Verse 25. "Grace be with you all." - May the Divine favour ever rest upon you and among you; and may you receive, from that source of all good, whatsoever is calculated to make you wise, holy, useful, and happy! And may you be enabled to persevere in the truth to the end of your lives! Amen. May it be so! May God seal the prayer by giving the blessings! THE subscriptions to this epistle are, as in other cases, various and contradictory.
The VERSIONS are as follow:-
The Epistle to the Hebrews was written from Roman Italy, and sent by the hand of Timothy.
VULGATE nothing, in the present printed copies.
It was written from Italy by Timothy: with the assistance of God, disposing every thing right, the fourteen epistles of the blessed Paul are completed, according to the copy from which they have been transcribed.
May the Lord extend his benedictions to us. Amen.
The Epistle to the Hebrews is completed. The end.
Written in Italy, and sent by Timothy.
The MANUSCRIPTS, and ancient editions taken from MSS., are not more to be relied on.
To the Hebrews, written from Rome.
- CODEX ALEXANDRINUS.
The epistles of Saint Paul the apostle arc finished.
- COLOPHON, at the end of this epistle; in one of the first printed Bibles; and in an ancient MS. of the Vulgate in my own collection.
The end of the Epistle to the Hebrews.
- GREEK TEXT of the COMPLUTENSIAN EDITION.
The Epistle of the blessed Paul to the Hebrews is finished.
- LATIN TEXT of ditto.
To the Hebrews.
- The Epistle of Paul the apostle to the Hebrews.- The Epistle to the Hebrews, written from Italy.
- From Athens.
- From Italy by Timothy.
- Written in the Hebrew tongue, &c.
- Various MSS.
Written to the Hebrews from Italy by Timothy.
- Common Greek Text.
That it was neither written from Athens, nor in the Hebrew tongue, is more than probable; and that it was not sent by Timothy, is evident from ver. 23. For the author, time, place, and people to whom sent, see the INTRODUCTION.
I. On the term "conscience," as frequently occurring in this epistle, I beg leave to make a few observations.
Conscience is defined by some to be "that judgment which the rational soul passes on all her actions;" and is said to be a faculty of the soul itself, and consequently natural to it. Others state that it is a ray of Divine light.
Milton calls it "God's umpire;" and Dr. Young calls it a "god in man." To me it seems to be no other than a faculty capable of receiving light and conviction from the Spirit of God; and answers the end in spiritual matters to the soul, that the eye does to the body in the process of vision. The eye is not light in itself, nor is it capable of discerning any object, but by the instrumentality of solar or artificial light; but it has organs properly adapted to the reception of the rays of light, and the various images of the objects which they exhibit. When these are present to an eye the organs of which are perfect, then there is a discernment of those objects which are within the sphere of vision; but when the light is absent, there is no perception of the shape, dimensions, size, or colour of any object, howsoever entire or perfect the optic nerve and the different humours may be.
In the same manner (comparing spiritual things with natural) the Spirit of God enlightens that eye of the soul which we call conscience; it penetrates it with its effulgence; and (speaking as human language will permit on the subject) it has powers properly adapted to the reception of the Spirit's emanations, which, when received, exhibit a real view of the situation, state, &c., of the soul, as it stands in reference to God and eternity. Thus the Scripture says, "The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit," &c., i.e. it shines into the conscience, and reflects throughout the soul a conviction, proportioned to the degree of light communicated, of condemnation or acquittance, according to the end of its coming.
The late Mr. J. Wesley's definition of conscience, taken in a Christian sense, is nearly the same with the above: "It is," says he, "that faculty of the soul which, by the assistance of the grace of God, sees at one and the same time, 1. Our own tempers and lives; the real nature and quality of our thoughts, words and actions. 2. The rule whereby we are to be directed.
And 3. The agreement or disagreement therewith. To express this a little more largely: Conscience implies, first, the faculty a man has of knowing himself; of discerning, both in general and in particular, his temper, words, thoughts, and actions: but this is not possible for him to do, without the assistance of the Spirit of God; otherwise self-love, and indeed every other irregular passion, would disguise and wholly conceal him from himself. It implies, secondly, a knowledge of the rule whereby he is to be directed in every particular, which is no other than the written word of God.
Conscience implies, thirdly, a knowledge that all his thoughts, and words, and actions are conformable to that rule. In all these offices of conscience, the unction of the holy One is indispensably needful. Without this, neither could we clearly discern our lives and tempers, nor could we judge of the rule whereby we are to walk, nor of our conformity or disconformity to it.
A good conscience is a Divine consciousness of walking in all things according to the written word of God. It seems, indeed, that there can be no conscience that has not a regard to God. I doubt whether the words right and wrong, according to the Christian system, do not imply, in the very idea of them, agreement and disagreement to the will and word of God. And if so, there is no such thing as conscience in a Christian, if we leave God out of the question." Sermon on Conscience, page 332.
Some of the Greek fathers seem to consider it as an especial gift of God; a principle implanted immediately by himself. So Chrysostom, on Psa 7., speaking of conscience, says: fusikon gar esti, kai para tou qeou hmin para thn archn enteqen? It is a natural thing, but is planted in us by our God from our birth, In his homily on Isa. vi. 2, he explains himself more particularly: qeion gar esti, kai para, qeou taiv hmeteraiv enidrumenon fucaiv? It is a Divine principle, and is by God himself implanted in our souls. It is allowed on all hands that it is a recorder and judge of human actions, which cannot be corrupted, or be induced to bear a false testimony. Every sense of the body, and every faculty of the mind, may be weakened, obstructed, or impaired, but conscience; all other powers may be deceived or imposed on, but conscience. "No man," says Chrysostom, "can flee from the judgment of his own conscience, which cannot be shunned. It cannot be corrupted; it cannot be terrified; it cannot be flattered or bribed; nor can its testimony be obscured by any lapse of time." Epist. ad Olymp. This strongly argues its Divine nature; and, while the Spirit of God strives with man, conscience has its full influence, and is ever alert in the performance of its office. Cicero, in his oration for Milo, describes the power of conscience well in a few words: Magna est vis conscientiae in utramque partem, ut neque timeant qui nihil commiserint, et poenam semper ante oculos versari putent qui peccarint. "Great is the power of conscience in both cases; they fear nothing who know they have committed no evil; on the contrary, they who have sinned live in continual dread of punishment." One of our poets has said, "'Tis conscience that makes cowards of us all." And had we been sure that Shakespeare was a scholar, we might have supposed that he had borrowed the thought from Menander.
∆o sunistorwn autw ti, kan h qrasutatov, ∆h sunesiv auton deilotaton einai poiei.
If a man be conscious of any crime, although he were the most undaunted of mankind, His conscience makes him the most timid of mortals.
Apud Stobaeum, Serm. xxiv., p. 192.
Conscience is sometimes said to be good, bad, tender, seared, &c.: good, if it acquit or approve; bad, if it condemn or disapprove; tender, if it be alarmed at the least approach of evil, and severe in scrutinizing the actions of the mind or body; and seared, if it feel little alarm, &c., on the commission of sin. But these epithets can scarcely belong to it if the common definition of it be admitted; for how can it be said there is a "tender light," a "dark or hardened light," a "bad god," &c., &c.? But on the other definition these terms are easily understood, and are exceedingly proper; e. g. "a good conscience" is one to which the Spirit of God has brought intelligence of the pardon of all the sins of the soul, and its reconciliation to God through the blood of Christ; and this good conscience retained, implies God's continued approbation of such a person's conduct; see Acts xxiii. 1; 1 Tim. i. 5, 19; and here, ver. 18. "A bad or evil conscience"' supposes a charge of guilt brought against the soul by the Holy Spirit, for the breach of the Divine laws; and which he makes known to it by conscience, as a medium of conveying his own light to the mind; see Hebrews x. 22; 1 Tim. iv. 2; Tit. i. 3. "A tender conscience" implies one fully irradiated by the light of the Holy Ghost, which enables the soul to view the good as good, and the evil as evil, in every important respect; which leads it to abominate the latter, and cleave to the former; and, if at any time it act in the smallest measure opposite to these views, it is severe in its reprehensions, and bitter in its regret. "A darkened or hardened conscience" means one that has little or none of this Divine light; consequently, the soul feels little or no self-reprehension for acts of transgression, but runs on in sin, and is not aware of the destruction that awaits it, heedless of counsel, and regardless of reproof. This state of the soul St. Paul calls by the name of a "seared conscience," or one cauterized by repeated applications of sin, and resistings of the Holy Ghost; so that, being grieved and quenched, he has withdrawn his light and influence from it.
The word conscience itself ascertains the above explication with its deductions, being compounded of con, together, or with, and scio, to know, because it knows or convinces by or together with the Spirit of God. The Greek word suneidhsiv, which is the only word used for conscience through the whole New Testament, has the very same meaning, being compounded of sun, together or with, and eidw, to know. This is the same as suneidov, which is the word generally used among ecclesiastical writers.
From the above view of the subject I think we are warranted in drawing the following inferences:-
1. All men have what is called conscience; and conscience plainly supposes the light or Spirit of God. 2. The Spirit of God is given to enlighten, convince, strengthen, and bring men back to God. 3. Therefore all men may be saved who attend to and coincide with the light and convictions communicated; for the God of the Christians does not give men his Spirit to enlighten, &c., merely to leave them without excuse; but that it may direct, strengthen, and lead them to himself, that they may be finally saved. 4. That this spirit comes from the grace of God is demonstrable from hence: it is a " good and perfect gift," and St. James says all such come from the Father of lights. Again, it cannot be merited, for as it implies the influence of the Holy Spirit, it must be of an infinite value; yet it is GIVEN; that then which is not merited and yet is given must be of grace; not ineffectual grace, there is no such principle in the Godhead.
Thus it appears all men are partakers of the grace of God, for all acknowledge that conscience is common to all; and this is but a recipient faculty, and necessarily implies the spirit of grace given by Jesus Christ, not that the world might be thereby condemned, but that it might be saved.
Nevertheless, multitudes, who are partakers of this heavenly gift, sin against it, lose it, and perish everlastingly, not through the deficiency of the gift, but through the abuse of it. I conclude that conscience is not a power of the soul, acting by or of itself; but a recipient faculty, in which that true light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world has its especial operation.
II. In this chapter the apostle inculcates the duty of hospitality, particularly in respect to entertaining strangers; i.e. persons of whom we know nothing, but that they are now in a state of distress, and require the necessaries of life. Some, says the apostle, have entertained angels without knowing them; and some, we may say, have entertained great men, kings, and emperors, without knowing them. By exercising this virtue many have gained; few have ever lost.
God, in many parts of his own word, is represented as the stranger's friend; and there is scarcely a duty in life which he inculcates in stronger terms than that of hospitality to strangers. The heathen highly applauded this virtue; and among them the person of a stranger was sacred, and supposed to be under the particular protection of Jove, Homer gives the sentiment in all its beauty when he puts the following words into the mouth of Eumaeus, when he addressed Ulysses, who appeared a forlorn stranger, and, being kindly received by him, implored in his behalf a Divine blessing:-zeuv toi doih, xeine, kai aqanatoi qeoi alloi ∆otti malist∆ eqeleiv, oti me profrwn upedexo.
ton d∆ apameibomenov prosefhv, eumaie subwta? xein∆, ou moi qemiv est∆, oud∆ ei kakiwn seqen elqoi, xeinon atimhsai? prov qap diov eisin apantev xeinoi te, ptwcoi te? dosiv d∆ aligh te filh te gignetai hmeterh. ODYSS., lib. xiv., v. 53.
My gentle host, Jove grant thee, and the gods All grant thee, for this deed thy best desire! To whom the herd Eumaeus thus replied; My guest, it were unjust to treat with scorn The stranger, though a poorer should arrive Than even thou; for all the poor that are, And all the strangers, are the care of Jove.
Little, and with good will, is all that lies Within my scope. COWPER.
The Scriptures which more particularly recommend this duty are the following: He doth execute the judgment of the fatherless and widow, and loveth the stranger, in giving him food and raiment. Love ye, therefore, the stranger; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt; Deut. x. 18, 19. I was a stranger, and ye took me in. Come, ye blessed of my Father, Matt. xxv. 35. Given to hospitality; Rom. xii. 13. Neglect not to entertain strangers; ver. 2.
"The entertaining of unknown strangers," says Dr. Owen, "which was so great a virtue in ancient times, is almost driven out of the world by the wickedness of it. The false practices of some, with wicked designs, under the habit and pretense of strangers, on the one hand, and pretences for sordid covetousness on the other, have banished it from the earth. And there are enough who are called Christians who never once thought it to be their duty." But it is vain to inculcate the duty where the spirit of it is not found; and we shall never find the spirit of it in any heart where the love of God and man does not rule.
Benevolent wishes of Be ye warmed and Be ye clothed are frequent enough; these cost nothing, and therefore can be readily used by the most parsimonious.
But to draw out a man's soul to the hungry, to draw out his warmest affections, while he is drawing out, in order to divide with the destitute, the contents of his purse, belongs to the man of genuine feeling; and this can scarcely be expected where the compassionate mind that was in Christ does not rule. One bountiful meal to the poor may often be a preventive of death; for there are times in which a man may be brought so low for want of proper nourishment that, if he get not a timely supply, after-help comes in vain, nature being too far exhausted ever to recover itself, though the vital spark may linger long. One wholesome meal in time may be the means of enabling nature to contend successfully with after privations; and he who has afforded this meal to the destitute has saved a life. "But most who go about seeking relief are idle persons and impostors, and it would be sinful to relieve them." When you know the applicant to be such, then refuse his suit; but if you have nothing but suspicion, which suspicion generally arises from an uncharitable and unfeeling heart, then beware how you indulge it. If, through such suspicion, a man should lose his life, God will require his blood at your hand.
Reader, permit me to relate an anecdote which I have heard from that most eminent man of God, the reverend John Wesley; it may put thee in mind to entertain strangers. "At Epworth, in Lincolnshire, where (says he) I was born, a poor woman came to a house in the market-place and begged a morsel of bread, saying, I am very hungry. The master of the house called her a lazy jade, and bade her be gone. She went forward, called at another house, and asked for a little small-beer, saying, I am very thirsty. Here she was refused, and told to go to the workhouse. She struggled on to a third door and begged a little water, saying, I am faint. The owner drove her away, saying, He would encourage no common beggars. It was winter, and the snow lay upon the ground. The boys, seeing a poor ragged creature driven away from door to door, began to throw snow-balls at her. She went to a little distance, sat down on the ground, lifted up her eyes to heaven, reclined on the earth, and expired!" Here was a stranger; had the first to whom she applied relieved her with a morsel of bread, he would have saved her life, and not been guilty of blood. As the case stood, the woman was murdered; and those three householders will stand arraigned at the bar of God for her death. Reader, fear to send any person empty away.
If you know him to be an impostor, why then give him nothing. But if you only suspect it, let not your suspicion be the rule of your conduct; give something, however little; because that little may be sufficient to preserve him, if in real want, from present death. If you know him not to be a knave, to you he may be an angel. God may have sent him to exercise your charity, and try your faith. It can never be a matter of regret to you that you gave an alms for God's sake, though you should afterwards find that the person to whom you gave it was both a hypocrite and impostor.
Better to be imposed on by ninety-nine hypocrites out of a hundred applicants, than send one, like the poor Epworth woman, empty away.
Finished correcting this epistle for a new edition, Dec. 30, 1831 - A. C.