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87. Paul, who had an inexpressible zeal, and overflowing affection for his countrymen, being now in Italy, considering the present condition of their affairs, how pertinaciously they adhered to the Mosaical institutions, how near the approach of their utter abolition was, how backward they would be while they possessed that frame of spirit, to save themselves by flying from the midst of that perishing generation; what danger they were in to forego the profession of the gospel, when it would not be retained without a relinquishment of their former Divine service and ceremonies, writes this epistle to them, wherein he strikes at the very root of all their dangers and distresses. For, whereas all the danger of their abode in Jerusalem and Judea, and so of falling in the destruction of the city and people; all the fears the apostle had of their apostasy into Judaism; all their own disconsolations in reference to their flight and departure, arose from their adherence to, and zeal for, the law of Moses; by declaring to them the nature, use, end, and expiration of his ordinances and institutions, he utterly removes the ground and occasion of all the evils mentioned.
This was the season wherein the epistle was written; and these are some of the principal occasions (though it had other reasons also, as we shall see afterwards) of its being written. And I no way doubt, (though the particular events of those days are buried in oblivion) but that through the grace of Him, who moved and directed the apostle to write, it was made signally effectual towards the professing Hebrews, both to free them from that yoke of bondage, wherein they had been detained; and to prepare them with cheerfulness to the observance of evangelical worship, leaving theit countrymen to perish in their sin and unbelief.
$8. (II.) Some, from a supposed dissimilitude of style in this, compared with Paul's other epistles, and because it was written to the Hebrews, have thought, that it was originally written in Hebrew. But if so,
1. Whence comes it to pass, that no copy of it, in that language, was ever seen or heard of, by the most diligent collectors of all fragments of antiquity in the primitive times? Had ever any such thing been extant, whence came it in particular, that Origen, that prodigy of industry and learning, should be able to attain no knowledge or report of it? Again,
2. If it were incumbent on Paul in writing to the Hebrews, to write in their own language, why did he not also write in Latin to the Romans? But,
3. It is very improperly supposed, that the Hebrew tongue was then the common language of the Jews; for it was known only to the learned amongst them, and a corrupt Syriac was the common dialect of the people even at Jerusalem.
4. It is, moreover, as unduly averred, that the Hebrew was the mother tongue of Paul himself, or that he was ignorant of the Greek, seeing he was born at Tarsus, in Cilicia, where the latter must have been the language he was brought up in.
5. The epistle was written for the use of all the Hebrews in their several dispersions, especially that in the East, as Peter witnesseth, they being all alike concerned in the matter of it, though not so immediately as those in Judea and Jerusalem. Now, to those the Greek language, from the days of the Macedonian empire, had been in vulgar use, and continued to be so. Nay,
6. The Greek tongue was so well known, and so much used in Judea itself, that it was called the vulgar amongst them; so that the pretence of some of the
Rabbins,concerning a prohibition against learning the Greek tongue, is built on suppositions evidently false; and may be easily convicted of self-contradiction.
$9. Again, the epistle is said to be translated by Clemens; but where, or when, we are not informed. Was this in Italy before it was sent to the Hebrews? To what end then was it written in Hebrew, when it was not to be used but in Greek? Was it sent in Hebrew before the supposed translation? then in what language was it communicated to others, by them who first received it? Clemens was never in the East to translate it. And if all the first copies of it were dispersed in Hebrew, how came they to be so utterly lost, as that no report or tradition of any one copy did ever remain? Besides, if it were translated by Clemens, in the West, and that translation alone preserved, how came it to pass, that it was so well known, and generally received in the East, before the Western churches admitted it; this tradition, therefore, is also every way groundless and improbable.
$13. Moreover, the style is freer from Hebraisms than could be expected in a translation; and it abounds with Greek elegances, that have no countenance given them by any thing in the Hebrew tongue, see chap. V, 8. The word (1993) Berith being constantly rendered by Simonun, and the words concerning Melchisedec, chap. vii, 11, strongly militate against its Hebrew original. When John reports the words of Mary, (paßbevi) Rabboni, and adds of his own (o neyelai Sidecuana) that is to say, master, John xx, 16, doth any man doubt but that he wrote in Greek, and therefore so rendered her Syriac expression? And is not the same thing evident concerning our apostle, from the interpretation he gives of the Hebrew words? And it is in vain to reply, that these words were added by
the translator, seeing the very argument of the author is founded in the interpretation of those words which he gives us.
It appears, then, that the assertion, “that this epistle “was written in Hebrew,” is altogether groundless; the evidence for its Greek original being such as few other books of the New Testament can afford concerning themselves, should the same question be made about them.
CONCERNING THE ONENESS OF THE CHURCH:
$1. Mistake of the Jews about the nature of the promises,
52. The promise of the Messiah, under the notion of a covenant, the foundation of the church. $3. The church confined to the person and posterity of Abraham, who was called and separated for a double end. $4. Who properly the seed of Abraham. $5. Mistakes of the Jews about the covenant. $6. Abraham the father of the faithful, and heir of the world, on what account. $7. The church still the same. '$8. Conclusion.
şi. The Jews, at the time when this epistle was written, (and their posterity, in all succeeding generations, follow their example and tradition) were not a little confirmed in their obstinacy and unbelief, by a misapprehension of the true sense of the Old Testament promises. For, finding many glorious promises made to the church in the days of the Messiah, especially concerning the great access of the Gentiles to it, they looked upon themselves the posterity of Abraham, according to the flesh, as the first, proper, and indeed only subjects of them; to whom, in their accomplishment, others were to be proselyted and joined, the
substance and foundation of the church remaining still with them. But the event answered not their expectation. Instead of inheriting all the promises merely upon their carnal interest and privilege, they found that themselves must come in on a new account, to be sharers in common with others, or be rejected, whilst those others were admitted to the inheritance. This filled them with wrath and envy, which greatly strengthened their unbelief. They could not bear with patience an intimation of letting out the “vine“yard to other husbandmen.” With this principle and prejudice of theirs, the apostle dealt directly in his epistle to the Romans. See chap. x, xi.
On the same grounds he proceedeth with them in this epistle; and because his answer to their objection from the promises lies at the foundation of many of his reasonings with them, the nature of it must be here previously explained.
82. Now, though the promise of the Messiah given to Adam, an absolute promise proceeding from mere grace, was the support and encouragement of mankind to seek the Lord; yet, as it was the foundation of the church, it included the nature of a covenant, virtually requiring a re-stipulation to obedience. For the promise was given to this end, that men might have a new foundation of obedience, the first covenant being disarinulled. Hence, in the after explications of the promise, this condition of obedience is expressly added. So upon its renewal to Abraham, God required, that he should 'walk before him, and be
up‘right. This promise, then, as it hath the nature of a covenant, including the grace that God would shew to sinners in the Messiah, and the obedience that he required from them, was, from the first giving of it, the foundation of the church and its worship. And to