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An Exposition Of the Epistles Of Saint Paul And Of The Catholic Epistles Volumes 1&2

Analysis

The Apostle having, in the preceding chapter, referred to the exclusion of the incredulous Jews from the rest of God; in this, warns the Hebrews against the like incredulity, lest they too be excluded from God’s eternal rest (1). And he points out the reason why the punishment of the Jews of old should inspire them with fear—viz., because the same announcement was made to both (2). There remains a rest to be entered by the faithful; and this rest is no other than that, on which God entered, after he finished the works of creation (3). The second part of this proposition, viz., that this rest is the same as that on which God entered after perfecting the works of creation, he proves (4, 5); the first part, viz., that a rest yet remains to be enjoyed by the faithful, is shown (6–10).

He deters them from apostasy, by describing the qualities of him who is to avenge their infidelities (12, 13), and he consoles them for their past sins, by pointing out his great mercy and spirit of compassion (14, 15, 16).

Paraphrase

1. Let us, therefore, to whom the promise of entering into God’s rest has been also made, under the influence of salutary fear, which the example of God’s vengeance on our incredulous fathers is calculated to inspire, take care, lest by neglecting and disregarding this promise, any one be found excluded from this rest, through negligence or want of proper attention.

2. For unto us, as well as unto them, were the glad tidings of entering God’s rest announced—a rest, however, of a higher order, the eternal rest of heaven, typified by theirs. But the promise which they heard proved of no avail to them, not being tempered with faith in the things which they heard.

3. For, we who have believed, shall enter into his rest—viz., that referred to in the 94th Psalm, from which, in his wrath, he swore he would exclude the unbelieving Jews; and this rest is no other than that upon which he himself entered, after perfecting the works of creation.

4. The latter part of the assertion—viz., that the rest into which we are to be admitted, is the rest on which God entered after perfecting the works of creation, is proved by comparing the words in Genesis, where it is said of the seventh day—the day on which the works of creation were finished—“God rested on the seventh day from all his works;”

5. With these words spoken by God himself in the first person, “They shall not enter into my rest.” Now, what is the “rest of God,” spoken by a third person, as in Genesis, but “my rest,” when spoken by God in the first person of himself? Hence, the rest of God, after perfecting the works of creation, and “my rest,” (Psalm, 94), are the same.

6. The first part of the assertion (verse 3), viz., that we who believe will enter on God’s rest, or, that a rest yet remains to be enjoyed by the faithful, referred to in the words “they shall not enter my rest,” is proved thus: The fact of God’s saying, “they shall not enter into my rest,” shows, it was a rest destined to be shared in by some, and enjoyed by creatures (otherwise exclusion from it could not be inflicted as a punishment, on the unbelieving Jews). Hence, as this rest cannot be rendered void, some persons must enter on it; and as those, to whom it was first announced, were excluded on account of their incredulity,

7. He again marks out a certain day. “To-day,” by the mouth of David, after the lapse of a long interval between the issuing of the foregoing threat and the time of David saying, “To-day if you shall hear his voice, harden not your hearts,”

8. Which clearly proves that he does not refer to the rest in the land of Chanaan, for, if he referred to the rest of Chanaan into which Josue introduced their children, the Lord would have never fixed on another determinate future day for meriting this rest, upon which they would, in the supposition made, have long since entered already.

9. Therefore, there remains a rest for the people of God, which in allusion to the rest of God, may be justly designated, a Sabbath rest;

10. Being in its effects and results perfectly similar to the rest of God; for, as God ceased from his labours and enjoyed a Sabbath, so will the just man cease from his labours on entering on the eternal rest of God.

11. As, therefore, this eternal rest remains for us, let us use our utmost exertions to enter on it, so that no one will exhibit in his own person an example of infidelity, the consequences of which would be similar to the punishment of exclusion inflicted on the Jews of old.

12. For our infidelities will meet with the same punishment as theirs, since the eternal Word of God is living, active, and efficient to inflict punishment, no less destructive in execution than a two-edged sword; able to penetrate and see into our hidden and private actions—to perceive their various shades of difference in point of merit or demerit; nay, he discerns, and keenly distinguishes the very motives of our most private, hidden thoughts and actions.

13. Nothing, whether in heaven or on earth, is invisible in his sight, or concealed from him; but all things are palpably open to him, and undisguisedly exposed to view. To whom we are to render an account; or, concerning whom we are treating in this Epistle.

14. Having, then, a great High Priest, Jesus Christ, the Eternal Son of God, who entered not merely the Holy of Holies, like the Jewish Pontiff, but heaven itself, the true Holy of Holies; let us firmly persevere in our Christian profession.

15. We should not despond on account of our past infirmities; for, we have not a High Priest, who is insensible to, and incapable of, compassionating our infirmities: but one who, having experienced all our infirmities, except sin, and having been tried like us, is most suited to have compassion on us.

16. Let us, therefore, approach with confidence the throne of grace, that we may obtain forgiveness of our sins, and find the abundance of divine grace, by which we may be aided in the time of necessity, i.e., during our entire lives.

Commentary

1. “Let us fear,” i.e., under the influence of holy and salutary fear, warned by their example, let us take care, “lest the promise,” &c.

2. For we also have been favoured with the glad tidings (in Greek, evangelized), as well as they. The Apostle refers to the same glad tidings in general; to the Jews of old was announced the tidings of the promised land; to us, of heaven, of which the promised land was but a figure. “But the word of hearing;” i.e., the tidings heard by them and announced to them, “did not profit them,” because it was not tempered with faith, conceived from the things which they heard; in a word, because it was not believed. In the words “mixed with faith,” is contained an allusion to draughts, which prove injurious, unless well tempered and properly diluted; or rather to our daily nourishment, which proves of no use, unless properly digested and united with our substance. The word of God will prove of no avail to us, unless properly digested by faith, and by the serious consideration on the awful truths which it proposes—“In meditatione mea exardescet ignis.”—(Psalm). It is only by proper meditation on the truths of faith, that they will produce their proper effect, and enkindle within us the holy fire of charity and zeal for our own sanctification and that of others. In the ordinary Greek reading, the words run thus: μὴ συγκεκραμένος τῆ πίστει τοῖς ἀκούσασιν, not mixed with faith in those who heard. In this reading “mixed” refers to “word of hearing.” The Vulgate follows this reading, “Sermo … non admixtus fidei,” &c. According to St. Chrysostom and others, the passage means: the word of hearing did not profit them, as they were not associated in faith, with those who heard or believed viz, with Caleb and Josue. This interpretation accords well with the reading of the Codex Vaticanus, μη συνκρασμενους, which refers not to “the word of hearing,” but to the persons, εκεινους. Hence, the promise may prove of no avail to us either, if, like them, we are incredulous regarding the divine promises.

3. The Jews might regard the reasoning of the Apostle in the second verse, in which is implied the liability, they too were under, of being excluded from God’s rest in punishment of incredulity, as no way affecting themselves, now actually in the secure possession of the land of Chanaan, from which their fathers were excluded. Hence, the Apostle undertakes to prove in this verse (3), that there is another rest yet remaining for the faithful, different from the rest of Chanaan—no other than that on which God himself entered, after perfecting the works of creation. The proposition of the Apostle, then, is: there is a rest yet remaining for the faithful to enter, and this rest is that on which God himself entered after completing the works of creation. “And this, indeed, when the works from the foundation of the world were finished.” The second part of the proposition is proved first in verses 4 and 5, by comparing what the SS. Scriptures say of God in Genesis—viz., that “on the seventh day God rested from all his works,” i.e., he ceased to create any more new species, with the words of verse 5, “my rest.” And do they not refer to the same thing? tor what do the words “my rest” mean, but that “God rested,” which, in Genesis, we are told, took place after he perfected the works of creation? “Shall enter,” The Greek, εἰσερχομεθα, is the present tense.

6. He now proves the first part of the proposition viz., that a rest yet remains (vide Paraphrase).

7. To prove and notify to us, that this rest remains, it is, that God, after the lapse of four hundred years, since the Jews entered Chanaan, specifies a determinate fixed day by the mouth of David, on which they can merit an admittance to this rest, by not hardening their hearts.

8. The Jews were in possession of Chanaan, in the time of David. Hence, God in the words, “they shall enter into my rest,” regards not principally the rest in Chanaan; for, if this rest into which the children of the incredulous afterwards entered under the guidance of Jesus, i.e., Josue, were the rest referred to, the Lord would not have fixed on a certain, determinate day, in the time of David, for meriting admittance into this rest, of which they had been securely in possession, and their fathers before them, for four hundred years.

9. “Therefore,” that is, from the foregoing it follows, that “there remaineth a day of rest (in Greek, σαββατισμος, Sabbatism) for the people of God.” This is the conclusion of the above argument from verse 6. This rest he calls, a Sabbatism, in allusion to God’s rest, after the works of creation.

10. He shows in this verse why the rest on which the just will enter, is properly called a Sabbatism; for, a man who enters on God’s eternal rest will cease from all further labour, as God ceased on the seventh day from his works, which is commonly understood to mean his having to create no more new species, the seeds of all future beings being contained in those already created. God even still works in his conservative Providence, which is, however, but a continuation of the first creation.

The interpretation of the passage adopted in the Paraphrase is the one given by Mauduit, and defended in an able dissertation. It makes the “rest” into which God promises to introduce the believers (for, the unbelievers were excluded in punishment of their infidelity), the same with the rest which the SS. Scriptures ascribe to God himself after perfecting the works of creation; which rest of God is not past and gone—as some Commentators erroneously think—but remains, and shall remain permanently for eternity; to it our Redeemer himself appears to allude when inviting his elect to the “kingdom prepared for them since the foundation of the world.” If “requies mea,” “my rest,” be supposed different from “requievit Deus,” “God rested” (verse 4), the entire passage will be involved in inextricable difficulties, and the introduction of some texts rendered quite unmeaning. Hence it is that Mauduit, in the able dissertation alluded to, maintains, that, throughout the entire passage, there is reference not to a twofold rest, but to the same rest of God.

11. He in this verse exhorts them to exert themselves, before all things, to merit an admission into this eternal rest, which remains for the faithful people of God to be enjoyed. They should, therefore, avoid the crime of infidelity and its punishment, similar to that of the Jews of old.

12. In this verse is assigned a reason why they should dread the just punishment due to their infidelity; for, the “Word of God,” i.e., the Eternal Son of God, the judge of all, is “living,” the source of all life and knowledge, and cannot be deceived. And “effectual;” powerful and omnipotent. “More piercing than a two-edged sword;” as destructive in execution as a two-edged sword, and as penetrating into the interior. “Reaching unto the division of the soul and the spirit;” i.e., able to see into our most hidden actions—these actions which proceed from the soul, either as the seat of sensation (anima), or reason (spiritus). “Of the joints also and the marrow;” the minutest shades of difference in the degrees of merit or demerit in these hidden actions. “And is a discerner of the thoughts;” what is most private of all, the very motives and intentions, &c.

13. “Neither is there any creature invisible in his sight.” There is nothing which is not manifest to him. “But all things are naked and open to his eyes.” The Apostle shows the omniscient knowledge of the word of God, by proving, first, in a negative form, that nothing is concealed; and again, in an affirmative universal proposition, that “all things are naked, and open to his eyes.” “Open,” implies more than “naked;” the latter conveys that every covering or veil is removed from the exterior of an object; whereas, “open,” conveys that the very interior is exposed to view. Some Commentators understand by the “word of God,” the created revealed word, conveying the divine menaces. The opinion of those who refer it to the Eternal Word, seems the more probable; for, it is only the Eternal Son of God, it is only a Divine Person, that could be well distinguished by the properties here referred to; it is only of such a one could be predicated the personal actions, ascribed in these two verses by the Apostle to the “word of God.” From the all-seeing knowledge and vigilant penetration of Christ, St. Paul wishes the Hebrews to infer, that their own private sins of infidelity will not escape his notice and future judgment.

14. He here passes to another subject, viz., the Priesthood of Christ; and having in the foregoing chapters compared Christ with Moses, he now institutes a tacit comparison between him as High Priest, and Aaron, giving Christ the preference; this comparison is more fully and expressly instituted in the seventh chapter. His direct and express object in referring to his Priesthood here, is, after having inspired the Hebrews with the dread of him, as judge, to encourage and console them by the consideration of the confidence which his character as Priest is calculated to inspire.

15. Lest the majesty of so great a Pontiff should awe them, the Apostle says, he is capable of sympathizing in our infirmities, having been himself tried in all things like us, and having suffered all the miseries common to our nature, except sin. He endured hunger, thirst, lassitude, fear, sorrow—nay, even death; in a word, all the miseries common to our nature (sin excepted). He suffered these evils which are purely penal, and temptations from the world and from the devil, but not from the flesh.

16. Having, therefore, a most powerful High Priest, who is after penetrating the true Holy of Holies, heaven, and a most merciful Pontiff, who has experienced our common infirmities, let us with confidence approach the throne of grace, relying on such an intercessor, that we may obtain the merciful forgiveness of sin, and find the abundance of grace to aid us in the time of necessity, that is to say, while we are in this world; for, we want the aid of grace during the entire course of our lives. “Seasonable aid.” The Greek word for aid, βοηθεια, denotes assistance obtained as the result of crying aloud for it.








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