Ver. 1. Let us, therefore, fear, &c. S. Paul continues his exhortation to them, not to be like the incredulous Jews, and so to be excluded from the place of eternal rest. Wi.
Ver. 2. To us . . hath been declared, as well as to them. That is, as the riches of the country of Chanaan, was told by Josue and Caleb to the people, but they would not believe them; so the happiness of the kingdom of heaven has been preached by us to you: but the word they heard (lit. the word of hearing ) did not profit them, not being mixed, or received with faith: let not this be your case. Wi.
--- As the want of a firm faith was the cause of the punishment of the Israelites, of their privation of a promised inheritance, so Christians will be eternally excluded from the kingdom promised them, unless they steadily believe and obey the gospel of Jesus Christ. The reason why so few profit of the word, is because few take care to meditate on it, to digest it, and as it were, incorporate it with themselves by proper considerations.
Ver. 3, &c. It is faith that opens heaven; but faith animated by charity, nourished by good works, and perfected by mortification of the senses. God only enters into his rest after the accomplishment of his works, and shall we expect to enter before we accomplish what he has given us to do? Let us fear, but in hoping; let us hope, but in labouring.
--- The works . . . . were finished.† This place is the same, and equally obscure in the Greek as in the Latin text. The apostle here examines what David, as a prophet, could mean, when he said of some: they shall not enter, or, if they shall enter into my rest. His argument is this: David could not prophesy of that rest, by which God, after he had created all things, (Gen. ii. 2.) is said to have rested the seventh day, when he had finished the works of the creation. Nor could David speak of that other time of resting, which was promised and given to the Israelites, when, having conquered all their enemies, they were introduced by Jesus, or Josue, into the promised land of Chanaan; for these two rests were passed long before his prophecy: therefore David must speak of some rest that was to come afterwards, when he said: To-day, if you shall hear his voice, harden not your hearts, &c. Therefore it must needs follow that some day of rest, some sabbatism, as he calls it, after his time, must remain for the people of God, that should not harden their hearts: and from hence he concludes that David had in view that eternal rest of happiness which the Messias was to obtain for us, a rest without end in the kingdom of heaven.
--- Let us hasten, therefore, or as it is in the Greek, let us make it our endeavour, to gain that place of rest, by our persevering in faith and good works, and take heed not to be excluded with the unbelievers. Wi.
[†] V. 3. Operibus ab institutione mundi perfectis, kai toi twn ergwn apo katabolhV kosmou genhqentwn.
Ver. 12. For the word of God is living, &c. Some understand by the word of God, the eternal word, or Son of God: (to whom may apply all in the 12th and 13th verses) but others rather expound it of the words, promises, and menaces of God, either foretold by the prophets, or preached by the apostles. Wi.
--- All this language is metaphorical, but perfectly well understood by the Jews. In their sacrifices, the Levites made use of a two-edged knife to separate from the victim what was for God, what was for the priests, and what was for the people. Thus in sacrificing sinners to the justice of God, Jesus Christ, like a two-edged knife, will separate what is for God, and what is for man; i.e. whatever is good or evil in the whole of man's conduct.
Ver. 13. In his sight, or to the eyes, must signify in the sight of God. Wi.
--- If the word of God in Jesus Christ be so terrible, what will Jesus Christ be himself, when he comes to judge us according to the severity of his justice?
Ver. 14. Having, therefore, as I told you before, a great high priest, Christ, who ascended into heaven, who can compassionate our infirmities, let us with a firm confidence approach the throne of grace, by faith, hope, charity, and good works. Wi.
Ver. 16. Let us often contemplate Jesus Christ on his two thrones, that of his mercy, and that of his justice; of his mercy, where at present he is seated as our compassionate high priest, to bestow on us the riches of his grace; of his justice, where he will one day sit as judge, to examine most rigorously both our faith and our practice. Our separated brethren pretend to prove from this text that we need no help of saints to obtain any favour. But by this argument they may as well take away the helps and prayers of the living for one another. For we do not require the help of either the saints in heaven, or of our brethren on earth, through any mistrust of God's mercy, but on account of our own unworthiness, convinced that the prayer of a just man availeth more with Him, than the desire of a grievous sinner; and of a number making intercession together, rather than of one alone. This they cannot deny, except they deny the holy Scriptures. Neither do we come less to Him, or with less confidence, when we come accompanied with the prayers of Angels, saints, priests, or just men, with us, as they fondly imagine and pretend; but with much more confidence in his grace, mercy, and merits, than if we prayed ourselves alone. B.