terrible and convulsive to nature, in them that believe are brought into
order in due time by grace and resignation unto the will of God ; and
on the other hand, sin with its deceitful contrivances, will not cease to
offer its reliefs unto unbelievers in distress, until all hopes are cut off*
and vanished for ever.
But because there is an appearance of somewhat more than ordinary
severity, in the peremptory denial of a divine blessing unto one who so
earnestly sought and cried for it, the manner of his seeking it must be
1st. He did it when it 'was too late.' For he had not only forfeited
his right unto it long before, and lived in impenitency under that forfei-
ture, but the sacred investiture of another in that blessing was solemnly
past, which could not be recalled. So speaks Isaac even under his sur-
prisal ; ' I have blessed him, yea, and he shall be blessed,' Gen. xxvii.
Whatever men may pretend, whatever presumptuous sinners may flat-
ter themselves withal, there is a limited time of the dispensation of
grace, beyond which men shall not be admitted unto a participation of
it, nor shall ever use the right ways of attaining it. And this they may
do well to consider, who spend their lives in continual procrastination
of their conversion to God. They may live, yet their time may be past,
and a caveat entered against them, that they shall never enter into God's
rest; see ch. iii. 11 â€” 15, with the exposition.
2dly. He sought it not at all in a due manner. Outward vehemency
in expressions and tears, may be influenced by such considerations, as
not to be an evidence of inward sincerity. He sought it not of God,
but only of him that was the minister of it. And according to the law
of God's institution, the ministers of gospel blessings may be limited
from a communication of them ; but there is no law or bounds put unto
the infinite treasures of divine goodness, if application be made there-
unto in a due manner. But he sought the end without the means ; he
would have the blessing, but he used not the means for the attaining of
it; namely, faith and repentance. For notwithstanding all his sorrow
and trouble upon his disappointment, he entertained no thought about
any repentance in himself: for he immediately fell into a resolution to
follow Cain in his rejection, and to kill his brother. Yet herein lies the
great folly that the generality of men are betrayed into, through the de-
616 AN EXPOSITION OF THE [cil. XII.
ceitfulness of sin ; namely, that they would have the end, the blessing of
mercy and glory, without the use of the means, in faith, repentance,
and obedience. But it is in vain to endeavour or desire a separation of
those things which God, by an immutable constitution, hath conjoined
and put together.
Lastly. The reason of this event is expressed, fxeravoiag yap tottov
ovx tvpe, ' he found no place for repentance.' That is, notwithstanding
his pretended right, his claim of it, his earnestness with tears about it ;
notwithstanding the inexpressible affection of Isaac unto him, and his
trembling surprisal at an apprehension that he had missed the blessing ;
yet Isaac did not, could not, might not change his mind, or repent
him of what he had done in conferring the blessing on Jacob, which
God approved of. This sad event had the profaneness of Esau. And
we may observe,
Obs. I. This example of Esau cuts off all hopes from outward privi-
leges, where there is an inward profaneness of heart. He had as much
to plead for the blessing, and as fair a probability for the attaining it,
as ever any profane hypocrite can have in this world. And,
Obs. II. Profane apostates have a limited season only, wherein the
recovery of the blessing is possible. For although there is no intima-
tion here of a man's seeking of repentance from God in a due manner,
and being rejected, which is contrary to the nature of God, who is a re-
warder of all that diligently seek him ; yet there is an indication of seve-
rity in leaving men in an irrecoverable condition, even in this life, who
are guilty of such provocations.
Obs. Ill, The severity of God in dealing with apostates, is a blessed
ordinance for the preservation of them that believe, and the edification
of the whole church, Rom. xi, 22.
Obs. IV. Sin may be the occasion of great sorrow, where there is no
sorrow for sin, as it was with Esau. Men may rue that in the conse-
quents, which yet they like well enough in the causes.
Obs. V. No man knows whereunto a deliberate sin may lead him,
nor what will be the event of it. Esau little thought, when he sold his
birthright, that he had utterly forfeited the eternal blessing.
Obs. VI. Profaneness and despising spiritual privileges is a sin that
God, at one time or other, will testify his severity against ; yea this, on
many accounts, is the proper object of God's severity : it shall not be
spared in the eldest son, and most dearly beloved of an Isaac.
Obs. VII. Steadfastness in faith, with submission unto the will of
God, will establish the soul in those duties, which are most irksome
unto flesh and blood. Nothing could prevail with Isaac to change his
mind, when he knew what was the will of God.
Ver. 18 â€” 29, â€” The discourse from hence to the end of the chapter
is of great weight, and accompanied with sundry difficulties, of which
expositors do scarcely so much as take notice. Hence many different
interpretations are given concerning the design of the apostle, and the
principal things intended in the words. And because in the whole it
gives the best rule and guidance for its own interpretation, in all the
particulars of it, I shall premise those general considerations, which
VER. 18 â€” 29.] EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS. 617
will direct us in its exposition, taken from the scope of the words and
nature of the argument in hand. As,
1. The whole epistle, as we have often observed, is, as to the kind of
writing, paraenetical. The design of the apostle in it, is to persuade and
prevail with the Hebrews to constancy and perseverance in the profes-
sion of the gospel. For herein they seem at this time to have been
greatly shaken. To this end he considers the means and causes of such
backslidings as he warned them against. And these may be referred to
four heads. 1. An evil heart of unbelief, or the sin that doth easily
beset them. 2. An opinion of the excellency and necessity of Mo-
saical worship and the old church-state, 3. Afflictions and persecu-
tions for the gospel. 4. Prevalent lusts and sins, such as profaneness,
fornication, and the like ; all which we have spoken to in their respec-
tive places. Hereunto he adds a prescription of that universal obedi-
ence, and those especial duties of holiness, which their profession re-
quired, and which were necessary to the preservation of it.
2. The main argument which he insists on in general to this end, and
wherein the didactical part of the Epistle doth consist, is the excel-
lency, glory, and advantage of that gospel-state whereunto they were
called. This he proves from the person and office of its author, his
priesthood, and sacrifice, with the spiritual worship and privileges be-
longing thereunto. All these he compareth with things of the same
name and place under the law, demonstrating the excellency of the one
above the other, and that especially on this account, that all the ordi-
nances and institutions of the law, were nothing but prefigurations of
what was for to come.
3. Having insisted particularly and distinctly on all these things, and
brought his special arguments from them to an issue, he makes, in the
discourse before us, a recapitulation, of the whole. For he makes a
brief scheme of the two states that he had compared, balanceth them
one against the other, and thereby demonstrates the force of his argu-
ment and exhortation from thence, to constancy and perseverance in the
faith of the gospel. It is not, therefore, a new argument that here he
proceeds to ; it is not an especial confirmation of his dehortation from
profaneness, by the example of Esau, that he doth design. But as,
ch. viii. 1, he gives us the Kt(j>a\iuov, 'the head,' or sum of the things
which he had discoursed concerning the priesthood of Christ; so here
we have an ai'(tKÂ£>Â«AÂ«(wo7c, or 'recapitulation' of what he had proved
concerning the two states of the law and the gospel.
4. This summary way of arguing he had before touched on in his
passage, as ch. ii. 2, 3, iii. 2 â€” 5, &c, iv. 1. And he had more distinctly
handled the antithesis in it on a like occasion, Gal. iv. 2\ â€” 2S. But
here he makes use of it as a elose to his whole disputation, adding no-
thing to it but a prescription of particular duties.
5. It must be observed, that the great honour and privilege of the
Judaical church-state, whereon all particular advantages did depend,
was their coming to and station in mount Sinai at the giving of the law.
There were theytaken into covenant with God, to be his peculiar people
above all the world ; there were they formed into a national church ;
there had they all the privilege of divine worship committed to them.
618 AN EXPOSITION OF THE [CH. XII.
Hereon theirs was the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and
the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises, as the
apostle speaks, Rom. ix. 4. This is that glory which they boast of to
this day, and whereon they rely in their unbelief and rejection of the
6. Wherefore, the apostle, allowing all this communication of privi-
leges to them at Sinai, observes, that it was done in such a way of dread
and terror, as that sundry things are manifest therein ; as, 1 . That there
was no evidence in all that was done, of God's being reconciled to
them, in and by those things. The whole representation of him was of
an absolute sovereign and a severe judge. Nothing declared him as a
father, gracious and merciful. 2. There was no intimation of any con-
descension from the exact severity of what was required in the law ; or
of any relief or pardon in case of transgression. 3. There was no pro-
mise of grace in a way of aid or assistance, for the performance of what
was required. Thunders, voices, earthquakes, and fire, gave no signi-
fication of these things. 4. The whole was hereby nothing but a glori-
ous ministration of death and condemnation, as the apostle speaks,
2 Cor. iii. 7, whence the consciences of sinners were forced to subscribe
to their own condemnation, as just and equal. 5. God was here repre-
sented in all outward demonstrations of infinite holiness, justice, seve-
rity, and terrible majesty on the one hand ; and on the other, men in
their lowest condition of sin, misery, guilt, and death. If there be not
therefore something else to interpose between God and men, somewhat
to fill up the space between infinite severity and inexpressible guilt, all
this glorious preparation was nothing but a theatre set up for the pro-
nouncing of judgment, and the sentence of eternal condemnation against
sinners. And on this consideration depends the force of the apostle's
argument ; and the due apprehension and declaration of it, is a better
exposition of ver. 18 â€” 21, than the opening of the particular expres-
sions will amount to ; yet they also must be explained.
7. It is hence evident, that the Israelites in the station of Sinai did
bear the persons of convinced sinners under the sentence of the law.
There might be many of them justified in their own persons by faith in
the promise", but as they stood, and heard, and received the law, they
represented sinners under the sentence of it, not yet relieved by the
gospel. And this we may have respect to in our exposition, as that
which is the final intention of the apostle to declare, as is manifest from
the description which he gives us of the gospel state, and of those that
are interested therein.
These things are necessary to be pi'emised, to a right understanding
of the design of the apostle, in the representation he gives us of the
original of the old church state. And one thing must be observed con-
cerning his description of the gospel state, which doth ensue. And
8. That all spiritual things of grace and glory in heaven and earth
being recapitulated in Christ, as is declared Eph. i. 10, all brought to
an head, and all centering in him, our coming to him by faith gives us
an interest in them all ; so as that we may be said to come to them all
and every one, as it is here expressed. There is not required a pecu-
VER. 18, 19.] EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS. G19
liar acting in exercise of faith distinctly, in reference to every one of
them ; but by our coming to Christ we come to them all, as if every
one of them had been the especial object of our faith, in our initiation
into the gospel state. Hence is the method or order in their expres-
sion. He and his mediation being mentioned in the close of the enu-
meration of the other privileges, as that on the account whereof we are
interested in them all ; or as the reason of our so being.
9. The remainder of this discourse consists of two things :
1st. The enforcement of the exhortation from the balancing of these
states, and comparing them together ; and this falls under a double con-
sideration. 1. Of the things themselves on the part of the gospel. And
this is from the eternal sanction of it ; namely, the certain infallible sal-
vation of them that do believe, and the no less certain destruction of
unbelievers and apostates. 2. Of the comparison itself between the
two states, which confirms that part of the exhortation which is taken
from the certain destruction of unbelievers, by evidencing the aggrava-
tion of their sin above theirs who despised the law, ver. 25.
2dly. He issues and closeth the whole argumentative part of the
Epistle here summarily represented, with a declaration of the end and
issue of the two states which he had so compared ; namely, that one of
them was speedily to be removed and taken out of the way, and the
other to be established for ever, ver. 26, 21. And hereon he closeth
the whole with a direction how to behave ourselves in the evangelical
worship of God, in the consideration of his glorious majesty and holi-
ness, both in giving the law and the gospel.
A due attendance to these rules will guide us in the exposition of
this whole context.
Ver. 18, 19. â€” Ov yap TrpotJcXriXvOare \pii\a(fxvpÂ£v<
/UVUJ TTlipi, Kill JVO(pO t ), KCll (7KOT(0, Kill SfViWlJ, KCll GaXlTiyyOlJ TJX'l'Â»
nai (pwvij ptipctTiov, Vjc ol ctKOvrjciVTtg Trapyrijaavro pi) 7rpoaTtui}vat
Ylpocrt\T)\vQaTÂ£. Uporrspxopai is the word constantly used by our
apostle to express a sacred access, or coming to God in his worship.
See ch. x. 1.
^nXacjxjjptvoj opei. Opei, 'the mountain,' is not in the Syriac trans-
lation, nor the Arabic ; but they retain 'which may be touched,' refer-
ring it to the fire, ' to the fire which burned and might be touched ;'
but the failure is evident. For that of touching relates to the order
about the mount, and not to the fire, which would also be improper.
Vul. Lat. Ad tractabilem montem. Rhem. ' A palpable mount,' im-
properly. Bez. Contrectabilem, tactus sensui expositum.
Ktnavptvy Trvpi. Vul. Lat. Accessibilem ignem. Rhem. ' An ac-
cessible fire ;' probably accensibilem was intended, whence the Rhe-
raists put ' kindled,' or ' burning,' in the margin. For the fire was
inaccessible. Bez. Et ardentem ignem. Ignem incensum. Some
refer KtKavptvu) to opa, as we do, ' the mount that burned ; some join
it with Trvpi, 'the fire that burned,' which I rather choose.
620 AN EXPOSITION OF THE [dl. XII.
Keu o"a\myyoQ ijxq- Syr. **yipi i&pb, ' to the voice of the horn/
alluding to the rams' horns, whereof they made a kind of trumpets.
Ver. 18, 19. â€” For you are not come unto the mount that might be
touched, and that burned with fire, (or the fire that burned,) nor
unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest, and the sound of the
trumpet, and the voice of ivords, tvhich voice they that heard en-
treated that the word should not be spoken to them any more.
The general scope of the words must be first opened, and then the
particular expressions contained in them.
The principal design in hand is a description of that evangelical state
whereunto the Hebrews were called, which they were come and en-
tered into. For from thence the apostle infers his ensuing exhortation.
But this, their coming, he expresseth negatively, to introduce a descrip-
tion of the church state under the old testament, and the manner of the
people's entrance into it ; whence he confirms both his argument and
his exhortation. 'You are not come;' and two things are included in
that negative expression. I. What their fathers did ; they came, as we
shall see, to the things here mentioned. 2. What they were delivered
from by their call to the gospel. They were no more concerned in all
that dread and terror. And the consideration of this deliverance was
to be of moment with them, with respect to their perseverance in the
faith of the gospel. For this is the fundamental privilege which we
receive thereby, namely, a deliverance from the terror and curse of the
law. And we may observe some few general things in this proposal of
the way of the people's approach to God at Sinai, before we open the
several passages contained in the words. As,
1. The apostle in this comparison, between their coming of old into
the legal church state, and our admission into the state of the gospel,
includes a supposition of the w r ay and manner whereby they approached
to God in the giving of the law. This was by the sanctificatio'n of
themselves, the washing of their clothes as an outward sign thereof,
with Other reverential preparations, Exod. xix. 10, 11. Whence it will
follow, tha't the gospel church state being so much more excellent than
that of old, God himself being in it in a more glorious and excellent
manner ; we ought to endeavour a more eminent sanctification and pre-
paration in all our approaches to God therein. And therefore he closeth
his discourse with an exhortation thereunto, ' let us have grace whereby
we may serve him acceptably with reverence and godly fear, 'ver. 28. This
therefore he teacheth us in the 'whole, namely, that the grace, love, and
mercy of God in the dispensation of the gospel, requires an internal
sanctification and due preparation, with holy fear and reverence, in all
our approaches to him in his worship, answerable to the type of it in
the people's preparation for the receiving of the law, and the fear that
was wrought in them by the terror of God therein. Our fear is of
another kind than theirs was, yet ought it to be no less real and effec-
tual in us to its proper end.
2. As to the appearance of the divine Majesty here declared, we
may observe, that all such apparitions were still suited to the subject-
VER. 18, 19.] EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS. 021
matter, or what was to be declared of the mind of God in them. So
he appeared to Abraham in the shape of a man, Gen. xviii. 1, 2, be-
cause he came to give the promise of the ' blessing Seed,' and to give a
representation of the future incarnation. In the like shape he appeared
to Jacob, Gen. xxxii. 24, which was also a representation of the Son
of God as incarnate, blessing the church. To Moses he appeared as
a fire in a bush which was not consumed, Exod. iii. 2, 6, because he
would let him know that the fire of affliction in the church should not
consume it, because of his presence in it. ' He dwelt in the bush.'
To Joshua he appeared as an armed man, with his sword drawn in
his hand,' Josh. v. 13, to assure him of victory over all his enemies.
But here he appears encompassed with all the dread and terror described.
And this was to represent the holiness and severity of the law, with the
inevitable and dreadful destruction of sinners who betake not themselves
to the promise for relief.
3. These appearances of God were the glory of the old testament,
the great fundamental security of the faith of believers, the most emi-
nent privilege of the church. Yet were they all but types and obscure
resemblances of that which was granted in the foundation of the gospel
church state. And this was, that God was manifest in the flesh ; ' the
Word was made flesh and dwelt among us ;' or the incarnation of the
Son of God. For therein the fulness of the Godhead dwelt in him
bodily, Col. ii. 9, that is, really and substantially, whereof all other
appearances were but shadows.
4. We may also observe some things in general, concerning this ap-
pearance of the divine Majesty, which intimate the glory and terror of
it. As, 1. It was on the top of a high mountain, not in a plain. As
this had a great appearance of the throne of majesty, so it being above
the people, as it were over them, it was meet to fill them with dread and
fear. They looked up and saw the mountain above them full of fire
and smoke, the whole mountain quaking greatly, thunders and terrible
voices being heard in the air, Exocf. xix. 18, xx. 18 ; Deut. iv. 11. They
could have no other thoughts hereon, but that it was a fearful thing to
come to judgment before this holy God. And one view of that terror
of the Lord's holiness and severity which were here represented, is
enough to make the stoutest sinner to quake and tremble. 2. To in-
crease the reverence due to this appearance, the people were com-
manded their distance, and straitly forbidden an approach beyond the
bounds fixed to them. 3. This prohibition was confirmed with a sanc-
tion, that every one who transgressed it should be stoned, as detestable
and devoted to utter destruction. These things, accompanied with the
dreadful spectacles here mentioned by the apostle, did all tend to inge-
nerate an awful fear and reverence of God in his giving of the law. This
was the way whereby those under the old testament entered into their
church state, which begot in them a spirit of bondage to fear, during
That expression, ' they came,' included in this, 'you are not come,'
compriseth all the sacred preparation which, by God's direction, the
people made use of when they approached to the mount ; concerning
which the reader may consult our Exercitations in the first volume,
622 AN EXPOSITION OF THE [CH. XII.
There are two things in the remaining words. First. What the
people so came to. Secondly. What effect it had on them, especially
as to one instance. The things that they came to, as recorded by the
apostle, are seven. 1. The mount that might be touched. 2. The fire
that burned. 3. Blackness. 4. Darkness. 5. Tempest. 6. The
sound of the trumpet. 7. The voice of words. Secondly. The event
was, that they entreated that the words might be spoken to them no
First. v PrjAa0w / uÂ£i'( t ) opu, They came to ' the mount that might be
touched.' This mount was Sinai in the wilderness of Horeb, which
was in the deserts of Arabia. So saith our apostle, ' Mount Sinai in
Arabia,' Gal. iv. 25. And the apostle mentions this in the first place,
because with respect to this mountain, all the laws and directions of the
people's approach to God were given, Exod. xix. Of this mount it is
said, it might be touched. ^rjXacpaio is * to feel,' ' to touch,' ' to handle,'
Luke xxiv. 39; 1 John i. 1 ; and is sometimes applied to any means of
attempting the knowledge of what we inquire after, Acts xvii. 21. And
the apostle observes this concerning the mountain, that ' it might be
touched,' felt, or handled ; that it was a sensible carnal thing, exposed
to the outward senses, to the most earthly of them, namely, feeling,
from the prohibition given, that none should touch it ; for unless it
might have been touched naturally, none could have been morally pro-
hibited to touch it. And he makes this observation for two ends.
1. To manifest how low and inferior the giving of the law was, in com-
parison of the promulgation of the gospel, which was from heaven, as
we shall see afterwards, ver. 2d. It was that which might be touched
with the hands of men, or by beasts themselves. 2. To intimate the
bondage and fear the people were then in, who might not so much as
touch the mountain where were the signs of God's presence, though it
was in itself a thing exposed to the sense of all creatures.
And there is much of divine wisdom that manifests itself in the choice
of this place for the giving of the law. For, 1. It was an absolute
solitude, a place remote from the habitation and converse of men. Here
the people could neither see nor hear any thing but God and them-