EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS.
Completed by Mr. W. Tong.
CONCERNING this epistle we must inquire, I. Into the divine authority of it; for this has been questioned by some, whose distempered eyes could not bear the light of it, or whose errors have been confuted by it; such as the Arians, who deny the God-head and Self-existence of Christ; and the Socinians, who deny his Satisfaction: but after all the attempts of such men to disparage this epistle, the divine original of it shines forth with those strong and unclouded rays, that he who runs may read it as an eminent part of the canon of scripture. The divinity of the matter, the sublimity of the style, the excellency of the design, the harmony of this with other parts of scripture, and its general reception in the church of God in all ages—these are the evidences of its divine authority. II. As to the divine amanuensis, or penman of this epistle, we are not so certain; it does not bear the name of any in the front of it, as the rest of the epistles do, and there has been some dispute among the learned to whom they should ascribe it. Some have assigned it to Clemens of Rome; others to Luke; and many to Barnabas, thinking that the style and manner of expression is very agreeable to the zealous, authoritative, affectionate temper that Barnabas appears to be of, in the account we have of him in the Acts of the Apostles; and one ancient father quotes an expression out of this epistle, as the words of Barnabas. But it is generally assigned to the apostle Paul; and some later copies and translations have put Paul's name in the title. In the primitive times it was generally ascribed to him, and the style and scope of it very well agree with his spirit, who was a person of a clear head and a warm heart, whose main end and endeavour was to exalt Christ. Some think that the apostle Peter refers to this epistle, and proves Paul to be the penman of it, by telling the Hebrews, to whom he wrote, of Paul's having written to them, 2 Pet. 3. 15. We read of no other epistle that he ever wrote to them but this. And though it has been objected, that since Paul put his name to all his other epistles, he would not have omitted it here; yet others have well answered, that he, being the apostle of the Gentiles, who were odious to the Jews, might think fit to conceal his name, lest their prejudices against him might hinder them from reading and weighing it as they ought to do. III. As to the scope and design of this epistle, it is very evident that it was clearly to inform the minds, and strongly to confirm the judgment, of the Hebrews in the transcendent excellency of the gospel above the law, and so to take them off from the ceremonies of the law, to which they were so wedded, of which they were so fond, that they even doted on them. Those of them who were Christians, retained too much of the old leaven, and needed to be purged from it; the design of this epistle was to persuade and press the believing Hebrews to a constant adherence to the Christian's faith, and perseverance in it, notwithstanding all the sufferings they might meet with in so doing. In order to this, he speaks much of the excellency of the Author of the gospel, the glorious Jesus, whose honour he advances, and whom he justly prefers before all others, shewing him to be All in all, and this in lofty strains of holy rhetoric It must be acknowledged that there are many things in this epistle hard to be understood, but the sweetness we shall find therein will make us abundant amends for all the pains we take to understand it. And, indeed, if we compare all the epistles of the New Testament, we shall not find any of them more replenished with divine, heavenly matter than this to the Hebrews.
In this chapter, we have a twofold comparison stated: I. Between the evangelical and legal dispensation; and the excellency of the gospel above that of the law is asserted and proved, v. 1 . . 3. II. Between the glory of Christ and that of the highest creatures, the angels; where the preeminence is justly given to the Lord Jesus Christ, and clearly demonstrated to belong unto him, v. 4, to the end.
1.GOD, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, 2. Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;