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able; and it cannot be acceptable if it is not the result of gratitude, the expression of thankfulness. The word rendered
God, properly refers to religious worship. I do not think that it is here to be restricted to religious duties properly so called; but I apprehend it is used to express the idea, that every duty on the part of a Christian should have a religious character. Whatever he does should be in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. The presenting of himself a living sacrifice to God in all the duties of life, is rational worship.” The Christian, though invested with royal dignity, must remember that there is a King of kings, and that his true honour, as well as duty, consists in serving Him. External acts of duty will serve no good purpose if they are not acceptable ; i.e., if they are not regarded with complacency by Him to whom they are performed. Now they will not be regarded with complacency by Him, unless they are the expression of gratitude. The only homage which is acceptable to Him is the homage of the heart—of the heart penetrated with gratitude for His “unspeakable gift," and of which the native language is, “We love Him who hath so loved us.'
But while the Apostle calls on the Hebrew Christians to be thankful, seeing they have received a kingdom which cannot be moved,” he calls on them to be thankful “ with reverence and godly fear.” Their gratitude and its expressions were not to be of that light character which the reception of temporal and temporary blessings is calculated to excite, but of that grave, chastened, solemn, sublime character, which corresponds with the spiritual, heavenly, and eternal benefits that had been conferred on them. There is something awful in everything connected with God; and when Christians rejoice, they should “rejoice with trembling.” When a Christian considers how the blessings which he enjoys were obtained, such a manifestation of the divine holiness and righteousness, as well as benignity, is brought before the mind, as, while it does not in the slightest degree impair his joy in the Lord and his confidence in His mercy, excites an overwhelming sense of His infinite majesty and purity, and induces him to say, “Who shall not fear Thee, and glorify Thy name? for Thou only art holy." The ground of that holy fear, with which our grateful, joy1 λατρεύωμεν.
? Loyixy autpela, Rom. xii. 1.
ful services to Him who has given us "a kingdom that cannot be moved” should be accompanied, is stated in the concluding verse of this chapter : “For our God is a consuming fire.” Hence the necessity and propriety of “reverence and godly fear.” The Apostle obviously refers to the words of Moses, Deut. iv. 24, where God is termed a consuming fire. The ideas intended to be conveyed seem to be absolute moral purity, connected with irresistible power. Our God is glorious in holiness, and inflexible in justice. He will “by no means clear the guilty," without complete satisfaction to the injured honours of law and government. He shows Himself “a consuming fire” in not sparing His Son when He took our place, but wounding and bruising Him even to the death, “the Just One in the room of the unjust;” and He shows Himself “a consuming fire” in punishing with peculiar severity those who neglect and despise the revelation of grace, reigning through righteousness unto eternal life. The God of the law and the God of the Gospel is the same God—unchanged, unchangeable. His mercy beams forth more gloriously in the Gospel than in the law, but His holiness is not obscured by the effulgence of His mercy. No, the displeasure of God against sin is more strongly marked in the sacrifice of His Son, than in all the hecatombs of victims which bled on the Jewish altars; and we may rest assured, that “if he who despised Moses' law died without mercy, he will be accounted worthy of much sorer punishment, who treads under foot the Son of God, treats as unclean the sanctifying blood of the covenant, and does despite to the Spirit of grace.' ” The Gospel despiser, the impenitent apostate, will find that there is no wrath like the wrath of contemned, abused mercy, and that it is indeed “a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” The belief of the infinitely energetic holiness of God, manifesting itself both in the sufferings of Christ and in the peculiarly sore punishment of the despiser and neglecter of the Gospel, is admirably fitted to produce that “reverence and godly fear,” which is in perfect harmony with that grateful love which arises from the faith of the truth as it is in Jesus.
It a just remark of a judicious expositor and divine, “God does not leave our compliance with the Gospel merely to the generosity and gratitude of the human heart; for, however noble these principles are, the hearts of believers themselves are not always under their vigorous influence. Indeed, the human heart is not so generous and grateful in this imperfect state as many imagine; and he must be a stranger to his own heart who does not feel this. We need to have our fears as well as our hopes stimulated, and the Gospel affords sufficient motives for both.” 1 Let us then, in the careful study of the character of God, as manifested in the person, work, and doctrine of our Lord Jesus Christ, the great Revealer of Divinity, lay our minds and hearts open to all the motives, of whatever kind, which it suggests ; and having obtained such high and holy privileges, and such “exceeding great and precious promises,” let us “cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and of the spirit, and perfect holiness in the fear of God."
$ 2. Particular Exhortations. Chap. xiii. 1–14. This chapter may be considered as dividing itself into two parts,—the first being an exhortation to a variety of duties, the second being the conclusion of the Epistle. The duties enjoined are some of them moral, and others religious. The moral duties recommended are—the love of the brethren, and its appropriate manifestations in hospitality towards strangers and sympathy with sufferers ; chastity; freedom from covetousness; contentment; a grateful recollection and pious improvement of the instructions and examples of their deceased pastors; and liberality and beneficence. The religious duties recommended are—fidelity to God; unshaken steadiness in the faith and profession of the Gospel, notwithstanding all the suffering and reproach to which it might subject them; thanksgiving; dutiful subjection to their pastors; and prayer for the Apostle and his brethren. The conclusion of the Epistle consists of three parts: a prayer to God; a request to his brethren; and a parting salutation and benediction. Let us examine these various parts as they lie in order.
The chapter begins with a recommendation of brotherly love. Ver. 1. “Let brotherly love continue."
The persons to whom this Epistle was addressed were at once Jews and Christians ; and according as we view them in the one or other of these aspects, the phrases,“ brotherly love,"
and the “continuance” of brotherly love, must be somewhat differently interpreted. The Jews had a peculiar regard to each other, as distinguished from the Gentile nations; and it was one of the charges which the unbelieving Jews brought against their Christian brethren, that they had become enemies to their nation. Now, the Apostle may be understood as saying, "Give no occasion for this reproach. Show that in becoming Christians you have not ceased to be, in every good sense of the word, Jews—that the expansion of your philanthropy has not lessened the ardour of your patriotism. Let all the regard you ever had for your brethren, your kinsmen according to the flesh, continue; only let your mode of manifesting it correspond with the juster views which you have now obtained of their true interests. Paul's "own brotherly love,” in this sense, continued. What a striking expression of it have we in these words! Rom. ix. 1-5, x. 1.
But the persons whom he was addressing were not only Jews, but Christians ; and as Christians they formed part of a spiritual brotherhood bound together by ties more intimate and sacred. They were all “ the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.” They all stood in the relation of children to God; they had all been formed to the character of the children of God; and the faith of the truth, by which at once the relation was constituted and the character formed, naturally and necessarily led to mutual esteem and love. This is, we apprehend, the view the Apostle is here taking of the Christian Hebrews; and this peculiar affection with which genuine Christians regard each other, is that brotherly affection the continuance of which is the subject of the Apostle's exhortation. All true Christians are taught of God to love one another. “He who loves Him who begat, must also love those who are begotten of Him." He who does not love the children of God, is not himself a child of God.
The degree in which this love is felt depends on a great variety of circumstances. It obviously was felt in a very great degree in the earlier days of the primitive Hebrew Church: Acts ii. 44, 45, iv. 32, 34. To this the Apostle refers in chap. vi. 10, and x. 32, 33, 34: “Ye became companions of those who were made a gazingstock; and ye had compassion of me in my bonds.” It is not unlikely that, owing to a variety of circumstances, the ardour of their first love had abated. “Iniquity," according to the Saviour's prophecy, “was abounding, and the love of many,” both towards the Saviour and towards one another, “was waxing cold.” The Apostle's exhortation is, “Let brotherly love continue." "Persevere in that warm, disinterested affection towards each other as Christians, by which, after ye were illuminated, ye were so remarkably characterized.'
The instruction afforded by this exhortation is suited to Christians in all countries and in all ages. Love to the brotherhood is a duty wherever the brotherhood exists. From the impure state of Church communion, in consequence of which there are so many in external fellowship whom an enlightened Christian cannot regard as brethren in Christ, and from the division of the Christian Church into a variety of hostile factions, there are difficulties thrown in the way of the cultivation of this Christian virtue; but the obligation to cherish this disposition is in no degree diminished. Wherever you see the image of your Lord--wherever there is a consistent profession of the faith of Christ-there ought we to fix our Christian affections; and having fixed them, we are not easily to allow them either to abate or to be transferred. It is finely remarked by the illustrious divine to whom I have already more than once referred : “The love which is among His disciples is that whereon the Lord Christ hath laid the weight of the manifestation of His glory in the world. But there are only a few footsteps of it left in the visible Church, some marks that it hath been, and dwelt there of old. It is, as to its lustre and splendour, retired to heaven, abiding in its power and efficacious exercise only in some corners of the earth and secret retirements. Envy, wrath, selfishness, love of the world, with coldness in all the concerns of religion, have possessed the place of it. And in vain shall men wrangle and contend about their differences in opinions, faith, and worship, pretending to advance religion by an imposition of their persuasion on others : unless this holy love be again re-introduced among all those who profess the name of Christ, all the concerns of religion will more and more run to ruin. The very continuance of the Church depends secondarily on the continuance of this love. It depends primarily on faith in Christ, whereby we are built on the Rock and hold the Head. But it depends secondarily on