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kingly power of Christ, but of his sacerdotal office, and of the glory that ensued upon the discharge thereof.
That therefore which in these words the apostle seems to have had respect to, was the high priest's entrance into the holy place, after his offering of the solemn anniversary sacrifice of expia. tion. Then alone was he admitted into that holy place, or heaven below, where was the solemn representation of the presence of God, his throne and his glory. And what did he there? He stood with all humility and lowly reverence, ministering before the Lord, whose presence was there represented. He did not go and sit down between the cherubim, but worshipping at the foot-stool of the Lord, he departed. It is not, saith the apostle, so with Christ; but as his sacrifice was infinitely more excellent and effectual than theirs, so upon the offering of it, he entered into the holy place, or heaven itself above, and into the real glorious presence of God, not to minister in humility, but to a participation of the throne of majesty and glory. He is a king and priest upon his throne, Zech. vi. 13.
Thus the apostle shuts up his general proposition of the whole matter, which he intends farther to dilate and treat upon. In this description of the person and offices of the Messiah, he coucheth the springs of all his ensuing arguments, and from thence enforceth the exhortation which we have observed him constantly to pursue. And we also may hence observe,
1. That there is nothing more vain, foolish and fruitless, than the opposition which Satan and his agents yet make to the Lord Christ and his kingdom. Can they ascend into heaven? Can they pluck the Lord Christ from the throne of God? A little time will manifest this madness, and that unto eternity.
2. That the service of the Lord Christ is both safe and honourable. As he is a good, so he is a glorious master; one that sits at the right hand of God.
3. Great is the spiritual and eternal security of them that truly believe in Christ. Of all which severally afterwards.
Ver. 4.-The design of the apostle, as we have now often shewed, is to evince the necessity of abiding in the doctrine of the gospel, from the excellency of the person by whom it pleased God to reveal it unto us. This he hath done already in general, in that description which he hath given us of his person, power, works, offices and glory; whereby he hath made it evident, that no creature whom God was pleased at any time to make use of in the revelation of his will, or the institution of his worship, was any way to be compared with him. Having proceeded thus far in general, he descends now to the consideration of particular instances, in all those whom God employed in the ministration of the law, and constitution of Mosaic wor
ship, and takes occasion from them all to set forth the dignity and incomparable excellencies of the Lord Christ, whom in all things he exalts.
First then, he treateth concerning angels, as those who were the most glorious creatures employed in the giving of the law. The Hebrews owned, yea pleaded this in their own defence, that besides the mediation of Moses, God used the ministry of angels in the giving of the law, and in other occasional instructions of their forefathers. Some of them contend, that the last of the prophets was personally an angel, as the signification of his name imports. Holy Stephen upbraiding them with their abuse and contempt of their greatest privileges, tells them that they received the law by the disposition, ordering, or ministry of angels, Acts vii. 53. And the Targum interprets the chariots of God with the thousands of angels, Psal. lxviii. 18, 19. of the angels by whose ministry God taught Israel the law. This then might leave a special prejudice in their minds, that the law being so delivered by angels, must needs have therein the advantage above the gospel, and be therefore excellent and immutable.
To remove this prejudice also, and further to declare the excellency and pre-eminence in all things of him who revealed the gospel, the apostle takes occasion from what he had newly taught them concerning the exaltation of Jesus Christ at the right hand of God, to prove unto them out of the Scriptures of the Old Testament, that he is exceedingly advanced, and glorious above the angels themselves, of whose concurrence in the ministration of the law they boasted; and to this purpose produceth four signal testimonies one after another.
This is the design of the apostle, which he pursues and makes out unto the end of this chapter; and that we may rightly conceive of his intention, and of the meaning of the Holy Ghost in the whole, we shall, before we consider his proposition laid down in this fourth verse, or the ensuing confirmations of it, inquire in general what it is in Christ which he compareth with, and preferreth above the angels, and wherein it is that he so exalts him.
The comparison entered on between the Lord Christ and angels, must be either with respect unto their natures, or unto their dignity, office, power and glory. If the comparison be of nature with nature, then it must be either in respect of the divine or human nature of Christ. If it should be of the divine nature of Christ, with the nature of angels, then it is not a comparison of proportion, as between two natures agreeing in any general kind of being, as do the nature of a man and a worm; but a comparison only manifesting a difference and distance without any proportion. So answereth Athanasius, Orat. 2, Vol. III.
adv. Arian. But the truth is, the apostle hath no design to prove by arguments and testimonies the excellency of the divine nature above the angelical. There was no need so to do, nor do bis testimonies prove any such thing. Besides, speaking of angels, the other part of the comparison, he treats not of their nature, but of their office, work and employment, with their honourable and glorious condition therein. 'Whereas therefore the apostle produceth sundry testimonies, confirming the deity of the Son, he doth it not absolutely to prove the divine nature to be more excellent than the angelical, but only to manifest thereby the glorious condition of him who is partaker of it, and consequently his pre-eminence above angels, or the equity that it should be so.
Neither is the comparison between the human nature of Christ and the nature of angels. For that absolutely considered and in itself, is inferior to the angelical ; whence in regard of his participation of it, he is said to be made lower than the angels, ch. ii. 9.
The apostle then treats of the person of Christ, God and man, who was appointed and designed of God the Father, to be the revealer of the gospel, and Mediator of the New Testament. As such, he is the subject of the ensuing general proposition; as such, he was spoken of in the words immediately foregoing ; and concerning him, as such, are the ensuing testimonies to be interpreted, even those which bear testimony to his divine nature: these being produced to demonstrate the excellency of his person, as vested with the offices of the king, priest and prophet of his church, the great revealer of the will of God in the last days.
Τοσουτω κριτίων γενομενος των αγγελων όσω διαφερωτερον παρ' αυτοις κεκληρονομηκεν ονομα. .
Torovtw xqutlaws gevojtkvos : Syr. 37 oba 8971, et ipse tantum præstantior fuit. Bodesian. And he was so much more excellent ; at tanto potior factus est. Tremel. And he is made so much belter ; at ipse toto excellit: or as De Dieu, At hoc lolum excellit, and he wholly excelleth, or in all things he excelleth. Vulg. Tanto melior factus angelis: the translation of rqsırlo by melior is blamed by Erasmus, Beza, Vatablus, and is generally deserted by the expositors of the Roman church. And it is hard, if not impossible, to find melior in any good author, used in the sense that xgutlw is here and elsewhere constantly applied unto. Ours render the word better, made better, to avoid, I believe, a coincidence with that which they express dre@sgwrigos by, more excellent: mgurlw is properly nobilior, potentior, præstantior, excellentior ; more powerful, able, excellent, as to love, honour, or state and condition; as in that of Homer,
Κρείσσων γας βασιλευς ότι χωσεται ανδρι χερη.
That is, Fordov agtiwy, saith Eustathius, multo potentior, ' more powerful, able to prevail, or more excellent. [sropteros, factus, effectus ; 'made, was, became. AcePegategor, diferentius, - different,' which is sometimes put absolutely for the best things, or things far better than other things that differ, the best things. Make to differ, to prefer, make better, 1 Cor. iv. 7. Syr. 9887, excellentius, more excellent.' Ascepigwr is both to differ and excel; but the differentius of the Vulgar yields no good sense in this place. Kozangovounes, hæreditavit, sortilus est, jure hæreditario obtinuit ; of the import of which word before.
Being in so much preferred (exalted, made eminent) above angels, as he obtained) inherited a more excellent name than they.
There are five things considerable in, and for the exposition of these words.
First, What it is that the apostle asserts in them as his general proposition; namely, that the Son, as the great priest and prophet of the church, was preferred above, and made more glorious and powerful than the angels; and how this was done, and wherein it doth consist.
Secondly, When he was so preferred above them; which belongs unto the explication and right understanding of the former.
Thirdly, The degree of this preference of him above the angels, intimated in the comparison ; “ being made by so much more excellent, as he hath,” &c.
Fourthly, The proof of the assertion, both absolutely, and as to the degree intimated; and this is taken from his name.
Fifthly, The way whereby he came to have this name: he obtained it as his lot and portion, or he inherited it.
1st, He is made more excellent than the angels, preferred above them; that is, say some, declared so to be. Tum res dicitur fieri, cum incipit patefieri. Frequently in the Scripture, a thing is then said to be made, or to be, when it is manifested so to be. And in this sense the word yofat is sometimes used. Rom. iii. 4. Γινεσθω ο Θεος αληθης, πως δε ανθρωπος ψευστης, « Let God be true, and every man a liar;" that is, manifested and acknowledged so to be. So, James i. 12. doxipeos youevos, he that is approved in trial, and thereby manifested to be sincere and sound. In this sense the apostle tells us, Rom. i. 3. that the Lord Christ was “ declared to be the Son of God by the resurrection from the dead.” The resurrection from the dead did not make him to be the Son of God, but evidently manifested and declared him so to be. According to this interpretation of the words, that which the Holy Ghost intimateth is, that whereas the Lord Christ ministered in a condition outwardly low in this world, whilst he purged our sins, yet by his sitting down at the right hand of God, he was revealed, manifested, declared to be more excellent than all the angels in heaven. But I see no reason why we should desert the
and most usual signification of the word, nothing in the context persuading us so to do. Besides, this suits not the apostle's design, who doth not prove from the Scripture that the Lord Christ was manifested to be more excellent than the angels, but that really he was preferred and exalted above them.
So then, xqsızlwe gevouisvos is as much as preferred, exalted, actually placed, in more power, glory, dignity, than the angels. This John Baptist affirms of him, εμπροσθεν με γέγονεν, ότι πρωτος M8 nv, " He was preferred before me, because he was before me. Preferred above him, called to another manner of office than that which John ministered in; made before or above him in dignity, because he was before him in nature and existence. And this is the proper sense of the words. The Lord Jesus Christ, the revealer of the will of God in the gospel, is exalted above, preferred before, made more excellent and glorious than the angels themselves, than all or any of them, who ministered unto the Lord in the giving of the law on Mount Sinai.
Some object to this interpretation, that he who is said to be made or set above the angels, is supposed to have been lower than they before. To which I answer, And so he was, not in respect of essence, subsistence, and real dignity, but in respect of the infirmities and sufferings that he was exposed unto, in the discharge of his work here on the earth, as the apostle expressly declares, ch. ii. 9.
2d, And this gives us light into our second inquiry on these words; namely, When it was that Christ was thus exalted above the angels.
1. Some say, that it was in the time of his incarnation ; for then the human nature being taken into personal subsistence with the Son of God, it became more excellent than that of the angels. This sense is fixed on by some of the ancients, who are followed by sundry modern expositors. But we have proved before, that it is not of either nature of Christ absolutely or abstractedly that the apostle here speaketh, nor of his person, but as vested with his office, and discharging it. And moreover the incarnation of Christ was part of his humiliation and exinanition, and is not therefore especially intended, where his exaltation and glory is expressly spoken of
2. Some say, that it was at the time of his baptism, when he was anointed with the Spirit, for the discharge of his propheti. cal office, Isa. Ixi. 1, 2. But yet neither can this designation of the time be allowed, and that because the main things wherein he was made lower than the angels, as his temptations, and sufferings, and death itself, did follow his baptism and unction.