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christian religion, and are become such at have need of milk, the food of babes, and not of strong meat, the food of men." Learn hence, 1. That the time when, and how long we enjoy the dispensation of the gospel, is a circumstance which must in particular be accounted for: whereas for the time; all have time, but all have not time alike , the day of the gospel is not of the same length to all nations, churches, and persons. Learn, 2. That it is reasonably expected by God that persons should thrive and grow in knowledge and holiness proportionality to their time and means , and not doing so, is charged upon them as a great aggravation of their guilt. For the time ye ought to have been teachers; that is, of ability, sufficient for the teaching of others. They had not learned of their teachers, when the apostle had reason to hope they had been able to teach their learners. Many after long teaching are ignorant, and ought to be taught again the same things which they long ago heard. Learn, 3. That the holy scriptures are to be looked upon, consulted with, and submitted to, as the oracles of God: they are sometimes called the living, sometimes the lively, oracles of God, because they are the oracles of the living God, and also life-giving oracles to them that obey him. Learn, 4. That there are in the scripture truths suitable to the spiritual instruction and edification of all sorts of persons; there is in it both milk and strong meat, plain doctrines and first principles necessary for all, and truths of a deeper search that are profitable to some. "In the scripture, said one, there are shallows and there are depths; fords where the lambs may wade, and depths where the elephants may swim."
13 For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness; for he is a babe. 14 But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who, by reason of use, have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
Our apostle here speaks of the difference of doctrines under the metaphor of meats; from whence we may gather, 1. That the word of God, in the dispensation of it, is food provided for the souls of men. 2. That the word, as food, will not profit the soul until it be eaten, and digested: it is not food prepared, but food received, that nourishes. When manna was gathered and eaten, it
nourished the Israelites: but when gathered and laid by, it putrified and bred worms. Lord! what pains do some take to gather manna, to hear the word! but, alas! it lies by them, and is of no use. Lam, 3. That as the gospel is the word of righteousness, so God requires and expects that all those who live under the dispensation of the gospel should be skilful in the word of righteousness. The gospel is the word of righteousness; it is so declaratively, it is so efficiently; declaratively, as the severity of God against sin is hereby more fully revealed, and as llie righteousness which God requireth, approvelh, and accepteth for cur justification, is therein declared; and the righteousness which God requireth in us, and expecteth from us, is hereby discovered also; and as it is the great instrument of working holiness in us, and making us inherently righteous, so it is the word of righteousness efficiently, as well as declaratively; our justification is wrought in us thereby, John xvii. 17. Learn, 4. That the spiritual senses of believers, well exercised in the word of righteousness, are the best and most undeceiving helps in judging of what is good or evil, what is true or false, that is proposed to them: Such, by reason of use, have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
The holy apostle having in the foregoing chapters largely treated of the divinity of our Saviour's person, and the dignity of his'priesthood; shovtug that he was a more excellent priest than Aaron, even an eternal high-priest, after the order of Melchizedek, in whom both crown and mitre, kingdom and priesthood, did concentre.
In the close of the foregoing chapter, he gave the Hebrews a very smart reproof for their dulness and ignorance, comparing them to children, yea, to babes that must be fed with milk, that is, plain and easy doctrines, the first principles and rudiments of christianity, as being incapable of strong meats, that is, the harder ana higher mysteries of religion.
He begins this chapter with an exhortation to them, to increase both in knowledge and obedience; exciting them to advance to an higher and more perfect degree of knowledge in the christian religion, than the first principles and ground-work of it. And accordingly he thus bespeaks them, rer. t.
'T'HEREFORE, leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection;
In these words of the apostle, he seems to allude to the building of an house: as in that, we first lay a good and sure foundation, but do not rest there, but proceed in raising up the fabric; in like manner, it is neither satisfactory nor sufficient to advance no further in the christian religion, than the knowledge of the first principles of it, but endeavours must be used to attain a more perfect degree and measure of knowledge in the mysteries of the gospel. Leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ; he means not leaving them so as to forget them, and lay them aside, but to leave them by going beyond them, and advancing further and higher in the knowledge of christianity. Learn hence, 1. That in christianity and other sciences, there are certain rudiments and fundamental principles, which must and ought to be carefully taught. 2. That it is a necessary and useful practice in the church of God, to teach the doctrine of christianity in the first principles of it plainly and summarily to young beginners. Learn, 3. That when the ministers of the gospel have laid a good foundation of scripture knowledge in the understanding of their hearers, they must excite them by all pressing considerations to make a further progress in their knowledge, and leaving the doctrine of the beginning of Christ, go on unto perfection.
—Not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, 2 Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. 3 And this will we do, if God permit.
Still our apostle pursues his metaphor, in comparing christianity to a building, and the first rudiments or principles of the christian religion to a foundation that supportsthe superstructure. Next he summarily declares what these fundamental doctrines and first principles of the christian religion are,namely, these six. 1. Repentance, or a turning from all sinful works, called dead works, because they end in death; dead because deadly ; they proceed from death spiritual, and end in death eternal. 2. Faith towards God, or faith in God; that is, in the whole Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Particularly, faith in the first original promise of God, to send Christ into the world to save us from our sins, and granting remission of sins by him. Here note, How closely repentance and faith are united and knit together: where the one is, there is the other; and where either is not, there is neither. He repenteth not, who hath not faith
towards God , and he hath not faith towards God, who repenteth not. 3. The doctrine of baptisms : that is, of both the christian sacraments, as also of the covenant of grace, of which the sacraments are seals. Persons admitted into the church by baptism, ought to be well instructed, as soon as capable of it, in the nature, use, and end, of the sacraments; acquainting them not only with the nature of the outward sign, but with the necessity of the inward grace. The doctrine of laying on of hands, to confirm the baptized persons in the faith, and to oblige and enable them to keep the covenant they entered into with God, when they were baptized; which was done before their admission to the Lord's table. Imposition, or laying on of hands, was an ancient and venerable rite used in the primitive church upon several occasions; particularly in ordination, in absolution of penitents, in healing the sick, in conferring the gifts of the Holy Ghost, Acts viii. 17. And, lastly, in confirmation, when baptized persons were brought before the church to acknowledge, confirm, and renew their baptismal covenant with God; and to receive the benefit of puhl ic prayer, and episcopal benediction, in order to the further endowments of grace to perform their vows, adorn their profession, and be admitted to the Lord's table, as complete members of the visible church of Christ. 5. The resurrection of the dead, a doctrine denied by the Sadducees, derided by the Athenian philosophers, and perverted by heretics; but is a fundamental principle of the gospel ; the faith whereof is indispensably necessary unto our consolation, and has a peculiar influence upon our obedience. This is the animating principle of gospel obedience, because we are assured, that our services shall not only be remembered, but rewarded also. 6. The eternal judgment, which will doom men to everlasting rewards and punishments in a future state. The ministers of the gospel ought to dwell much upon this fundamental principle of religion, to represent the dread and terror of that eternal day to all men, to the intent they may be excited and stirred up to take effectual care that they fall not under the vengeance of that fatal day. These six principles being laid down by the apostle, he tells them his resolution, to endeavour the carrying of them on to a more perfect degree and measure of knowledge in the mysteries of the gospel, in order to their becoming skilful in the word of righteousness:
Leaving the principles of the doctrine.of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; which -we 'will do if God permit.
4 For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, 5 And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, 6 If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance ; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.
By the enlightened here, understand those that were baptized, and embraced christianity: the ancients called baptism, illumination: and baptized persons, the enlightened: because of the divine illumination which was conveyed to the mmds of men by the knowledge of christianity. By tasting the heavenly gift, and bemg made partakers of the Holy Ghost, understand such as had not only heard of the extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost, but had some experience of them themselves; as also of the spiritual benefits conferred upon them in baptism, by the Holy Spirit. By tasting the good word of God, understand some relish of the truth and goodness of the gospel, some pleasure in entertaming it, by reason of the gracious promises of eternal lite and happiness contained in it. The gospel that proclaimed remission of sins, was a good word; this good word they saw confirmed by miracles, tongues, and prophecy, and so could not but be convinced of the truth of it, which is here called a tasting it. Who have tasted the good word of God: it follows, and the powers of the world to come; that is, the power of the gospel-age; for " world to come," in the language of the prophets, doth signify the times of the Messiah: and thus the powers of the world to come, are the miraculous powers of the Holy Ghost bestowed upon men, in order to the propagation of the gospel; such were the gifts of healing, casting out devils, working miraclesOthers, by tasting the powers of the world to come, understand some apprehensions of the resurrection and future judgment, with affections suitable thereunto. Now concerning these, says our apostle, if they fall away; that is, if they shall, after all this, apostatize from this profession, out of love
to this present world, or from fear of persecution and sufferings, if they shall relapse either to heathenism or judaism, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance: that is, it is a thing very difficult, hardly to be hoped for, that such wilful apostates should be restored again by repentance: Seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame: that is, they virtually, and in effect, crucify him over again, as much as in them lies; for by denying and renouncing of him, they declare him to be an impostor, and consequently worthy of death. So that the plain sense of the word seems to be this: "If those that are baptized, and have received the doctrines of the gospel, and are endowed with the gifts of the Holy Ghost, shall yet, after this, apostatize from christianity, it is very difficult, and next to an impossibility, to recover such again by repentance ; seemg they are guilty of as great a crime, as if in their own persons they had put to death and ignominiously used the Son of God." Here note, That it is not a partial apostasy from the christian religion, by any particular vicious practice, but a total apostasy from christianity, and more especially to the heathen idolatry, which is here intended. From the whole learn, 1. That they which have been enlightened, awakened, and made partakers of the gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit in some measure, and lasted the sweetness of the word and ways of God, in some degree, may yet fall away. 2. That if such do fall away, it is very difficult, though not altogether impossible, to renew them again to repentance: and that for these reasons. 1. Because of the greatness and heinous nature of the sin, it being a downright apostasy from God, against the clearest light and knowledge, and fullest conviction of a man's mind; and the highest affront to the Son of God, who revealed the christian religion to the world, and sealed it with his blood. 2. Because those who are guilty of this sm, do renounce and cast off the means of their recovery, and therefore it becomes extremely difficult to renew them again to repentance: they reject Christ and his holy gospel, and refuse the only remedy appointed for their recovery. 3. Because it is so high a provocation to God, to withdraw his grace and Holy Spirit from such persons, by the power and efficacy whereof they should be brought to repentance; God justly leaving those who so unworthily leave him. Lord [ how fearful and fatal a condition is it, to begin in the Spirit and end in the flesh; to decay in religion, and apostatize from grace; to have had some work of the Spirit and word upon our hearts, so as to have light and love, some taste and savour of religion, some desires alter and hopes of heaven, and, alter all, to cool and give over, to revolt and backslide, and have our latter end worse than our beginning!
7 For the earth, which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dresser), receiveth blessing from God: 8 But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned.
The design and scope of our apostle in these words is threefold: 1. To set lorth the excellency and necessity of the gospel, dispensed to us in the ministry of the word; he compares it to rain, which doth soften, refresh, and fructify the earth. 2. He discovers the different effect which the word of God, or the doctrine of the gospel, has upon different persons that sit under the preaching and dispensation of it: The sincere christian becomes fruitful under the dews and showers of divine grace, and receives a blessing; but the barren and fruitless professor is like an howling wilderness or dry desert, which, after innumerable refreshing showers, brings forth nothing but briars and thorns. 3. He declares the different state and condition of such persons. A people that answers God's care and cost, is like a field that drinks in the rain, bringeth forth herbs, and receives a blessing. But such a people, as, after all the refreshmg showers from heaven, and after all the culture and labour of God's husbandmen on earth, shall remain bushes and briers, barren and unfruitful under all, or worse than such; they are nigh unto cursing, and their end is to be burned. Blessing attends the one, burning awaits the other. Note, 1. That what the rain is to the earth, that is the word of God and the doctrine of the gospel to the souls of men. Is the rain of heavenly extraction? so is the word of God. Does the rain fall by divine direction? so does the word preached. Does the rain distil down gradually and successively, not all at once i so does the word fall, here a little and there a little. Does the rain mollify and soften, revive and refresh, fructify and make fruitful, where it
falls? so does the word preached, Col. i. 6. The word of the gospel is come unto you, and bringeth forth fruit since the day ye heard of it. In a word, As after plenty of rain there follows a great drought, and want of rain: so after a long and plentiful enjoyment of the gospel, il people do not prize and improve their mercies, God will cut them short, and deprive them of them. Note, 2. That it is possible for a people to sit long under the ministry of the word ; that spiritual rain, that celestial dew, may he daily dropping and distilling down upon them, and yet that people may be bush and brier after all, barren and unfruitful in the account of God. Note, 3. That a people so remaming, and under such advantages, are nigh unto cursing, and their end is lo be burned. Barrenness under the dispensation of the gospel, is always accompanied with an increase of sm, and of condemnation also; those that are not, because they will not, be healed and reformed by the preachmg of the gospel, are righteously given up by God to extreme obstinacy and final obduration.
9 But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak. 10 ForGodunot unrighteous, to forget iour work and labour of love, which ye have showed towards his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister.
Observe here, 1. The holy wisdom of our apostle, in mollifying the severity of the foregomg commmation and prediction ; and the good hope and firm persuasion he had of the Hebrews' perseverance m grace unto salvation, notwithstandmg all the cautions and warnings he gave them of apostasy and apostates: J am persuaded better things of you, though I thus speak. We may represent the ugly and filthy face of sm to our best friends, to the end that they may hate it, and escape it: we may be confident of another's sincerity, and, as occasion requires, publicly testify that confidence to t hemsel ves: We arc persuaded better things of you. Observe, 2. The ground of this confidence declared, and that is twofold: 1. The graces of God's spirit found operative in them; their faith in Christ, and love to all his members; it was a woiking faith and laborious love that was found with them, They have administered to the saints, and
do minister. Behold, the nature of christian love, it is an immortal fire, ever burning, never dying. 2. Another ground of this persuasion, was the knowledge of God's faithfulness in remembering and rewarding this their labour of love r God is not unrighteous, to forget your work and labour of love; that is, God is righteous, and will certainly remember and reward your faith, your charity, and good works: for he has promised so to do, and he is faithful that has promised. Learn hence, 1. That faith, if it be a living faith, will be a working faith. Obedience is the fruit of faith, and we ought to look on obedience as our work. Learn, 2. That it is the will and pleasure of God, that many of his saints and servants in this world be in such a condition, wherein they stand .in need of being ministered unto. Learn, 3. That the best evidence we can have of the sincerity of our love, is its readiness to minister to the saints in all distresses. Learn, 4. That both the labour of our sufferings and the labour of our services, shall be remembered and rewarded by a righteous God: God is not unrighteous, to forget your work and labour of love, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister.
II And we desire that every one of you do show the same diligence, to the full assurance of hope unto the end:
Note here, 1. That although the apostle had a firm persuasion, that they were sincere and upright, and would hold on their way, yet he exhorts them to show the same diligence which they had done, and persevere to the end as they had begun. Learn hence, That ministerial exhortation unto duty is needful, even unto them that are sincere in the practice of it, that they may abide and continue therein: We desire that you show diligence unto the end. Note, 2. The special duty he exhorts them to, and that is, to attain a full assurance of hope. Hope is a certain and assured expectation of good things promised, accompanied with love, and a longing desire to enjoy them. A full assurance of hope, is such a fixed, constant, aud prevailing persuasion, concerning the good things promised, and our certain enjoyment of them, as will support us under, and carry us through, all the difficulties and troubles that we conflict with. Learn hence, That a good man may in this life arrive at an assurance of faith and hope, as touching the goodness of his con
dition in the life to come. The original word signifies a full gale of hope; a meta- taken from sailors, who enter the barwith a full gale of wind, both with facility and safety. The Christian's soul is zs a ship sailing in a tempestuous sea; faith represents the pilot, love the sail, hope the wind that must fill the sail: be the pilot never so confident, the sail spread to the utmost, yet without a gale of wind, the ship lies becalmed, moves not towards the harbour. A Christian on earth without hope, is as a ship at sea without wind. Notes 3. The special means directed to, in order to the attaining of this full assurance of hope, and that is, to shoo diligence, the same diligence, and that to the end. Learn thence, That christians ought by no means to wax secure, but to use all diligence to the end of their lives, for the heightening of their hope to a full assurance: We desire that every one of you do show the same diligence, to the full assurance of hope unto the end.
1*2 That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
Our apostle having exhorted the Hebrews to great diligence in good works in the former verse, in this verse endeavours to excite and provoke them to it by the examples of deceased saints, who are now reaping the reward of their former pains, and inheriting the promises. Here note, 1. A cautionary direction given, That ye be not slothful, either timorous and faint-hearted, or remiss and negligent. God having engaged so firmly on his part to let nothing be wanting which is requisite to enable us to persevere \ if we miss of the promise, that is, heaven, the good promised, we must thank our own sloth for it. Note, 2. The great duty exhorted to, and that is, to be followers of the saints: Be followers of them, that is, vigorously and constantly imitate them in their graces and gracious conversation. The graces of the saints (whether living or dead) are patterns presented to our imitation. Note, 3. The particular and special graces in the saints which we are to imitate and follow, namely, their faith and patience: their faith, that is, their firm trust in God, and belief of his promises, relying on his word under all trials: and their patience, that is, their perseverance in well-doing, and patient expectation under all delays, and constant adherence to him under all difficulties. Learn hence, 1. That heaven is not ours by purchase, but by