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“ fered by so great a man as Grotius, it would not have been “ worth considering."
Upon the whole, let any one who hath impartially weighed the arguments on the one side and on the other in this important question, say, whether the facts and circumstances above set forth, do not, in a very convincing manner, shew that the tradition preserved in the church from the beginning, concerning Paul's being the author of the epistle to the Hebrews, is well founded : And whether the church hath not rightly received that epistle into the canon of scripture, as an inspired writing of the great apostle of the Gentiles?
Of the Persons to whom the Epistle to the Hebrews was sent : Of the
Purpose for which it was written : And of the Language in which it was originally composed.
1. Clement of Alexandria, Jerome, Euthalius, Chrysostom, Theodoret, Theophylact, and others, were of opinion that the epistle to the Hebrews was sent to the Jews living in Judea, who, in the apostle's days were called Hebrews, to distinguish them from the Jews in the Gentile countries, who were called Hellenists or Grecians, Acts vi. 1. ix. 29. xi. 20. In that opinion these ancient authors were well founded, because, as Lardner observes, this letter appears to have been written to persons dwelling in one place, Heb. xiii. 19. 23, 24. namely to the inhabitants of Judea ; and to those of them especially who lived in Jerusalem. For there only the Levitical worship, which is so accurately examined in this epistle, was performed: And there the chief priests, elders and scribes resided, who were best qualified to explain and defend that worship : Best qualified also to judge of the meaning of the ancient oracles quoted in this learned letter, and to determine whether the author's reasonings therein were just, and his doctrines true. Accordingly, this epistle was not directed, like the epistle of James, To the twelve tribes who are in the dispersion ; nor like Peter's first epistle, To the sojourners of the dispersion of Pontus, &c. But it begins without any address at all; so that not the believing Jews only, but those of the nation who had not believed the gospel, were invited to read and consider it, whether they resided in Jerusalem or elsewhere.
In confirmation of the supposition, that the epistle to the Hebrews was written to the people of Judea, Lardner, canon, vol. ii. p. 316. takes notice, that in it there are things which are more suitable to the Jews in Judea, than to the Jews in any other part of the world. For example, chap. ii. 9. 18. the persons to whom this letter was sent are supposed to have been well acquainted with our Lord's sufferings and resurrection.In like manner, chap. v. 12. For though ye ought to have been teachers on account of the time, with what follows, applies better to the believers in Judea than to others; because having enjoyed the gospel from the beginning, they were of longer standing in the faith than others.-Chap. x. 32. Call to remembrance the former days, in which being enlightened ye sustained a great combat of afflictions. This leads us to the church at Jerusalem, which, after the death of Stephen, suffered a great persecution, Acts viii. 1.
The following passages likewise deserve particular attention ; chap. xiii. 7. Remember your rulers who have spoken to you the word of God, of whose conversation attentively considering the ending, imitate their faith. Theodoret's note on this verse is, “ He intends the saints who were dead, Stephen the protomar“tyr, James the brother of John, and James called the just. " And there were many others, who were taken off by the Jew“ ish rage. Consider these, says he, and observing their exam“ ple, imitate their faith.” And ver. 17. Obey your rulers, and submit yourselves, for they watch for your souls. And ver. 24. Salute all your rulers.—These directions imply, that this letter was sent to the multitude, or laity of some particular church, whose rulers, as Theodoret observes on ver. 24. not needing the instruction contained in it, the writer doth not address them, but their disciples. Now what church could that be, but the church at Jerusalem which was ruled by the apostles, who certainly knew the truth concerning the law; That it was no rule of justification either to Jews or Gentiles; That its priesthood and sacrifices were utterly ineffectual for procuring the pardon of sin ; And that the principal use of the Levitical worship, was to prefigure the good things to come under the gospel dispensation. « For,” to use Lardner's words, Canon, vol. 2. page 320, “ I am persuaded, that not only James and all the other apostles, " had exactly the same doctrine with Paul, but that all the elders “ likewise, and all the understanding men among the Jewish be« lievers, embraced the same doctrine. They were, as I
appre“ hend, the multitude only (12.90s, plebs) or the men of lower “ rank among them, who were attached to the peculiarities of the Mosaic law and the customs of their ancestors. This may be “ argued from what James and the elders at Jerusalem say to “ Paul, Acis xxi. 20. Thou seest brother how many thousands of " Jews there are who believe ; And they are all zealous of the “ law.- What is it therefore ? the multitude must needs come “ together. It is hence evident that the zeal for the law, which “ prevailed in the minds of many, was not approved by James, 6 or the elders. That being the case, these recommendations " of a regard for their rulers, whether apostles or elders, were very proper
in an epistle to the believers in Judea.” For, as many of them differed in opinion concerning the law from their teachers, they might be apt to think lightly of them, and to disregard their instructions ; for which reason the apostle desired them to obey their rulers. This circumstance, joined with those already mentioned, sufficiently proves that the epistle to the Hebrews, though designed for the Jews every where, was with great propriety directed and sent to the church at Jerusalem ; as the ancients above mentioned believed : in which opinion they have been followed by Beza, Lightfoot, Pearson, Whitby, Mill, Cap. pell, Hallet, Lardner, and other learned moderns.
To the opinion, that the epistle to the Hebrews was written to the Jews in Judea, some have objected the words found, Heb. xii. 4. Not yet unto blood have ye resisted, combating againt sin. This, they think, could not be said to the church at Jerusalem, where there had been two martyrs, namely Stephen and James. But the answer is, the apostle is speaking of the laity of that church, to whom alone this letter was directed, and not to the rulers, as hath been shewed scct. 2. paragr. 3. Of the common people few, if any, had hitherto been put to death. But they had been imprisoned, and pillaged, and defamed, Acts vüi. 1. 3. xxvi. 10, 11. 1 Thess. ii. 14.-Another objection is taken from Heb. vi. 10. For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love-in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do mi. nister. “ Here again,” saith Wall, “ we are put upon think“ ing to what church of Christians this is said. For, as to those o of Jerusalem, we read much in Paul's former letters of their
poverty, and of their being ministered to by the Gentile Chris“ tians of Galatia, of Macedonia, of Corinth : And in the Acts or by the Antiochians : But no where of their ministring to any 6 other saints. If it is of them that St. Paul speaks this, it must “ be meant of ministring to their own poor. For that, indeed, “ they were famous at first, when the rich men among them
“ sold their lands, and brought the money to the apostles, and “ they had all things in common, and none lacked. But in the 6 times that had been since that, they were very poor, and were “ relieved by other churches.” But there is little force in this objection. Ministring to the saints in those days did not consist solely in helping them with money. Attending on them in their imprisonment ; doing them any little offices they stood in need of; speaking to them in a kind and consolatory manner; with such other services as may be performed without money, was and is as real a ministring to the saints, as relieving them with money. And doubtless the church at Jerusalem ministered, in that manner, to one another in their afflictions. Farther, although the generality of the members of the church at Jerusalem were reduced to poverty by the sufferings they had sustained, there certainly were among them some in better circumstances, who may have deserved the commendation, that they had ministered, and did still minister to the saints, by giving them a share of their worldly goods.
II. With respect to the purpose for which the epistle to the Hebrews was written, I observe that the things contained in it lead us to understand, That it was written to prove what the learned doctors, and scribes, and elders in Jerusalem strongly denied; namely, That Jesus of Nazareth whom they had lately put to death, is Christ the Son of God : And that the gospel, of which Jesus is both the subject and the author, is of divine original and universal obligation. For, in this letter, as shall be shewed in Sect. 3. all the arguments and objections by which, those who put Jesus to death, endeavoured to set his claim aside, and overturn the gospel, are introduced, examined, and confuted; his title and authority, as a law-giver, to abolish the institutions of Moses, and to substitute the gospel-dispensation in their room, is established; the absolute inefficacy of the Levitical atonements to procure the pardon of sin, is demonstrated ; The reality of the sacrifice of himself which Christ offered for sin, together with its efficacy and its acceptableness to God, are clearly proved : And on all these considerations, the unbelieving Jews were exhorted to forsake the law of Moses and embrace the gospel ; and such of the nation as had embraced it, were cautioned against apostasy.--Farther, as the arguments made use of in this epistle, for explaining and proving the important matters of which it treats, are all taken from the Jewish scriptures, there can be little doubt, that it was written for the purpose of persuading the unbelieving Jews every where to renounce Judaism and embrace the gospel ; as well as for establishing the believing Jews in the profession of Christianity. Be. ing therefore a letter to the whole Jewish nation, the writer intended that the believing Hebrews in Judea, to whom it was sent, should communicate it to their unbelieving brethren every where, who choosed to read it.
That a writing designed for the conversion of the Jewish nation, should have been calculated in an especial manner to convince the learned doctors and scribes, who still adhere to the religion of their forefathers; and that it should have been sent to the Jews living in Judea, was highly proper. They were the principal part of the circumcision, from whom this letter could be circulated among the Jews of the dispersion. Besides, the nation in general, it is reasonable to think, would be much guided in their judgment concerning the doctrine taught in this epistle, by the reception which it might meet with from their brethren in Judea; but especially from the scribes and elders at Jerusalem.
III. As to the language in which the epistle to the Hebrews was originally composed, many of the ancients speak of it as having been written by the apostle Paui in the Hebrew.--This was the opinion of Clement of Alexandria, and of Jerome, as is plain from the passages quoted above, Sect. 1. paragr. 3.Eusebius too was of the same opinion. For in his Ece. Hist. lib. iii. c. 38. speaking of the epistle which Clement wrote in the name of the church of the Romans to the church of the Corinthians, he saith, “ In it he hath inserted many thoughts “ from the epistle to the Hebrews, sometimes using the very “ same words; plainly shewing that it is not a new writing. “ Wherefore, it is justly ranked with the other writings of the “ apostie. Now Paul, who was conversant with the Hebrews, 6 having wrote to them in their native language, some say Luke
the Evangelist, others, this very Clement translated that writ
ing; which seems the more true, as the epistle of Clement " and the epistle to the Hebrews, exhibit the same kind of “ style ; and that the thoughts in both, are not much different." Here it is proper to remark, that notwithstanding the fathers usually appealed to tradition in support of the ancient facts which they have reported, when they had it in their power to make such an appeal, neither Clement of Alexandria, nor Origen, nor Eusebius, nor Jerome, nor any Christian writer of the second and