Hebrews 12

CHAPTER XII.

Having so many incitements to holiness, patience, and

perseverance, we should lay aside every hinderance, and run

with patience the race that is set before us, taking our

blessed Lord for our example, 1-4.

These sufferings are to be considered as fatherly chastisements

from God, and to be patiently submitted to on account of the

benefits to be derived from them, 5-11.

They should take courage and go forward, 12, 13.

Directions to follow peace with all men, and to take heed that

they fall not from the grace of God, 14, 15.

References to the case of Esau, 16, 17.

The privileges of Christians, compared with those of the Jews,

by which the superior excellence of Christianity is shown,

18-24.

They must take care not to reject Jesus, who now addressed them

from heaven, and who was shortly to be their Judge, 25-27.

As they were called to receive a kingdom, they should have

grace, whereby they might serve God acceptably, 28, 29.

NOTES ON CHAP. XII.

Verse 1. Wherefore] This is an inference drawn from the

examples produced in the preceding chapter, and on this account

both should be read in connection.

Compassed about] Here is another allusion to the Olympic games:

the agonistae, or contenders, were often greatly animated by the

consideration that the eyes of the principal men of their country

were fixed upon them; and by this they were induced to make the

most extraordinary exertions.

Cloud of witnesses] νεφοςμαρτυρων. Both the Greeks and

Latins frequently use the term cloud, to express a great number

of persons or things; so in Euripides, Phoeniss. ver. 257: νεφος

ασπιδωνπυκνον, a dense cloud of shields; and Statius, Thebiad.,

lib. ix., ver. 120: jaculantum nubes, a cloud of spearmen. The

same metaphor frequently occurs.

Let us lay aside every weight] As those who ran in the Olympic

races would throw aside every thing that might impede them in

their course; so Christians, professing to go to heaven, must

throw aside every thing that might hinder them in their Christian

race. Whatever weighs down our hearts or affections to earth and

sense is to be carefully avoided; for no man, with the love of the

world in his heart, can ever reach the kingdom of heaven.

The sin which doth so easily beset] ευπεριστατοναμαρτιαν. The

well circumstanced sin; that which has every thing in its favour,

time, and place, and opportunity; the heart and the object;

and a sin in which all these things frequently occur, and

consequently the transgression is frequently committed.

ευπεριστατος is derived from ευ, well, περι, about, and

ιστημι I stand; the sin that stands well, or is favourably

situated, ever surrounding the person and soliciting his

acquiescence. What we term the easily besetting sin is the sin of

our constitution, the sin of our trade, that in which our worldly

honour, secular profit, and sensual gratification are most

frequently felt and consulted. Some understand it of original

sin, as that by which we are enveloped in body, soul, and spirit.

Whatever it may be, the word gives us to understand that it is

what meets us at every turn; that it is always presenting itself

to us; that as a pair of compasses describe a circle by the

revolution of one leg, while the other is at rest in the centre,

so this, springing from that point of corruption within, called

the carnal mind, surrounds us in every place; we are bounded by

it, and often hemmed in on every side; it is a circular, well

fortified wall, over which we must leap, or through which we must

break. The man who is addicted to a particular species of sin

(for every sinner has his way) is represented as a prisoner in

this strong fortress.

In laying aside the weight, there is an allusion to the long

garments worn in the eastern countries, which, if not laid aside

or tucked up in the girdle, would greatly incommode the traveller,

and utterly prevent a man from running a race. The easily

besetting sin of the Hebrews was an aptness to be drawn aside from

their attachment to the Gospel, for fear of persecution.

Let us run with patience the race] τρεχωμεντονπροκειμενον

ημιναγωνα. Let us start, run on, and continue running, till we

get to the goal. This figure is a favourite among the Greek

writers; so Euripides, Alcest,, ver. 489: ουτονδαγωναπρωτον

ανδραμοιμεγω. This is not the first race that I shall run.

Id. Iphig. in Aulid., ver. 1456: δεινουςαγωναςδιασεκεινονδει

δραμειν. He must run a hard race for thee. This is a race which

is of infinite moment to us: the prize is ineffably great; and, if

we lose it, it is not a simple loss, for the whole soul perishes.

Verse 2. Looking unto Jesus] αφορωντες. Looking off and

on, or from and to; looking off or from the world and all

secular concerns to Jesus and all the spiritual and heavenly

things connected with him. This is still an allusion to the

Grecian games: those who ran were to keep their eyes fixed on the

mark of the prize; they must keep the goal in view. The

exhortation implies, 1. That they should place all their hope and

confidence in Christ, as their sole helper in this race of faith.

2. That they should consider him their leader in this contest and

imitate his example.

The author and finisher of-faith] αρχηγος, translated here

author, signifies, in general, captain or leader, or the first

inventor of a thing; see Heb 2:10. But the reference seems to

be here to the βραβευς, or judge in the games, whose business it

was to admit the contenders, and to give the prize to the

conqueror. Jesus is here represented as this officer; every

Christian is a contender in this race of life, and for eternal

life. The heavenly course is begun under Jesus; and under him it

is completed. He is the finisher, by awarding the prize to them

that are faithful unto death. Thus he is the author or the judge

under whom, and by whose permission and direction, according to

the rules of the heavenly race, they are permitted to enter the

lists, and commence the race, and he is the finisher, τελειωτης,

the perfecter, by awarding and giving the prize which consummates

the combatants at the end of the race.

Who, for the joy that was set before him] The joy of fulfilling

the will of the Father, Ps 40:6-8, &c., in tasting death for

every man; and having endured the cross and despised the shame of

this ignominious death, He is set down at the right hand of God,

ever appearing in the presence of God for us, and continuing his

exhibition of himself as our Sacrifice, and his intercession as

our Mediator. See the notes on "Heb 10:5", &c. There are

different other explanations given of this clause, but I think

that here offered is the most natural. It never can, in any

sense, be said of Jesus that he endured the cross, &c., in the

prospect of gaining an everlasting glory; when he had the fulness

of that glory with the Father before the world began; Joh 17:5.

Verse 3. For consider him] αναλογισασθειναμηκαμητεταις

ψυχαιςεκλυμενοι. Attentively observe and analyze every part of

his conduct, enter into his spirit, examine his motives and

object, and remember that, as he acted, ye are called to act; he

will furnish you with the same Spirit, and will support you with

the same strength. He bore a continual opposition of sinners

against himself; but he conquered by meekness, patience, and

perseverance: he has left you an example that ye should follow his

steps. If ye trust in him, ye shall receive strength; therefore,

howsoever great your opposition may be, ye shall not be weary: if

ye confide in and attentively look to him, ye shall have continual

courage to go on, and never faint in your minds.

Here is a continued allusion to the contenders in the Grecian

games, who, when exhausted in bodily strength and courage, yielded

the palm to their opponents, and were said καμνειν, to be weary or

exhausted; εκλυεσθαι, to be dissolved, disheartened, or to have

lost all bravery and courage.

Verse 4. Ye have not yet resisted unto blood] Many of those

already mentioned were martyrs for the truth; they persevered unto

death, and lost their lives in bearing testimony to the truth.

Though you have had opposition and persecution, yet you have not

been called, in bearing your testimony against sin and sinners, to

seal the truth with your blood.

Striving against sin.] προςτηναμαρτιανανταγωνιζομενοι. An

allusion to boxing at the Grecian games. In the former passages

the apostle principally refers to the foot races.

Verse 5. And ye have forgotten] Or, have ye forgotten the

exhortation? This quotation is made from Pr 3:11, 12, and shows

that the address there, which at first sight appears to be from

Solomon to his son, or from some fatherly man to a person in

affliction, is properly from God himself to any person in

persecution, affliction, or distress.

Despise not thou the chastening] μηολιγωρειπαιδειαςκυριου.

Do not neglect the correction of the Lord. That man neglects

correction, and profits not by it, who does not see the hand of

God in it; or, in other words, does not fear the rod and him who

hath appointed it, and, consequently, does not humble himself

under the mighty hand of God, deplore his sin, deprecate Divine

judgment, and pray for mercy.

Nor faint] Do not be discouraged nor despair, for the reasons

immediately alleged.

Verse 6. For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth] Here is the

reason why we should neither neglect correction, nor faint under

it: it is a proof of the fatherly love of God Almighty, and shows

his most gracious designs towards us; from which we may be fully

convinced that the affliction will prove the means of good to our

souls, if we make a proper use of it.

And scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.] Μαστιγοιδεπαντα

υιονονπαραδεξεται. This is a quotation, literatim from the

Septuagint, of Pr 3:12, of which place our version is:

Even as the father the son in whom he delighteth. But, howsoever

near this may appear to be the Hebrew, it bears scarcely any

affinity to the apostle's words. The Hebrew text is as follows:

uchab eth-ben yirtseh. Now, may be a

noun, compounded of the conjunction vau, "and," the

comparative particle ke, "as" or "like;" and ab, "a

father:" or it may be the third person preterite kal of caab,

"he spoiled, wasted, marred, ulcerated," compounded with the

conjunction vau, "and." And in this sense the Septuagint most

evidently understood it; and it is so understood by the Arabic;

and both readings seem to be combined by the Syriac and Chaldee

versions. And as to ratsah, one of its prime meanings is to

accept, to receive graciously, to take into favour; the

translation, therefore, of the Septuagint and apostle is perfectly

consonant to the Hebrew text, and our version of Pr 3:12 is wrong.

Verse 7. If ye endure chastening] If ye submit to his

authority, humble yourselves under his hand, and pray for his

blessing, you will find that he deals with you as beloved

children, correcting you that he may make you partakers of his

holiness.

God dealeth with you as with sons] He acknowledges by this that

you belong to the family, and that he, as your Father, has you

under proper discipline. It is a maxim among the Jewish rabbins

that "the love which is not conjoined with reproof is not genuine."

Verse 8. Then are ye bastards] This proceeds on the general

fact, that bastards are neglected in their manners and education;

the fathers of such, feeling little affection for, or obligation

to regard, their spurious issue. But all that are legitimate

children are partakers of chastisement or discipline; for the

original word παιδεια does not imply stripes and punishments, but

the whole discipline of a child, both at home and at school.

Verse 9. We have had fathers of our flesh] The fathers of our

flesh, i.e. our natural parents, were correctors; and we

reverenced them, notwithstanding their corrections often arose

from whim or caprice: but shall we not rather be in subjection to

the Father of spirits; to him from whom we have received both body

and soul; who is our Creator, Preserver, and Supporter; to whom

both we and our parents owe our life and our blessings; and who

corrects us only for our profit; that we may live and be partakers

of his holiness? The apostle in asking, Shall we not much rather

be in subjection to the Father of spirits, and live? alludes to

the punishment of the stubborn and rebellious son, De 21:18-21:

"If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, who will not obey

the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that,

when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them; then

shall his father and mother lay hold on him and bring him to the

elders of the city, and they shall say, This our son is stubborn

and rebellious; he will not obey our voice: and all the men of the

city shall stone him with stones that he DIE." Had he been

subject to his earthly parents, he would have lived; because not

subject, he dies. If we be subject to our heavenly Father, we

shall LIVE, and be partakers of his holiness; if not, we shall

DIE, and be treated as bastards and not sons. This is the sum of

the apostle's meaning; and the fact and the law to which he

alludes.

Verse 10. For-a few days] The chastisement of our earthly

parents lasted only a short time; that of our heavenly Father will

also be but a short time, if we submit: and as our parents ceased

to correct when we learned obedience; so will our heavenly Father

when the end for which he sent the chastisement is accomplished.

God delights not in the rod; judgment is his strange work.

Verse 11. No chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous]

Neither correction, wholesome restraint, domestic regulations, nor

gymnastic discipline, are pleasant to them that are thus

exercised; but it is by these means that obedient children,

scholars, and great men are made. And it is by God's discipline

that Christians are made. He who does not bear the yoke of Christ

is good for nothing to others, and never gains rest to his own

soul.

The peaceable fruit of righteousness] i.e. The joyous,

prosperous fruits; those fruits by which we gain much, and through

which we are made happy.

Exercised thereby.] γεγυμνασμενοις. To the trained. There is

still an allusion to the Grecian games; and in the word before us

to those gymnastic exercises by which the candidates for the

prizes were trained to the different kinds of exercises in which

they were to contend when the games were publicly opened.

Verse 12. Wherefore lift up the hands] The apostle refers to

Isa 35:3. The words are an address to persons almost worn out

with sickness and fatigue, whose hands hang down, whose knees

shake, and who are totally discouraged. These are exhorted to

exert themselves, and take courage, with the assurance that they

shall infallibly conquer if they persevere.

Verse 13. Make straight paths for your feet] That is, Take the

straight path that is before you, do not go in crooked or rough

ways, where are stones, briers, and thorns, by which you will be

inevitably lamed, and so totally prevented from proceeding in the

way; whereas, if you go in the even, proper path, though you have

been wounded by getting into a wrong way, that which was wounded

will be healed by moderate, equal exercise, all impediments being

removed. The application of all this to a correct, holy

deportment in religious life, is both natural and easy.

Verse 14. Follow peace with all men] Cultivate, as far as you

possibly can, a good understanding, both with Jews and Gentiles.

ειρηνηνδιωκετε, pursue peace with the same care, attention, and

diligence, as beasts do their game; follow it through all places;

trace it through all winding circumstances; and have it with all

men, if you can with a safe conscience.

And holiness] τοναγιασμον. That state of continual

sanctification, that life of purity and detachment from the

world and all its lusts, without which detachment and sanctity no

man shall see the Lord-shall never enjoy his presence in the world

of blessedness. To see God, in the Hebrew phrase, is to enjoy

him; and without holiness of heart and life this is impossible.

No soul can be fit for heaven that has not suitable dispositions

for the place.

Verse 15. Looking diligently] επισκοπουντες. Looking about,

over, and upon; being constantly on your guard.

Lest any man fail of the grace of God] μητιςυστερωναποτης

χαριτοςτουθεου. Lest any person should come behind, or fall off

from, this grace or GIFT of God; this state of salvation, viz.

the Gospel system or Christianity; for this is most evidently the

meaning of the apostle. It is not the falling from a work of

grace in their own souls, but from the Gospel, to apostatize from

which they had now many temptations; and to guard them against

this, the whole epistle was written.

Lest any root of bitterness springing up] A root of bitterness

signifies a poisonous plant. The Hebrews call every species of

poison a bitter, and with considerable propriety, as most plants

are poisonous in proportion to the quantum of the bitter principle

they possess. The root of bitterness is here used metaphorically

for a bad man, or a man holding unsound doctrines, and

endeavouring to spread them in the Church.

Trouble you] This alludes to the effects of poison taken into

the body: the whole animal system is disturbed, sometimes violent

retchings, great disturbances through the whole alimentary canal,

together with the most fatal changes in the whole sanguineous

system, are the consequences of poison taken into the stomach.

The blood itself (the principle, under God, of life) becomes

putrescent; and probably to this the intelligent apostle alludes

when he says, and thereby many be defiled, μιανθωσι, corrupted or

contaminated.

Bad example and false teaching have corrupted thousands, and are

still making desolation in the world and in the Church.

Verse 16. Lest there be any fornicator] Any licentious person

who would turn the Gospel of the grace of God into lasciviousness.

Or profane person, as Esau] It is not intimated that Esau was a

fornicator; and the disjunctive η, or, separates the profane

person from the fornicator. And Esau is here termed profane,

because he so far disregarded the spiritual advantages connected

with his rights of primogeniture, that he alienated the whole for

a single mess of pottage. See the note on "Ge 25:34". The word

βεβηλος, which we translate profane, is compounded of βε, which

in composition has a negative signification, and βηλος, the

threshold of a temple or sacred edifice; and was applied to those

who were not initiated into the sacred mysteries, or who were

despisers of sacred things, and consequently were to be denied

admittance to the temple, and were not permitted to assist at holy

rites. Indeed, among the Greeks βεβηλος signified any thing or

person which was not consecrated to the gods. Hence, in the

opening of their worship, they were accustomed to proclaim,

Procul, O procul, este profani! VIRG.

"Hence! O hence! ye profane."

And,

Odi profanum vulgus, et arceo. HOR.

"I abominate the profane vulgar, and drive them

from the temple."

The Latin profanus, from which we have our word, is compounded

of procul a fano, "far from the temple," properly an irreligious

man.

Sold his birthright.] The first-born, in patriarchal times, 1.

Had a right to the priesthood, Ex 22:29. 2. And a double

portion of all the father's possessions, De 21:17. 3. And was

lord over his brethren, Ge 27:29, 37; 49:3. 4. And in the family

of Abraham the first-born was the very source whence the Messiah

as the Redeemer of the world, and the Church of God, were to

spring. Farther, 5. The first-born had the right of conveying

especial blessings and privileges when he came to die. See the

case of Isaac and his two sons, Jacob and Esau, in the history to

which the apostle alludes, Gen 27; and that of Jacob and his

twelve sons, Gen 49; In short, the rights of primogeniture were

among the most noble, honourable, and spiritual in the ancient

world.

Verse 17. When he would have inherited the blessing] When he

wished to have the lordship over the whole family conveyed to him,

and sought it earnestly with tears, he found no place for a change

in his father's mind and counsel, who now perceived that it was

the will of God that Jacob should be made lord of all.

Repentance] Here μετανοια is not to be taken in a theological

sense, as implying contrition for sin, but merely change of mind

or purpose; nor does the word refer here to Esau at all, but to

his father, whom Esau could not, with all his tears and

entreaties, persuade to reverse what he had done. I have blessed

him, said he, yea, and he must be blessed; I cannot reverse it

now. See the whole of this transaction largely considered and

explained, See the notes on "Ge 25:29", &c.,

and See "Ge 27:1", &c.

Nothing spoken here by the apostle, nor in the history in Genesis

to which he refers, concerns the eternal state of either of the

two brothers. The use made of the transaction by the apostle is

of great importance: Take heed lest, by apostatizing from the

Gospel, ye forfeit all right and title to the heavenly birthright,

and never again be able to retrieve it; because they who reject

the Gospel reject the only means of salvation.

Verse 18. - 21. For ye are not come unto the mount that might

be touched] I believe the words ψηλαφωμενωορει should be

translated to a palpable or material mountain; for that it was not

a mountain that on this occasion might be touched, the history,

Ex 19:12, 13, shows; and the apostle himself, in Heb 12:20,

confirms. It is called here a palpable or material mount, to

distinguish it from that spiritual mount Sion, of which the

apostle is speaking. Some contend that it should be translated

tacto de caelo, thunder-struck; this sense would agree well enough

with the scope of the place. The apostle's design is to show that

the dispensation of the law engendered terror; that it was most

awful and exclusive; that it belonged only to the Jewish people;

and that, even to them, it was so terrible that they could not

endure that which was commanded, and entreated that God would not

communicate with them in his own person, but by the ministry of

Moses: and even to Moses, who held the highest intimacy with

Jehovah, the revealed glories, the burning fire, the blackness,

the darkness, the tempest, the loud-sounding trumpet, and the

voice of words, were so terrible that he said, I exceedingly fear

and tremble.

These were the things which were exhibited on that material

mountain; but the Gospel dispensation is one grand, copious, and

interesting display of the infinite love of God. It is all

encouragement; breathes nothing but mercy; is not an exclusive

system; embraces the whole human race; has Jesus, the sinner's

friend, for its mediator; is ratified by his blood; and is suited,

most gloriously suited, to all the wants and wishes of every soul

of man.

Verse 22. But ye are come unto mount Sion] In order to enter

fully into the apostle's meaning, we must observe, 1. That the

Church, which is called here the city of the living God, the

heavenly Jerusalem, and mount Sion, is represented under the

notion of a CITY. 2. That the great assembly of believers in

Christ is here opposed to the congregation of the Israelites

assembled at Mount Sinai. 3. That the innumerable company of

angels is here opposed to, those angels by whom the law was

ushered in, Ac 7:53; Ga 3:19.

4. That the Gospel first-born, whose names are written in heaven,

are here opposed to the enrolled first-born among the Israelites,

Ex 24:5; 19:22.

5. That the mediator of the new covenant, the Lord Jesus, is here

opposed to Moses, the mediator of the old. 6. And that the blood

of sprinkling, of Christ, our High Priest, refers to the act of

Moses, Ex 24:8: "And Moses took the blood, and sprinkled it on

the people, and said, Behold the blood of the covenant, which the

Lord hath made with you concerning all these words."

1. The description in these verses does not refer to a heavenly

state; for the terrible nature of the Mosaic dispensation is

never opposed to heaven or life eternal, but to the economy of the

New Testament. 2. In heaven there is no need of a mediator, or

sprinkling of blood; but these are mentioned in the state which

the apostle describes.

The heavenly Jerusalem] This phrase means the Church of the New

Testament, as Schoettgen has amply proved in his dissertation on

this subject.

To an innumerable company of angels] μυριασιναγγελων. To

myriads, tens of thousands, of angels. These are represented as

the attendants upon God, when he manifests himself in any external

manner to mankind. When he gave the law at Mount Sinai, it is

intimated that myriads of these holy beings attended him. "The

chariots of the Lord are twenty thousand, even thousands of

angels; the Lord is among them as in Sinai, in the holy place;"

Ps 68:17. And when he shall come to judge the world, he will

be attended with a similar company. "Thousand thousands

ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood

before him;" Da 7:10. In both these cases, as in several others,

these seem to be, speaking after the manner of men, the body guard

of the Almighty. Though angels make a part of the inhabitants of

the New Jerusalem, yet they belong also to the Church below.

Christ has in some sort incorporated them with his followers, for

"they are all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister to them

that shall be heirs of salvation," and they are all ever

considered as making a part of God's subjects.

Verse 23. To the general assembly] πανηγυρει. This word is

joined to the preceding by some of the best MSS., and is quoted in

connection by several of the fathers: Ye are come-to the general

assembly of innumerable angels; and this is probably the true

connection.

The word πανηγυρις is compounded of παν, all, and αγυρις,

an assembly; and means, particularly, an assembly collected on

festive occasions. It is applied to the assembly of the Grecian

states at their national games, Olympic, Isthmian, &c.; and hence

a speech pronounced in favour of any person at such festive

assemblies was called πανηγυρικοςλογος, a panegyrical discourse;

and hence our word panegyric.

The first-born] Those who first received the Gospel of Christ,

and who are elsewhere termed the first fruits: this is spoken in

allusion to the first-born among the Israelites, who were all

considered as the Lord's property, and were dedicated to him. The

Jews gave the title bechor, first-born, to those who were

very eminent or excellent; what we would term the head or top of

his kin. The Church of the first-born is the assembly of the most

excellent.

Which are written in heaven] Who are enrolled as citizens of

the New Jerusalem, and are entitled to all the rights, privileges,

and immunities of the Church here, and of heaven above. This is

spoken in allusion to the custom of enrolling or writing on

tables, &c., the names of all the citizens of a particular city;

and all those thus registered were considered as having a right to

live there, and to enjoy all its privileges. All genuine

believers are denizens of heaven. That is their country, and

there they have their rights, &c. And every member of Christ has

a right to, and can demand, every ordinance in the Church of his

Redeemer; and wo to him who attempts to prevent them!

God the Judge of all.] The supreme God is ever present in this

general assembly: to him they are all gathered; by him they are

admitted to all those rights, &c.; under his inspection they

continue to act; and it is he alone who erases from the register

those who act unworthily of their citizenship. Judge here is to

be taken in the Jewish use of the term, i.e. one who exercises

sovereign rule and authority.

The spirits of just men made perfect] We cannot understand

these terms without the assistance of Jewish phraseology. The

Jews divide mankind into three classes:-

1. The JUST PERFECT, tsaddikim gemurim.

2. The wicked perfect, reshaim gemurim.

3. Those between both, beinoniyim.

1. The just perfect are those, 1. Who have conquered all brutal

appetites and gross passions. 2. Who have stood in the time of

strong temptation. 3. Who give alms with a sincere heart. 4. Who

worship the true God only. 5. Who are not invidious. 6. Those

from whom God has taken yetser hara, evil concupiscence,

and given yetser tob, the good principle.

2. The wicked perfect are those, 1. Who never repent. 2. They

receive their portion in this life, because they can have none in

the life to come, and are under the influence of yetser

hara, the evil principle.

3. The intermediate are those who are influenced partly by the

evil principle, and partly by the good.- See Schoettgen.

In several parts of this epistle τελειος, the just man,

signifies one who has a full knowledge of the Christian system,

who is justified and saved by Christ Jesus; and the τετελειωνεμοι

are the adult Christians, who are opposed to the νηπιοι or babes

in knowledge and grace.

See Heb 5:12-14; 8:11; and Ga 4:1-3.

The spirits of the just men made perfect, or the righteous

perfect, are the full grown Christians; those who are justified by

the blood and sanctified by the Spirit of Christ. Being come to

such, implies that spiritual union which the disciples of Christ

have with each other, and which they possess how far soever

separate; for they are all joined in one spirit, Eph 2:18; they

are in the unity of the spirit, Eph 4:3, 4;

and of one soul, Ac 4:32.

This is a unity which was never possessed even by the Jews

themselves in their best state; it is peculiar to real

Christianity: as to nominal Christianity, wars and desolations

between man and his fellows are quite consistent with its spirit.

See at the end of the chapter. See "Heb 12:29"

Verse 24. And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant] The

old covenant and its mediator, Moses, are passed away. See

Heb 8:13. The new covenant, i.e. the Gospel, is now in force, and

will be to the end of the world; and Jesus, the Son of God, the

brightness of the Father's glory, the Maker and Preserver of all

things, the Saviour and the Judge of all men, is its mediator.

Both the covenant and its mediator are infinitely superior to

those of the Jews, and they are very properly set down here among

the superior benefits and glories of Christianity.

To the blood of sprinkling] This is an allusion, as was before

observed, to the sprinkling of the blood of the covenant sacrifice

upon the people, when that covenant was made upon Mount Sinai; to

the sprinkling of the blood of the sin-offerings before the

mercy-seat; and probably to the sprinkling of the blood of the

paschal lamb on their houses, to prevent their destruction by the

destroying angel. But all these sprinklings were partial and

inefficacious, and had no meaning but as they referred to this:

the blood of sprinkling under the new covenant is ever ready; all

may have it applied; it continues through ages; and is the highest

glory of Christianity, because by it we draw nigh to God, and

through it get our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience; and,

in a word, have an entrance unto the holiest by the blood of

Jesus.

Better things than that of Abel.] God accepted Abel's

sacrifice, and, was well pleased with it; for Abel was a righteous

man, and offered his sacrifice by faith in the great promise. But

the blood of Christ's sacrifice was infinitely more precious than

the blood of Abel's sacrifice, as Jesus is infinitely greater than

Abel; and the blood of Christ avails for the sins of the whole

world, whereas the blood of Abel's sacrifice could avail only for

himself.

Many have supposed that the blood of Abel means here the blood

that was shed by Cain in the murder of this holy man, and that the

blood of Jesus speaks better things than it does, because the

blood of Abel called for vengeance, but the blood of Christ for

pardon; this interpretation reflects little credit on the

understanding of the apostle. To say that the blood of Christ

spoke better things than that of Abel is saying little indeed; it

might speak very little good to any soul of man, and yet speak

better things than that blood of Abel which spoke no kind of good

to any human creature, and only called for vengeance against him

that shed it. The truth is, the sacrifice offered by Abel is that

which is intended; that, as we have already seen, was pleasing in

the sight of God, and was accepted in behalf of him who offered

it: but the blood of Christ is infinitely more acceptable with

God; it was shed for the whole human race, and cleanses all who

believe from all unrighteousness.

Verse 25. See] βλεπετε. Take heed, that ye refuse not him-

the Lord Jesus, the mediator of the new covenant, who now speaketh

from heaven, by his Gospel, to the Jews and to the Gentiles,

having in his incarnation come down from God.

Him that spake on earth] Moses, who spoke on the part of God to

the Hebrews, every transgression of whose word received a just

recompense of reward, none being permitted to escape punishment;

consequently, if ye turn away from Christ, who speaks to you from

heaven, you may expect a much sorer punishment, the offence

against God being so much the more heinous, as the privileges

slighted are more important and glorious.

Verse 26. Whose voice then shook the earth] Namely, at the

giving of the law on Mount Sinai; and from this it seems that it

was the voice of Jesus that then shook the earth, and that it was

he who came down on the mount. But others refer this simply to

God the Father giving the law.

Not the earth only, but also heaven.] Probably referring to the

approaching destruction of Jerusalem, and the total abolition of

the political and ecclesiastical constitution of the Jews; the one

being signified by the earth, the other by heaven; for the Jewish

state and worship are frequently thus termed in the prophetic

writings. And this seems to be the apostle's meaning, as he

evidently refers to Hag 2:6, where this event is predicted. It

may also remotely refer to the final dissolution of all things.

Verse 27. The removing of those things that are shaken] The

whole of the Jewish polity, which had been in a shaken state from

the time that Judea had fallen under the power of the Romans.

As of things that are made] That is, subjects intended to last

only for a time. God never designed that the Jewish religion

should become general, nor be permanent.

Those things which cannot be shaken] The whole Gospel system,

which cannot be moved by the power of man.

May remain.] Be permanent; God designing that this shall be the

last dispensation of his grace and mercy, and that it shall

continue till the earth and the heavens are no more.

Verse 28. We receiving a kingdom] The Gospel dispensation,

frequently termed the kingdom of God and the kingdom of heaven,

because in it God reigns among men, and he reigns in the hearts of

them that believe, and his kingdom is righteousness, peace, and

joy in the Holy Ghost.

Which cannot be moved] Which never can fail, because it is the

last dispensation.

Let us have grace] εξωμενχαριν. Let us have, keep, or hold

fast, the benefit or gift, that is, the heavenly kingdom which God

has given us. This is the meaning of the word, 2Co 8:4, and is

so rendered by our translators; and it is only by this heavenly

gift of the Gospel that we can serve God acceptably, for he can be

pleased with no service that is not performed according to the

Gospel of his Son.

If we prefer the common meaning of the word grace it comes to

the same thing; without the grace-the especial succour and

influence of Christ, we cannot serve, λατρευωμεν, pay religious

worship to God; for he receives no burnt-offering that is not

kindled by fire from his own altar.

Acceptably] ευαρεστως. In such a way as to please him well.

And the offering, with which he is well pleased, he will

graciously accept; and if he accept our service, his Spirit will

testify in our conscience that our ways please him. When Abel

sacrifices, God is well pleased; where Cain offers, there is no

approbation.

Reverence] αιδους. With shamefacedness or modesty.

Godly fear] ευλαβειας. Religious fear. We have boldness to

enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, but let that

boldness be ever tempered with modesty and religious fear; for we

should never forget that we have sinned, and that God is a

consuming fire. Instead of αιδουςκαιευλαβειας, modesty and

religious fear, ACD*, several others, with the Slavonic and

Chrysostom, have ευλαβειαςκαιδεους, and others have ψοβουκαι

τρομου, fear and trembling; but the sense is nearly the same.

Verse 29. For our God is a consuming fire.] The apostle quotes

De 4:24, and by doing so he teaches us this great truth, that sin

under the Gospel is as abominable in God's sight as it was under

the law; and that the man who does not labour to serve God with

the principle and in the way already prescribed, will find that

fire to consume him which would otherwise have consumed his sin.

Additional remarks on verses Heb 12:22-24.

On the whole, I think the description in these verses refers to

the state of the Church here below, and not to any heavenly state.

Let us review the particulars: 1. As the law was given on Mount

Sinai, so the Gospel was given at Mount Sion. 2. As Jerusalem

was the city of the living God while the Jewish dispensation

lasted, (for there was the temple, its services, sacrifices, &c.,)

the Christian Church is now called the heavenly Jerusalem, the

city of the living God. In it is the great sacrifice, in it that

spiritual worship, which God, the infinite Spirit, requires. 3.

The ministry of angels was used under the old covenant, but that

was partial, being granted only to particular persons, such as

Moses, Joshua, Manoah, &c., and only to a few before the law, as

Abraham, Jacob, &c. It is employed under the new covenant in its

utmost latitude, not to a few peculiarly favoured people, but to

all the followers of God in general; so that in this very epistle

the apostle asserts that they are all ministering spirits, sent

forth to minister to them that shall be heirs of salvation. 4. At

the giving of the law, when the Church of the old covenant was

formed, there was a general assembly of the different tribes by

their representatives; in the Gospel Church all who believe in

Christ, of every nation, and kindred, and tongue, form one grand

aggregate body. Believers of all nations, of all languages, of

all climates, however differing in their colour or local habits,

are one in Christ Jesus; one body, of which he is the head, and

the Holy Spirit the soul. 5, The first-born under the old

dispensation had exclusive privileges; they had authority,

emolument, and honour, of which the other children in the same

family did not partake: but under the new, all who believe in

Christ Jesus, with a heart unto righteousness, are equally

children of God, are all entitled to the same privileges; for,

says the apostle, ye are all children of God by faith in Christ,

and to them that received him he gave authority to become the

children of God; so that through the whole of this Divine family

all have equal rights and equal privileges, all have GOD for their

portion, and heaven for their inheritance. 6. As those who had

the rights of citizens were enrolled, and their names entered on

tables, &c., so that it might be known who were citizens, and who

had the rights of such; so all the faithful under the new covenant

are represented as having their names written in heaven, which is

another form of speech for, have a right to that glorious state,

and all the blessings it possesses; there are their possessions,

and there are their rights. 7. Only the high priest, and he but

one day in the year, was permitted to approach God under the Old

Testament dispensation; but under the New, every believer in Jesus

can come even to the throne, each has liberty to enter into the

holiest by the blood of Jesus, and, to real Christians alone it

can be said, Ye are come-to God the Judge of all-to him ye have

constant access, and from him ye are continually receiving grace

upon grace. We have already seen that the righteous perfect, or

the just men made perfect, is a Jewish phrase, and signified those

who had made the farthest advances in moral rectitude. The

apostle uses it here to point out those in the Church of Christ

who had received the highest degrees of grace, possessed most of

the mind of Christ, and were doing and suffering most for the

glory of God; those who were most deeply acquainted with the

things of God and the mysteries of the Gospel, such as the

apostles, evangelists, the primitive teachers, and those who

presided in and over different Churches. And these are termed the

spirits διακαιωντετελειωμενων, of the just perfected, because

they were a spiritual people, forsaking earth, and living in

reference to that spiritual rest that was typified by Canaan. In

short, all genuine Christians had communion with each other,

through God's Spirit, and even with those whose faces they had not

seen in the flesh. 9. Moses, as the servant of God, and mediator

of the old covenant, was of great consequence in the Levitical

economy. By his laws and maxims every thing was directed and

tried; and to him the whole Hebrew people came for both their

civil and religious ordinances: but Christians come to Jesus, the

mediator of the new covenant; he not only stands immediately

between God and man, but reconciles and connects both. From him

we receive the Divine law, by his maxims our conversation is to be

ruled, and he gives both the light and life by which we walk;

these things Moses could not do, and for such spirituality and

excellence the old covenant made no provision; it was therefore a

high privilege to be able to say, Ye are come-to Jesus the

mediator of the new covenant. 10. The Jews had their blood of

sprinkling, but it could not satisfy as touching things which

concerned the conscience; it took away no guilt, it made no

reconciliation to God: but the blood of sprinkling under the

Christian covenant purifies from all unrighteousness; for the

blood of the new covenant was shed for the remission of sins, and

by its infinite merit it still continues to sprinkle and cleanse

the unholy. All these are privileges of infinite consequence to

the salvation of man; privileges which should be highly esteemed

and most cautiously guarded; and because they are so great, so

necessary, and so unattainable in the Levitical economy, therefore

we should lay aside every weight, &c., and run with perseverance

the race that is set before us. I see nothing therefore in these

verses which determines their sense to the heavenly state; all is

suited to the state of the Church of Christ militant here on

earth; and some of these particulars cannot be applied to the

Church triumphant on any rule of construction whatever.

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