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were wrought. This, therefore, he mentions, that he might appear
not to undervalue it, but to speak of it with reference unto that
excellency of its administration which the Hebrews even boasted
in. (2.) Because having newly insisted on a comparison between
Christ and the angels, his argument is much strengthened wlien it
shall be considered that while the law was the word spoken by the
angels, the gospel was delivered by the Son, so far exalted above
them. But the manner how this was done must be a little lurther
inquired into.

That tlie law was given by the ministry of angels the Jews alwaya


confessed, yea, and boasted. So saith Josephus, one mucli ancienter
than any of their rabbins extant: ' Apy^aioX. lib. v., 'H/iwi' ra -/.aXXicra
TUiV boyiJ^drcuv, xai ra oeiiMrara ruv h ToTg voi^oig, hi" ayyiXoiv -Ttapa ruJ
QiuJ iJ.a&6vTCiiv — " We learned the most excellent and most holy con-
stitutions of the law from God by angels." The same was generally
acknowledged by them of old. This Stephen, treating with them,
takes for granted. Acts vii. 53, "Who received the law by the dispo-
sition of angels." And our apostle affirms the same, GaL iii. 19,
" It was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator." A word
of the same original and sense is used in both places, though by
ours variously rendered : huxrayi, hiarayug. This, then, is certain.
But the manner of it is yet to be considered.

1. First, then, nothing is more unquestionable than that the law
was given from God himself. He was the author of it. This the
whole Scripture declares and proclaims. And it was the impious
abomination of the Valentiniaus and Marcionites of old to ascribe
the original of it unto any other author.

2. He who spake in the name of God on mount Sinai was
no other than God himself, the second person of the Trinity, Ps.
Ixviii. 17-19. Him Stephen calls "the angel," Acts vii. 30, 38;
even the angel of the covenant, the Lord whom the people sought,
Mai. iii. 1, 2. Some would have it to be a created angel, delegated
unto that work, who thereon took on him the presence and name
of God, as if he himself had spoken. But this is wholly contrary to
the nature of all ministerial work. Never did ambassador speak in
his own name, as if he were the king himself whose person he doth
represent. The apostle tells us that the preachers of the gospel
were God's ambassadors, and that God by them doth persuade men
to be reconciled in Christ, 2 Cor. v. 20. But yet if any on that
account should take on him to personate God, and to speak of him-
self as God, he would be highly blasphemous. Nor can this be
imagined in this place, where not only he that speaks speaks in
the name of God, ("I am the Lokd thy God,") but also elsewhere it
is frequently affirmed that Jehovah himself did give that law; which
is made unto the people an argument unto obedience. And the
things done on Sinai are always ascribed imto God Inmself

3. It remains, then, to consider how, notwitiistanding this, the
law is said to be " the word spoken by angels." It is nowhere
affirmed that the law was given by angels, but that the people re-
*!eived it "by the disposition of angels," and that it was "ordained by
angels;" and here, "spoken by them." From hence it is evident that
not the original authoritative giving of the law, but the ministerial
ordering of things in its promulgation, is that which is ascribed to
angels. .They raised the fire and smoke; they shook and rent the
rocks; they framed the sound of the trumpet; they effected tlie

Ei yoLf.


articulate voices which conveyed the words of the law to the ears of
the people, and therein proclaimed and published the law; wliereby
it became " the word spoken by angels."

Grotius on this place contends that it was a created angel wlio
represented the person of God on mount Sinai ; and in the confir-
mation of his conjecture, after he had made use of the imagination
before rejected, he adds, " that if the law had been given out by
God in his own person" (as he speaks), " then, upon that account, it
would have been preferred above the gospel." But as the apostle
grants, in the first words of this epistle, that the law no less than
the gospel was primitively and originally from God, so we say not
that God gave the law immediately, without the ministry of angels;
but the comparison which the apostle is pursuing respects not the
fii^st author of law and gospel, but the principal ministerial publishers
of them, who of the one were angels, of the other the Son himself.

And in these words lies the spring of the apostle's argument, as
is manifest in those interrogatory particles, u ydp, " for
if;" — ' For if the law that was published unto our fathers
by angels was so vindicated against the disobedient, how much more
shall the neglect of the gospel be avenged?'

Secondly, He affirms concerning this word thus published, that
it was (SiQaiog, "firm," or "steadfast;" that is, it be-
came an assured covenant between God and the people.
That peace which is firm and well grounded is called siprjvri BiZaia,
" a firm, unalterable peace;" and rh jSiQaiov is public security. The
law's becoming IS'sQaioz, then, " firm, sure, steadfast," consists in its
being ratified to be the covenant between God and that people as
to their typical inheritance : Deut. v. 2, " The LoRD our God made
a covenant with us in Horeb." And therefore in the greater trans-
gressions of the law, the people were said to forsake, to break, to
profane, to transgress the covenant of God, Lev. xxvi, ] 5 ; Deut.
xvii. 2, xxxi, 20; Hos. vi. 7; Josh. vii. 11 ; 2 Kings xviii. 12; 1 Kings
xix. 14; Jer. xxii. 9; Mai. ii. 10, And the law thus published by
angels became a steadfast covenant between God and the people, by
their mutual stipulation thereon, Exod. xx. 19 ; Josh. xxiv. 21, 22, 24.
Being thus firm and ratified, obedience unto it became necessary
and reasonable; for hence, —

Thirdly, The event of disobedience unto this word is expressed:
*' Every transgression and every stubborn disobedience received a
meet retribution," Sundry things must be a little inquired into
for the right understanding of these words, — as, 1. The
difference between irapdZaaig and 'Ko.paxon. And the "*^''^''^''-
first is properly any transgression, whicli the Hebrews
call Vtf^Si; the latter includes a refusal so to attend as to obey, — contu-
macy, stubbornness, rebellion, ''I'p. And so the latter word may be


exegetical of the former, — such transgressions the apostle speaks
of as were accompanied with contumacy and stubbornness, — or
they may both intend the same things under diverse respects. 2.
How may this be extended to every sin and transgression, seeing it
is certain that some sins under the law were not punished, but ex-
piated by atonement? Ans. (1.) Every sin was contrary rw Xo'yw,
" to the doctrine of the law," its commands and precepts. (2.) Punish-
ment was assigned unto every sin, though not executed on every

sinner. And so the word s'AaQiv denotes not the actual

infliction of punishment, but the constitution of it in
the sanction of the law. (3.) Sacrifices for atonement manifested
punishments to have been due, though the sinner was relieved
against them. But, (4.) The sins especially intended l)y the apostle
were such as were directly against the law as it was a covenant be-
tween God and the people, for which there was no provision made
of any atonement or compensation ; but the covenant being broken
by them, the sinners were to die without mercy, and to be extermi-
nated by the hand of God or man. And therefore the sins against
the gospel, which are opposed unto those, are not any transgressions
that professors may be guilty of, but final apostasy or unbelief,

which renders the doctrine of it altogether unprofitable
S*ToS«<r/«. unto men. 3. EfO/xo; iMttsdarroooGia. is a recompence jiist

and equal, proportionable unto the crime according to
the judgment of God, — that which answers dixaido/xaTi tov Qso~, that
"judgment of God," which is, "that they which commit sin are
worthy of death," Rom. i. 32. And there were two things in the
sentence of the law against transgressors: — (1.) The temporal punish-
ment of cutting off from the land of the living, which respected that
dispensation of the law which the Israelites were subjected unto.
But the several sorts of punishment that were among the Jews
under the law have been declared in our Prolegomena; to discover
the nature whereof, let the reader consult the 21st Exercitation.
And, (2.) Eternal punishment, which was figured thereby, due unto
all transgressors of the law, as it is a rule of obedience unto
God from all mankind, Jews and Gentiles. Now, it is the first of
these which the apostle directly and primarily intendeth ; because
he is comparing the law in the dispensation of it on Horeb unto
the Jews, with all its sanctions, unto the present dispensation of the
gospel; and from the penalties wherewith the breach of it, as such,
among that people, was then attended, argues unto the "sorer punish-
ment" that must needs ensue upon the neglect of the dispensation
of the gospel, as he himself expounds, chap. x. 28, 29. For other-
wise the penalty assigned unto the transgression of the moi'al law
as a rule is the very same, in the nature and kind of it, with that
which belongs unto despisers of the gospel, even death eternal.


4. Chrysostom observes some impropriety in the use of the word
fuG^a'rrcdosIa, because it ratber denotes a reward for a good
work than a punishment for an evil one. But the word
is indifferent, sx ruv /mscmv, and denotes only a recompence suitable unto
that whereunto it is applied. So is avrifiKrOia, used by our apostle, Rom.
i. 27, excellently expressed by Solomon, Prov. i, 31, "Sinners sliall eat
of the fruit of their own ways, and be filled with their own devices."
Such rewards we have recorded. Num. xv. 32-34; 2 Sam. vi. 6, 7;
1 Kings xiii. 4, xx. 36; 2 Kings ii. 23, 24; 2 Ghron. xxxii. 20, 21.

This the apostle lays down as a thing well known unto tbe He-
brews, namely, that the law, which was delivered unto them by
angels, received such a sanction from God, after it was established
as the covenant between him and the people, that the transgression
of it, so as to disannul the terms and conditions of it, had, by divine
constitution, the punishment of death temporal, or excision, ap-
pointed unto it. And this in the next words he proceeds to improve
unto his purpose by the way of an argument "a minori ad majus:"
" How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation," etc.

There is an antithesis expressed in one branch, as we observed
before, between the law and the gospel, namely, that the law was
the wo7^d s^Joken by angels, the gospel being revealed hy the Lord
himself. But there are also other differences intimated between
them, though expressed only on the part of the gospel ; as that it is,
in its nature and effects, "great salvation ;" that is, not absolutely only,
but comparatively unto the benefit exhibited to their forefathers by
tlie law, as given on mount Horeb. The confirmation cilso of the
gospel by the testimony of God is tacitly opposed unto the confir-
mation of the law by the like witness. And from all these con-
siderations doth the apostle enforce his argument, proving the
punishment that shall befall gospel neglecters.

In the words, as was in part before observed, there occur: —
1. The stibject-matter spoken of, — " so great salvation." 2. A fur-
ther description of it; (1.) From its principal author, — it " began
to be spoken by the Lord;" (2.) From the rnanner of its propaga-
tion, — it "was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; (3.) From
its confirmation by the testimony of God; — which, (4.) Is exempli-
fied by a distribution into, [1.] Signs; [2.]Woitders; [3.] Mighty
works; and [4.] Va7'ious gifts of the Holy Ghost. Whereof there
is, 3. A neglect supposed, — " if we neglect." And, 4. Punishment
thereof intimated ; wherein, (1.) The punishment itself, and, (2.) The
manner of its expression, " How shall we escape," are to be con-
sidered. All which are to be severally explained.

1. The subject-matter treated of is expressed in these
words, " So great salvation." And it is the gospel which ^urKc,>ai.
is intended in that expression, as is evident from the


preceding verse; for that which is there called "the word which we
have heard," is here called "great salvation:" as also from the fol-
lowing words, where it is said to be declared by the Lord, and
further propagated by them that heard hira. And the gospel is
called " salvation" by a metonymy of the effect for the cause: for it
is the grace of God bringing salvation. Tit. ii. 11 ; the word that is
able to save us; the doctrine, the discovery, the instrumentally-
eft:cient cause of salvation, Rom. i. 16; 1 Cor. i. 20, 21. And this
salvation the apostle calls ^rea^ upon many accounts, which we shall
afterwards unfold. And calling it, " so great salvation," he refers
them unto the doctrine of it, wherein they had been instructed, and
whereby the excellency of the salvation which it brings is de-

Now, though the apostle might have expressed the gospel by "The
word which was declared unto us by the Lord," as he had done the
law by " The word spoken by angels;" yet to strengthen his argu-
ment, or motive unto obedience, which he insists upon, he chose to
give a brief description of it from its jjrijicipal effect; it is "great
salvation." The law, by reason of sin, proved the ministry of death
and condemnation, 2 Cor. iii. 9 ; yet, being fully published only by
angels, obedience was indispensably required unto it; — and shall not
the gospel, the ministry of life, and great salvation, be attended

2. He further describes the gospel, (1.) From its principal author or

revealer. It " began to be spoken by the Lord," ap'xr\v
•Afx.^. xcjoZtra, -^^^^-^^ XaXiTffdai. The words may have a twofold sense;

for dpr^Tiv may denote either " principium temporis,
" the beginning of time;" or "principium operis," "the beginning of
the work." In- the first way, it asserts that the Lord himself was
the first preacher of the gospel, before he sent or employed his
apostles and disciples in the same work; in the latter, that he only
began the work, leaving the perfecting and finishing of it unto those
who were chosen and enabled by him unto that end. And this
latter sense is also true; for he finished not the whole declaration of
the gospel in iiis own person, teaching " viva voce," but committed
the work unto his apostles, Matt. x. 27. But their teaching from
him being expressed in the next words, I take the words in the first
sense, referring unto what he had delivered, chap. i. 1, 2, of God's
sjieaking in these last days in the person of the Sou. Now, tlie
cfospel hath had a threefold beginning of its declaration : — First, In
prediction, by promises and types; and so it began to be declared
from the foundation of the world, Luke i. 70, 71. Secondly, In an
immediate preparation ; and so it began to be declared in and by the
ministry of John the Baptist, Mark i. 1, 2. Thirdly, In its open,
clear, actual, full revelation; so this work was begun by the Lord


himself, and carried on to perfection by those who were appointed
and enabled by him thereunto, John i. 17, 18. Thus was it by him
declared, in his own person, as tlie law was by angels.

And herein lies the stress of the apostle's reasonings with refer-
ence unto what he had before discoursed concerning the Son and
angels, and iiis pre-eminence above them. The great reason why
the Hebrews so pertinaciously adhered unto the doctrine of the law,
was the glorious publication of it. It was " the word spoken by
angels;" they received it " by the disposition of angels." ' If,' saith
the apostle, ' that were a sufficient cause why the law should be
attended unto, and that the neglect of it should be so sorely avenged
as it was, though in itself but the ministry of death and condemna-
tion, then consider what is your duty in reference unto the gospel,
which as it was in itself a word of life and great salvation, so it was
spoken, declared, and delivered by the Lord himself, whom we have
manifested to be so exceedingly exalted above all angels whatever.''

He further descril)es the gospel, (2.) From the way and means of its
conveyance unto us. It was " confirmed unto us by them that heard
him." And herein also he prevents an objection that might arise in
the minds of the Hebrews, inasmuch as they, at least the greatest
part of them, were not acquainted with the jjersonal ministry of the
Lord ; they heard not the word spoken by him. For hereunto tiie
apostle replies, that though they themselves heard him not, yet the
same word which he preached was not only declared, but " confirmed
unto them by those that heard him." And herein he doth not in-
tend all of them who at any time heard him teaching, but tliose
whom in an es[)ecial manner he made choice of to employ them in
that work, namel}', the apostles. So that this expression, "Those that
heard him," is a periphrasis of the apostle's, from that great privilege
of hearincf immediatelv all thinos that our Lord taught in his own
person; for neither did the church of the Jews hear the law as it was
pronounced on Horeb by angels, but had it confirmed unto them by
the ways and means of God's appointment. And he doth not say
merely that the word was taught or preached unto us by them; but
eQsQaiwDri, — it was "confirmed," made firm and steadfast,
being delivered infallibly unto us by the ministry of the
apostles. There was a divine /SsCa/wc/j, " firmness," certainty, and
infallibility in the apostolical declaration of the gospel, like that
which was in the writings of the prophets; which Peter, comparing
with miracles, calls ^iZaionpov y.iyov, " a more firm, steadfast, or sure
word." And this inlailible certainty of their word was from their
divine inspiration.

Sundry holy and learned men from this expression, " Confirmed
unto us." — wherein they say the writer of this ejjistle placeth hnn-
self among the number of those who heard not the word Irom the


Lord himself, but only from the apostles, — conclude that Panl can-
not be the penman thei^eof, who in sundry places denieth that he
received the gospel by instruction from men, but by immediate
revelation from God. Now, because this is the only pretence which
hatli any ajopearance of reason for the adjudging the writing of this
epistle from him, I shall briefly show the invalidity of it. And (1.)
It is certain that this term, " ns," comprises aud casts the whole
under the condition of the generality or major part, and cannot re-
ceive a particular distribution unto all individuals; for this epistle
being written before the destruction of the temple, as we have de-
monstrated, it is impossible to apprehend but that some were then
living at Jerusalem who attended unto the ministry of the Lord
himself in the days of his flesh, and among them was James himself,
one of the apostles, as before we have made it probable: so that
nothing can hence be concluded to every individual, as though none
of them might have heard the Lord himself. (2.) The apostle hath
evidently a respect unto the foundation of the church of the Hebrews
at Jerusalem by the preaching of the apostles, immediately after
the pouring out of the Holy Ghost upon them. Acts ii. 1-5 ; which,
as he was not himself concerned in, so he was to mind it unto them
as the beginning of their faith and profession. (3.) Paul himself
did not hear the Lord Christ teaching personally on the earth when
he began to reveal the great salvation. (4.) Nor doth he say that
those of whom he speaks were originally instructed by the hearers
of Christ, but only that by them the word was confirmed unto them;
and so it was unto Paul himself. Gal. ii. 1, 2. But, (5.) Yet it is
apparent that tlie apostle useth an avaxoivooffiv, placing himself among
those unto whom he wrote, though not personally concerned in every
particular spoken, — a thing so usual with him that there is scarce any
of his epistles wherein sundry instances of it are not to be found.
See 1 Cor.x. 8, 9 ; 1 Thess. iv. 1 7;. The like is done by Peter, 1 Epist.
iv. 3. Having therefore, in this place, to take off all suspicion of
jealousy in his exhortation to the Hebrews unto integrity and con-
stancy in their protession, entered on his discourse in this chapter in
the same way of expression, " Therefore ought tue," as there was no
need, so there was no place for the change of the persons, so as to
say " you " instead of " us." . So that on many accounts there is no
ground for this objection.

He further yet describes the gospel (3.) By the divine attestation
given unto it, which also adds to the force of his argument and

exhortation : Ivvi-Tri/MapTupo^vTog ro\J 0«oD. The word is of
^vvi'Tifx.ctf- ^ double composition, denotina' a concurrincj testimony

of God, a testimony given unto or together with the tes-
timony and witness of the apostles. Of Avhat nature this testimony
was, and wherein it consisted, the next words declare, " By sigua


and wonders, and mighty works, and distributions of the Holy Ghost ;"
all which agree in the general nature of works supernatural, and in
the especial end of attesting to the truth of the gospel, being wrought
according to the promise of Christ, Mark xvi. 17, 18, by the minis-
try of the apostles, Acts v. 12, and in especial by that of Paul
himself, Rom. xv. 19, 2 Cor. xii. 12. But as to their especial differ-
ences, they are here cast under four heads: — •

The first are ernjATa, nhiX, "signs;" that is, miracu-
lous works, wrought to signify the presence of God by
his power with them that wrought them, for the apjjrobation and
confirmation of the doctrine which they taught. The second are
r'ipara, Cl^"^Db " prodigies," " wonders," v/orks beyond
the power of nature, above the energy of natural causes ;
wrought to fill men with wonder and admiration, stirring men up
unto a diligent attention to the doctrine accompanied with them:
for whereas they surprise men by discovering to Sj/ci/, " a present
divine power," they dispose the mind to an embracing of what is
confirmed by them. Thirdly, Sui/, ni~iU2n^ "mighty
works, wherem evidently a mighty power, the power
of God, is exerted in tlieir operation. And fourthly, Ui/iu//,aro(; aylou
fLspiqMoi, :^ini^n mnn nijno "gifts of the Holy Giiost,"
euumerated 1 Lor.xu., iiiph.iv. 8; ;^ap/ff/4ara, tree gilts,
freely bestowed, called fnpia^aoi, " divisions," or " distributions," for
the reason at large declared by the apostle, 1 Cor. xii. 7-11. All
which are intimated in the following words, Kara -riv aCrov SjAjjct/v.
It. is indifferent whether we read auTo\^ or avrou, and refer it to the
will of God, or of the Holy Ghost himself, his own will, which the
apostle guides unto, 1 Cor. xii. 11.

As we said before, all these agi'ee in the same general nature and
kind of miraculous operations, the variety of expressions whereby
they are set forth relating only unto some different respects of them,
taken from their especial ends and effects. The same works were,
in different respects, signs, wonders, mighty works, and gifts of the
Holy Ghost ; but being effectual unto several ends, they received
these various denominations.

In these works consisted the divine attestation of the doctrine of
the apostles, God in and by them giving testimony from heaven, by
the ministration of his almighty power, unto the things which were
taught, and his approbation of the persons that taught them in theii
work. And this was of especial consideration in dealing with the
Hebrews; for the delivery of the law and the ministry of
having been accompanied with many signs and prodigies, they made
great inquiry after signs for the confirmation of the gospel, 1 Cor. i,
22; which though our Lord Jesus Christ neither in his own person
nor by his apostles would grant unto them, in their time and manner.


to satisfy their wicked and carnal curiosity, yet in liis own way and
season he gave them forth for their conviction, or to leave them in-
excusable, John X. 38.

8. The gospel being of this nature, thus taught, thus deli-

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