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THE SHAKING AND TRANSLATING OF HEAVEN AND EARTH.
“And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are
shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain."—HEB. xii. 27.
The main design of the apostle in this scripture to the Hebrews, is to prevail with his countrymen, who had undertaken the profession of the gospel, to abide constant and faithful therein, without any apostasy unto, or mixture with Judaism, which God and themselves had forsaken ;-fully manifesting, that in such backsliders the soul of the Lord hath no pleasure, chap. x. 38,
A task, which whoso undertaketh in any age, shall find exceeding weighty and difficult,-even to persuade professors to hold out and continue in the glory of their profession unto the end, that with patience doing the will of God they "might receive the promise;" !_ especially if there be " lions in the way,”* if opposition or persecution do attend them in their professed subjection to the Lord Jesus. Of all that deformity and dissimilitude to the divine nature which is come upon us by the fall, there is no one part more eminent, or rather no one defect more evident, than inconstancy and unstableness of mind in embracing that which is spiritually good. Man being turned from his unchangeable rest, seeks to quiet and satiate his soul with restless movings towards changeable things.
Now, he who worketh all our works for us and in us, Isa. xxvi. 12, worketh them also by us;' and, therefore, that which he will give, he persuades us to have, that at once his bounty and our duty may receive a manifestation in the same thing. Of this nature is perseverance in the faith of Christ;—which, as by him it is promised, and therefore is a grace; so to us it is prescribed, and thereby is a duty. “ Petamus ut det, quod ut habeamus jubet,” Augustine;—“Let us ask him to bestow what he requires us to enjoy." Yea, “Da, Domine, quod jubes, et jube quod vis;”—“Give what thou commandest, and command what thou pleasest.'
1 Chap. x. 36. • Prov. xxi. 13, xxvi. 13. 3 Ps. cxvi, 7.
• 1 Thess. i. 3; 2 Thess. i. 11; Deut. x. 16, xxx. 6; Ezek. xvii. 31, xxxvi. 26; Acts xi. 18.
As a duty it is by the apostle here considered; and therefore pressed on them who by nature were capable, and by grace enabled, for the performance thereof. Pathetical exhortations, then, unto perseverance in the profession of the gospel, bottomed on prevalent scriptural arguments and holy reasonings, are the sum of this epistle.
The arguments the apostle handleth unto the end proposed are of two sorts :—First, Principal; Secondly, Deductive, or emergencies from the first.
FIRST, His principal arguments are drawn from two chief fountains :41. The author; and, 2. The nature and end of the gospel.
1. The author of the gospel is either,
(1.) Principal and immediate, which is God the Father, who having at sundry times and in divers manners formerly spoken by the prophets, herein speaketh by his Son, chap. i. 1.
(2.) Concurrent and immediate, Jesus Christ, this great salvation, being begun to be spoken to us by the Lord, chap. ii. 3. This latter he chiefly considereth, as in and by whom the gospel is differenced from all other dispensations of the mind of God. Concerning him to the end intended he proposeth,— [1.] His person; [2.] His employment.
[1.] For his person, that thence he may argue to the thing aimed at, he holdeth out,
1st. The infinite glory of his Deity; being “the brightness of the Father's glory, and the express image of his person," chap. i. 3.
2dly. The infinite condescension of his love, in assuming humanity; for, “because the children were partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself took part of the same," chap. ii. 14.
And from the consideration of both these, he presseth the main exhortation which he hath in hand, as you may see, chap. ii. 1, 2, iii. 12, 13, &c.
[2.] The employment of Christ he describeth in his offices, which he handleth
1st. Positively, and very briefly, chapters i., ii., iii.
2dly. Comparatively, insisting chiefly on his priesthood, -exalting it in sundry weighty particulars above that of Aaron, which yet was the glory of the Jewish worship; and this at large, chapters vi., vii., viii., ix., x. And this being variously advanced and asserted, he layeth as the main foundation, upon which he placeth the weight and stress of the main end pursued, as in the whole epistle is everywhere obvious.
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2. The second head of principal arguments he taketh from the gospel itself; which considering as a covenant, he holdeth out two ways.
(1.) Absolutely, in its efficacy in respect of,—
[1.] Justification. In it God is merciful to unrighteousness, and sins and iniquities he remembers no more, chap. viii, 12;—bringing in perfect remission, that there shall need no more offering for sin, chap. x. 18.
[2.] Sanctification. He puts his laws in our hearts, and writes them in our minds, chap. x. 16;—in it purging our consciences by the blood of Christ, chap. ix. 14.
[3.] Perseverance: “I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people,” chap. viii. 10.
All three are also held out in sundry other places.
(2.) Respectively to the covenant of works; and in this regard assigns unto it principal qualifications, with many peculiar eminences them attending,—too many now to be named. Now, these are,
[1.] That it is new: “In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old, chap. viii. 13.
[2.] Better. It is a better covenant, and built upon mises,” chap. vii. 22, viï. 6.
[3.] Surer, the Priest thereof being ordained, “not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life," chap. vii. 16.
[4.] Unalterable. So in all the places before named, and sundry others.
All which are made eminent in its peculiar mediator, Jesus Christ; which is the sum of chap. vii.
And still, in the holding out of these things, that they might not forget the end for which they were now drawn forth, and so exactly handled, he interweaves many pathetical entreaties and pressing arguments by way of application, for the confirming and establishing his countrymen in the faith of this glorious gospel; as you may see almost in every chapter.
SECONDLY. His arguments less principal, deduced from the former, being very many, may be referred to these three heads :
1. The benefits by them enjoyed under the gospel.
2. The example of others, who by faith and patience obtained the promises, chap. xi.
3. From the dangerous and pernicious consequence of backsliding; of which only I shall speak. Now this he setteth out three ways.
(1.) From the nature of that sin. It is a crucifying to themselves the Son of God afresh, and putting him to open shame, chap. vi. 6; a treading under foot the Son of God, counting the blood of the covenant an unholy thing, and doing despite to the Spirit of grace, chap.
(2.) The remediless punishment which attends that sin: “There remaineth no more sacrifice for it, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment, and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries,” chap. x. 26, 27.
(3.) The person against whom peculiarly it is committed, and that is he who is the author, subject, and mediator of the gospel, the Lord Jesus Christ; concerning whom, for the aggravation of this sin, he proposeth two things.
[1.] His goodness and love, and that in his great undertaking to be a Saviour; being “made like unto his brethren in all things, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people," chap. ii. 17. And of this there is a sweet and choice line running through the whole discourse, making the sin of backsliding against so much love and condescension appear exceeding sinful.
[2.] His greatness or power; which he sets out two ways.
1st. Absolutely, as he is God, to be “ blessed for ever," chap. i.; and, “ It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God," chap. x. 31.
2dly. Comparatively, as he is the mediator of the new covenant in reference to Moses. And this he setteth forth, as by many and sundry reasonings in other places of the epistle, so by a double testimony in this 12th chapter, making that inference from them both which you have, verse 25, “See that ye refuse not him that speaketh: for if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him who speaketh from heaven."
Now, the first testimony of his power is taken from a record of what he did heretofore;—the other from a prediction of what he will do hereafter.
The first you have, verse 26, in the first part of it, “His voice then shook the earth;" then,-that is, when the law was delivered by him, as it is described, verses 18-21, foregoing; when the mountain upon which it was delivered, the mediator Moses, into whose hand it was delivered, and the people for whose use it was delivered, did all shake and tremble at the voice, power, and presence of Christ, —who, as it hence appears, is that Jehovah who gave the law, Exod. xx. 2.
The other, in the same verse, is taken from a prediction out of Haggai ii. 6, of what he will do hereafter,—even demonstrate and make evident his power, beyond whatever he before effected: He hath promised, saying, “Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven.”
* Exod xix. 18, 19, xx. 18.