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THE EPISTLE OF PAUL THE APOSTLE TO THE
This epistle has been the subject of a greater variety of opinions than perhaps any other part of the New Testament. With respect to the author of it, whether he were Paul, Luke, Barnabas, Clemens, or Apollos ; with respect to the language in which it was written, whether it were Greek, or Hebrew ; with respect to the time when, the place where, the persons to whom, and the immediate design with which it was written, the early writers of the Christian Church have indulged a variety of conjectures; and though, from comparing them one with another, modern divines approach nearer to a coincidence of opinion, yet some difference still remains. In considering what appears to be the true state of the case, the reader is required to observe, what perhaps has not in general been sufficiently attended to, that the circumstances which shall be mentioned throw a light upon this epistle, which renders it, next to the Gospels, the most interesting part of the sacred code, and affords a proof of its authenticity which is irresistible. This epistle is addressed to the heart as well as to the head ; and, in order to enter into its true spirit and mean-.. ing, it requires not only a clear understanding, but also a true sensibility.
Though the name of Paul is not to be found in this epistle, and perhaps his peculiar circumstances, and the circumstances of the times, may suggest reasons for the omission, yet it is highly probable that he was the author of it; but, as the style varies considerably from that of his other epistles, and more nearly resembles that of Luke, to whom the work has by some been ascribed, it is likewise probable that Luke assisted him in the composition, or was employed by him as his amanuensis. There is in this epistle the same concise, abrupt, and elliptical mode of expression which Paul generally uses ; and it contains many phrases and sentiments which are found in no part of Scripture, except in St. Paul's epistles. It may be farther observed, that the manner in which Timothy is mentioned in this epistle renders it probable that it was written by St. Paul. Compare Heb. xiii. 23, with 2 Cor. i. 1, and Col. i. 1. It was certainly written by a person who had suffered imprisonment in the cause of Christianity; and this is known to have been the case of St. Paul, but of no other person to whom this epistle has been attributed. It therefore appears that both the ex
ternal and internal evidence greatly preponderate in favour that St. Paul was the author of this epistle.
There is great reason to believe that the Epistle to the Hebrews was the last of Paul's epistles, and that it was written from Italy, after visiting Judæa ; and that it was intended for the particular benefit of the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem and the parts adjacent. The time, when the apostle wrote or dictated this important letter, was probably the year before his own martyrdom ; which event, by Dr. Lardner and many others, is supposed to have taken place in the year 64 or 65; and by Dr. Sykes in the year 68. But the circumstance which above all deserves attention, as it appears to be the best key to the whole epistle, and that which is referred to in every part of it, is the following:- The Jewish war commenced in the year 66, and ended in the entire destruction of the temple, of the Jewish worship and polity, and of the city of Jerusalem itself by Titus, in the year 70. Whenever, therefore, we read Josephus's account of the siege of Jerusalem, or our Saviour's prediction of this event, we should consult this epistle ; and, whenever we read this epistle, we should think of the siege of Jerusalem, and the total destruction of that city, and of the Jewish temple, worship, and polity, and we shall then perceive beauties in every passage, to which a genuine sensibility of heart will suggest a proper commentary.
In such circumstances, with his own dissolution full in his view, with his mind fixed upon those inconceivably awful events which were just going to take place, what could have been the design of the apostle, in this his last great effort to serve the cause, but to strengthen the faith of his countrymen ; to prepare them to meet, and to comfort them under, their unparalleled distresses ; to preserve them from apostacy and despair, and to arm them with fortitude and resolution ? And what topics were so proper for him to insist upon, with this benevolent design, as the importance of faith; the superiority of the Christian dispensation, in ail its parts, to that which was just going to be abolished ; and the certainty, greatness, and duration of the rewards promised to persevering obedience? This epistle is a masterly supplement to the Epistles to the Romans and Galatians, upon which it is a luminous commentary. It shows, in a connected chain of argument, which evinces the profoundest knowledge of both the Jewish and Christian dispensations, that the one was ori. ginally designed to supersede the other. Like the rest of St. Paul's epistles, it concludes with a practical exhortation, peculiarly applicable to the Jewish nation, to cultivate brotherly love, to avoid covetousness, to beware of diverse and strange doctrines, and to abound in all goodness.
CHAP. I. 1 Christ in these last times coming to us from the Father, 4 is pre.
ferred above the angels, both in person and office. A. D. 64. GOD, who at sundry times and in diyers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets,
- 2 Háth b in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed' heir of all things, é by whom also he made the worlds ;2
3 Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and s upholdi constituted. Wh. Dod. ? the ages. Wh. Dod.
. CHAP. I. a Numb. xii. 6,8: If there be a prophet among you, I the LORD will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream. With him [Moses] will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches ; and the similitude of the LORD shall he behold. 1 Sam. iii. 10: The LORD came, and stood, and called as at other times, Samuel, Samuel. Then Samuel answered, Speak ; for thy servant heareth.
b Deut. iv. 30: Even in the latter days, if thou turn to the LORD thy God, and shalt be obedient unto his voice [thou shalt find him). See on MARK, i. 15.
Mat. iv. 17: Jesus hegan to preach, and to say, Repent. MARK, i. 14 : Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the Gospel of the kingdom of God. John, i. 17 : For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. do. xv. 15: All things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you. Acts, x. 36: The word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ. Heb. ii. 3.
d Mat. xxviij. 18: And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. John, iii. 35: The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand. Rom. viii. 17 : And if children, then heirs ; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. See on MAT. xxi. 38.
e See on John, i. 3.
fWisd. vii. 26 : [She is] the image of his goodness. John, i. 14: And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of
ing 3 all things by the word of his power, when he had bby himself purged 4 our sins, i sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high ;
4 Being made so inuch better 5 than the angels. as k he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.
5 For unto which of the angels said he at any time, 'Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee? And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son ?
6 And again, when he bringeth in the n firstbegotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him.
3 bearing, or ruling. Ham. washed us from. Br. wrought the cleansing of. Ham. 5 inore excellent. Co. Ma, superior. Ham. Dod. higher. We. when he bringeth again. A. V.
the Father,) full of grace and truth. Phi. ii. 6: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God. See on John, xiv. 9.
& John, i. 4: In him was life ; and the life was the light of men. Col. i. 17 : By him all things consist. Rev. iv. 11: Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.
HEB. vii. 27: Who needeth not daily, as those High Priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people's : for this he did once, when he offered up him self. See on Acts, xx. 28.
See on Mat. xxii. 44. * See on Eph. i. 21.
See on Acts, xiii. 33. m 2 Sam. vii. 14: I will be his father, and he shall be my son. 1 Chr. xxii. 10: He shall build an house for my name; and he shall be my son, and I will be his father; and I will establish the throne of his kingdoin over Israel for ever do. xxviii. 6 : And he said unto me, Solomon thy son, he shall build my house and my courts : for I have chosen him to be my son, and I will be his father. Ps. lxxxix, 26, 27 : He shall cry unto me, Thou art my father, my God, and the rock of my salvation. Also I will make him my firstborn, higher than the kings of the earth.
n See on Rom. viii. 29. • Deut. xxxii. 43: In the Septuagint are these words,
7 And P of? the angels he saith, Who maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire.
8 But unto the Son he saith, a Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever : a sceptre of righteousness 9 is the sceptre of thy kingdom. - 9 Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, r hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.
10 And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands :
11 They shall perish ; but thou remainest; and they all shall wax old to as doth a garment;
12 And as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, and they shall be changed : but thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail.
13 But to which of the angels said he at any
7 Gr. unto. A. V. winds. Ham. Dod. Pu.
8the spirits his messengers. Gen. his angels 'Gr. rightness, or straightness. A. V. 10 decay.
though not in our translation. Ps. xcvii. 7: Worship him, all ye gods. 1 Pet. iii. 22: Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him.
P Ps. civ. 4: Who maketh his angels spirits ; his ministers a flaming fire.
9 Ps. xlv. 6, 7: Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever : the sceptre of thy kingdom is a right sceptre. Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness : therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows....
"ISA. Ixi. 1: The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek ; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound. See on Acts, x. 38. s See on LUKE, xvi. 17. See on Luke, xvi, 17.