent the bitterness of it: he found out experimentally what death was by dying, as a man finds out the bitterness of a thing by tasting.
Again, he did but taste of it, he was not finally overcome and vanquished by it; he continued but a short time under it, it was not possible that he should be long holden of it; the dignity of his person rendered a short continuance of him under the power of death sufficient for our redemption.
Observe, 3. The persons for whom he tasted death, of died: for others, not for himself; that is, in their room and stead; he underwent that death in our stead, which we should have undergone in our own persons.
Observe, 4. The extent of Christ's death, he tasted death for every man; that is, Christ by his death has made God propitious to every man, made sin remissible, and every man saveable: The death of Christ renders God willing to be reconciled unto all sinners; faith renders him actually reconciled. The reason why every man doth not obtain salvation, is not for want of a sufficient propitiation.
Observe, 5. The moving cause which inclined God to deliver up Christ to death, and to transfer our punishment upon him, and that was his own grace, and free good-will, "That he by the grace of God should taste death for every man."
Observe, 6. The glorious reward of our Lord's sufferings with reference to himself, We see Jesus, for suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour. As Christ's meritorious sufferings for us, so shall our patient suffering for him be rewarded with the highest glory in heaven, The God of all grace who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after ye have suffered awhile, make ye perfect, &c. 1Pe 5:10
Observe here, 1. The gracious title given to Christ, the captain of our salvation; because the whole work of salvation, from first to last, our guidance and conduct through sin and suffering, unto glory and happiness, is committed to him. As a captain he conducts with care, he leads on with power, he discharges his trust with tenderness and love; he goes before us in obedience; in suffering through death, and into glory.
Observe, 2. That God made Jesus Christ the captain of our salvation perfect through suffering; that is, he was consecrated and set apart for the office of a complete priest by his own blood, when he offered himself without spot to God. Every Levitical priest was consecrated by the blood of a beast, sacrificed; Christ was consecrated by his own blood, for no other blood would be accepted. It is called the Father's act to consecrate and make him perfect; but indeed it was the Son's own immediate act; the Father's by designation and appointment, but his own by actual performance, offering himself through the eternal Spirit without spot.
Observe, 3. That Christ being consecrated and perfected through sufferings, hath consecrated the way of suffering for all that follow him to pass through it into glory.
Upon this consecration of the way of suffering by Christ Jesus, a believer's suffering becomes
1. Necessary and unavoidable; the head and the members must be made conformable to each other, Rom 8:29.
They are thereby made, 2. Useful and profitable: Christ has taken the curse out of the cross, and sanctified the cross to a special end and purpose; hereby likewise all sufferings for the gospel are,
3. Made honourable; no greater honour than to suffer for Christ, The apostles rejoiced that they had the honour to suffer shame for his name. Acts 5:41
And lastly, sufferings hereby are made safe to the sons of God, yea, more safe than prosperity by far. Gold is not consumed, but improved and preserved in the furnace.
Observe, 4. That such is the merit and desert of sin, and such the immutability and severity of the justice of God, that there was no way possible to bring sinners unto glory, but by the death and sufferings of the Son of God; or if possible, yet no other way so becoming God, it became him for whom are all things; and so expressive of his love and goodness to a lost world, it would have been unbecoming God, the supreme Governor of the world, to have passed by the desert of sin, without a satisfaction; therefore his wisdom contrived that grace should he exercised, and justice satisfied; that sin should be punished, and mercy magnified; that sinners should be saved, and the glory of God's attributes secured.
In these words, the union of Christ and us, by his participation of the same nature with us, is declared: he and we are all of one; that is, of one and the same nature, of one stock and original; it was the product of the wise, merciful, and righteous counsel of God, that the Saviour of men should have communion with them in their nature, that he might have to redeem them by his propinquity and alliance with them; Both he that sanctifieth, and they that are sanctified, are all of one.
Learn hence, 1. That the Lord Jesus Christ was, and ought to be of the same nature and stock with those whom he did redeem, and sanctify unto God. Divine justice required, that the same nature which had sinned should suffer for sin. The wisdom of God was pleased to redeem man: man must be redeemed by man: God as God could not die, therefore God becomes man, that he might be in a capacity to die; he that as man will redeem man, must be of the same nature with man. This Christ was, both by divine institution, and by a voluntary susception: He that sanctifieth, and they that are sanctified, are all of one.
Learn, 2. That Christ having taken our nature upon him, accounts it no disgrace to acknowledge and own us for his brethren; Christ will be ashamed of none of his brethren, but such are a shame unto him.
Learn, 3. That not withstanding the union of nature which is betwixt Christ and us, yet, in respect of our persons, ther is an inconceivable distance between him and us: so that it is a marvellous condescension in him to call us brethren.
Here note, That though Christ calls us brethren, yet it becomes us to call him Lord; and as such to adore and worship him, to glorify and serve him, to honour and obey him.
Observe here, 1. The reality of Christ's assuming the human nature asserted: As the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same. Which is in effect the same he had asserted in the foregoing verse, that he that sanctifieth, and they that are sanctified, are all of one; that is, of one nature and original.
Observe, 2. A twofold reason assigned, why Christ thus condescendingly assumed the human nature, namely, that he might destroy the devil, who had the power of death, and deliver his people that were under the slavish fear of death.
Here note, 1. The devil described in a very formidiable manner, as one that had the power of death; not the supreme, but a subordinate, power of death; a power of death, as God's executioner to inflict it: the devil has the power of death, just as the hangman has the power of the gallows, to put those to death whom the judge condemns only.
Note, 2. Him that has thus the power of death, has Christ destroyed, that is disarmed and disabled; not destroyed his being, but disarmed him of his power and authority over the children of God.
Note, 3. That Christ did this by his own death: through death; that is, by his own dying, he destroyed him that had the power of death: it was upon the cross that he spoiled principalities and powers, and made a show of them openly; Christ by dying conquered death.
The second reason of Christ's appearing in our flesh and nature, was to deliver his people from the slavery and bondage of the sinful and servile fears of death.
Here note, 1. That there is a natural fear of death, which is not sinful. Art thou afraid of death? Thou wert not a man if thou didst not fear it: there cannot but be in nature an aversion to its own disolution; and nature will always act like itself.
Note, 2. That there is a servile, slavish fear of death, which hath both sin and torment in it; a fear of death as penal, and drawing after it everlasting punishment.
Note, 3. That unregenerate men, if a senseless stupidity has not benumbed them, and a spirit of slumber fallen upon them, are in bondage under the servile and slavish fear of death. It will daunt the stoutest man that ever lived to look upon death, when he can see nothing but hell beyond it.
Note, 4. That Jesus Christ, by dying, has freed all his children from this servile and tormenting fear of death.
1.Christ has taken away the true reason of the fear of death, namely, the curse and condemnation of the law of God. The sting of death is sin, and sin has it condemning power from the law.
2. Christ has assured believers that they shall not be losers, but gainers, yea, great gainers, by death; considering the private evils freed from, and the positive good they shall rest in.
It may be rendered from the original thus: He catched no hold on angels, but on man he catched hold. A metaphor taken from a person that catches hold of another who is falling down some deep and dangerous precipice, to his inevitable destruction: such a good and kind office did the Son of God for us, when he suffered angels to fall headlong from that state of happiness in which they were created, into that abyss and gulf of misery into which they had plunged themselves by their voluntary transgression: the like unto which man also has done, had he not been seasonably catched by the Son of God in the arms of preventing grace and mercy.
Learn, That it was not the angelical, but the human nature; it was the nature of fallen man, and not of lapsed angels, which the Son of God did vouchsafe to assume, and to take into a personal union with his Godhead.
Question. Why would not Christ take upon him the nature of angels?
1. Probably because they were the first transgressors, and God might judge it decent that the first breach of the divine law should be punished with death, to secure obedience for the future:
Or, 2. Because the angels sinned without a tempter, they had no superior rank of creatures already fallen, as man had, to seduce and draw them from their obedience to their Creator's will;
Or, 3. Because the angels sinned against more clear and convictive light and knowledge: there was nothing of weakness, deceit, or ignorance, to lessen the malignity of their sin; they did not sin by mispersuasion, but of purposed malice. But, after all, the reason why Christ took not hold on the angels, but on man, the seed of Abraham, must be ultimately resolved into the sovereignty of God's will, who will be merciful.
Lord!, why mercy, thy milder attribute, should be exercised towards man, and justice, thy severer attribute, be executed upon angels; why vessels of clay be chosen, and vessels of gold rejected, must be resolved into that love which passeth knowledge; and we shall never fully understand the riches of this discriminating grace, until thy dear Son shall appear at the great day, as their judge and our justifier. Then shall we feel the comfort of these words, That Christ took not upon him the nature of angels, but in the seed of Abraham.
In these two verses our apostle illustrates what he had taught before, and confirms his foregoing proposition concerning Christ's participating of flesh and blood, and acquaints us here with one special end of it, namely, to be such an High-priest as our exigencies and necessities did require: for we being persons obnoxious to temptations and sufferings of all sorts, the wisdom of God, and the nature of the thing, required it, that Christ, our great High-Priest, should in a special manner be able to relieve and help us: in order to this,
Observe, 1. How our apostle reports and re-asserts, that Christ was in all things, or every manner of way, made like unto his brethren; that is, he assumed the human nature, with all its essential properties, subjected to temptations and sufferings, but not to sin, for that would have been so far from conducing to the end aimed at, that it would have been utterly destructive of it. Had he been himself a sinner, he could never have satisfied the justice of God for our sins.
Observe, 2. The general end of Christ's conformity to his brethren: namely, That he might be a merciful and faithful High-priest. That he might be our priest, it was necessary that he should partake of our nature; for every High-priest for men must be taken from among men; this is not work for an angel, nor for God himself as such: and that he might be our merciful and faithful High-priest, he was subject to sufferings and temptations.
With great condolency and tender sympathy doth he exercise acts of mercy and compassion towards the human nature; and thus was he merciful, and with great condescension and care doth he take notice of all the concernments of his brethren under wants and sorrows, under all their temptations and sufferings: and thus is he our faithful as well as merciful High-priest.
Learn hence, That such was the unspeakable love of Christ towards his brethren, that he would refuse no condition of life, neither sufferings nor temptations, to fit him for the discharge of his office, which he had undertaken for them. Christ suffered, and was tempted, that he might succour them that are tempted: he suffered under all his temptations, but sinned in none; he suffered, being tempted, but sinned not being tempted.
Observe, 3. The special design and end of Christ's being our great High-priest: namely, To make reconciliation for the sins of the people.
From whence learn, That the principal work of our Lord Jesus Christ, as our great High-priest, and from which all other actings of his in that office do flow, was to make reconciliation or atonement for sin; his intercession in heaven is founded on earth. The Socinians, therefore, who deny the satisfaction of Christ, and his dying, as a propitiation or propitiatory sacrifice for sin, take from us our hopes and happiness; from Christ his office and honour; from God, his grace and glory; they do indeed allow of a reconciliation in words, but it is of men to God, and not of God to men.
They plead the expediency of our being reconciled to God by faith and obedience, but deny the necessity of God's being reconciled to us by sacrifice, satisfaction, and atonement; so resolved are these men to be as little as may be beholden to Jesus Christ, that rather than grant that he has made any reconciliation for us by his blood, they deny that there was any need of such a reconciliation at all, never considering the inflexibility of God's justice, nor the impartiality of his indignation against sin.
Oh! the depths of Satan! and, oh! the stupidity and blindness of those men that are taken captive by him at his pleasure!
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