Hebrews 13

CHAPTER XIII.

Exhortations to hospitality to Strangers, 1, 2.

Kindness to those in bonds, 3.

Concerning marriage, 4.

Against covetousness, 5, 6.

How they should imitate their teachers, 7, 8.

To avoid strange doctrines, 9.

Of the Jewish sin-offerings, 10, 11.

Jesus suffered without the gate, and we should openly confess

him and bear his reproach, 12, 13.

Here we have no permanent residence; and while we live should

devote ourselves to God, and live to do good, 14-16.

We should obey them that have the rule over us, 17.

The apostle exhorts them to pray for him, that he might be

restored to them the sooner, 18, 19.

Commends them to God in a very solemn prayer, 20, 21.

Entreats them to bear the word of exhortation, mentions Timothy,

and concludes with the apostolical benediction, 22-25.

NOTES ON CHAP. XIII.

Verse 1. Let brotherly love continue.] Be all of one heart

and one soul. Feel for, comfort, and support each other; and

remember that he who professes to love God should love his brother

also. They had this brotherly love among them; they should take

care to retain it. As God is remarkable for his φιλανθρωπια,

philanthropy, or love to man, so should they be for φιλαδελφια, or

love to each other. See the note on "Tit 3:4".

Verse 2. To entertain strangers] In those early times, when

there were scarcely any public inns or houses of entertainment, it

was an office of charity and mercy to receive, lodge, and

entertain travellers; and this is what the apostle particularly

recommends.

Entertained angels] Abraham and Lot are the persons

particularly referred to. Their history, the angels whom they

entertained, not knowing them to be such, and the good they

derived from exercising their hospitality on these occasions, are

well known; and have been particularly referred to in the notes on

Ge 18:3; 19:2.

Verse 3. Remember them that are in bonds] He appears to refer

to those Christian's who were suffering imprisonment for the

testimony of Jesus.

As bound with them] Feel for them as you would wish others to

feel for you were you in their circumstances, knowing that, being

in the body, you are liable to the same evils, and may be called

to suffer in the same way for the same cause.

Verse 4. Marriage is honourable in all] Let this state be

highly esteemed as one of God's own instituting, and as highly

calculated to produce the best interests of mankind. This may

have been said against the opinions of the Essenes, called

Therapeutae, who held marriage in little repute, and totally

abstained from it themselves as a state of comparative

imperfection. At the same time it shows the absurdity of the

popish tenet, that marriage in the clergy is both dishonourable

and sinful; which is, in fact, in opposition to the apostle, who

says marriage is honourable in ALL; and to the institution of God,

which evidently designed that every male and female should be

united in this holy bond; and to nature, which in every part of

the habitable world has produced men and women in due proportion

to each other.

The bed undefiled] Every man cleaving to his own wife, and

every wife cleaving to her own husband, because God will judge,

i.e. punish, all fornicators and adulterers.

Instead of δε but, γαρ, for, is the reading of AD*, one

other, with the Vulgate, Coptic, and one of the Itala; it more

forcibly expresses the reason of the prohibition: Let the bed be

undefiled, FOR whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.

Verse 5. Let your conversation] That is, the whole tenor of

your conduct, τροπος, the manner of your life, or rather the

disposition of your hearts in reference to all your secular

transactions; for in this sense the original is used by the best

Greek writers.

Be without covetousness] Desire nothing more than what God has

given you; and especially covet nothing which the Divine

Providence has given to another man, for this is the very spirit

of robbery.

Content with such things as ye have] αρκουμενοιτοιςπαρουσιν.

Being satisfied with present things. In one of the sentences of

Phocylides we have a sentiment in nearly the same words as that of

the apostle: αρκεισθαιπαρεουσικαιαλλοτριωναπεχεσθαι. Be

content with present things, and abstain from others. The

covetous man is ever running out into futurity with insatiable

desires after secular good; and, if this disposition be not

checked, it increases as the subject of it increases in years.

Covetousness is the vice of old age.

I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.] These words were,

in sum, spoken to Joshua, Jos 1:5: "As I was with Moses, so

will I be with thee; I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee."

They were spoken also by David to Solomon, 1Ch 28:20: "David said

to Solomon his son, Be strong and of good courage, and do it: fear

not, nor be dismayed; for the Lord God, even my God, will be with

thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee." The apostle, in

referring to the same promises, feels authorized to strengthen the

expressions, as the Christian dispensation affords more

consolation and confidence in matters of this kind than the old

covenant did. The words are peculiarly emphatic: ουμησεανω,

ουδουμησεεγκαταλιπω. There are no less than five negatives

in this short sentence, and these connected with two verbs and one

pronoun twice repeated. To give a literal translation is scarcely

possible; it would run in this way: "No, I will not leave thee;

no, neither will I not utterly forsake thee." Those who

understand the genius of the Greek language, and look at the

manner in which these negatives are placed in the sentence, will

perceive at once how much the meaning is strengthened by them, and

to what an emphatic and energetic affirmative they amount.

This promise is made to those who are patiently bearing

affliction or persecution for Christ's sake; and may be applied to

any faithful soul in affliction, temptation, or adversity of any

kind. Trust in the Lord with thy whole heart, and never lean to

thy own understanding; for he hath said, "No, I will never leave

thee; not I: I will never, never cast thee off."

Verse 6. So that we may boldly say] We, in such circumstances,

while cleaving to the Lord, may confidently apply to ourselves

what God spake to Joshua and to Solomon; and what he spake to

David, "The Lord is my helper, I will not fear what man can do."

God is omnipotent, man's power is limited; howsoever strong he may

be, he can do nothing against the Almighty.

Verse 7. Remember them which have the rule over you] This

clause should be translated, Remember your guides, τωνηγουμενων,

who have spoken unto you the doctrine of God. Theodoret's note on

this verse is very judicious: "He intends the saints who were

dead, Stephen the first martyr, James the brother of John, and

James called the Just. And there were many others who were taken

off by the Jewish rage. 'Consider these, (said he,) and,

observing their example, imitate their faith.'" This remembrance

of the dead saints, with admiration of their virtues, and a desire

to imitate them, is, says Dr. Macknight, the only worship which is

due to them from the living.

Considering the end of their conversation] ωναναθεωρουντες

τηνεκβασιντηςαναστροφης. "The issue of whose course of life

most carefully consider." They lived to get good and do good;

they were faithful to their God and his cause; they suffered

persecution; and for the testimony of Jesus died a violent death.

God never left them; no, he never forsook them; so that they were

happy in their afflictions, and glorious in their death.

Carefully consider this; act as they did; keep the faith, and God

will keep you.

Verse 8. Jesus Christ the same yesterday] In all past times

there was no way to the holiest but through the blood of Jesus,

either actually shed, or significantly typified. To-day-he is the

lamb newly slain, and continues to appear in the presence of God

for us. For ever-to the conclusion of time, he will be the way,

the truth, and the life, none coming to the Father but through

him; and throughout eternity, ειςτουςαιωνας, it will appear that

all glorified human spirits owe their salvation to his infinite

merit. This Jesus was thus witnessed of by your guides, who are

already departed to glory. Remember HIM; remember them; and take

heed to yourselves.

Verse 9. Be not carried about] μηπεριφερεσθε. Be not whirled

about. But ABCD, and almost every other MS. of importance, with

the Syriac, Coptic, Arabic, Vulgate, and several of the Greek

fathers, have μηπαραφερεσθε, be not carried away, which is

undoubtedly the true reading, and signifies here, do not

apostatize; permit not yourselves to be carried off from Christ

and his doctrine.

Divers and strange doctrines.] διδαχαιςποικιλαις. Variegated

doctrines; those that blended the law and the Gospel, and brought

in the Levitical sacrifices and institutions in order to perfect

the Christian system. Remember the old covenant is abolished; the

new alone is in force.

Strange doctrines, διδαχαιςξεναις, foreign doctrines; such as

have no apostolical authority to recommend them.

That the heart be established with grace] It is well to have

the heart, the mind, and conscience, fully satisfied with the

truth and efficacy of the Gospel; for so the word χαρις should be

understood here, which is put in opposition to βρωμασιν, meats,

signifying here the Levitical institutions, and especially its

sacrifices, these being emphatically termed meats, because the

offerers were permitted to feast upon them after the blood had

been poured out before the Lord. See Le 7:15; De 12:6, 7.

Which have not profited them] Because they neither took away

guilt, cleansed the heart, nor gave power over sin.

Verse 10. We have an altar] The altar is here put for the

sacrifice on the altar; the Christian altar is the Christian

sacrifice, which is Christ Jesus, with all the benefits of his

passion and death. To these privileges they had no right who

continued to offer the Levitical sacrifices, and to trust in them

for remission of sins.

Verse 11. For the bodies of those beasts] Though in making

covenants, and in some victims offered according to the law, the

flesh of the sacrifice was eaten by the offerers; yet the flesh of

the sin-offering might no man eat: when the blood was sprinkled

before the holy place to make an atonement for their souls, the

skins, flesh, entrails, &c., were carried without the camp, and

there entirely consumed by fire; and this entire consumption,

according to the opinion of some, was intended to show that sin

was not pardoned by such offerings. For, as eating the other

sacrifices intimated they were made partakers of the benefits

procured by those sacrifices, so, not being permitted to eat of

the sin-offering proved that they had no benefit from it, and that

they must look to the Christ, whose sacrifice is pointed out, that

they might receive that real pardon of sin which the shedding of

his blood could alone procure. While, therefore, they continued

offering those sacrifices, and refused to acknowledge the Christ,

they had no right to any of the blessings procured by him, and it

is evident they could have no benefit from their own.

Verse 12. That he might sanctify the people] That he might

consecrate them to God, and make an atonement for their sins, he

suffered without the gate at Jerusalem, as the sin-offering was

consumed without the camp when the tabernacle abode in the

wilderness. Perhaps all this was typical of the abolition of the

Jewish sacrifices, and the termination of the whole Levitical

system of worship. He left the city, denounced its final

destruction, and abandoned it to its fate; and suffered without

the gate to bring the Gentiles to God.

Verse 13. Let us go forth therefore unto him] Let us leave

this city and system, devoted to destruction, and take refuge in

Jesus alone, bearing his reproach-being willing to be accounted

the refuse of all things, and the worst of men, for his sake who

bore the contradiction of sinners against himself, and was put to

death as a malefactor.

Verse 14. For here have we no continuing city] Here is an

elegant and forcible allusion to the approaching destruction of

Jerusalem. The Jerusalem that was below was about to be burnt

with fire, and erased to the ground; the Jerusalem that was from

above was that alone which could be considered to be μενουσαν,

permanent. The words seem to say: "Arise, and depart; for this is

not your rest: it is polluted:" About seven or eight years after

this, Jerusalem was wholly destroyed.

Verse 15. By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of

praise] He has now fulfilled all vision and prophecy, has

offered the last bloody sacrifice which God will ever accept; and

as he is the gift of God's love to the world, let us through him

offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, this being the

substitute for all the Levitical sacrifices.

The Jews allowed that, in the time of the Messiah, all

sacrifices, except the sacrifice of praise, should cease. To this

maxim the apostle appears to allude; and, understood in this way,

his words are much more forcible. In Vayikra Rabba, sect. 9, fol.

153, and Rabbi Tanchum, fol. 55: "Rabbi Phineas, Rabbi Levi, and

Rabbi Jochanan, from the authority of Rabbi Menachem of Galilee,

said, In the time of the Messiah all sacrifice shall cease, except

the sacrifice of praise." This was, in effect, quoting the

authority of one of their own maxims, that now was the time of the

Messiah; that Jesus was that Messiah; that the Jewish sacrificial

system was now abolished; and that no sacrifice would now be

accepted of God, except the sacrifice of praise for the gift of

his Son.

That is, the fruit of our lips] This expression is probably

borrowed from Ho 14:2, in the version of the Septuagint, καρπον

χειλεων which in the Hebrew text is parim sephatheinu,

"the heifers of our lips." This may refer primarily to the

sacrifices, heifers, calves, &c., which they had vowed to God; so

that the calves of their lips were the sacrifices which they had

promised. But how could the Septuagint translate parim,

calves, by καρπον, fruit? Very easily, if they had in their copy

peri, the mem being omitted; and thus the word would be

literally fruit, and not calves. This reading, however, is not

found in any of the MSS. hitherto collated.

Verse 16. But to do good and to communicate] These are

continual sacrifices which God requires, and which will spring

from a sense of God's love in Christ Jesus. Praise to God for his

unspeakable gift, and acts of kindness to men for God's sake. No

reliance, even on the infinitely meritorious sacrifice of Christ,

can be acceptable in the sight of God if a man have not love and

charity towards his neighbour. Praise, prayer, and thanksgiving

to God, with works of charity and mercy to man, are the sacrifices

which every genuine follower of Christ must offer: and they are

the proofs that a man belongs to Christ; and he who does not bear

these fruits gives full evidence, whatever his creed may be, that

he is no Christian.

Verse 17. Obey them that have the rule over you] Obey your

leaders, τοιςηγουμενοις. He is not fit to rule who is not

capable of guiding. See Clarke on Heb 13:7. In the former verse

the apostle exhorts them to remember those who had been their leaders,

and to imitate their faith; in this he exhorts them to obey the

leaders they now had, and to submit to their authority in all

matters of doctrine and discipline, on the ground that they

watched for their souls, and should have to give an account of

their conduct to God. If this conduct were improper, they must

give in their report before the great tribunal with grief; but in

it must be given: if holy and pure, they would give it in with

joy. It is an awful consideration that many pastors, who had

loved their flocks as their own souls, shall be obliged to accuse

them before God for either having rejected or neglected the great

salvation.

Verse 18. Pray for us] Even the success of apostles depended,

in a certain way, on the prayers of the Church. Few Christian

congregations feel, as they ought, that it is their bounden duty

to pray for the success of the Gospel, both among themselves and

in the world. The Church is weak, dark, poor, and imperfect,

because it prays little.

We trust we have a good conscience] We are persuaded that we

have a conscience that not only acquits us of all fraud and

sinister design, but assures us that in simplicity and godly

sincerity we have laboured to promote the welfare of you and of

all mankind.

To live honestly.] ενπασικαλωςθελοντεςαναστρεφεσθαι.

Willing in all things to conduct ourselves well-to behave with

decency and propriety.

Verse 19. The rather to do this] That is, pray for us, that,

being enabled to complete the work which God has given us here to

do, we may be the sooner enabled to visit you. It is evident,

from this, that the people to whom this epistle was written knew

well who was the author of it; nor does there appear, in any

place, any design in the writer to conceal his name, and how the

epistle came to lack a name it is impossible to say. I have

sometimes thought that a part of the beginning might have been

lost, as it not only begins without a name, but begins very

abruptly.

Verse 20. Now the God of peace] We have often seen that peace

among the Hebrews signifies prosperity of every kind. The God of

peace is the same as the God of all blessedness, who has at his

disposal all temporal and eternal good; who loves mankind, and has

provided them a complete salvation.

Brought again from the dead our Lord] As our Lord's sacrificial

death is considered as an atonement offered to the Divine justice,

God's acceptance of it as an atonement is signified by his raising

the human nature of Christ from the dead; and hence this raising

of Christ is, with the utmost propriety, attributed to God the

Father, as this proves his acceptance of the sacrificial offering.

That great Shepherd of the sheep] This is a title of our

blessed Lord, given to him by the prophets; so Isa 40:11;

He shall feed his flock like a shepherd; He shall gather the lambs

with his arms, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead

those which are with young: and Eze 34:23;

I will set up one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them; even

my servant David, (i.e. the beloved, viz. Jesus,) and he shall

feed them, and be their shepherd: and Zec 13:7;

Awake, O sword, against my shepherd-smite the shepherd, and the

flock shall be scattered. In all these places the term shepherd

is allowed to belong to our blessed Lord; and he appropriates it

to himself, Joh 10:11, by calling himself

the good Shepherd, who, lays down his life for the sheep.

Through the blood of the everlasting covenant] Some understand

this in the following way, that "God brought back our Lord from

the dead on account of his having shed his blood to procure the

everlasting covenant." Others, that the Lord Jesus became the

great Shepherd and Saviour of the sheep by shedding his blood to

procure and ratify the everlasting covenant." The sense, however,

will appear much plainer if we connect this with the following

verse: "Now the God of peace, who brought again from the dead,

our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, make you,

through the blood of the everlasting covenant, perfect in every

good work to do his will." The Christian system is termed the

everlasting covenant, to distinguish it from the temporary

covenant made with the Israelites at Mount Sinai; and to show that

it is the last dispensation of grace to the world, and shall

endure to the end of time.

Verse 21. Make you perfect] καταρτισιαυμας. Put you

completely in joint. See Clarke on 2Co 13:9, where the

meaning of the original word is largely considered. From the

following terms we see what the apostle meant by the perfection

for which he prays. They were to do the will of God in every good

work, from God working in them that which is well pleasing in his

sight. 1. This necessarily implies a complete change in the whole

soul, that God may be well pleased with whatsoever he sees in it;

and this supposes its being cleansed from all sin, for God's sight

cannot be pleased with any thing that is unholy. 2. This complete

inward purity is to produce an outward conformity to God's will,

so they were to be made perfect in every good work. 3. The

perfection within and the perfection without were to be produced

by the blood of the everlasting covenant; for although God is

love, yet it is not consistent with his justice or holiness to

communicate any good to mankind but through his Son, and through

him as having died for the offences of the human race.

To whom be glory for ever.] As God does all in, by, and

through Christ Jesus, to him be the honour of his own work

ascribed through time and eternity. Amen.

Verse 22. Suffer the word of exhortation] Bear the word or

doctrine of this exhortation. This seems to be an epithet of this

whole epistle: and as the apostle had in it shown the

insufficiency of the Levitical system to atone for sin and save

the soul; and had proved that it was the design of God that it

should be abolished; and had proved also that it was now abolished

by the coming of Christ, whom he had shown to be a greater priest

than Aaron, higher than all the angels, the only Son of God as to

his human nature, and the Creator, Governor, and Judge of all; and

that their city was shortly to be destroyed; he might suppose that

they would feel prejudiced against him, and thus lose the benefit

of his kind intentions toward them; therefore he entreats them to

bear the exhortation which, notwithstanding the great extent of

the subject, he had included in a short compass.

I have written a letter unto you in few words.] Perhaps it

would be better to translate διαβραχεωνεπεστειλαυμιν, I have

written to you briefly, as επιστελλειν often signifies simply to

write, and this appears to be its meaning here.

Verse 23. Know ye that our brother Timothy] The word ημων,

our, which is supplied by our translators, is very probably

genuine, as it is found in ACD*, ten others, the Syriac, Erpen's

Arabic, the Coptic, Armenian, Slavonic, and Vulgate.

Is set at liberty] απολελυμενον. Is sent away; for there is

no evidence that Timothy had been imprisoned. It is probable that

the apostle refers here to his being sent into Macedonia,

Php 2:19-24, in order that he might bring the apostle an

account of the affairs of the Church in that country. In none of

St. Paul's epistles, written during his confinement in Rome, does

he give any intimation of Timothy's imprisonment, although it

appears from Php 1:1; Col 1:1; Phm 1:1; that he was with

Paul during the greatest part of the time.

With whom, if he come shortly, I will see you.] Therefore Paul

himself, or the writer of this epistle, was now at liberty, as he

had the disposal of his person and time in his own power. Some

suppose that Timothy did actually visit Paul about this time, and

that both together visited the Churches in Judea.

Verse 24. Salute all them that have the rule over you] Salute

all your leaders or guides, τουςηγουμενουςυμων.

See Clarke on Heb 13:7 and "Heb 13:17".

And all the saints.] All the Christians; for this is the

general meaning of the term in most parts of St. Paul's writings.

But a Christian was then a saint, i.e. by profession a holy

person; and most of the primitive Christians were actually such.

But in process of time the term was applied to all that bore the

Christian name; as elect, holy people, sanctified, &c., were to

the nation of the Jews, when both their piety and morality were at

a very low ebb.

They of Italy salute you.] Therefore it is most likely that the

writer of this epistle was then in some part of Italy, from which

he had not as yet removed after his being released from prison.

By they of Italy probably the apostle means the Jew's there who

had embraced the Christian faith. These salutations show what a

brotherly feeling existed in every part of the Christian Church;

even those who had not seen each other yet loved one another, and

felt deeply interested for each other's welfare.

Verse 25. Grace be with you all.] May the Divine favour ever

rest upon you and among you; and may you receive, from that source

of all good, whatsoever is calculated to make you wise, holy,

useful, and happy! And may you be enabled to persevere in the

truth to the end of your lives! Amen. May it be so! May God

seal the prayer by giving the blessings!

THE subscriptions to this epistle are, as in other cases,

various and contradictory.

The VERSIONS are as follow:-

The Epistle to the Hebrews was written from Roman Italy, and

sent by the hand of Timothy.-SYRIAC.

VULGATE nothing, in the present printed copies.

It was written from Italy by Timothy: with the assistance of

God, disposing every thing right, the fourteen epistles of the

blessed Paul are completed, according to the copy from which they

have been transcribed. May the Lord extend his benedictions to

us. Amen.-ARABIC.

The Epistle to the Hebrews is completed. The end.-AETHIOPIC.

Written in Italy, and sent by Timothy.-COPTIC.

The MANUSCRIPTS, and ancient editions taken from MSS., are not

more to be relied on.

To the Hebrews, written from Rome.-CODEX ALEXANDRINUS.

The epistles of Saint Paul the apostle are finished.-COLOPHON,

at the end of this epistle; in one of the first printed Bibles;

and in an ancient MS. of the Vulgate in my own collection.

The end of the Epistle to the Hebrews.-GREEK TEXT of the

COMPLUTENSIAN EDITION.

The Epistle of the blessed Paul to the Hebrews is finished.-LATIN

TEXT of ditto.

To the Hebrews.-The Epistle of Paul the apostle to the

Hebrews.-The Epistle to the Hebrews, written from Italy.-From

Athens.-From Italy by Timothy.-Written in the Hebrew tongue,

&c.-Various MSS.

Written to the Hebrews from Italy by Timothy.-COMMON GREEK TEXT.

That it was neither written from Athens, nor in the Hebrew

tongue, is more than probable; and that it was not sent by

Timothy, is evident from Heb 13:23. For the author, time,

place, and people to whom sent, see the INTRODUCTION.

I. On the term "conscience," as frequently occurring in this

epistle, I beg leave to make a few observations.

Conscience is defined by some to be "that judgment which the

rational soul passes on all her actions;" and is said to be a

faculty of the soul itself, and consequently natural to it. Others

state that it is a ray of Divine light. Milton calls it "God's

umpire;" and Dr. Young calls it a "god in man." To me it seems to

be no other than a faculty capable of receiving light and

conviction from the Spirit of God; and answers the end in

spiritual matters to the soul, that the eye does to the body in

the process of vision. The eye is not light in itself, nor is it

capable of discerning any object, but by the instrumentality of

solar or artificial light; but it has organs properly adapted to

the reception of the rays of light, and the various images of the

objects which they exhibit. When these are present to an eye the

organs of which are perfect, then there is a discernment of those

objects which are within the sphere of vision; but when the light

is absent, there is no perception of the shape, dimensions, size,

or colour of any object, howsoever entire or perfect the optic

nerve and the different humours may be.

In the same manner (comparing spiritual things with natural) the

Spirit of God enlightens that eye of the soul which we call

conscience; it penetrates it with its effulgence; and (speaking as

human language will permit on the subject) it has powers properly

adapted to the reception of the Spirit's emanations, which, when

received, exhibit a real view of the situation, state, &c., of the

soul, as it stands in reference to God and eternity. Thus the

Scripture says, "The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit,"

&c., i.e. it shines into the conscience, and reflects throughout

the soul a conviction, proportioned to the degree of light

communicated, of condemnation or acquittance, according to the end

of its coming.

The late Mr. J. Wesley's definition of conscience, taken in a

Christian sense, is nearly the same with the above: "It is," says

he, "that faculty of the soul which, by the assistance of the

grace of God, sees at one and the same time, 1. Our own tempers

and lives; the real nature and quality of our thoughts, words and

actions. 2. The rule whereby we are to be directed. And 3. The

agreement or disagreement therewith. To express this a little

more largely: Conscience implies, first, the faculty a man has of

knowing himself; of discerning, both in general and in particular,

his temper, words, thoughts, and actions: but this is not possible

for him to do, without the assistance of the Spirit of God;

otherwise self-love, and indeed every other irregular passion,

would disguise and wholly conceal him from himself. It implies,

secondly, a knowledge of the rule whereby he is to be directed in

every particular, which is no other than the written word of God.

Conscience implies, thirdly, a knowledge that all his thoughts,

and words, and actions are conformable to that rule. In all these

offices of conscience, the unction of the holy One is

indispensably needful. Without this, neither could we clearly

discern our lives and tempers, nor could we judge of the rule

whereby we are to walk, nor of our conformity or disconformity to

it. A good conscience is a Divine consciousness of walking in all

things according to the written word of God. It seems, indeed,

that there can be no conscience that has not a regard to God. I

doubt whether the words right and wrong, according to the

Christian system, do not imply, in the very idea of them,

agreement and disagreement to the will and word of God. And if

so, there is no such thing as conscience in a Christian, if we

leave God out of the question." Sermon on Conscience, page 332.

Some of the Greek fathers seem to consider it as an especial

gift of God; a principle implanted immediately by himself. So

Chrysostom, on Psa 7., speaking of conscience, says: φυσικονγαρ

εστικαιπαρατουθεουημινπαρατηναρχηνεντεθεν. It is a

natural thing, but is planted in us by our God from our birth, In

his homily on Isa 6:2, he explains himself more particularly:

θειονγαρεστικαιπαραθεουταιςημετεραιςενιδρυμενον

φυχαις. It is a Divine principle, and is by God himself

implanted in our souls. It is allowed on all hands that it is a

recorder and judge of human actions, which cannot be corrupted, or

be induced to bear a false testimony. Every sense of the body,

and every faculty of the mind, may be weakened, obstructed, or

impaired, but conscience; all other powers may be deceived or

imposed on, but conscience. "No man," says Chrysostom, "can flee

from the judgment of his own conscience, which cannot be shunned.

It cannot be corrupted; it cannot be terrified; it cannot be

flattered or bribed; nor can its testimony be obscured by any

lapse of time." Epist. ad Olymp. This strongly argues its Divine

nature; and, while the Spirit of God strives with man, conscience

has its full influence, and is ever alert in the performance of

its office. Cicero, in his oration for Milo, describes the power

of conscience well in a few words: Magna est vis conscientiae in

utramque partem, ut neque timeant qui nihil commiserint, et poenam

semper ante oculos versari putent qui peccarint. "Great is the

power of conscience in both cases; they fear nothing who know they

have committed no evil; on the contrary, they who have sinned live

in continual dread of punishment." One of our poets has said,

"'Tis conscience that makes cowards of us all." And had we been

sure that Shakespeare was a scholar, we might have supposed that he

had borrowed the thought from Menander.

οσυνιστορωναυτωτικανηθρασυτατος,

ησυνεσιςαυτονδειλοτατονειναιποιει.

If a man be conscious of any crime, although he

were the most undaunted of mankind,

His conscience makes him the most timid of mortals.

Apud Stobaeum, Serm. xxiv., p. 192.

Conscience is sometimes said to be good, bad, tender, seared,

&c.: good, if it acquit or approve; bad, if it condemn or

disapprove; tender, if it be alarmed at the least approach of

evil, and severe in scrutinizing the actions of the mind or body;

and seared, if it feel little alarm, &c., on the commission of

sin. But these epithets can scarcely belong to it if the common

definition of it be admitted; for how can it be said there is a

"tender light," a "dark or hardened light," a "bad god," &c., &c.?

But on the other definition these terms are easily understood,

and are exceedingly proper; e. g. "a good conscience" is one to

which the Spirit of God has brought intelligence of the pardon of

all the sins of the soul, and its reconciliation to God through

the blood of Christ; and this good conscience retained, implies

God's continued approbation of such a person's conduct; see

Ac 23:1; 1Ti 1:5,19; and here, Heb 13:18.

"A bad or evil conscience"' supposes a charge of guilt brought

against the soul by the Holy Spirit, for the breach of the Divine

laws; and which he makes known to it by conscience, as a medium of

conveying his own light to the mind; see Heb 10:22; 1Ti 4:2;

Tit 1:3.

"A tender conscience" implies one fully irradiated by the light of

the Holy Ghost, which enables the soul to view the good as good,

and the evil as evil, in every important respect; which leads it

to abominate the latter, and cleave to the former; and, if at any

time it act in the smallest measure opposite to these views, it is

severe in its reprehensions, and bitter in its regret. "A

darkened or hardened conscience" means one that has little or none

of this Divine light; consequently, the soul feels little or no

self-reprehension for acts of transgression, but runs on in sin,

and is not aware of the destruction that awaits it, heedless of

counsel, and regardless of reproof. This state of the soul St.

Paul calls by the name of a "seared conscience," or one cauterized

by repeated applications of sin, and resistings of the Holy Ghost;

so that, being grieved and quenched, he has withdrawn his light

and influence from it.

The word conscience itself ascertains the above explication with

its deductions, being compounded of con, together, or with, and

scio, to know, because it knows or convinces by or together

with the Spirit of God. The Greek word συνειδησις, which is the

only word used for conscience through the whole New Testament, has

the very same meaning, being compounded of συν, together or with,

and ειδω, to know. This is the same as συνειδος, which is the

word generally used among ecclesiastical writers.

From the above view of the subject I think we are warranted in

drawing the following inferences:-

1. All men have what is called conscience; and conscience

plainly supposes the light or Spirit of God. 2. The Spirit of God

is given to enlighten, convince, strengthen, and bring men back to

God. 3. Therefore all men may be saved who attend to and coincide

with the light and convictions communicated; for the God of the

Christians does not give men his Spirit to enlighten, &c., merely

to leave them without excuse; but that it may direct, strengthen,

and lead them to himself, that they may be finally saved. 4. That

this spirit comes from the grace of God is demonstrable from

hence: it is a " good and perfect gift," and St. James says all

such come from the Father of lights. Again, it cannot be merited,

for as it implies the influence of the Holy Spirit, it must be of

an infinite value; yet it is GIVEN; that then which is not merited

and yet is given must be of grace; not ineffectual grace, there

is no such principle in the Godhead.

Thus it appears all men are partakers of the grace of God, for

all acknowledge that conscience is common to all; and this is but

a recipient faculty, and necessarily implies the spirit of grace

given by Jesus Christ, not that the world might be thereby

condemned, but that it might be saved. Nevertheless, multitudes,

who are partakers of this heavenly gift, sin against it, lose it,

and perish everlastingly, not through the deficiency of the gift,

but through the abuse of it. I conclude that conscience is not a

power of the soul, acting by or of itself; but a recipient

faculty, in which that true light that lighteth every man that

cometh into the world has its especial operation.

II. In this chapter the apostle inculcates the duty of

hospitality, particularly in respect to entertaining strangers;

i.e. persons of whom we know nothing, but that they are now in a

state of distress, and require the necessaries of life. Some,

says the apostle, have entertained angels without knowing them;

and some, we may say, have entertained great men, kings, and

emperors, without knowing them. By exercising this virtue many

have gained; few have ever lost.

God, in many parts of his own word, is represented as the

stranger's friend; and there is scarcely a duty in life which he

inculcates in stronger terms than that of hospitality to

strangers. The heathen highly applauded this virtue; and among

them the person of a stranger was sacred, and supposed to be under

the particular protection of Jove, Homer gives the sentiment in

all its beauty when he puts the following words into the mouth of

Eumaeus, when he addressed Ulysses, who appeared a forlorn

stranger, and, being kindly received by him, implored in his

behalf a Divine blessing:-

ζευςτοιδοιηξεινεκαιαθανατοιθεοιαλλοι

οττιμαλιστεθελειςοτιμεπροφρωνυπεδεξο.

τονδαπαμειβομενοςπροσεφηςευμαιεσυβωτα.

ξεινουμοιθεμιςεστουδεικακιωνσεθενελθοι,

ξεινονατιμησαιπροςθαπδιοςεισιναπαντες

ξεινοιτεπτωχοιτεδοσιςδαλιγητεφιλητε

γιγνεταιημετερη. ODYSS., lib. xiv., v. 53.

My gentle host, Jove grant thee, and the gods

All grant thee, for this deed thy best desire!

To whom the herd Eumaeus thus replied;

My guest, it were unjust to treat with scorn

The stranger, though a poorer should arrive

Than even thou; for all the poor that are,

And all the strangers, are the care of Jove.

Little, and with good will, is all that lies

Within my scope. COWPER.

The Scriptures which more particularly recommend this duty are

the following: He doth execute the judgment of the fatherless and

widow, and loveth the stranger, in giving him food and raiment.

Love ye, therefore, the stranger; for ye were strangers in the

land of Egypt; De 10:18, 19.

I was a stranger, and ye took me in. Come, ye blessed of my Father,

Mt 25:35.

Given to hospitality; Ro 12:13.

Neglect not to entertain strangers; Heb 13:2.

"The entertaining of unknown strangers," says Dr. Owen, "which

was so great a virtue in ancient times, is almost driven out of

the world by the wickedness of it. The false practices of some,

with wicked designs, under the habit and pretence of strangers, on

the one hand, and pretences for sordid covetousness on the other,

have banished it from the earth. And there are enough who are

called Christians who never once thought it to be their duty."

But it is vain to inculcate the duty where the spirit of it is not

found; and we shall never find the spirit of it in any heart where

the love of God and man does not rule.

Benevolent wishes of Be ye warmed and Be ye clothed are frequent

enough; these cost nothing, and therefore can be readily used by

the most parsimonious.

But to draw out a man's soul to the hungry, to draw out his

warmest affections, while he is drawing out, in order to divide

with the destitute, the contents of his purse, belongs to the man

of genuine feeling; and this can scarcely be expected where the

compassionate mind that was in Christ does not rule. One

bountiful meal to the poor may often be a preventive of death; for

there are times in which a man may be brought so low for want of

proper nourishment that, if he get not a timely supply, after-help

comes in vain, nature being too far exhausted ever to recover

itself, though the vital spark may linger long. One wholesome

meal in time may be the means of enabling nature to contend

successfully with after privations; and he who has afforded this

meal to the destitute has saved a life. "But most who go about

seeking relief are idle persons and impostors, and it would be

sinful to relieve them." When you know the applicant to be such,

then refuse his suit; but if you have nothing but suspicion, which

suspicion generally arises from an uncharitable and unfeeling

heart, then beware how you indulge it. If, through such

suspicion, a man should lose his life, God will require his blood

at your hand.

Reader, permit me to relate an anecdote which I have heard from

that most eminent man of God, the reverend John Wesley; it may put

thee in mind to entertain strangers. "At Epworth, in Lincolnshire,

where (says he) I was born, a poor woman came to a house in the

market-place and begged a morsel of bread, saying, I am very

hungry. The master of the house called her a lazy jade, and bade

her be gone. She went forward, called at another house, and asked

for a little small-beer, saying, I am very thirsty. Here she was

refused, and told to go to the workhouse. She struggled on to a

third door and begged a little water, saying, I am faint. The

owner drove her away, saying, He would encourage no common

beggars. It was winter, and the snow lay upon the ground. The

boys, seeing a poor ragged creature driven away from door to door,

began to throw snow-balls at her. She went to a little distance,

sat down on the ground, lifted up her eyes to heaven, reclined on

the earth, and expired!" Here was a stranger; had the first to

whom she applied relieved her with a morsel of bread, he would

have saved her life, and not been guilty of blood. As the case

stood, the woman was murdered; and those three householders will

stand arraigned at the bar of God for her death. Reader, fear to

send any person empty away. If you know him to be an impostor,

why then give him nothing. But if you only suspect it, let not

your suspicion be the rule of your conduct; give something,

however little; because that little may be sufficient to preserve

him, if in real want, from present death. If you know him not to

be a knave, to you he may be an angel. God may have sent him to

exercise your charity, and try your faith. It can never be a

matter of regret to you that you gave an alms for God's sake,

though you should afterwards find that the person to whom you gave

it was both a hypocrite and impostor. Better to be imposed on by

ninety-nine hypocrites out of a hundred applicants, than send one,

like the poor Epworth woman, empty away.

Finished correcting this epistle for a new edition,

Dec. 30, 1831-A. C.

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