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Hebrews, at that time, by reason of some peculiar observances, living in a manner separate from those of the Gentiles, were not, probably very forward in communicating this epistle; being written, as they supposed, about an especial concern of their own. By this means, it seems to have been kept much within the compass of the Hebrew churches, until after the destruction of the temple; when by their dispersion, and their coalescing with other churches in the East, it came to be generally received amongst them.* But the Latin church, having lost that advantage of receiving it when first written, was somewhat slow in inquiring after it. Those that succeeded in that church, it is not unlikely, had their scruples increased; because they found it not in common use among their predecessors, like the rest of St. Paul's epistles; not considering the occasion of it. To which we may add, that, by the time it had gradually made its progress in its return to the West, it began to evince its own authority, by the conquest it obtained over the Novatians, and other opposers.
Some among the moderns, particularly Cajetan, Erasmus, Eniedinus, and a few more, have scrupled its authority; and the reasons they make use of in support of their conjectures, are amassed together by Erasmus. Annot. in Heb. xiii, 24. We shall, therefore,
$6. Consider what reasons they pretend, or objections urge, for so doing.
1. The first thing generally pleaded is, the uncertainty of its penman. How groundless this pretence is, we shall hereafter fully demonstrate; but at present I shall only shew, that, in general, it is of no importance in this cause. The author being certainly known,
* Vid. Hieron. Epis. ad Dardan.
may indeed afford some light to its nature and authority. Thus when it is confessed, that the penman of any book was divinely inspired, and that it was written for the use of the church, its authority is unquestionable; but when it is doubtful who the author was, nothing satisfactory can then be concluded on either side; and, therefore it hath pleased the Holy Ghost to keep the names of many of the sacred penmen in everlasting obscurity. There is not, then, the least strength in this exception, unless it could be proved, that he was not divinely inspired; which yet cannot be done, as we shall abundantly prove.
2. It is objected, that the author of this epistle cites various things out of the Old Testament, which are not therein contained; as many of the stories referred to chap. xi, and that in particular chap. xii, 21; where he affirms, that Moses, terrified at the sight that appeared to him, said, “I exceedingly fear and quake.” But the author quotes no book of the Old Testament; he only relates a matter of fact, and one circumstanceofit,which he doubtless had by Divine revelation. It is an uncouth way of proving an author not to have written by Divine inspiration, because he writeth truths which he could not otherwise be acquainted with!
3. It is an objection of more importance, that the writer citeth testimonies out of the Old Testament, that are not to his purpose. Now, two things must be supposed to give countenance to this objection: First, that those who make it, do better understand the meaning of the testimonies so produced, than he did, by whom they are alleged. How vain and presumptuous this supposition is, needs little labor to demonstrate. Nay, it may much more rationally be supposed, that we are rather ignorant of God's utmost intention in every place of scripture, than that we know it in all. There is a depth in the word of God, because his: which we are not able to fathom. One says well, “The holy scriptures are as a rich overflowing fountain, which the deeper you dig, the more you find it abounds with water: in like manner, the more carefully you search the sacred volume, the fuller you will find, are the veins of living water.”* Secondly, they who object must take it for granted, that they are, beforehand, fully acquainted with the particular intention of the author, in producing these testimonies. Neither is this supposition less rash and presumptuous than the former; for those only, who bring their hypothesis and pre-concerted notions to the scripture, with a wish to have them confirmed, are apt to make such conclusions. But those that come with humility and reverence, to learn of the Supreme Majesty, his mind and will therein, will have other thoughts and apprehensions.
87. Having removed these objections out of the way, ; we shall now proceed
(III.) To demonstrate the canonical authority of this epistle, taken in the strict and proper sense, before declared. Now the sum of what we shall plead in this cause, amounts to this: that whereas there are many (TExumpice) infallible evidences of any writings being given by Divine inspiration; and sundry arguments whereby, books, vainly pretending to that original, may be disproved—of the former, there is no one that is not applicable to this epistle; nor is it obnoxious to any one of the latter sort: so that it stands on the same basis with the whole, which, at present, we suppose firm and immoveable. And,
1. The general argument of it is the same with that of the whole scriptures. It treats of things which
* Brent. Hom. xxxvi. in 1 Sam. xi.
eye hath not seen, nor ear heard; nor have they, by any natural means, ever entered into the heart of man; and yet, in absolute harmony with all other unquestionable revelations of the will of God. Human diligence, regulated by what is revealed elsewhere, is human still; and can never free itself from those inseparable attendances, that manifest it to be such. The truth of this consideration is demonstrable from every one of those books, commonly called apocryphal; not one of which is there, wherein human diligence doth not discover itself to be its fountain and spring.
$8. 2. To the general argument, we may add the particular subject matter, as farther confirming its Divine original; wherein we have eminently four things:
(1.) The principal things treated of are matters of the greatest importance, and such as concern the very foundation of faith. Such are the doctrines about the person, offices, and sacrifice of Christ; the nature of gospel worship, and our communion with God therein. In these consist the very vitals of our profession; and they are all opened in a most excellent and heavenly manner in this epistle, in absolute harmony with what is taught concerning them in other parts of holy writ.
(2.) Some things of great moment to the faith and consolation of the church, which are but obscurely and sparingly taught elsewhere, are here plainly, fully, and excellently taught and improved. Such, in particular, are the doctrines of the priesthood of Christ, his sacrifice and intercession; and how these were typically represented under the Old Testament economy. He that understands aright the importance of these things, their use and influence, and the support they afford under temptations and trials, will be ready to conclude, that the world may as well want the sun in the firmament, as the church this epistle.
(3.) God's way, in teaching the Old Testament church, with the operose pedagogy of Moses, is here fully revealed, and shewn to be full of wisdom, grace, and love. Here we see, that the whole Aaronical priesthood, with its duties and offices, are transferred to the use of believers under the gospel. How dark Mosaical institutions were in themselves, is evident from the whole state of the church in the days of Christ and his apostles, when they could not see to the end of the things to be abolished. In their nature, they were carnal; in their number, many; as to their reason, hidden; in their observance, burdensome; and in their external appearance, pompous. By all which they so possessed the minds of the church, that very few saw clearly into their use, intention, and end; but in this epistle the veil is taken off from Moses; the mystery of his designs laid open; and a perfect clue is given to believers, to pass safely through all the turnings and windings of them, to rest and truth in Jesus Christ.
(4.) The grounds and manner of that great alteration which God caused in his worship, are here laid open; and the greatest controversy that ever the church of God was exercised with, is here fully determined. There was nothing in the first propagation of the gospel, and the planting of Christian churches, that so much divided and perplexed the professors of the truth, as the difference about the continuation of Mosaical rites and ceremonies. The will of God, in this matter, before the writing of this epistle, could only be collected from the nature and state of things in the church, upon the coming of the Messiah; and conclusions, from that consideration, the believing Jews were very slow to admit. Now who was fit, who was able, to determine upon these various institutions, but God