Hebrews 6

CHAPTER VI.

We must proceed from the first principles of the doctrine of

Christ unto perfection, and not lay the foundation a second

time, 1-3.

Those who were once enlightened, and have been made partakers

of the Holy Ghost and the various blessings of the Gospel, if

they apostatize from Christ, and finally reject him as their

Saviour, cannot be renewed again to repentance, 4-6.

The double similitude of the ground blessed of God, and bearing

fruit; and of that ground which is cursed of God, and bears

briers and thorns, 7, 8.

The apostle's confidence in them, and his exhortation to

diligence and perseverance, 9-12.

God's promise and oath to Abraham, by which the immutability of

his counsel is shown, in order to excite our hope, 13-18.

Hope is the anchor of the soul, and enters within the veil,

19, 20.

NOTES ON CHAP. VI.

Verse 1. Therefore] Because ye have been so indolent, slow of

heart, and have still so many advantages.

Leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ] Ceasing to

continue in the state of babes, who must be fed with milk-with the

lowest doctrines of the Gospel, when ye should be capable of

understanding the highest.

Let us go on unto perfection] Let us never rest till we are

adult Christians-till we are saved from all sin, and are filled

with the spirit and power of Christ.

The words τοντηςαρχης. τουχριστουλογον might be translated,

The discourse of the beginning of Christ, as in the margin; that

is, the account of his incarnation, and the different types and

ceremonies in the law by which his advent, nature, office, and

miracles were pointed out. The whole law of Moses pointed out

Christ, as may be seen at large in my comment on the Pentateuch;

and therefore the words of the apostle may be understood thus:

Leave the law, and come to the Gospel. Cease from Moses, and

come to the Messiah.

Let us go on unto perfection.-The original is very emphatic: επι

τηντελειοτηταφερωμεθα. Let us be carried on to this perfection.

God is ever ready by the power of his Spirit, to carry us forward

to every degree of light, life, and love, necessary to prepare us

for an eternal weight of glory. There can be little difficulty in

attaining the end of our faith, the salvation of our souls from

all sin, if God carry us forward to it; and this he will do if we

submit to be saved in his own way, and on his own terms. Many

make a violent outcry against the doctrine of perfection, i.e.

against the heart being cleansed from all sin in this life, and

filled with love to God and man, because they judge it to be

impossible! Is it too much to say of these that they know neither

the Scripture nor the power of God? Surely the Scripture promises

the thing; and the power of God can carry us on to the possession

of it.

Laying again the foundation of repentance] The phrase νεκρα

εργα, dead works, occurs but once more in the sacred writings, and

that is in Heb 9:14 of this epistle; and in both places it

seems to signify such works as deserve death-works of those who

were dead in trespasses, and dead in sins; and dead by sentence of

the law, because they had by these works broken the law.

Repentance may be properly called the foundation of the work of

God in the soul of man, because by it we forsake sin, and turn to

God to find mercy.

Faith toward God] Is also a foundation, or fundamental

principle, without which it is impossible to please God, and

without which we cannot be saved. By repentance we feel the need

of God's mercy, by faith we find that mercy.

But it is very likely that the apostle refers here to the

Levitical law, which, in its painful observances, and awful

denunciations of Divine wrath against every breach of that law,

was well calculated to produce repentance, and make it a grievous

and bitter thing to sin against God. And as to faith in God, that

was essentially necessary, in order to see the end of the

commandment; for without faith in him who was to come, all that

repentance was unavailable, and all ritual observances without

profit.

Verse 2. Of the doctrine of baptisms] "There were two things,"

says Dr. Owen, "peculiar to the Gospel, the doctrine of it and the

gifts of the Holy Ghost. Doctrine is called baptism, De 32:2;

hence the people are said to be baptized to Moses, when they were

initiated into his doctrines, 1Co 10:2.

The baptism of John was his doctrine, Ac 19:3; and the

baptism of Christ was the doctrine of Christ, wherewith he was to

sprinkle many nations, Isa 52:15.

This is the first baptism of the Gospel, even its doctrine. The

other was the communication of the gifts of the Holy Ghost,

Ac 1:5; and this alone is what is intended by the

laying on of hands; and then the sense will be the foundation of

the Gospel baptisms, namely preaching and the gifts of the Holy

Ghost."

I am afraid, with all this great man's learning, he has not hit

the meaning of the apostle. As teaching is the means by which we

are to obtain the gifts of the Holy Ghost, surely the apostle

never designed to separate them, but to lead men immediately

through the one to the possession of the other. Nor is the word

baptism mentioned in the passage in Deuteronomy which he quotes;

nor, indeed, any word properly synonymous. Neither βαπτισμος,

baptism, ραντισμος, sprinkling, nor any verb formed from them, is

found in the Septuagint, in that place. But the other proofs are

sufficiently in point, viz. that by baptism in the other places

referred to, doctrine or TEACHING is meant; but to call TEACHING

one baptism, and the gifts of THE HOLY GHOST another baptism, and

to apply this to the explanation of the difficulty here, is very

far from being satisfactory.

I am inclined to think that all the terms in this verse, as well

as those in the former, belong to the Levitical law, and are to be

explained on that ground.

Baptisms, or immersions of the body in water, sprinklings, and

washings, were frequent as religious rites among the Hebrews, and

were all emblematical of that purity which a holy God requires in

his worshippers, and without which they cannot be happy here, nor

glorified in heaven.

Laying on of hands] Was also frequent, especially in

sacrifices: the person bringing the victim laid his hands on its

head, confessed his sins over it, and then gave it to the priest

to be offered to God, that it might make atonement for his

transgressions. This also had respect to Jesus Christ, that Lamb

of God who takes away the sins of the world.

The doctrine also of the resurrection of the dead and of eternal

judgment, were both Jewish, but were only partially revealed, and

then referred to the Gospel. Of the resurrection of the dead

there is a fine proof in Isa 26:19, where it is stated to be the

consequence of the death and resurrection of Christ, for so I

understand the words, Thy dead shall live; with my dead body shall

they arise: awake and sing, ye that dwell in the dust; for thy dew

is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead.

The valley of dry bones, Eze 37:1, &c., is both an illustration

and proof of it. And Daniel has taught both the resurrection and

the eternal judgment, Da 12:2:

And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake;

some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting

contempt.

Now the foundation of all these doctrines was laid in the Old

Testament, and they were variously represented under the law, but

they were all referred to the Gospel for their proof and

illustration. The apostle, therefore, wishes them to consider the

Gospel as holding forth these in their full spirit and power. It

preaches, 1. Repentance, unto life. 2. Faith in God through

Christ, by whom we receive the atonement. 3. The baptism by

water, in the name of the holy Trinity; and the baptism of the

Holy Ghost. 4. The imposition of hands, the true sacrificial

system; and, by and through it, the communication of the various

gifts of the Holy Spirit, for the instruction of mankind, and the

edification of the Church. 5. The resurrection of the dead, which

is both proved and illustrated by the resurrection of Christ. 6.

The doctrine of the eternal or future judgment, which is to take

place at the bar of Christ himself, God having committed all

judgment to his Son, called here κριμααιωνιον, eternal or ever

during judgment, because the sentences then pronounced shall be

irreversible. Some understand the whole of the initiation of

persons into the Church, as the candidates for admission were

previously instructed in those doctrines which contained the

fundamental principles of Christianity. The Hebrews had already

received these; but should they Judaize, or mingle the Gospel with

the law, they would thereby exclude themselves from the Christian

Church, and should they be ever again admitted, they must come

through the same gate, or lay a second time, παλιν, this

foundation. But should they totally apostatize from Christ, and

finally reject him, then it would be impossible to renew them

again to repentance-they could no more be received into the

Christian Church, nor have any right to any blessing of the Gospel

dispensation; and, finally rejecting the Lord who bought them,

would bring on themselves and their land swift destruction. See

the 4th and following verses, and particularly the notes on verses

8 and 9. "Heb 6:8"; "Heb 6:9"

Verse 3. And this will we do] God being my helper, I will

teach you all the sublime truths of the Gospel; and show you how

all its excellences were typified by the law, and particularly by

its sacrificial system.

Verse 4. For it is impossible for those who were once

enlightened] Before I proceed to explain the different terms in

these verses, it is necessary to give my opinion of their design

and meaning: 1. I do not consider them as having any reference to

any person professing Christianity. 2. They do not belong, nor

are they applicable, to backsliders of any kind. 3. They belong

to apostates from Christianity; to such as reject the whole

Christian system, and its author, the Lord Jesus. 4. And to those

of them only who join with the blaspheming Jews, call Christ an

impostor, and vindicate his murderers in having crucified him as a

malefactor; and thus they render their salvation impossible, by

wilfully and maliciously rejecting the Lord that bought them. No

man believing in the Lord Jesus as the great sacrifice for sin,

and acknowledging Christianity as a Divine revelation, is here

intended, though he may have unfortunately backslidden from any

degree of the salvation of God.

The design of these solemn words is evidently, First, to show

the Hebrews that apostasy from the highest degrees of grace was

possible; and that those who were highest in the favour of God

might sin against him, lose it, and perish everlastingly.

Secondly, to warn them against such an awful state of perdition,

that they might not be led away, by either the persuasions or

persecutions of their countrymen, from the truth of the heavenly

doctrine which had been delivered to them. And, Thirdly, to point

out the destruction which was shortly to come upon the Jewish nation.

Once enlightened-Thoroughly instructed in the nature and design

of the Christian religion, having received the knowledge of the

truth, Heb 10:32; and being convinced of sin, righteousness,

and judgment, and led to Jesus the Saviour of sinners.

Tasted of the heavenly gift] Having received the knowledge of

salvation by the remission of sins, through the Day Spring which

from on high had visited them; such having received Christ, the

heavenly gift of God's infinite love, Joh 3:16;

the living bread that came down from heaven, Joh 6:51;

and thus tasting that the Lord is gracious; 1Pe 2:3,

and witnessing the full effects of the Christian religion.

Partakers of the Holy Ghost] The Spirit himself witnessing with

their spirits that they were the children of God, and thus

assuring them of God's mercy towards them, and of the efficacy of

the atonement through which they had received such blessings.

Verse 5. And have tasted the good word of God] Have had this

proof of the excellence of the promise of God in sending the

Gospel, the Gospel being itself the good word of a good God, the

reading and preaching of which they find sweet to the taste of

their souls. Genuine believers have an appetite for the word of

God; they taste it, and then their relish for it is the more

abundantly increased. The more they get, the more they wish to

have.

The powers of the world to come] δυναμειςτεμελλοντοςαιωνος.

These words are understood two ways: 1. The powers of the world to

come may refer to the stupendous miracles wrought in confirmation

of the Gospel, the Gospel dispensation being the world to come in

the Jewish phraseology, as we have often seen; and that δυναμις is

often taken for a mighty work or miracle, is plain from various

parts of the gospels. The prophets had declared that the Messiah,

when he came, should work many miracles, and should be as mighty

in word and deed as was Moses; see De 18:15-19. And they

particularly specify the giving sight to the blind, hearing to the

deaf, strength to the lame, and speech to the dumb;

Isa 35:5, 6. All these miracles Jesus Christ did in the sight of

this very people; and thus they had the highest evidence they

could have that Jesus was this promised Messiah, and could have no

pretence to doubt his mission, or apostatize from the Christian

faith which they had received; and hence it is no wonder that the

apostle denounces the most awful judgments of God against those

who had apostatized from the faith, which they had seen thus

confirmed.

2. The words have been supposed to apply to those communications

and foretastes of eternal blessedness, or of the joys of the world

to come, which they who are justified through the blood of the

covenant, and walk faithfully with their God, experience; and to

this sense the word γευσαμενους have tasted, is thought more

properly to apply. But γευομαι, to taste, signifies to experience

or have full proof of a thing. Thus, to taste death, Mt 16:28,

is to die, to come under the power of death, fully to experience

its destructive nature as far as the body is concerned. See also

Lu 9:27; Joh 8:52. And it is used in the same sense in

Heb 2:9 of this epistle, where Christ is said to

taste death for every man; for notwithstanding the metaphor, which

the reader will see explained in the note on the above place, the

word necessarily means that he did actually die, that he fully

experienced death; and had the fullest proof of it and of its

malignity he could have, independently of the corruption of his

flesh; for over this death could have no power. And to taste that

the Lord is gracious, 1Pe 2:3, is to experience God's

graciousness thoroughly, in being made living stones, built up

into a spiritual house, constituted holy priests to offer

spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God; see 1Pe 2:5. And in this

sense it is used by the purest Greek writers. See several

examples in Schleusner.

It seems, therefore, that the first opinion is the best founded.

Verse 6. If they shall fall away] καιπαραπεσοντας And having

fallen away. I can express my own mind on this translation nearly

in the words of Dr. Macknight: "The participles φωτισθεντας, who

were enlightened, γευσαμενους, have tasted, and γενηθεντας,

were made partakers, being aorists, are properly rendered by our

translators in the past time; wherefore, παραπεσοντας, being an

aorist, ought likewise to have been translated in the past time,

HAVE fallen away. Nevertheless, our translators, following Beza,

who without any authority from ancient MSS. has inserted in his

version the word si, if, have rendered this clause, IF they fall

away, that this text might not appear to contradict the doctrine

of the perseverance of the saints. But as no translator should

take upon him to add to or alter the Scriptures, for the sake of

any favourite doctrine, I have translated παραπεσοντας in the past

time, have fallen away, according to the true import of the word,

as standing in connection with the other aorists in the preceding

verses."

Dr. Macknight was a Calvinist, and he was a thorough scholar and

an honest man; but, professing to give a translation of the

epistle, he consulted not his creed but his candour. Had our

translators, who were excellent and learned men, leaned less to

their own peculiar creed in the present authorized version, the

Church of Christ in this country would not have been agitated and

torn as it has been with polemical divinity.

It appears from this, whatever sentiment may gain or lose by it,

that there is a fearful possibility of falling away from the grace

of God; and if this scripture did not say so, there are many that

do say so. And were there no scripture express on this subject,

the nature of the present state of man, which is a state of

probation or trial, must necessarily imply it. Let him who most

assuredly standeth, take heed lest he fall.

To renew them again unto repentance] As repentance is the first

step that a sinner must take in order to return to God, and as

sorrow for sin must be useless in itself unless there be a proper

sacrificial offering, these having rejected the only available

sacrifice, their repentance for sin, had they any, would be

nugatory, and their salvation impossible on this simple account;

and this is the very reason which the apostle immediately

subjoins:-

Seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God] They reject

him on the ground that he was an impostor, and justly put to

death. And thus they are said to crucify him to themselves-to do

that in their present apostasy which the Jews did; and they show

thereby that, had they been present when he was crucified, they

would have joined with his murderers.

And put him to an open shame.] παραδειγματιζοντας. And have

made him a public example; or, crucifying unto themselves and

making the Son of God a public example. That is, they show openly

that they judge Jesus Christ to have been worthy of the death

which he suffered, and was justly made a public example by being

crucified. This shows that it is final apostasy, by the total

rejection of the Gospel, and blasphemy of the Saviour of men, that

the apostle has in view. See the note on "Heb 6:4".

Verse 7. For the earth which drinketh in the rain] As much as

if he had said: In giving up such apostates as utterly incurable,

we act as men do in cultivating their fields; for as the ground,

which drinketh in the rain by which the providence of God waters

it, brings forth fruit to compensate the toil of the tiller, and

continues to be cultivated, God granting his blessing to the

labours of the husbandman; so,

Verse 8. That which beareth thorns and briers is rejected]

That is: The land which, notwithstanding the most careful

cultivation, receiving also in due times the early and latter

rain, produces nothing but thorns and briers, or noxious weeds of

different kinds, is rejected, αδοκιμος, is given up as

unimprovable; its briers, thorns, and brushwood burnt down; and

then left to be pastured on by the beasts of the field. This

seems to be the custom in husbandry to which the apostle alludes.

The nature of the case prevents us from supposing that he alludes

to the custom of pushing and burning, in order to farther

fertilization. This practice has been common from very early

times:-

Saepe etiam steriles incendere profuit agros;

Atque levem stipulam crepitantibus urere flammis.

VIRG. Geor. i., 5:84.

Long practice has a sure improvement found,

With kindled fires to burn the barren ground;

When the light stubble to the flames resign'd,

Is driven along, and crackles in the wind.

DRYDEN.

But this, I say the circumstances of the case prevent us from

supposing to be intended.

Is nigh unto cursing] It is acknowledged, almost on all hands,

that this epistle was written before the destruction of Jerusalem

by the Romans. This verse is in my opinion a proof of it, and

here I suppose the apostle refers to that approaching destruction;

and perhaps he has this all along in view, but speaks of it

covertly, that he might not give offence.

There is a good sense in which all these things may be applied

to the Jews at large, who were favoured by our Lord's ministry and

miracles. They were enlightened by his preaching; tasted of the

benefits of the heavenly gift-the Christian religion established

among them; saw many of their children and relatives made

partakers of the Holy Ghost; tasted the good word of God, by the

fulfilment of the promise made to Abraham; and saw the almighty

power of God exerted, in working a great variety of miracles.

Yet, after being convinced that never man spake as this man, and

that none could do those miracles which he did, except God were

with him; after having followed him in thousands, for three years,

while he preached to them the Gospel of the kingdom of God; they

fell away from all this, crucified him who, even in his sufferings

as well as his resurrection, was demonstrated by miracles to be

the Son of God; and then to vindicate their unparalleled

wickedness, endeavoured to make him a public example, by

reproaches and blasphemies. Therefore their state, which had

received much moral cultivation from Moses, the prophets, Christ,

and his apostles; and now bore nothing but the most vicious

fruits, pride, unbelief, hardness of heart, contempt of God's word

and ordinances, blasphemy, and rebellion; was rejected-reprobated,

of God; was nigh unto cursing-about to be cast off from the Divine

protection; and their city and temple were shortly to be burnt up

by the Roman armies. Thus the apostle, under the case of

individuals, points out the destruction that was to come upon this

people in general, and which actually took place about seven years

after the writing of this epistle! And this appears to be the

very subject which the apostle has in view in the parallel solemn

passages, Heb 10:26-31; and, viewed in this light, much of

their obscurity and difficulty vanishes away.

Verse 9. But, beloved] Here he softens what he had before

said; having given them the most solemn warning against apostasy,

he now encourages them to persevere, commends the good that is in

them, and excites them to watchfulness and activity.

Better things of you] Than that you shall resemble that

unfruitful ground that can be improved by no tillage, and is

thrown into waste, and is fit only for the beasts of the forests

to roam in.

Things that accompany salvation] ταεχομενασωτηριας. Things

that are suitable to a state of salvation; you give proofs still

that you have not, whatever others have done, departed from the

living God. Several of your brethren have already apostatized,

and the whole nation is in a state of rebellion against God; and,

in consequence of their final rejection of Christ and his Gospel,

are about to be finally rejected by God. They must meet with

destruction; they have the things that are suitable to, and

indicative of, a state of reprobation; the wrath of God will come

upon them to the uttermost; but, while they meet with destruction,

you shall meet with salvation. It is worthy of remark, that no

genuine Christian perished in the destruction of Jerusalem; they

all, previously to the siege by Titus, escaped to Pella, in

Coelosyria; and it is as remarkable that not one Jew escaped! all

either fell by the sword, perished by famine, or were led into

captivity! According to their own imprecation, His blood be upon

us and our children, God visited and avenged the innocent blood of

Christ upon them and upon their posterity; and they continue to be

monuments of his displeasure to the present day.

Verse 10. God is not unrighteous] God is only bound to men by

his own promise: this promise he is not obliged to make; but, when

once made, his righteousness or justice requires him to keep it;

therefore, whatever he has promised he will certainly perform.

But he has promised to reward every good work and labour of love,

and he will surely reward yours; God's promise is God's debt.

Every good work must spring from faith in the name, being, and

goodness of God; and every work that is truly good must have love

for its motive, as it has God for its end.

The word τουκοπου, labour, prefixed to love, is wanting in

almost every MS. and version of importance. Griesbach has left it

out of the text.

Ministered to the saints] Have contributed to the support and

comfort of the poor Christians who were suffering persecution in

Judea. As they had thus ministered, and were still ministering,

they gave full proof that they had a common cause with the others;

and this was one of the things that proved them to be in a state

of salvation.

Verse 11. We desire] επιθυμουμεν, We earnestly wish, that

each person among you may continue ενδεικνυσθαι, to manifest,

exhibit to full view, the same diligence. There might be reason

to suspect that some, through fear of man, might not wish the good

they did to be seen, lest they also should suffer persecution.

This would not comport with the generous, noble spirit of the

Gospel; the man who is afraid to let his decided attachment to God

be known, is not far from backsliding. He who is more afraid of

man than he is of God Almighty, can have very little religion.

As the Church of Christ required all those who in these times

embraced the Gospel to be publicly baptized, those who submitted

to this rite gave full proof that they were thoroughly convinced

of the truths of Christianity; and they gave this as a public

pledge that they would be faithful.

The same diligence] They had an active faith and a labouring

love, and the apostle wishes them to persevere in both. They were

diligent, very diligent, and he desires them to continue so.

To the full assurance of hope, προςτηνπληροφοριαντηςελπιδος.

"The full assurance of faith," says Mr. Wesley, "relates to

present pardon; the full assurance of hope, to future glory: the

former is the highest degree of Divine evidence that God is

reconciled to me in the Son of his love; the latter is the same

degree of Divine evidence, wrought in the soul by the same

immediate inspiration of the Holy Ghost, of persevering grace, and

of eternal glory. So much as faith every moment beholds with open

face, so much, and no more, does hope see to all eternity. But

this assurance of faith and hope is not an opinion, not a bare

construction of Scripture, but is given immediately by the power

of the Holy Ghost, and what none can have for another, but for

himself only."

We must not misapprehend these excellent sayings of this eminent

man. 1. The person who has this full assurance of hope is he who

not only knows and feels that his sins are forgiven through

Christ Jesus, but also that his heart is purified from all

unrighteousness, that the whole body of sin and death is

destroyed, and that he is fully made a partaker of the Divine

nature. As without holiness, complete, entire holiness, no man

can see God: so, without this, none can scripturally or rationally

hope for eternal glory; it being a contradiction to profess to

have the full assurance of hope to enjoy a state and place for

which the soul is conscious it is not prepared. 2. All that is

said here must be understood as still implying the absolute

necessity of continuing in the same degree of grace from which

this full assurance of hope is derived. This full assurance,

therefore, does not imply that the man will absolutely persevere

to the end; but that, if he do persevere in this same grace, he

shall infallibly have an eternal glory. There is no unconditional

perseverance in the Scripture, nor can there be such in a state of

probation.

Verse 12. That ye be not slothful] This shows how the full

assurance of hope is to be regulated and maintained. They must be

diligent; slothfulness will deprive them both of hope and faith.

That faith which worketh by love will maintain hope in its full

and due exercise.

Followers of them] μιμηταιδεκληρονομουντωνταςεπαγγελιας.

That ye be mimics or imitators of them who are inheriting the

promises. And they inherited these promises by faith in him who

is invisible, and who, they knew, could not lie; and they

patiently endured, through difficulties and adversities of every

kind, and persevered unto death. "The promises made to Abraham

and to his seed were, 1. That Abraham should have a numerous seed

by faith as well as by natural descent. 2. That God would be a

God to him and to his seed in their generations, by being the

object of their worship and their protector. 3. That he would

give them the possession of Canaan. 4. That he would bless all

the nations of the earth in him. 5. That he would thus bless the

nations through Christ, Abraham's seed. 6. That through Christ,

likewise, he would bless the nations with the Gospel revelation.

Four of these promises the believing Gentiles were inheriting at

the time the apostle wrote this letter. 1. They were become

Abraham's seed by faith. 2. God was become the object of their

worship and their protector. 3. They were enjoying the knowledge

of God in the Gospel Church, and the gifts of the Spirit. Gal. 3:

4. All these blessings were bestowed upon them through Christ. By

observing that the believing Gentiles were actually inheriting the

promises; i.e. the four promised blessings above mentioned, the

apostle appealed to an undeniable fact, in proof that the

believing Gentiles, equally with the believing Jews, were heirs of

the promises made to Abraham and his seed." See Dr. Macknight.

The promises may be considered as referring to the rest of faith

here, and the rest of glory hereafter.

Verse 13. When God made promise to Abraham] The promise

referred to is that made to Abraham when he had offered his son

Isaac on the altar, Ge 22:16-18: "By myself have I sworn, saith

the Lord; for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not

withheld thy son, thy only son; that in blessing I will bless

thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of

the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the seashore; and thy

seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; and in thy seed shall

all the nations of the earth be blessed." Of this promise the

apostle only quotes a part, as is generally the case, because he

knew that his readers were well acquainted with the Scriptures of

the Old Testament, and particularly with the law.

He sware by himself] He pledged his eternal power and Godhead

for the fulfilment of the promise; there was no being superior to

himself to whom he could make appeal, or by whom he could be

bound, therefore he appeals to and pledges his immutable truth and

Godhead.

Verse 14. Saying, Surely blessing I will bless thee] I will

continue to bless thee.

Multiplying I will multiply thee.] I will continue to increase

thy posterity. In the most literal manner God continues to fulfil

this promise; genuine Christians are Abraham's seed, and God is

increasing their number daily. See the notes on Ge 22:12-18; and

Ge 23:1.

Verse 15. He obtained the promise.] Isaac was supernaturally

born; and in his birth God began to fulfil the promise: while he

lived, he saw a provision made for the multiplication of his

seed; and, having continued steadfast in the faith, he received

the end of all the promises in the enjoyment of an eternal glory.

And the inference from this is: If we believe and prove faithful

unto death, we shall also inherit the promises; and this is what

is implied in the apostle's exhortation, Heb 6:12:

Be not slothful, but followers of them, &c.

Verse 16. Men verily swear by the greater] One who has greater

authority; who can take cognizance of the obligation, and punish

the breach of it.

An oath for confirmation] "This observation teaches us," says

Dr. Macknight, "that both promissory oaths concerning things

lawful and in our power, and oaths for the confirmation of things

doubtful, when required by proper authority, and taken

religiously, are allowable under the Gospel."

Verse 17. The heirs of promise] All the believing posterity of

Abraham, and the nations of the earth or Gentiles in general.

The immutability of his counsel] His unchangeable purpose, to

call the Gentiles to salvation by Jesus Christ; to justify every

penitent by faith; to accept faith in Christ for justification in

place of personal righteousness; and finally to bring every

persevering believer, whether Jew or Gentile, to eternal glory.

Verse 18. That by two immutable things] The promise and oath

of God: the promise pledged his faithfulness and justice; the

oath, all the infinite perfections of his Godhead, for he sware by

himself. There is a good saying in Beracoth on Ex 32:13, fol.

32: Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, thy servants, to whom

thou swarest by thine own self. "What is the meaning of by thine

own self? Rab. Eleazar answered, Thus said Moses to the holy

blessed God, Lord of all the world. If thou hadst sworn to them

by the heavens and the earth, then I should have said, As the

heavens and the earth shall pass away, so may thy oath pass away.

But now thou hast sworn unto them by thy great name, which liveth,

and which endureth for ever, and for ever and ever; therefore thy

oath shall endure for ever, and for ever and ever."

This is a good thought; if God had sworn by any thing finite,

that thing might fail, and then the obligation would be at an end,

but he has sworn by what is infinite, and cannot fail; therefore

his oath is of eternal obligation.

We might have a strong consolation] There appears to be an

allusion here to the cities of refuge, and to the persons who fled

to them for safety. As the person who killed his neighbour

unawares was sure if he gained the city of refuge he should be

safe, and had strong consolation in the hope that he should reach

it, this hope animated him in his race to the city; he ran, he

fled, knowing that, though in danger the most imminent of losing

his life, yet, as he was now acting according to an ordinance of

God, he was certain of safety provided he got to the place.

It is easy to apply this to the case of a truly penitent sinner.

Thou hast sinned against God and against thy own life! The

avenger of blood is at thy heels! Jesus hath shed his blood for

thee, he is thy intercessor before the throne; flee to him! Lay

hold on the hope of eternal life which is offered unto thee in the

Gospel! Delay not one moment! Thou art never safe till thou hast

redemption in his blood! God invites thee! Jesus spreads his

hands to receive thee! God hath sworn that he willeth not the

death of a sinner; then he cannot will thy death: take God's oath,

take his promise; credit what he hath spoken and sworn! Take

encouragement! Believe on the Son of God, and thou shalt not

perish, but have everlasting life!

Verse 19. Which hope we have as an anchor] The apostle here

changes the allusion; he represents the state of the followers of

God in this lower world as resembling that of a vessel striving to

perform her voyage through a troublesome, tempestuous, dangerous

sea. At last she gets near the port; but the tempest continues,

the water is shallow, broken, and dangerous, and she cannot get

in: in order to prevent her being driven to sea again she heaves

out her sheet anchor, which she has been able to get within the

pier head by means of her boat, though she could not herself get

in; then, swinging at the length of her cable, she rides out the

storm in confidence, knowing that her anchor is sound, the ground

good in which it is fastened, and the cable strong. Though

agitated, she is safe; though buffeted by wind and tide, she does

not drive; by and by the storm ceases, the tide flows in, her

sailors take to the capstan, wear the ship against the anchor,

which still keeps its bite or hold, and she gets safely into port.

See on "Heb 6:20".

The comparison of hope to an anchor is frequent among the

ancient heathen writers, who supposed it to be as necessary to the

support of a man in adversity, as the anchor is to the safety of

the ship when about to be driven on a lee shore by a storm. "To

ground hope on a false supposition," says Socrates, "is like

trusting to a weak anchor." He said farther, ουτεναυνεξενος

αγκυριουουτεβιονεκμιαςελπιδοςορμιστεον. a ship ought not to

trust to one anchor, nor life to one hope. Stob., Serm. 109.

The hope of eternal life is here represented as the soul's

anchor; the world is the boisterous, dangerous sea; the Christian

course, the voyage; the port, everlasting felicity; and the

veil or inner road, the royal dock in which that anchor was cast.

The storms of life continue but a short time; the anchor, hope, if

fixed by faith in the eternal world, will infallibly prevent all

shipwreck; the soul may be strongly tossed by various temptations,

but will not drive, because the anchor is in sure ground, and

itself is steadfast; it does not drag, and it does not break;

faith, like the cable, is the connecting medium between the

ship and the anchor, or the soul and its hope of heaven;

faith sees the haven, hope desires and anticipates the rest; faith

works, and hope holds fast; and, shortly, the soul enters into the

haven of eternal repose.

Verse 20. Whither the forerunner] The word προδρομος,

prodromos, does not merely signify one that goes or runs before

another, but also one who shows the way, he who first does a

particular thing; also the first fruits. So in the Septuagint,

Isa 28:4,

προδρομοςσυκου signifies the first fruits of the fig tree, or the

first ripe figs.

To this meaning of the word Pliny refers, Hist. Nat., lib. xvi.,

c. 26: Ficus et praecoces habet, quas Athenis PRODROMOS

(προδρομος,) vocant. "The fig tree produces some figs which are

ripe before the rest, and these are called by the Athenians

prodromos, forerunner." The word is interpreted in the same way

by Hesychius; it occurs in no other part of the New Testament, but

may be found in Ecclus. 12:8, and in Isa 28:4, quoted above from

the Septuagint. From this we may at once perceive the meaning of

the phrase: Jesus is the first fruits of human nature that has

entered into the heavenly kingdom; the first human body that was

ripe for glory, and ripe long before the rest of the children who

are partakers of flesh and blood. And he is entered for us, as

the first fruits of all who have found redemption in his blood.

Compare Joh 14:2; 1Co 15:20, 23; and the notes there.

The metaphorical allusion is to the person who carries the

anchor within the pier head, because there is not yet water

sufficient to carry the ship in; and to this I have already referred.

After the order of Melchisedec.] After a long digression the

apostle resumes his explanation of Ps 110:4, which he had

produced, Heb 5:6, 10, in order to prove the permanency of the

high priesthood of Christ.

1. WE have in this chapter a very solemn warning against

backsliding and apostasy, and that negligence and sloth which

are their forerunners. A man cannot be careless about God and

heaven, till he has lost his relish for sacred things; and this

relish he cannot lose while he is diligent and faithful. The

slightest departure from truth and purity may ultimately lead to

a denying, and even reviling, of the Lord who bought him.

2. Every obedient believer in Christ Jesus has both the oath and

promise of God that he will make all grace abound towards him, for

in blessing God will bless him; he may be greatly agitated and

distressed, but, while he continues in the obedience of faith, he

will ride out the storm. His anchor is within the veil while his

heart is right with God. Jesus is gone before to prepare a place

for him; and where the first fruits are, there will soon be the

whole lump. He who perseveres unto death shall as surely see God

as Jesus Christ now does. God's oath and promise cannot fail.

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