« AnteriorContinua »
This the Scriptures clearly teach. James says, that “every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning." Nor is there any blessing enjoyed by man, or any other creature, which is not the gift of God. The phrase "the God of peace” may also signify that God is a peaceful, and hence a reconciled God. As a righteous governor, he is angry with the wicked every day, and his wrath abideth on him. But by the glorious mediation of Jesus Christ, so fully and graphically discussed in this epistle, the Divine wrath has been appeased. The violated law has been fully satisfied and duly honored. So that now God may be approached by sinful men in perfect peace
and safety. His mighty arm is no more listed and clothed with thunder to smite down the man that would presume to draw near him. He is now a peaceful God—a God whom we may approach, and even call " our Father."
Again, the phrase “ the God of peace” may also signify, that God is willing and ready to confer peace upon the troubled and afflicted inhabitants of the earth. And this is also true of the Deity. He is not only ready to confer upon his people all suitable outward prosperity, but especially that more desirable and important internal quiet of the soul, which is the consciousness of pardoned sins. His invitation to all is, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; and ye shall find rest unto your souls."
2nd. The apostle further represents God as Him “that brought again from the deud our Lord Jesus." This is a fact which the Jews indeed denied. But the evidence of it is far too strong to leave any candid mind in doubt. It was foreshadowed by types. It was predicted by prophecies. It is attested, also, by a host of witnesses, who could have had no sufficient motive in the support of such a falsehood, if a falsehood it were. And the Holy Ghost himself, by conferring miraculous powers upon those who preached the fact, and by sealing the effectual influences of what they preached upon the hearts of multitudes, has added his testimony in support of the truth of Christ's resurrection. The resurrection of our Savior by the power of God, established several very important points in the christian system. It not only demonstrated the divinity of Christ, and furnished us a pattern and a pledge of our own resurrection from the grave; but it also proved that God
accepted of the Savior's sacrifice for the sins of the world, and that there is power enough in the Divine arm to accomplish everyo thing relating to our salvation. The apostle doubtless had these points in view when he penned the language of the text. He hence was committing his cause to one who, having thus shown his acceptance of the Savior's sacrifice, must also be willing to do anything to promote the good of his people; and who, moreover, has thus shown his abundant power to do it. Though he had spent all his own strength, and was now to relinquish his efforts, he yet saw qualities in God, and assurances in his providence, which were amply sufficient to sustain his confidence, that the matter would be carried forward to the most desirable consummation.
The object of the apostle's prayer is thus stated: “Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight.”
In another part of the epistle, he reproached his brethren as but babes in Christ. He represented them as “unskilful in the word of righteousness,” and needing to be taught the first rudiments of christian faith. Of course there was a corresponding deficiency in the conduct and life. Principles and actions are closely linked together. This deficiency he prays that God may supply. The word which he uses, signifies to put completely in joint-to fit everything completely together in its proper place. Paul wished to have them more thoroughly imbued with christian knowledge, and to have their religious belief consistently and firmly settled. He wished them, also, to be so conformed to a complete conception of the truth, as outwardly to maintain the fellowship, unity, and order which is agreeable to the Divine will.
The manner in which this perfection is to be brought about is also designated in the prayer. “Working in you.” Everything good in or about us is to be traced to Divine agency. It is not in man to think a good thought or to perform a good action, much less to create in himself a good character. And if we ever have or do anything worthy of praise, it is because “God worketh in us, both to will and to do of his own good pleasure.” I do not say that a good man is impelled contrary to his own choice, or inclination. But what I mean is, that this choice and all the advantage resulting from it is determined by a Divine influence, which is not of man's seeking. The apostle prays that this Divine
influence might be continued to his brethren, and thus hasten their sanctification.
The medium through which the apostle expected his prayer to be rendered effectual is thus pointed out by him: “Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant make you perfect.” 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. He is the only accepted mediator. No mercy flows from the throne to which man may lay claim, but that which comes through him. To set any created being in his place, whether earthly priests or departed saints, is contrary to the Divine will, and is to be denounced as sinful idolatry. It is through “the blood of the everlasting covenant” alone that our sins are pardoned; it is through that blood alone that our sanctification is carried on; and it is only in consideration of that blood that the smallest blessing crowns the life of man. When we pray, we must always rest our plea upon that blood. There all our hopes centre. There all our strength lies. Relinquishing this for any other ground of dependence, we resign our hold upon the Rock of Ages, and dash ourselves into a shoreless and unfathomable flood. " For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ." Let us ever remember this, lest we make shipwreck of our faith at last.
“ To whom be glory for ever and ever.” It has ever been the custom to conclude prayer with a doxology. In that inimitable form of prayer laid down by the Savior for our use and as a model, we are taught to ascribe unto God “the kingdom, and the power, and the glory for ever and ever.” Paul introduces something of like import into the prayers which he has committed to record. And since his great effort in this epistle was to exalt the Savior and his work, it is with propriety that he here ascribes eternal glory to him. This doxology implies that Christ is worthy of Divine honor; nor should any dare to withhold it from him.
“Amen." Thus the apostle gives wings to his prayer. Thus he ratifies his sincerity in offering it. Amen. Be it so.
I swear it is the genuine desire of my heart. Hear it, O God
“ And I beseech you, brethren, suffer the word of exhortation." Paul here entreats his readers not to be offended at his efforts in
their behalf. He had been necessitated to discuss disputed questions. He had been conducted to conclusions which struck at the very heart of a system to which they were endeared by many strong and natural ties. And now, in relinquishing his performance for their examination, he affectionately asks them to bear with itto receive it with kindness. “For,” says he, “ I have written a letter unto you in few words.” Notwithstanding the great scope of the subject, he had yet included the whole in a small compass.
“ Know ye that our brother Timothy is set at liberty ?” Timothy was the only son of Eunice, a Jewess who had married a gentile. He was probably born in Lystra, a city of Lycaonia. He was brought up in the fear of the Lord, and was thoroughly instructed in the ancient Scriptures. When Paul visited Lystra to preach the Gospel, it appears that Timothy drank in his spirit, and became a thorough convert to the christian faith. There always existed a very tender intimacy between Paul and this young man. He accompanied the apostle in nearly all his travels, and was no noubt well known and much beloved by all the churches. It was hence a very pleasing item of intelligence which Paul here appends to his epistle.
“Salute all them that have the rule over you, and all saints. They of Italy salute you." Christianity is favorable to all the tender civilities of life. Christianity requires, however, that they be attended to with sincerity of heart, and not simply with the empty rote of fashion.
“Grace be with all.” May the Divine favor ever rest upon you and among you. May all the good which is merited by the Savior's mediation be fully enjoyed by you all. - Amen.”
We have now finished our exposition of the epistle to the Hebrews; an epistle which Dr. A. Clarke does not hesitate to pronounce “ by far the most important and useful of all the apostolic writings.” Whether it is fully entitled to such a pre-eminence, it is not necessary that we should inquire. From what has been brought to our contemplation in this course of lectures, we are all prepared to ascribe to it a very high importance; and I am persuaded that all who are familiar with the subject will agree, that the New Testament would be imperfect without it. Other portions assert with sufficient accuracy the great facts and benefits of the Gospel; but nowhere else have we any clear account of the proc
esses by which they were brought into existence. Nowhere else do we find so satisfactory an account of the relation between the Mosaic and the Christian economy. Nowhere else do we find such a description of the nature and dignity of the mediatorial office. And nowhere else do we obtain such a comprehensive and complete view of the work of human redemption. The Rev. Albert Barnes remarks (in his Introduction to his Notes on this portion of the New Testament,)“ When I think of the relation between the Jewish and Christian systems; when I look on the splendid rites of the ancient economy, and ask their meaning; when I wish a full guide to heaven, and ask for that which gives completeness to the whole, I turn instinctively to the Epistle to the Hebrews. When I wish, also, that which shall give me the most elevated view of the great Author of Christianity, and of his works, and the most clear conceptions of the sacrifice which he made for sin; and when I look for considerations that shall be most effectual in restraining the soul from apostacy, and for considerations to enable it to bear trials with patience and with hope, my mind recurs to this book, and I feel that the book of revelation, and the hopes of man, would be incomplete without it.” Professor Stuart also remarks, (in his Introduction to this epistle,)“ Every attentive reader of the Mosaic law must feel, that the epistle to the Hebrews is the best key to unlock the treasures which are secreted there, and that it affords us a disclosure in respect to the general nature and object of the Jewish dispensation, which christians much need, and which can nowhere else be found in a manner so full and satisfactory."
You doubtless have observed, my hearers, the confident manner in which I have all the time ascribed the authorship of this interesting epistle to the Apostle Paul. Permit me to say, that in this I have followed the general testimony of antiquity—the current tradition of the church-and the judgment of the most competent modern critics. It is not within the power of man to prove that it was not written by Paul.
You doubtless have also observed, that I have treated the whole epistle as a positive declaration of truth-substantial and eternal truth, and not as a mere argumentum ex concessis, which had but a local and temporary application. In this I feel myself fully borne out by the fact, that every doctrine herein explained and amplified is corroborated by passages that may be found in other portions of the holy writings. Occasionally we met with things in our pro