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some and seasonable. And of this, his hope and judgment concerning the Hebrews, he expresseth his grounds taken from the righteousness of God, their own faith and love, in which he prays they may persevere, ver. 9-12. 4. An encouragement unto faith and perseverance, from the example of Abraham, who first received the promises; from the nature of the promises themselves, and their confirmation by the oath of God, with the assistance we may have by our hope in Christ thereby, ver. 13—20. which last discourse he issueth in the principal 'matter he intended to insist upon, whereunto he now returns again, having digressed necessarily into those exhortations and arguings, from the first proposal of it in the eleventh verse of the foregoing chapter.
In the first part of the chapter, comprised in the three first verses, there are three things considerable. 1. A general proposition of the apostle's resolution to proceed unto the more perfect doctrines of the gospel, as also of his passing over the first principles of Christianity, ver. 1. 2. An amplification of this proposition, by an enumeration of those docirines which he thought meet at present to pass by the handling of, ver. 1, 2. 3. Å renovation of his resolution to pursue his proposition, with a submission to the will and good pleasure of God, as to the execution of his purpose ; the expression whereof, the present state of these Hebrews peculiarly called him unto, ver. 3. VER 1.-Διο αφεντες τον της αρχής τα Χριστε λογον, επι την τελειότητα
Φιρωμεθα μη παλιν θεμελιων καταβαλλομενοι. suo, ideo, quapropter, propterea, wherefore ;' ce sites, intermittentes, Arias. Vulg. Lat. Rhem. “intermitting ;' as though the apostle laid these things aside, only for the present, with a resolution to take them up again in this Epistle. But neither doth the word signify any such thing, nor doth he so do. Relinquentes, Bez. leaving Syr. prava, omittamus, or demittamus, dismissing;' properly. Tov tus aexns tou Xgotov dozor, Arias; Sermonem initië Christi. Vulg. inchoationis Christi, • the word of the beginning of Christ, as the Rhemists; very obscurely in Latin, and in our language. Eras. omisso qui in Christo rudes inchoat sermone, the word that entereth those that are unskilful, or beginners in Christ.' So also Beza. We, • the principles of the doctrine of Christ.' Syr. “the beginning of the word of Christ,' for “the word of the beginning of Christ.' The word of, or that which concerns the principles of the doctrine of Christ. Επι την τελειότητα Φιρωμεθα. porque hesda
det, feramur, let us be carried on.' Syr. Nnx, let us come to;' Arab. • let us lift up ourselves ;' Rhem. • let us proceed;'ours, • let us go on to perfection.'
Ver. 1.-- Wherefore, leaving the doctrine of the beginning of
Christ, let us be carried on lo perfection. Au, 'wherefore.' This illative manifests that there is a dependance in what ensues, on what was discoursed of before. That which follows, may be either an inference from it, or be the effect of a resolution occasioned by it. • Wherefore ;" that is, either this duty will hence follow, or seeing it is so, I am thus resolved to do. And this connection is variously apprehended, on the account of the ambiguity of the expression, in the plural number and first person. Aportes, Pigauzdos, we leaving, let us go on. For in this kind of expression, there is a rhetorical communication. And the apostle either assumes the Hebrews unto himself, as to his work, or joins himself with them as to their duty. For, if the words be taken the first way, they declare his resolution in teaching; if in the latter, their duty in learning.
First, If we take the words in the first way, as expressing the apostle's resolution as to his own work, the inference seems .. to have an immediate dependance on the 'twelfth verse of the
preceding chapter, passing by the discourse of the following verses, as a digression to be, as it were, included in a parenthesis. Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing you are dull in hearing ; I shall, therefore, for your future instruction, leave the principles of the doctrine of Christ, and go on unto more sublime mysteries, or the wisdom that we speak among them that are perfect. For, although he had blamed them for their dulness and backwardness in learning, yet he doth not declare them, at least, not all of them, to be such as were incapable of these mysteries, so as that he ought not to communicate them unto them. This is the meaning of the words, if the apostle assume the Hebrews unto himself, and if it be his work that is intended.
Secondly, If in the latter way the apostle join himself unto the Hebrews, and it is their duty which is intended; namely, that they should not always dwell on the first principles or lessons of Christianity, but press on unto perfection, then, 1. This illative do, seems to have respect unto the time in the first place, during which these Hebrews had enjoyed the means of growth in the knowledge of Christ; on the account whereof, he affirms that it might be justly expected concerning them, that they should be teachers of others. Therefore, saith he, or on the consideration hereof, it is just and equal that you should go on towards perfection; which, that they would do, be expresseth his hopes concerning them, ver. 9. 2. It respects also ihat negligence and sloth, and backwardness to learn, which he had reproved in them. As if he had said, Seeing, therefore,
you have hitherto been so careless in the improvement of the means which you have enjoyed, which hath been no small fault or evil in you, but that which hath tended greatly to your disadvantage, now at last, stir up yourselves unto your duty, and go on to perfection.
We need not precisely determine this connection, so as to exclude either intention. Yea, it may be, the apostle having respect unto the preceding discourse, and considering thereon both the present condition of the Hebrews, as also the necessi. ty that there was of instructing them in the mystery of the priesthood of Christ, without the knowledge whereof, they could not be freed from their entanglements unto the Aaronical priesthood and ceremonies, which were yet in use and exercise among them, doth intend in this inference from thence, both his own duty and theirs ; that he should proceed unto their farther instruction, and that they should'stir up themselves to learn and profit accordingly. This the duty of his office and care of them, and this their advantage and edification, required. For this alone was the great means and expedient to bring them off in a due manner, and upon right grounds, from that compliance with Judaism, which God would now no longer connive at, nor tolerate the practice of, as that which was inconsistent with the nature and design of the gospel. And it is apparent, that before the writing of this Epistle, they were not sufficiently convinced that there was an absolute end put unto all Mosaic institutions. For, notwithstanding their profession of the gospel, they still thought it their duty to abide in the observance of them. But now, the apostle designs their in. struction in that mystery, which particularly evinceth their inconsistency with faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, and obedience unto him.
• A Qertes, omittentes, relinquentes; we, leaving ;' aspingea is sometimes dimitto, to dismiss,' to discharge or let go;' sometimes omitto, missum facio, toomit,' to 'pass by ;' and it is used with respect unto speech of things that have been already mentioned, TOVTNV Osvoi tay doyo, in Lucian, omitting these discourses,' laying aside farther speech concerning these things. So is it here used by our apostle. But the signification of the word is to be limited unto the present occasion. For, consider the things here spoken of absolutely, and they are nerer to be left either by teachers or hearers. There is a necessity that teachers should often insist on the rudiments, or first principles of religion. And this, not only with respect unto them who are continually to be trained up in knowledge from their infancy, or unto such as may be newly converted; but also, they are occasionally to be inculcated on the minds of those, who have made a farther progress in knowledge. And this course
we find our apostle to have steered in all his epistles. Nor are any hearers so to leave these principles, as to forget them, or not duly to make use of them. Cast aside a constant regard unto them in their proper place, and no progress can be made in knowledge, no more than a building can be carried on, when the foundation is taken away. But respect is had on both sides unto the present occasion. Let us not always dwell upon the teaching and learning of these things, but omitting them for å season, as things that you are, or might be well acquainted withal, let us proceed unto what is farther necessary for you.
Obs. I. It is the duty of ministers of the gospel to take care, not only that the doctrine which they preach be true, but also that it be seasonable with respect to the state and condition of their bearers.—Herein consists no small part of that wisdom which is required in the dispensation of the word. Truths unseasonable are like showers in harvest. It is a word spoken in season that is beautiful and useful, Prov. xxv. 11. Yea,“ every thing is beautiful in its own time," and not else, Eccles. ij. 11. And two things are especially to be considered by him who would order his doctrine aright, that his words may be fit, meet, and seasonable. First, The condition of his hearers, as to their present knowledge and capacity. Suppose them to be persons, as the apostle speaks, of full age, such as can receive and digest strong meat, that have already attained some good acquaintance with the mysteries of the gospel. In preaching to such an auditory, if men through want of ability to do otherwise, or want of wisdom to know when they ought to do otherwise, shall constantly treat of first principles, or things common and obvious, it will not only be unuseful to their edification, but also at length make them weary of the ordinance itself. And there will be no better effect on the other side, where the hearers being mostly weak, the more abstruse mysteries of truth are insisted on, without a prudent accommodation of matters suited to their capacity. It is therefore the duty of stewards in the house of God, to give to his household their proper portion. This is the blessed advice our apostle gives to Timothy, 2 Tim. ii. 15. “ Study to show thyself approved unto God, a work-man that needeth not to be ashamed, ορθοτομεντα τον λογον της αληθειας, rightly cutting out the word of truth.” This is that whereby a minister may evince himself to be a work-man that needeth not to be ashamed. If, as when the beasts that were sacrificed being cut into pieces, the priest according to the law, disposed of the parts of it to the altar, to himself, and to him that brought it, that each in the division" might have his proper and legal portion; so he give out a due and proper part to his hearers, he is an approved work-man. Others cast all things into confusion and disorder, which will at length redound to their own shame. Now, whereas in all churches, auditories or congregations, there is so great a variety of hearers with respect to their present attainments, knowledge and capacities, that it is impossible that any one should always, or indeed very frequently accommodate his matter and way of instruction to them all, it were greatly to be desired that there might be, as there was in the primitive church, a distribution made of hearers, into several orders or ranks, according as their age, or means of knowledge do sort them, that so the edification of all might be distinctly provided for. So would it be, if it were the work of some, separately to instruct those who yet stand in need to be taught the first principles of the oracles of God; and of others to build up towards perfection those who have already made some progress in the knowledge of the gospel ; or the same work may be done by the same persons at several seasons. Nor doth any thing hinder, but that those who are strong, may be occasionally present at the instructions of the weak, and the latter at the teachings of the former, both to their great advantage. In the mean time, until this can be attained, it is the duty and wisdom of a minister, to apply himseif in the doctrine he preacheth, and the manner of his delivery, to the more general state of his hearers, as by him it is apprehended or known. And as it will be a trouble to him, who esteems it his duty to go forward in the declaration of the mysteries of the gospel, to fear that many stay behind, as being unable to receive and digest the food he hath provided; so it should be a shame to them, who can make no provision but of things trite, ordinary and common, when many perhaps among their hearers, are capable of feeding on better or more solid provision. Again, 2. The circumstances of the present time, are duly to be con. sidered by them who would preach doctrine that should be seasonable to their hearers, And these are many, not here to be particularly insisted on. But those especially of known public temptations, of prevalent errors and heresies, of especial opposition and hatred to any important truths, are always to be regarded. For I could easily manifest that the apostle in his epistles, hath continually an especial respect to them all. Neither was a due consideration hereof ever more necessary, than it is in the days wherein we live. And other things may be added of the like nature to this purpose.
Obs. II. Again, Some important doctrines of truth may in the preaching of the gospel, be omitted for a season, but none must ever be forgotten or neglected. --So deals the apostle in this place, and light hath been sufficiently given us hereinto, by what hath already been discoursed.
2. That which is passed over here, he calls, toy ons agxas to Xqtt* noyor. Sermonem de Christo ixiliantem. Sermo exordi?