Hebrews 5


The nature of the high priesthood of Christ; his pre-eminence,

qualifications, and order, 1-10.

Imperfect state of the believing Hebrews, and the necessity of

spiritual improvement, 11-14.


Verse 1. For every high priest taken from among men] This

seems to refer to Le 21:10, where it is intimated that the high

priest shall be taken meachaiv, from his brethren; i.e. he

shall be of the tribe of Levi, and of the family of Aaron.

Is ordained for men] υπεραντρωπωνκαθισταταιταπροςτον

θεον. Is appointed to preside over the Divine worship in those

things which relate to man's salvation.

That he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins] God ever

appeared to all his followers in two points of view: 1. As the

author and dispenser of all temporal good. 2. As their lawgiver

and judge. In reference to this twofold view of the Divine Being,

his worship was composed of two different parts: 1. Offerings or

gifts. 2. Sacrifices. 1. As the creator and dispenser of all

good, he had offerings by which his bounty and providence were

acknowledged. 2. As the lawgiver and judge, against whose

injunctions offences had been committed, he had sacrifices offered

to him to make atonement for sin. The δωρα, or gifts, mentioned

here by the apostle, included every kind of eucharistical

offering. The θυσιαι, sacrifices, included victims of every

sort, or animals whose lives were to be offered in sacrifice, and

their blood poured out before God, as an atonement for sins. The

high priest was the mediator between God and the people; and it

was his office, when the people had brought these gifts and

sacrifices, to offer them to God in their behalf. The people

could not legitimately offer their own offerings, they must be all

brought to the priest, and he alone could present them to God. As

we have a high priest over the house of God, to offer all our

gifts and his own sacrifice, therefore we may come with boldness to

the throne of grace. See above.

Verse 2. Who can have compassion on the ignorant] The word

μετριοπαθειν, signifies, not merely to have compassion, but to act

with moderation, and to bear with each in proportion to his

ignorance, weakness, and untoward circumstances, all taken into

consideration with the offences he has committed: in a word, to

pity, feel for, and excuse, as far as possible; and, when the

provocation is at the highest, to moderate one's passion towards

the culprit, and be ready to pardon; and when punishment must be

administered, to do it in the gentlest manner.

Instead of αγνοουσι, the ignorant, one MS. only, but that of high

repute, has ασθενουσι, the weak. Most men sin much through

ignorance, but this does not excuse them if they have within reach

the means of instruction. And the great majority of the human

race sin through weakness. The principle of evil is strong in

them; the occasions of sin are many; through their fall from God

they are become exceedingly weak; and what the apostle calls,

Heb 12:1,

that ευπεριστατοναμαρτιαν, the well-circumstanced sin, often

occurs to every man. But, as in the above ease, weakness itself

is no excuse, when the means of strength and succour are always at

hand. However, all these are circumstances which the Jewish high

priest took into consideration, and they are certainly not less

attended to by the High Priest of our profession.

The reason given why the high priest should be slow to punish

and prone to forgive is, that he himself is also compassed with

weakness; περικειταιασθενειαν; weakness lies all around him, it

is his clothing; and as he feels his clothing, so should he feel

it; and as he feels it, so he should deplore it, and compassionate


Verse 3. And by reason hereof] As he is also a transgressor

of the commands of God, and unable to observe the law in its

spirituality, he must offer sacrifices for sin, not only for the

people, but for himself also: this must teach him to have a fellow

feeling for others.

Verse 4. This honour] τηντιμην undoubtedly signifies here the

office, which is one meaning of the word in the best Greek

writers. It is here an honourable office, because the man is the

high priest of God, and is appointed by God himself to that office.

But he that is called of God, as was Aaron.] God himself

appointed the tribe and family out of which the high priest was to

be taken, and Aaron and his sons were expressly chosen by God to

fill the office of the high priesthood. As God alone had the

right to appoint his own priest for the Jewish nation, and man had

no authority here; so God alone could provide and appoint a high

priest for the whole human race. Aaron was thus appointed for

the Jewish people; Christ, for all mankind.

Some make this "an argument for the uninterrupted succession of

popes and their bishops in the Church, who alone have the

authority to ordain for the sacerdotal office; and whosoever is

not thus appointed is, with them, illegitimate." It is idle to

employ time in proving that there is no such thing as an

uninterrupted succession of this kind; it does not exist, it never

did exist. It is a silly fable, invented by ecclesiastical

tyrants, and supported by clerical coxcombs. But were it even

true, it has nothing to do with the text. It speaks merely of the

appointment of a high priest, the succession to be preserved in

the tribe of Levi, and in the family of Aaron. But even this

succession was interrupted and broken, and the office itself was

to cease on the coming of Christ, after whom there could be no

high priest; nor can Christ have any successor, and therefore he

is said to be a priest for ever, for he ever liveth the

intercessor and sacrifice for mankind. The verse, therefore, has

nothing to do with the clerical office, with preaching God's holy

word, or administering the sacraments; and those who quote it in

this way show how little they understand the Scriptures, and how

ignorant they are of the nature of their own office.

Verse 5. Christ glorified not himself] The man Jesus Christ,

was also appointed by God to this most awful yet glorious office,

of being the High Priest of the whole human race. The Jewish high

priest represented this by the sacrifices of beasts which he

offered; the Christian High Priest must offer his own life: Jesus

Christ did so; and, rising from the dead, he ascended to heaven,

and there ever appeareth in the presence of God for us. Thus he

has reassumed the sacerdotal office; and because he never dies, he

can never have a successor. He can have no vicars, either in

heaven or upon earth; those who pretend to be such are impostors,

and are worthy neither of respect nor credit.

Thou art my Son] See on Heb 1:5, and the observations at the

end of that chapter. And thus it appears that God can have no

high priest but his Son; and to that office none can now pretend

without blasphemy, for the Son of God is still the High Priest in

his temple.

Verse 6. He saith also in another place] That is, in Ps 110:4,

a psalm of extraordinary importance, containing a very striking

prediction of the birth, preaching, suffering, death, and

conquests of the Messiah. See the notes there. For the mode of

quotation here, See the note on "He 2:6".

Thou art a priest for ever] As long as the sun and moon endure,

Jesus will continue to be high priest to all the successive

generations of men, as he was the lamb slain from the foundation

of the world. If he be a priest for ever, there can be no

succession of priests; and if he have all power in heaven and in

earth, and if he be present wherever two or three are gathered

together in his name, he can have no vicars; nor can the Church

need one to act in his place, when he, from the necessity of his

nature, fills all places, and is everywhere present. This one

consideration nullifies all the pretensions of the Romish pontiff,

and proves the whole to be a tissue of imposture.

After the order of Melchisedec.] Who this person was must still

remain a secret. We know nothing more of him than is written in

Ge 14:18, &c., where see the notes, and particularly the

observations at the end of that chapter, in which this very

mysterious person is represented as a type of Christ.

Verse 7. Who in the days of his flesh] The time of his

incarnation, during which he took all the infirmities of human

nature upon him, and was afflicted in his body and human soul just

as other men are, irregular and sinful passions excepted.

Offered up prayers and supplications] This is one of the most

difficult places in this epistle, if not in the whole of the New

Testament. The labours of learned men upon it have been

prodigious; and even in their sayings it is hard to find the


I shall take a general view of this and the two following

verses, and then examine the particular expressions.

It is probable that the apostle refers to something in the agony

of our Lord, which the evangelists have not distinctly marked.

The Redeemer of the world appears here as simply man; but he is

the representative of the whole human race. He must make

expiation for sin by suffering, and he can suffer only as man.

Suffering was as necessary as death; for man, because he has

sinned, must suffer, and because he has broken the law, should

die. Jesus took upon himself the nature of man, subject to all

the trials and distresses of human nature. He is now making

atonement; and he begins with sufferings, as sufferings commence

with human life; and he terminates with death, as that is the end

of human existence in this world. Though he was the Son of God,

conceived and born without sin, or any thing that could render him

liable to suffering or death, and only suffered and died through

infinite condescension; yet, to constitute him a complete Saviour,

he must submit to whatever the law required; and therefore he is

stated to have learned OBEDIENCE by the things which he suffered,

Heb 5:8,

that is, subjection to all the requisitions of the law; and being

made perfect, that is, having finished the whole by dying, he, by

these means, became the author of eternal salvation to all them

who obey him, Heb 5:9; to them who, according to his own

command, repent and believe the Gospel, and, under the influence

of his Spirit, walk in holiness of life. "But he appears to be

under the most dreadful apprehension of death; for he offered up

prayers and supplications, with strong crying and tears, unto him

that was able to save him from death, Heb 5:7." I shall consider

this first in the common point of view, and refer to the

subsequent notes. This fear of death was in Christ a widely

different thing from what it is in men; they fear death because of

what lies beyond the grave; they have sinned, and they are afraid

to meet their Judge. Jesus could have no fear on these grounds:

he was now suffering for man, and he felt as their expiatory

victim; and God only can tell, and perhaps neither men nor angels

can conceive, how great the suffering and agony must be which, in

the sight of infinite Justice, was requisite to make this

atonement. Death, temporal and eternal, was the portion of man;

and now Christ is to destroy death by agonizing and dying! The

tortures and torments necessary to effect this destruction Jesus

Christ alone could feel, Jesus Christ alone could sustain, Jesus

Christ alone can comprehend. We are referred to them in this most

solemn verse; but the apostle himself only drops hints, he does

not attempt to explain them: he prayed; he supplicated with

strong crying and tears; and he was heard in reference to that

which he feared. His prayers, as our Mediator, were answered; and

his sufferings and death were complete and effectual as our

sacrifice. This is the glorious sum of what the apostle here

states; and it is enough. We may hear it with awful respect; and

adore him with silence whose grief had nothing common in it to

that of other men, and is not to be estimated according to the

measures of human miseries. It was:-

A weight of wo, more than whole worlds could bear.

I shall now make some remarks on particular expressions, and

endeavour to show that the words may be understood with a shade of

difference from the common acceptation.

Prayers and supplications, &c.] There may be an allusion here

to the manner in which the Jews speak of prayer, &c. "Rabbi

Yehudah said: All human things depend on repentance and the

prayers which men make to the holy blessed God; especially if

tears be poured out with the prayers. There is no gate which

tears will not pass through." Sohar, Exod., fol. 5.

"There are three degrees of prayer, each surpassing the other in

sublimity; prayer, crying, and tears: prayer is made in silence;

crying, with a loud voice; but tears surpass all." Synops. Sohar,

p. 33.

The apostle shows that Christ made every species of prayer, and

those especially by which they allowed a man must be successful

with his Maker.

The word ικετηριας, which we translate supplications, exists in

no other part of the New Testament. ικετης signifies a

supplicant, from ικομαι, I come or approach; it is used in

this connection by the purest Greek writers. Nearly the same

words are found in Isocrates, De Pace: ικετηριαςπολλαςκαι

δεησειςποιουμενοι. Making many supplications and prayers.

ικετηρια, says Suidas, καλειταιελαιαςκλαδοςστεμματι


χειραςεχουσις. "Hiketeria is a branch of olive, rolled round

with wool-is what suppliants were accustomed to deposite in some

place, or to carry in their hands." And ικετης, hiketes, he

defines to be, οδουλοπρεπωςπαρακαλωνκαιδεομενοςπεριτινος

οτουουν. "He who, in the most humble and servile manner, entreats

and begs any thing from another." In reference to this custom the

Latins used the phrase velamenta pratendere, "to hold forth these

covered branches," when they made supplication; and Herodian calls

them ικετηριαςθαλλους, "branches of supplication." Livy mentions

the custom frequently; see lib. xxv. cap. 25: lib. xxix. c. 16;

lib. xxxv. c. 34; lib. xxxvi. c. 20. The place in lib. xxix.

c. 16, is much to the point, and shows us the full force of the

word, and nature of the custom. "Decem legati Locrensium, obsiti

squalore et sordibus, in comitio sedentibus consulibus velamenta

supplicium, ramos oleae (ut Graecis mos est,) porrigentes, ante

tribunal cum flebili vociferatione humi procubuerunt." "Ten

delegates from the Locrians, squalid and covered with rags, came

into the hall where the consuls were sitting, holding out in their

hands olive branches covered with wool, according to the custom of

the Greeks; and prostrated themselves on the ground before the

tribunal, with weeping and loud lamentation." This is a

remarkable case, and may well illustrate our Lord's situation and

conduct. The Locrians, pillaged, oppressed, and ruined by the

consul, Q. Plemmius, send their delegates to the Roman government

to implore protection and redress they, the better to represent

their situation, and that of their oppressed fellow citizens, take

the hiketeria, or olive branch wrapped round with wool, and

present themselves before the consuls in open court, and with

wailing and loud outcries make known their situation. The senate

heard, arrested Plemmius, loaded him with chains, and he expired

in a dungeon. Jesus Christ, the representative of and delegate

from the whole human race, oppressed and ruined by Satan and sin,

with the hiketeria, or ensign of a most distressed suppliant,

presents himself before the throne of God, with strong crying and

tears, and prays against death and his ravages, in behalf of those

whose representative he was; and he was heard in that he

feared-the evils were removed, and the oppressor cast down. Satan

was bound, he was spoiled of his dominion, and is reserved in

chains of darkness to the judgment of the great day.

Every scholar will see that the words of the Roman historian

answer exactly to those of the apostle; and the allusion in both

is to the same custom. I do not approve of allegorizing or

spiritualizing; but the allusion and similarity of the expressions

led me to make this application. Many others would make more of

this circumstance, as the allusion in the text is so pointed to

this custom. Should it appear to any of my readers that I should,

after the example of great names, have gone into this house of

Rimmon, and bowed myself there, they will pardon their servant in

this thing.

To save him from death] I have already observed that Jesus

Christ was the representative of the human race; and have made

some observations on the peculiarity of his sufferings, following

the common acceptation of the words in the text, which things are

true, howsoever the text may be interpreted. But here we may

consider the pronoun αυτον, him, as implying the collective body

of mankind; the children who were partakers of flesh and blood,

Heb 2:14;

the seed of Abraham, Heb 2:16,

who through fear of death were all their life subject to bondage.

So he made supplication with strong crying and tears to him who

was able to save THEM from death; for I consider the τουτους,

them, of Heb 2:15, the same or implying the same thing as

αυτον, him, in this verse; and, thus understood, all the

difficulty vanishes away. On this interpretation I shall give a

paraphrase of the whole verse: Jesus Christ, in the days of his

flesh, (for he was incarnated that he might redeem the seed of

Abraham, the fallen race of man,) and in his expiatory sufferings,

when representing the whole human race, offered up prayers and

supplications, with strong crying and tears, to him who was able

to save THEM from death: the intercession was prevalent, the

passion and sacrifice were accepted, the sting of death was

extracted, and Satan was dethroned.

If it should be objected that this interpretation occasions a

very unnatural change of person in these verses, I may reply that

the change made by my construction is not greater than that made

between verses 6 and 7; in the first of which the apostle speaks

of Melchisedec, who at the conclusion of the verse appears to be

antecedent to the relative who in Heb 5:7; and yet, from the

nature of the subject, we must understand Christ to be meant. And

I consider, Heb 5:8,

Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which

he suffered, as belonging, not only to Christ considered in his

human nature, but also to him in his collective capacity; i.e.,

belonging to all the sons and daughters of God, who, by means of

suffering and various chastisements, learn submission, obedience

and righteousness; and this very subject the apostle treats in

considerable detail in Heb 12:2-11, to which the reader

will do well to refer.

Verse 8. Though he were a Son] See the whole of the preceding


Verse 9. And being made perfect] καιτελειωθεις. And having

finished all-having died and risen again. τελειωθηναι

signifies to have obtained the goal; to have ended one's labour,

and enjoyed the fruits of it. Heb 12:23:

The spirits of just men made perfect, πνευμασιδικαιων

τετελειωμενων, means the souls of those who have gained the goal,

and obtained the prize. So, when Christ had finished his course

of tremendous sufferings, and consummated the whole by his death

and resurrection, he became αιτιοςσωτηριαςαιωνιος, the cause of

eternal salvation unto all them who obey him. He was consecrated

both highs priest and sacrifice by his offering upon the cross.

"In this verse," says Dr. Macknight, "three things are clearly

stated: 1. That obedience to Christ is equally necessary to

salvation with believing on him. 2. That he was made perfect as a

high priest by offering himself a sacrifice for sin, Heb 8:3.

3. That, by the merit of that sacrifice, he hath obtained pardon

and eternal life for them who obey him." He tasted death for

every man; but he is the author and cause of eternal salvation

only to them who obey him. It is not merely believers, but

obedient believers, that shall be finally saved. Therefore this

text is an absolute, unimpeachable evidence, that it is not the

imputed obedience of Christ that saves any man. Christ has bought

men by his blood; and by the infinite merit of his death he has

purchased for them an endless glory; but, in order to be prepared

for it, the sinner must, through that grace which God withholds

from no man, repent, turn from sin, believe on Jesus as being a

sufficient ransom and sacrifice for his soul, receive the gift of

the Holy Ghost, be a worker together with him, walk in conformity

to the Divine will through this Divine aid, and continue faithful

unto death, through him, out of whose fulness he may receive grace

upon grace.

Verse 10. Called of God a high priest] προσαγορευθεις. Being

constituted, hailed, and acknowledged to be a high priest. In

Hesychius we find προσαγορευει, which he translates ασπαζεται.

hence we learn that one meaning of this word is to salute; as when

a man was constituted or anointed king, those who accosted him

would say, Hail king! On this verse Dr. Macknight has the

following note, with the insertion of which the reader will not be

displeased: "As our Lord, in his conversation with the Pharisees,

recorded Mt 22:43, spake of it as a thing certain of itself, and

universally known and acknowledged by the Jews, that David wrote

the 110th Psalm by inspiration, concerning the Christ or Messiah;

the apostle was well founded in applying the whole of that Psalm

to Jesus. Wherefore, having quoted the fourth verse, Thou art a

priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec, as directed to

Messiah, David's Lord, he justly termed that speech of the Deity a

salutation of Jesus, according to the true import of the word

προσαγορευθεις, which properly signifies to address one by his

name, or title, or office; accordingly Hesychius explains

προσαγορευομαι by ασπαζομαι. Now, that the deep meaning of this

salutation may be understood, I observe, First, that, by the

testimony of the inspired writers, Jesus sat down at the right

hand of God when he returned to heaven, after having finished his

ministry upon earth; Mr 16:19; Ac 7:56; Heb 1:3; 8:1; 1Pe 3:22.

Not, however, immediately, but after that he had offered the

sacrifice of himself in heaven, by presenting his crucified body

before the presence of God; Heb 1:3; 10:10.

Secondly, I observe, that God's saluting Messiah a priest after

the order of Melchisedec, being mentioned in the psalm after God is

said to have invited him to sit at his right hand, it is

reasonable to think the salutation was given him after he had

offered the sacrifice of himself; and had taken his seat at God's

right hand. Considered in this order, the salutation of Jesus, as

a priest after the order of Melchisedec, was a public declaration

on the part of God that he accepted the sacrifice of himself,

which Jesus then offered, as a sufficient atonement for the sin of

the world, and approved of the whole of his ministrations on

earth, and confirmed all the effects of that meritorious

sacrifice, And whereas we are informed in the psalm that, after

God had invited his Son, in the human nature; to sit at his right

hand as Governor of the world, and foretold the blessed fruits of

his government, he published the oath by which he made him a

Priest for ever, before he sent him into the world to accomplish

the salvation of mankind; and declared that he would never repent

of that oath: The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent; Thou art

a Priest for ever after the similitude of Melchisedec. It was, in

effect, a solemn publication of the method in which God would

pardon sinners; and a promise that the effects of his Son's

government as a King, and of his ministrations as a Priest, should

be eternal; see Heb 6:20. Moreover, as this solemn

declaration of the dignity of the Son of God, as a King and a

Priest for ever in the human nature, was made in the hearing of

the angelical hosts, it was designed for this instruction, that

they might understand their subordination to God's Son, and pay

him that homage that is due to him as Governor of the world, and

as Saviour of the human race; Php 2:9, 10; Heb 1:6. The

above explanation of the import of God's saluting Jesus a Priest

for ever, is founded on the apostle's reasonings in the seventh

and following chapters, where he enters into the deep meaning of

the oath by which that salutation was conferred."

Verse 11. Of whom we have many things to say] The words περι

ου, which we translate of whom, are variously applied: 1. To

Melchisedec; 2. To Christ; 3. To the endless priesthood. Those

who understand the place of Melchisedec, suppose that it is in

reference to this that the apostle resumes the subject in the

seventh chapter, where much more is said on this subject, though

not very difficult of comprehension; and indeed it is not to be

supposed that the Hebrews could be more capable of understanding

the subject when the apostle wrote the seventh chapter than they

were when, a few hours before, he had written the fifth. It is

more likely, therefore, that the words are to be understood as

meaning Jesus, or that endless priesthood, of which he was a

little before speaking, and which is a subject that carnal

Christians cannot easily comprehend.

Hard to be uttered] δυσερμηνευτος. Difficult to be interpreted,

because Melchisedec was a typical person. Or if it refer to the

priesthood of Christ, that is still more difficult to be

explained, as it implies, not only his being constituted a priest

after this typical order, but his paying down the ransom for the

sins of the whole world; and his satisfying the Divine justice by

this sacrifice, but also thereby opening the kingdom of heaven to

all believers, and giving the whole world an entrance to the holy

of holies by his blood.

Dull of hearing.] νωθροιταιςακοαις. Your souls do not keep

pace with the doctrines and exhortations delivered to you. As

νωθρος signifies a person who walks heavily and makes little

speed, it is here elegantly applied to those who are called to the

Christian race, have the road laid down plain before them, how to

proceed specified, and the blessings to be obtained enumerated,

and yet make no exertions to get on, but are always learning, and

never able to come to the full knowledge of the truth.

Verse 12. For when for the time] They had heard the Gospel for

many years, and had professed to be Christians for a long time; on

these accounts they might reasonably have been expected to be well

instructed in Divine things, so as to be able to instruct others.

Which be the first principles] τιναραστοιχεια. Certain

first principles or elements. The word τινα is not the

nominative plural, as our translators have supposed, but the

accusative case, governed by διδασκειν. and therefore the literal

translation of the passage is this: Ye have need that one teach

you a second time (παλιν) certain elements of the doctrines of

Christ, or oracles of God; i.e. the notices which the prophets

gave concerning the priesthood of Jesus Christ, such as are found

in Psa. 110:, and in Isa. 53: By the oracles of God the writings

of the Old Testament, are undoubtedly meant.

And are become such] The words seem to intimate that they had

once been better instructed, and had now forgotten that teaching;

and this was occasioned by their being dull of hearing; either

they had not continued to hear, or they had heard so carelessly

that they were not profited by what they heard. They had probably

totally omitted the preaching of the Gospel, and consequently

forgotten all they had learned. Indeed, it was to reclaim those

Hebrews from backsliding, and preserve them from total apostasy,

that this epistle was written.

Such as have need of milk] Milk is a metaphor by which many

authors, both sacred and profane, express the first principles of

religion and science; and they apply sucking to learning; and

every student in his novitiate, or commencement of his studies,

was likened to an infant that derives all its nourishment from the

breast of its mother, not being able to digest any other kind of

food. On the contrary, those who had well learned all the first

principles of religion and science, and knew how to apply them,

were considered as adults who were capable of receiving στερεα

τροφη, solid food; i.e. the more difficult and sublime doctrines.

The rabbins abound with this figure; it occurs frequently in

Philo, and in the Greek ethic writers also. In the famous Arabic

poem called [Arabic] al Bordah, written by Abi Abdallah Mohammed

ben Said ben Hamad Albusiree, in praise of Mohammed and his

religion, every couplet of which ends with the letter [Arabic]

mim, the first letter in Mohammed's name, we meet with a couplet

that contains a similar sentiment to that of the apostle:-



"The soul is like to a young infant, which, if permitted, will

grow up to manhood in the love of sucking; but if thou take it

from the breast it will feel itself weaned."

Dr. Owen observes that there are two Sorts of hearers of the

Gospel, which are here expressed by an elegant metaphor or

similitude; this consists, 1. In the conformity that is between

bodily food and the Gospel as preached. 2. In the variety of

natural food as suited to the various states of them that feed on

it, answered by the truths of the Gospel, which are of various

kinds; and, in exemplification of this metaphor, natural food is

reduced to two kinds: 1. milk; 2. strong or solid meat; and those

who feed on these are reduced to two sorts: 1. children; 2. men of

ripe age. Both of which are applied to hearers of the Gospel.

1. Some there are who are νηπιοι, babes or infants, and some

are τελειοι, perfect or full grown.

2. These babes are described by a double properly:

1. They are dull of hearing;

2. They are unskilful in the word of righteousness.

In opposition to this, those who are spiritually adult are,

1. They who are capable of instruction.

2. Such as have their senses exercised to discern both good

and evil.

3. The different means to be applied to these different sorts

for their good, according to their respective conditions, are

expressed in the terms of the metaphor: to the first, γαλα, milk;

to the others, στεοεατροφη, strong meat. All these are

compromised in the following scheme:-

The hearers of the Gospel are,

I. νηπιοι. BABES or INFANTS. II. τελειοι. PERFECT or ADULT

Who are Who are

1. νωθροιταιςακοαις. Dull of 1. φρονιμοι. Wise and

hearing. prudent.

2. απειροιλογουδικαιοσυνης. 2. τααισθητηριαγεγυμνασμενα

Inexperienced in the εχοντες. And have their

doctrine of righteousness. senses properly exercised.

These have need These have need

γαλακτος. Of milk. στερεαςτροφης. Of solid


But all these are to derive their nourishment or spiritual

instruction εκτωνλογιωντουθεου, from the oracles of God. The

word oracle, by which we translate the λογιον of the apostle, is

used by the best Greek writers to signify a divine speech, or

answer of a deity to a question proposed. It always implied a

speech or declaration purely celestial, in which man had no part;

and it is thus used wherever it occurs in the New Testament. 1.

It signifies the LAW received from God by Moses, Ac 7:38.

2. The Old Testament in general; the holy men of old having

spoken by the inspiration of the Divine Spirit, Ro 3:2, and in

the text under consideration.

3. It signifies Divine revelation in general, because all

delivered immediately from God, 1Th 2:13; 1Pe 4:11. When we

consider what respect was paid by the heathens to their oracles,

which were supposed to be delivered by those gods who were the

objects of their adoration, but which were only impostures, we

may then learn what respect is due to the true oracles of God.

Among the heathens the credit of oracles was so great, that in

all doubts and disputes their determinations were held sacred and

inviolable; whence vast numbers flocked to them for advice in the

management of their affairs, and no business of any importance was

undertaken, scarcely any war waged or peace concluded, any new

form of government instituted or new laws enacted, without the

advice and approbation of the oracle. Croesus, before he durst

venture to declare war against the Persians, consulted not only

the most famous oracles of Greece, but sent ambassadors as far as

Libya, to ask advice of Jupiter Ammon. Minos, the Athenian

lawgiver, professed to receive instructions from Jupiter how to

model his intended government; and Lycurgus, legislator of Sparta,

made frequent visits to the Delphian Apollo, and received from him

the platform of the Lacedemonian commonwealth. See Broughton.

What a reproach to Christians, who hold the Bible to be a

collection of the oracles of God, and who not only do not consult

it in the momentous concerns of either this or the future life,

but go in direct opposition to it! Were every thing conducted

according to these oracles, we should have neither war nor

desolation in the earth; families would be well governed, and

individuals universally made happy.

Those who consulted the ancient oracles were obliged to go to

enormous expenses, both in sacrifices and in presents to the

priests. And when they had done so, they received oracles which

were so equivocal, that, howsoever the event fell out, they were

capable of being interpreted that way.

Verse 13. For every one that useth milk] It is very likely

that the apostle, by using this term, refers to the doctrines of

the law, which were only the rudiments of religion, and were

intended to lead us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith.

The word of righteousness] αογοςδικαιοσυνης. The doctrine of

justification. I believe this to be the apostle's meaning. He

that uses milk-rests in the ceremonies and observances of the law,

is unskilful in the doctrine of justification; for this requires

faith in the sacrificial death of the promised Messiah.

Verse 14. But strong meat] The high and sublime doctrines of

Christianity; the atonement, justification by faith, the gift of

the Holy Ghost, the fulness of Christ dwelling in the souls of

men, triumph in and over death, the resurrection of the body, the

glorification of both body and soul in the realms of blessedness,

and an endless union with Christ in the throne of his glory. This

is the strong food which the genuine Christian understands,

receives, digests, and by which he grows.

By reason of use] Who, by constant hearing, believing, praying,

and obedience, use all the graces of God's Spirit; and, in the

faithful use of them, find every one improved, so that they daily

grow in grace, and in the knowledge of Jesus Christ our Lord.

Have their senses exercised] The word αισθητηρια signifies the

different organs of sense, as the eyes, ears, tongue, and palate,

nose, and finger ends, and the nervous surface in general, through

which we gain the sensations called seeing, hearing, tasting,

smelling, and feeling. These organs of sense, being frequently

exercised or employed on a variety of subjects, acquire the power

to discern the various objects of sense: viz. all objects of

light; difference of sounds; of tastes or savours; of

odours or smelling; and of hard, soft, wet, dry, cold, hot, rough,

smooth, and all other tangible qualities.

There is something in the soul that answers to all these senses

in the body. And as universal nature presents to the other senses

their different and appropriate objects, so religion presents to

these interior senses the objects which are suited to them. Hence

in Scripture we are said, even in spiritual things, to see, hear,

taste, smell, and touch or feel. These are the means by which

the soul is rendered comfortable, and through which it derives its

happiness and perfection.

In the adult Christian these senses are said to be γεγυμνασμενα,

exercised, a metaphor taken from the athletae or contenders in

the Grecian games, who were wont to employ all their powers,

skill, and agility in mock fights, running, wrestling, &c., that

they might be the better prepared for the actual contests when

they took place. So these employ and improve all their powers,

and in using grace get more grace; and thus, being able to discern

good from evil, they are in little danger of being imposed on by

false doctrine, or by the pretensions of hypocrites; or of being

deceived by the subtleties of Satan. They feel that their

security depends, under God, on this exercise-on the proper use

which they make of the grace already given them by God. Can any

reader be so dull as not to understand this?

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