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age understood them. This I think the reader will acknow. ledge, when he considers that the writer of the epistle to the Hebrews, neither assumes the character of an apostle, nor rests his explications of the passages which he hath quoted, on the authority of his own inspiration ; but delivers these explications as matters universally known and acknowledged, and reasons on the passages which he quotes, according to that acknowledged sense. Nor could he with propriety do otherwise. For, if he had offered any novel interpretations, either literal or typical, of the Jewish scriptures, his arguments built on these interpretations would have had no weight whatever, either with the believing or unbelieving part of the nation.—This remark merits the reader's attention. For if the passages of the Old Testament, quoted in the epistle to the Hebrews, are therein applied to the persons and events, to which they were commonly applied by the learned Doctors of that age, and by the generality of the people, these interpretations and applications cannot be called in question by us. They are the ancient approv- . ed interpretations, given perhaps by the Prophets themselves to their contemporaries, who handed them down to posterity. This at least is certain, that in the Chaldee paraphrases of Onkelos and Jonathan, written about the time of our Lord's birth, most of the passages of the Old Testament which are applied to Jesus in the New, are interpreted of the Messiah. It is no objection to the foregoing remark, that the Jews now give a different interpretation of these passages. Their doctors, after the gospel began to prevail, wishing to deprive it of the evidence which it derived from the Old Testainent prophecies, forsook the ancient and commonly received interpretation of these prophecies, and applied them to persons and events, of which their fathers never so much as dreamed._Upon the whole, it is evident, that although we were really in doubt of St. Paul's being the writer of the epistle to the Hebrews, we could not call in question any of the doctrines taught in it; because their authority doth not depend on the character or credit of the writer who hath proposed them, but on the passages of the Old Testament, by which he hath proved them; on his understanding these passages according to their true meaning; and on the justness of the conclusions, which he hath deduced from them so understood. Nevertheless it must be acknowledged, that this epistle, as a part of the canon of the New Tertament, will have a still greater authority with Christians, if it is known to have been written by an inspired apostle of Christ.
From the foregoing account of the matters contained in the epistle to the Hebrews, the reader must be sensible, that it exhibits doctrines of great and general use ; That it contains profound discoveries concerning the most important articles of our faith ; and that it opens to us the sources of our best hopes. Wherefore, like the other Catholic epistles of the New Testament, it might have been addressed, To all in every place who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. Or rather, because in this epistle some of the greatest objections against the gospel are answered, or obviated, it might have been addressed to mankind in general. Yet, being written professedly to prove that all the essential doctrines of the gospel are either contained in the former revelations, though briefly and darkly, or are conformable to them, it was with great propriety addressed to the Jews in particular. For doctrines and proofs of that kind, submitted to the examination of the keepers of the former revelations, if approved by them, could hardly fail to be received by the rest of mankind, with the respect which is due to matters in themselves important, and which are so fully established by both revelations.
As the matters contained in the epistle to the Hebrews are highly worthy of our attention, so the manner in which they are handled is no less so. The arguments advanced in it for
sup. porting the doctrines of the gospel, as we have said, are all taken from the Jewish scriptures. But they are not on that account the less, but rather the more worthy of general regard ; being the very best arguments which can be used to convince rational unbelievers. The reason is, the doctrine concerning the dignity of Jesus as the Son of God, and the nature of that dignity ; and concerning the sacrifice of himself which he of fered to God, and the merit of that sacrifice ; and concerning God's willingness to pardon sinners, and to bestow on them unspeakable rewards in the life to come ; I say these doctrines are all matters of fact, whose existence can neither be known nor proved but by revelation. And, that the proofs thereof subsist in the Jewish, as well as in the Christian revelation, is a point of admirable wisdom ; because it shews, that the gracious purposes of the Deity respecting the human race, were all planned from the beginning : That in every age God gave mankind intimations of his merciful designs, and of the manner of their execution ; and that there is a strict connection between all his revelations and dispensations. Hence, when the Son of God apz peared on earth, to lay a foundation for the new revelation in his own actions and sufferings, and to fulfil the prophecies relating to himself, recorded in the Jewish scriptures, there was such a display made of the connection subsisting between the divine dispensations, as hath added the greatest strength of evidence, not only to our Lord's character and pretensions as the Son of God, but to the divine dispensations themselves; which though different, are not opposite or contradictory; but parts of a great plan formed from the beginning by the wisdom of God, and brought into execution in the different ages of the world, till the whole hath been illustriously completed in the gospel.
Of the Time when the Epistle to the Hebrews was written.
If the apostle Paul was the author of the epistle to the Hebrews, the time when it was written may easily be fixed. For the salutation from the saints of Italy, chap. iv. 24. together with the apostle's promise to see the Hebrews, ver. 23. plainly intimate that his confinement was then, either ended or on the eve of being ended. It was therefore written soon after the epistles to the Colossians, Ephesians, and Philemon, and not long before Paul left Italy, that is, in the year 61 or 62.
In the epistle itself there are passages which shew, that it was written before the destruction of Jerusalem. Particularly chap. viii. 4. ix. 25. X. 11. xii. 10. which speak of the temple as then standing, and of the Levitical sacrifices as still continuing to be offered. To these add, chap. x. 32.-37. where the apostle comforts the believing Hebrews under the persecution whiclı their unbelieving brethren were carrying on against them, by the prospect of Christ's speedy advent to destroy Jerusalem, and the whole Mosaic economy.
View and Illustration of the Matters contained in this Chapter. After the manner of the best writers, the apostle begins this most learned epistle, with proposing the subjects of which he is about to discourse ; namely, four important facts on which the authority of the gospel, as a revelation from God, is built; and which, if well established, should make unbelievers, whether Jews or Gentiles, renounce their infidelity and embrace the gospel.
Of these facts, the first is, that the same God, who spake the former revelations to the fathers of the Jewish nation, hath in these last days spoken the gospel to all mankind, ver. 1.-This the apostle mentioned first of all, to shew the agreement of the gospel with the former revelations. For if there were any real opposition between the Jewish and Christian revelations, the authoriiy of one of them, or of both, would be destroyed. Whereas these revelations agreeing in all things, they mutually explain and support each other. See chap. jji. 5. note 2.—The second fact of which the apostle proposed to discourse is, that the person by whom God hath spoken the gospel, is his Son, in the human nature; who is an effulgence from his glory, and a true image of liis sulistance; by whom also he made the worlds, ver. 2, 3.-Hence it follows; that the author of the gospel is far superior in nature to the angels, by whose ministry God spake the law; that the revelation which he macie to mankind, is more perfect than the revelation made to the Jews by angels; and that the dispensation founded thercon, is a better and more perma
nent dispensation than the law.—The third fact is, that the author of the gospel, in consequence of his having made the worlds, is Heiror Lord and Governor of all. And although, after becoming man, he died, yet being raised from the dead, he had the government of the world restored to him in the human nature, ver. 2, 3.—To the faithful, this is a source of the greatest consolation ; because, if the world is governed by their master, he certainly hath power to protect and bless them; and every thing befalling them, will issue in good to them. Besides, being the judge as well as the ruler of the world, he hath authority to acquit them at the judgment, and power to reward them for all the evils they have suffered on his account. The fourth fact treated of in this epistle is, That the author of the gospel laid down his life a sacrifice for sin, and by that sacrifice made an atonement, of which, when offered, God declared his acceptance, by setting Jesus at his own right hand, ver. 3.--The gospel, therefore, hath a priesthood and sacrifice, more efficacious than the priesthood and sacrifices of the law taken together. For, an expiation made by a person so great in himself, and so dear to God as his own Son, and made by the appointment of God, could not but be acceptable to him ; consequently it must be a sure foundation for that hope of pardon, by which the gospel encourages sinners to repent.
The authority of the gospel being supported by these four facts, the apostle judged it necessary to estabiish them on a solid foundation; and for that purpose wrote this learned letter, which he directed to the Hebrews, because being the keepers of the former revelations, they were the fittest judges, both of the facts themselves, and of the proofs brought from the ancient revelations to support tliem.
With respect to the first of these facts, namely that the Jewish and Christian revelations were spoken by the same God, let it be observed, that the apostle did not think it necessary to set forth a separate proof thereof. For as the whole of the epistle was to be employed in shewing, that the doctrines of the gospel, which the Jews considered as contrary to the former revelations, were all taught by Moses and the prophets, it was such a clear proof of the two revelations having proceeded from the same original, that there was no occasion to offer any other.
With respect to the second fact, on which the authority of the gospel, as a revelation from God, is built, namely that the man Jesus, by whom it was spoken, is the Son of God, the apostle in