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Hebrews 2

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Verse 3


Hebrews 2:3. How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?

TO estimate our privileges aright, we should compare them, not with those of the heathen world, but with those enjoyed by God’s ancient people the Jews. These were favoured with a revelation from heaven, and with ordinances of divine appointment, whereby they were to obtain acceptance with God. But their dispensation was burthensome beyond measure; their laws were executed with a rigour that was extreme; insomuch, that a man was stoned to death for only gathering a few sticks upon the Sabbath-day [Note: Numbers 15:32.]. In fact, any presumptuous violation of the law, attested by two or three witnesses, brought with it the punishment of death [Note: Numbers 15:30.]. Now, when it is considered how very different a dispensation we live under, it may well be asked, “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?” For surely, if a dispensation introduced by angels only required such strict attention, and was so inexorably enforced, much more must the Gospel dispensation, introduced as it has been by God’s only dear Son, and attested by the Holy Ghost, demand attention and observance from all to whom it is revealed.

The words which I have read, will lead me to shew you,


The greatness of the Gospel dispensation—

To learn what the Gospel salvation is, we are referred to the preaching of our blessed Lord and his Apostles—

[Our blessed Lord did not systematically lay down the whole nature of the Gospel salvation; but he opened it with a sufficient clearness, that those who paid due attention to his word might easily comprehend it. What, for instance, could be plainer than the instruction given to Nicodemus, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up; that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life [Note: John 3:14-15.]?” Here the perishing condition of the whole world is declared, and the means of their deliverance; namely, through the death of Christ as an atonement for sin, and by the simple exercise of faith in him [Note: See also ver. 16, 18, 36.]. The same truth was repeatedly declared to others [Note: John 6:51; John 11:25-26; Joh 12:32-33 and Matthew 26:27-28.] — — — and it was fully announced, that, as he completed in himself the whole of the Mosaic ritual, he was the only medium of access to God, the only Saviour of the world: “I am the truth, the way, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father but by me [Note: John 14:6.].”

His Apostles after him preached the very same doctrine; and to it, as preached by them, the Holy Ghost set his seal. When Peter opened the Gospel to the Jews, he bade them believe in Jesus Christ for the remission of their sins; and in like manner when he opened it to the Gentiles: and on each occasion the Holy Ghost bare witness to it, by a visible descent from heaven [Note: Acts 2:38-39; Acts 10:43-44.]. So Paul also preached, and with the same effect, to the people at Antioch, and to the Jailor at Philippi [Note: Acts 13:38-39; Acts 16:30-31.]. In a word, this was the Gospel which they all preached; and by this they prevailed, to establish the kingdom of Christ throughout the greater part of the known world [Note: Mark 16:15-16.].]

But how shall I declare the greatness of this salvation?

[Consider it as imparted to us; who shall estimate the blessings of it? Take it either separately or collectively; and tell me if you, or an angel from heaven, can ever calculate the value of pardon, and peace, and holiness, and glory? — — — Eternity would be too short to count the mighty sum. But consider it as purchased for us; there all efforts to estimate it aright are altogether vain. What shall I say of the incarnation of God’s only dear Son, and of his substitution in the place of sinners? What shall I say of his obedience unto death: and of his working out a righteousness, wherein every sinner in the universe, if only he believed in Jesus, might stand accepted before God? It is evident that the theme is too vast either for men or angels; and that “the height, and depth, and length, and breadth of this love can never be fully comprehended,” or adequately explored [Note: Ephesians 3:18-19.].]

Well, then, may we now be prepared to hear of,


The danger of neglecting it—

Here an appeal is made to every living man; and sinners are made judges in their own cause. Only consider what is included in a neglect of the Gospel salvation:


What ingratitude!

[Did Almighty God so compassionate our fallen state as to give his only-begotten Son to stand in our place and stead, and by his own obedience unto death to rescue us from all the miseries we had deserved? — — — What shall be said of those on whom this stupendous act of grace makes no impression? If but a man, a fellow-sinner, had substituted himself in our place, and died for us by the hands of a public executioner, what would be thought of us if we felt no obligation to him? I put it then to you, What must God think of us, if we feel no desire to requite his unmerited and unbounded kindness to us, in giving his only dear Son to die for us? I appeal to all, May we not well expect to lose this salvation, if we are so indifferent about it, as to treat both it, and the means used to effect it, with neglect? — — — I cannot doubt what is the testimony which the conscience of every one before me is constrained to give.]


What unreasonableness!

[Who ever thinks of attaining the means without the end? You cannot obtain any thing in this life without some effort suited to the occasion. How can you hope, therefore, that heaven, and all its glory, shall ever be attained without some effort? If I had to require all the exertions that poor heathen devotees employ to secure the favour of their gods, it were highly reasonable that you should engage day and night in all the most self-denying services that could be prescribed. But when I have only to say, “Believe in Christ, and be saved,” your neglect is unreasonable in the highest degree. Suppose, when Moses erected the brazen serpent that all who looked to it might be healed, any had been so perverse as to say, ‘No, I will not turn my head to look to it;’ would you not say that such an one justly merited the death that must have ensued? Such then is the desert of you who neglect the Saviour: and I will leave you to judge, whether your unreasonable obstinacy, in refusing to comply with such easy means, do not justly cut you off from all hope of that salvation which he offers to you?]


What horrible impiety!

[I am afraid of putting this in its true point of view, lest you should think that I wish to aggravate your guilt beyond all due bounds. But the Apostle himself represents it as “a trampling under foot the Son of God, and putting him to an open shame, and doing despite unto the Spirit of grace.” Now, suppose you could see this matter as God sees it. Suppose you could see the Lord Jesus Christ coming in person to that man, and the man turning upon him and trampling him under his feet: then suppose you saw the Holy Spirit also importuning and entreating him to accept of mercy, and the man turning his back upon him, and doing all manner of despite to him: should you think that man had any just ground to expect a salvation which he treated with such contempt? This, then, is the very light in which God places it, and in which you also ought to view it [Note: Hebrews 10:28-29.]. You, in fact, say to God, ‘It was needless to send thy Son for me: I did not want him; nor will I receive him: and if I am not to be saved but by him, I am determined to abide by the alternative: for I will rather perish in my sins, than be at the trouble of seeking salvation through him.’ I think I need not put it to you, whether the damnation of such an obstinate sinner be just or not: I feel persuaded that the appeal made to you in my text has made its way to all your hearts; and that you see how vain it must be for any to hope to escape the displeasure of God, if they continue to treat with such neglect and contempt the wonderful salvation provided for them.]


Those who have neglected this salvation—

[I wish it to be particularly remembered, that whilst I address you, I do not lay to your charge any sin except that which is expressly specified in my text. I will grant, that, as far as any flagrant act of sin, you have been as innocent as you yourselves can affirm. But have you therefore committed no damning sin? Ask yourselves whether you have not neglected the Gospel salvation. Ask whether, if any man had thought as little of his earthly business as you have thought of that, and had entered into his temporal concerns with as little ardour as you have into the concerns of your soul, he could reasonably have hoped for success? Yea, tell me, whether you yourselves would not have been ready to ascribe his failure to his neglect of business? You would not consider an occasional thought about his concerns sufficient, whilst yet he paid no just attention to them: and so, if you now and then, in a formal way, perform what you call your religious duties, whilst the concerns of eternity do not really occupy your souls, you must not imagine that you are free from the charge which my text imputes to you. Consider, I pray you, what salvation is; and how greatly you need it; and how it is to be sought; and what an entire devotion of soul is required in order to a due performance of that duty. Tell me, Have you, with deep contrition of heart, mourned and lamented your sins? Have you cried to the Lord Jesus Christ for mercy, as if you felt really your perishing condition? Have you utterly renounced all hope in yourselves, and cast yourselves altogether upon him as your only hope? And is this still, at this very time, the daily habit of your mind? Nothing less than this is what the Gospel requires of you; nor without this can you ever enjoy the salvation which it has provided for you. I pray you, consider this well: and provide, if you can, an answer to the appeal, the awful appeal, which God himself here makes to you — — —]


Those who are really seeking after salvation—

[If you are seeking salvation altogether in and through Christ, then will I alter the words of my text, and ask, How shall you not escape, if you are seeking this great salvation? Be assured of this; the salvation is great enough to answer all your wants, and to satisfy all your desires. There is in Christ an inexhaustible fulness of all that you stand in need of; and out of that fulness you shall receive to the utmost extent of your necessities. If a doubt or fear arise in your minds, know that none ever perished looking unto Jesus. “To those who are in him, there never was, nor ever shall be, any condemnation [Note: Romans 8:1.].” Every promise in the Bible secures to you the possession of that salvation. Are you blind, and guilty, and polluted, and enslaved? Behold, wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and complete redemption, are are made over to you in Christ Jesus, and shall be imparted in the measure that your necessities require. Enjoy then your liberty; and let the salvation thus accorded to you fill you with unutterable joy. I grant, your enemies are mighty, and your corruptions great, and your temptations manifold: but still I boldly adopt the appeal in my text, and ask, How shall you not escape, if you seek this salvation? Look at others, and see how they have escaped. See in those who crucified the Lord of glory, how speedy and effectual was the change wrought on them. See what has been already done for that multitude whom no man can number, and who are already enjoying that salvation around the throne of God. Soon shall ye be of that happy number. Only let the Gospel salvation be sought by you as the one thing needful, and you shall never feel the want of it in time or eternity. Give yourselves thoroughly to the attainment of it; and “your labour shall not be in vain in the Lord.”]

Verses 6-8


Hebrews 2:6-8. One in a certain place testified, saying, What is man, that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man, that thou visitest him? Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; thou crownedst him with glory and honour, and didst set him over the works of thy hands: thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet.

OUR blessed Lord has said, “Search the Scriptures; for they are they which testify of me.” Hence it appears, that the Jews were highly privileged; because, if they would only look up to God for the illumination of their minds, they had within their reach an infallible directory in their way to heaven. But we are still more highly privileged, in that we have a multitude of passages pointed out to us by men, who were themselves inspired of God to discern and to explain the meaning of them. If we had been left to ourselves, we might have doubted whether our interpretations of the Scripture were just: but, when holy men of God are moved by the Holy Ghost, to open and apply those very words to Christ, which the prophets, under the influence of the same Spirit, spake of him, we proceed without any fear of error or delusion.
In the Epistle to the Hebrews, the types and prophecies of the Old Testament are more fully opened to us, than in any other part of the apostolic writings. That epistle was evidently written on purpose to point out the connexion between the Jewish and Christian dispensations; to shew their perfect correspondence with each other, and the completion of Judaism in Christianity. It would be profitable to trace this through the whole epistle: but we must content ourselves with noticing only the passage before us.
Let us then consider,


The testimony here adduced—

The manner in which the Apostle speaks of this passage of Holy Writ is somewhat remarkable: at first it appears as if he himself did not recollect the author, or the part of Scripture where the passage occurred; but the fact is, that the Jews were so conversant with their Scriptures, as not to need any thing more than the mere citation of the words: the writer of them, and the place, were sufficiently known to all. What its import is, we can be at no loss to determine.
[David, contemplating the starry heavens, and the perfections of God as displayed in them, breaks out into a devout acknowledgment of the condescension of God, in noticing so poor and abject a creature as man; and his goodness in having subjected to man the whole animal creation [Note: Psalms 8:3-8.]. This is the primary meaning of the text: and, if we had not been instructed by God himself to look for any thing further, we should have rested in that as its full and only import. But we know on infallible authority, that there was a prophetic meaning in the psalm; and that it referred to the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ. Having this clew given us, we find, that the mystical sense of the passage is, if we may so speak, by far the most literal. The words, in fact, are inexplicable, as referred to man, whether in his innocent or fallen state: for Adam was not reduced from a higher state in order to be made lower than the angels [Note: ἠλάττωσας conveys this idea.]: nor is man, in his fallen state, “a little lower than they, but a great deal lower. Moreover, fallen man was not crowned with glory and honour;” nor are all the creatures in a state of subjection to him. The very words themselves therefore lead our thoughts to Christ, in whom alone they ever received their accomplishment: and the manner in which the Apostle quotes them, shews, that the Jews themselves had interpreted them in that very sense in which he quoted them: for he is arguing with the Jews, to shew them the superiority of Christ to Moses, their great lawgiver, and to the angels, by whose ministration their law was given: and, if he had quoted passages from their writings which did not bear directly on his point, or had put a construction upon them which had not been generally received, they would have denied his interpretation of the passages he adduced: and consequently his whole argument would have immediately fallen to the ground.

If any thing further were wanted to shew that the testimony is here properly adduced, we might observe, that our blessed Lord himself quotes the very words before the text as applicable to himself, and as being generally understood to refer to the Messiah [Note: Psalms 2:2. with Matthew 21:15-16.].]

Having ascertained the meaning of the testimony, let us consider,


The points established by it—

Some interpreters understand the text as quoted only in an accommodated sense: but the words themselves, and the scope of the Apostle’s argument, prove that we must understand it as a prophecy that has been strictly and literally fulfilled. In this view it contains much respecting the Lord Jesus: It proves,


The dignity of his person—

[The scope of the Apostle’s argument in the two first chapters of this epistle is, to shew that Christ is superior to the heavenly hosts, and “hath by inheritance a more excellent name than they.” Him the Father acknowledges as his only-begotten Son [Note: Hebrews 1:5.]: and commands all the angels to adore him [Note: Hebrews 1:6.]. Him he addresses as the Creator and Governor of all things, the eternal, immutable Jehovah [Note: Hebrews 1:8-12.], to whom all adverse powers shall assuredly be subjected [Note: Hebrews 1:13.]: to whom also the Christian dispensation (“of which St. Paul speaks,” and which he designated as the “world to come,”) is altogether committed, that he may order every thing relating to it according to his sovereign will and pleasure [Note: Hebrews 2:5.]. As for angels, he has never spoken such things concerning them, or committed such power to them [Note: Hebrews 2:5.]. They are the fellow-servants of the saints [Note: Revelation 19:10; Revelation 22:9.], united with them as part of the Church over which Christ presides [Note: Ephesians 1:10.], and appointed to minister unto them in the capacity of servants [Note: Hebrews 1:14.]. However venerable therefore they are in themselves, and whatever honour God put upon them in the giving of the law, they are infinitely below the Lord Jesus, who is their Creator, their Governor, and their God. In his human nature he was “made a little lower than they;” but in his pre-existent nature he was infinitely above them. O that we may have worthy conceptions of his Divine Majesty, and ever be ready to address him in the words of Thomas, “My Lord, and my God!”]


The truth of his Messiahship—

[Here is a prophecy that must receive an accomplishment: there must be a person superior to the angels in his own nature, and made lower than they by the assumption of our nature. He must submit to this humiliation “for the purpose of suffering death,” as the penalty due to the sins of men. Having “tasted death for every man,” he must be raised, and “crowned with glory and honour,” and must “have all things in heaven, earth, and hell, put under his feet.” Now then we ask, In whom has this, or any part of it, been fulfilled? Who has experienced either the humiliation or the exaltation which are here predicted? That Jesus has fulfilled the prophecy, we know: for, “being in the form of God, and accounting it no robbery to be equal with God, he made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant: and having submitted to death, even the death of the cross, he has been exalted, and has had a name given him above every name, that every knee should bow to him, and every tongue confess him to be the Lord, to the glory of God the Father [Note: Philippians 2:6-11. where ἐκένωσε in ver. 7. corresponds with ἠλάττωσας in the text.].” Is there any one else of whom these things, or any one of them, can be spoken? Assuredly not: “But we see Jesus” thus humbled, and thus exalted [Note: ver. 9.]: and, consequently, Jesus is, beyond all doubt, “the Christ, the Saviour of the world.”]


The certainty of his triumphs—

[When he was on earth “he was crucified through weakness; but now he liveth by the power of God.” He is not only “crowned with glory and honour,” as his followers will be, but is “set far above all principality and power, and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: and being constituted Head over all things to the Church, he filleth all in all,” supplying every member of it with light and life, even as the sun does in the material world [Note: Ephesians 1:20-23.]. The Apostle indeed justly observes, “We see not yet all things put under him [Note: ver. 8.].” But we see enough to assure us, that all things shall in due time be put under him. See to what a state he himself was reduced, when he lay sealed up, and guarded in the silent tomb! but he rose triumphant, and ascended up to heaven, and “sits as King upon God’s holy hill of Zion.” See how quickly he triumphed over all the lusts and prejudices of mankind, and subdued millions to the obedience of faith; and this through the instrumentality of a few poor fishermen! See how he carries on his victories yet daily through the world! Indeed every saint is a living witness for him, and a pledge to the world that nothing in the universe shall finally withstand his power.]

Surely this subject is full,

Of consolation to the godly—

[You are weak; and your enemies are mighty: but is this any ground for despondency. If an angel had been set at the head of the Church, you might well be afraid [Note: See Exodus 32:34; Exodus 33:2-3.]; but under the care of Jesus you have nothing to fear. Think with yourselves, is not the Lord Jesus possessed of “all power, both in heaven and earth?” Is there not “a fulness treasured up in him,” on purpose that “you may receive out of it, even grace for grace?” Does not “all the fulness of the Godhead dwell in him bodily?” and has he not said, “My grace is sufficient for you?” Fear not, then; but “be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” Adopt the triumphant language which the prophet has put into your mouth; and “say, In the Lord have I righteousness and strength.” Fear not, I say; for “through His strength you shall be enabled to do all things,” and “be more than conquerors through Him that loved you.”]


Of terror to the ungodly—

[Because you behold not many signal interpositions of his power, you think that you may rebel against him with impunity. But see whether this prophecy has not been so far fulfilled already, as to give you reason to expect its full accomplishment! God has even “sworn that every knee shall bow to Jesus [Note: Isaiah 45:23. with Romans 14:11.]:” and, if you will not submit to the sceptre of his grace, he will “break you in pieces with a rod of iron [Note: Psalms 2:9.].” Nor is it a mere nominal submission that will suffice: you must put yourselves willingly and unreservedly “under his feet,” as conscious of your ill desert, and as ready to justify him, if he should “execute upon you the fierceness of his anger.” You must be wholly and altogether his, in every member of your body, and in every faculty of your soul. O deceive not yourselves by a feigned or partial submission! — — — but “kiss the Son:” kiss him in token of the ardour of your affection, and of the delight you take in living to his glory. This is your true “wisdom, even though you be kings and judges of the earth [Note: Psalms 2:10-12.].” He is that “stone which the builders refused, and which is become the head of the corner:” if you build upon him, you will find him “a sure foundation;” but if you reject him, “he will fall upon you, and crush you to powder [Note: Luke 20:17-18.].”]

Verse 10


Hebrews 2:10. It became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the Captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.

THE Jews expected, that, at the coming of their Messiah, “all things should be subjected to him.” But what kind of a dominion his should be, or how it should be obtained, they knew not. They pleased themselves with the idea of a triumphing Messiah; but quite overlooked what the prophets had foretold respecting the sufferings by which those triumphs should be accomplished. In a word, they neither knew how great he should be, nor to what a state of degradation he should be reduced. But St. Paul informed them, that, though he was, in his own nature, superior to angels, he should be brought into a condition inferior to them, for the purpose of expiating our guilt, and redeeming a ruined world. And this he declared to be such a dispensation as became the Most High God: “It became him, &c.”

From these words I shall take occasion to shew,


The grand peculiarity of the Christian dispensation—

God had determined to bring an innumerable multitude of sons to glory—
[He had not dealt so with angels. Of them, not so much as one had been saved: but of men, it was God’s purpose to restore many to the relation which they had forfeited as his “sons:” and to the inheritance of “glory,” which they had lost — — —]
This he had ordained to accomplish through the intervention of his dear Son—
[Man could not effect it for himself; nor could all the angels in heaven have effected it. But Christ, being God equal with the Father, was appointed to be “the Captain of our salvation,” and to obtain for us what could never be wrought by any other means — — —]
It was, however, to be effected solely “through the sufferings” of his Son—
[It was not by any exercise of his power that salvation was to be wrought; nor by instructing men how they might save themselves. He must become their Surety and Substitute, and must die in their place and stead — — — This is the grand peculiarity of the Gospel: and, if we view not the Gospel in this light, as a redemption wrought by blood, even by the blood of God’s only dear Son, we have no just conception of it at all — — —]

Not content with a bare assertion, the Apostle states,


The special reason for this appointment—

God being the One Author and end of all, (“by whom, and for whom, are all things,”) might be expected to accomplish this work by a mere arbitrary appointment of his own. But a very different line of conduct “became him.” If he would save men at all, it was expedient that it should be through the sufferings of his Son. This, I say, “became him;”


For the honouring of his law—

[The law had been violated: and if its sanctions were not enforced, both it and the Lawgiver himself would be dishonoured. But that could not be: God would not suffer it: and rather than such a stain should be brought on his moral government, he would exact of his only dear Son the debt that was due from us, and inflict on him the curse which our sins had merited. In this way the authority of his law would be fully vindicated, at the time that the transgressors of it were forgiven: yea, by the sufferings of our incarnate God it would be more honoured than if all its penalties had been inflicted on the whole human race. Seeing, then, that such honour would accrue to the law from this marvellous device, it “became” the Almighty Lawgiver to arrange his dispensations with a view to this great result.]


For the displaying of his own perfections—

[If man had been forgiven without any atonement made for sin, what should we have known either of the justice or the holiness of God? Holiness imports an hatred of sin; and justice, the dealing with men according to their deserts. But not a trace of these would have been found, if men had not suffered, either in their own persons or their Surety, the penalty due to sin. Even truth itself would have failed; and God’s most solemn threatenings been falsified. But no such consequences flow from the exercise of mercy through a suffering Saviour. On the contrary, every perfection of the Deity is the more honoured, because, what it derives not from us, it receives from the Lord Jesus Christ, who, as our Surety, endured all, that justice, or holiness, or truth could possibly require.]


For the magnifying of his own grace—

[Doubtless it would have been a stupendous act of grace, if man had been forgiven without any atonement made for sin. But, glorious as such a favour would have been, it would have had no glory, by reason of the infinitely richer display of mercy which we have in the Gospel of his Son. Such a mercy, if I may so speak, would have been attended with no sacrifice on the part of God: but by giving his own Son out of his bosom, he has made a sacrifice which no finite intelligence can ever duly appreciate. Hence this is represented as exhibiting, above all other things, “the exceeding riches of his grace;” and as commending to us, with unrivalled evidence, the wonders of his love: “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and gave his Son to be the propitiation for our sins [Note: 1 John 4:9-10.].” But to display this grace was worthy of the Deity; and though, with a view to it, the sacrifice that he must make was great, yet, on the whole, was it such a sacrifice as well “became him.”]


For the enabling of his Son to execute every part of his mediatorial office—

[There are parts of that office which he could not execute without suffering. As he could not atone for sin without suffering, so neither could he yield obedience to all that the law required of us without suffering. Patience and resignation can only be exercised under suffering: and therefore, “though he was a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered [Note: Hebrews 5:8-9.].” He must also sympathize with his afflicted people: and this also he would have been unable to do, if he had not been experimentally acquainted with sufferings in his own person: but “having suffered through temptations, he is now able to succour them that are tempted [Note: Hebrews 2:17-18.]:” and we, knowing that “we have One who can be touched with a feeling of our infirmities, are encouraged to come boldly to a throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help us in the time of need [Note: Hebrews 4:15-16.].”]

Let me now ask, If such a dispensation “became God,” what becomes us?

Does God seek to “bring us, as his sons, to glory?” Let us seek to obtain this great benefit—
[Can it be right that Almighty God should take such an interest in us, and we remain indifferent about our own state? Can we by any possibility be advanced to such honour as “sonship” with God, and such happiness as the possession of his “glory,” and shall we not exert ourselves to the utmost of our power? Shall any earthly distinctions stand for a moment in competition with these? — — —]

Has God appointed his own Son to be “the Captain of our salvation?” Let us seek salvation through Him alone—
[Through Christ alone it can ever be attained. He is the sole “Author” of it; and from him, as the purchase of his blood, and the effect of his grace, it must be received. Let us not, for a moment, cherish a thought of obtaining salvation from any other source: but let our reliance on him be simple and entire. Let “him be our wisdom, our righteousness, our sanctification, and our complete redemption.”]
Has God seen fit to “perfect his own Son through sufferings?” Let us be content to be perfected by him in the same way—
[He has “predestinated his people to be conformed to the image of his Son [Note: Romans 8:29.]:” and this conformity must be in holiness, in sufferings, and in glory. Our blessed Lord has told us, that we must “take up our cross daily, and follow him:” that “the servant cannot expect to be above his Lord:” and that “we must suffer with him, if ever we would reign with him [Note: Romans 8:17.].” Let us be content, then, to fill up the measure of sufferings which he has allotted to us; and, if it must be so, “through much tribulation to enter into his kingdom.” Let us be content, do I say? Rather, let us “rejoice that we are counted worthy to suffer for his sake,” and account it an honour to be “partakers of his sufferings.” The Israelites, under Joshua, did not gain possession of Canaan without encountering a foe: nor can we, under “the Captain of our salvation,” become victors without a conflict. But let us “war a good warfare,” and “endure unto the end.” So shall we be not sons only, but heirs also, of our heavenly Father, and be made partakers of his glory for evermore.]

Verses 14-15


Hebrews 2:14-15. Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their life-time subject to bondage.

IS it so indeed, that He who was the brightness of his Father’s glory, and the express image of his person; that He who created and upholdeth all things by the word of his power; that He whom all the angels in heaven adore, became a man, and was made in all things like unto us, sin only excepted? Yes, “He, who was in the form of God, and thought it not robbery to be equal with God, emptied himself of all his glory, and took upon him the form of a servant:” “the mighty God himself was a child born, and a Son given.” And shall God be manifest in the flesh, and we not inquire into the reasons of such a stupendous mystery? Shall we profess to believe this truth; and yet pay no more attention to it, than if it was a cunningly-devised fable? Let us inquire what occasion there was for it, and what ends God designed to accomplish by it. These are stated in the words before us. The children, whom he designed to redeem from death and hell, were in such a state, that nothing short of this would avail for their final happiness: they were subjected to death, and could be delivered from it only by one dying in their stead: they were in bondage to Satan, and could only be rescued from his dominion by one who should overcome this great adversary, in their nature, and in their behalf; in a word, by one who should both suffer what they merited, and gain the victories which they needed.
These are the ends of our Saviour’s incarnation, as specified in the text.


The more immediate end was to suffer—

Suffer he must, even unto death, if he would effect the deliverance of his chosen people.


The necessities of his own people required it—

[They were reduced by sin to the lowest ebb of misery. Doomed to participate the lot of the fallen angels, they were as incapable as they of effecting their own deliverance. What then must be done? Must they be left to perish for ever? or shall an atonement be made for them? But who can offer an atonement that shall be of sufficient value to expiate their offences? The blood of bulls and of goats will not suffice: nor if the highest angel in heaven could offer himself, would that be adequate to the occasion; seeing that his merits, whatever they might be, could never extend to all the millions of our guilty race: the sacrifice, to answer that end, must be of infinite value: it must be offered by a person of infinite value: it must be offered by a person of infinite dignity: he must be God as well as man. He must be man, that he may suffer; he must be God, that his sufferings may be available for the desired end. Hence the necessity for our blessed Lord to become incarnate; and hence the necessity for him to die. Supposing him to come from heaven, and to teach us both by precept and example, that would not answer the necessities of man: Divine justice must be satisfied for the sins of men: the holiness of the Deity must be displayed in the punishment of sin: the truth of God, which denounced a curse against every transgression of his law, must be kept inviolate: in a word, a sentence of death was gone forth against sinners; and it must be inflicted on them, or on a surety in their stead. Hence, if Jesus would ever bring us back to God, “he must suffer, the just in the place of us the unjust [Note: 1 Peter 3:18.].” If he would redeem our souls, he must “give his own life a ransom for us.”]


His own covenant engagements required it—

[From all eternity did the Son of God engage to repair the evils which it was foreseen would in time be introduced by sin. A council of peace was held between the Father and the Son [Note: Zechariah 6:13.]: the terms which were then agreed upon, are expressly mentioned by the Prophet Isaiah; “When thou shalt make thy soul an offering for sin, thou shalt see a seed, who shall prolong their days; and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in thy hand [Note: Isaiah 53:10.].” These terms being acceded to on the Son’s part, “a body was prepared him [Note: Hebrews 10:5.],” and “he came in due season, made of a woman, and under the law, that he might redeem them that were under the law [Note: Galatians 4:4-5.].” His incarnation alone would not have fulfilled his engagements: he must suffer: and hence, when his sufferings came upon him to the uttermost, and he felt, as a man, disposed to deprecate them, he especially called to his remembrance the engagements he had entered into, and submitted to drink the cup which was put into his hands: “Now is my soul troubled: and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour? But for this cause came I unto this hour. Father, glorify thy name [Note: John 12:27-28.]!”]


All the predictions concerning him required it—

[The very first promise clearly pointed it out: he, as “the seed of the woman, was to bruise the serpent’s head:” but in the conflict “his own heel was to be bruised [Note: Genesis 3:15.].” To what an extent he was to suffer is fully declared: “his visage was to be so marred, more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men: and so was he to sprinkle many nations [Note: Isaiah 52:13-15. See also 53:4–12.].” Standing in the place of us who deserved utter excision, he must suffer it [Note: Daniel 9:26.]. All the sacrifices of the Mosaic law shadowed forth this awful event. He was to be a priest; but what sacrifice could he offer? He was not of the tribe to which alone the offering of animal sacrifices belonged. He had no offering but his own body: which therefore he did present; and “with his own blood he entered within the vail, there to carry on and perfect the work he had begun on earth [Note: Hebrews 8:3-4; Hebrews 9:11-12.].” Looking forward to his death, he often referred to it as that which should speedily be accomplished, as the appointed means of saving a ruined world [Note: John 12:31-33.]. And, when his disciples were stumbled at his death, and regarded it as an event by which all their hopes and expectations were frustrated, he reproved them for their ignorance and unbelief, and shewed them, that it had been the great subject of prophecy from the beginning of the world; and that it was necessary to the accomplishment of the work he had undertaken [Note: Luke 24:21; Luke 24:25-27; Luke 24:44-46.] — — —]

Such was the more immediate end of Christ’s incarnation!


The ultimate end of it was to reign and triumph—

In overlooking the previous humiliation of their Messiah, the Jews greatly err: but in their expectation of a triumphing Messiah, they are right. He was indeed “to drink of the brook in the way;” but he was then “to lift up his head.” His sufferings were to precede: but the whole Scripture attests, that a glory was to follow [Note: 1 Peter 1:11.]: and by the very sufferings which he sustained, his triumphs were secured to him. He was to triumph,


In the destruction of Satan’s empire—

[Satan, that “murderer,” had introduced sin and death into the world: and by his continual agency he is carrying forward the work of death amongst the sinners of mankind; and exulting in the multitudes which are daily subjected to his tyrannic sway. But Jesus, we are assured, came to weaken and destroy his empire: “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil [Note: 1 John 3:8.].”

But the point particularly to be noticed is, that Jesus was to accomplish this victory by means of his own death: “By death he was to destroy him that had the power of death.” By reason of sin, all the human race were subjected to everlasting chains of darkness in the regions of despair. But Jesus, nailing to the cross the hand-writing that was against us, has cancelled it for ever. Satan thought, that, when he had so far prevailed as to secure the death of the Lord Jesus, he had gained his cause: but it was that very event which gave the death-blow to all Satan’s power, in that it removed the only ground on which Satan could maintain his stand against the children of men. It was by that event that Jesus satisfied the demands of law and justice, and discharged the debt which had been contracted by mankind. And, that once discharged by our Surety, we can claim our release from all obligation to pay it ourselves. Hence we are told, that Jesus, whilst upon the cross, “spoiled principalities and powers, triumphing over them openly in it [Note: Colossians 2:14-15.].” Yes, if Jesus had, as some have feigned, gone clown himself to hell, and opened the prison-doors to those who were already there, he would not have more signally displayed his power, than he did in his death and resurrection, whereby he vanquished Satan and “led captivity itself captive.”]


In the deliverance of his own people—

[Death being inflicted as the penalty of sin, and being a prelude to an unknown state, all men by nature dread it. Though many, through pride and thoughtlessness, may brave it on a field of battle, no man can behold its gradual approaches without an awful apprehension of its terrors. But the Lord Jesus would not suffer that his people should remain in such bondage; and by his death he has effectually freed them from it. The sting of death is sin: but he by his death has cancelled sin, and blotted it out as a morning cloud. The offering which has satisfied the justice of the Deity, satisfies the sinner’s conscience, and brings perfect peace into the soul. And it was one end of our Lord’s death to effect this; that his people might be brought into perfect liberty, and enjoy a very heaven upon earth. To them death is now become a friend, for whose arrival to look forward with eager desire [Note: 2 Peter 3:12.]: it is numbered amongst their treasures also [Note: 1 Corinthians 3:22.]; and all fear, either of its present terrors, or future consequences, is removed. “The Son has made them free; and they are free indeed.”]


The captive sinner—

[How lamentable is it that the effects of Jesus’ death should be so limited, as we see they really are! Though Satan is a vanquished enemy, there are but few who will “put their foot upon his neck.” Many are his willing captives still: and love the chains wherewith he binds them [Note: 2 Timothy 2:26.]. O, beloved, what an awful thought is it, that to multitudes the incarnation and death of Christ are a curse, rather than a blessing! “Had he never come to die for them, they had not (comparatively) had sin: but now they have no cloak for their sin:” and the state of Sodom and Gomorrha is less terrible than theirs. When will ye lay this to heart, O ye who “walk according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, who worketh in all the children of disobedience?” Do but reflect on the account which you must hereafter give, and on the self-condemnation which you will feel in the day of judgment, when the full effects of your present disobedience will come upon you. I cannot contemplate your condition now, or your feelings in that day, without saying with the prophet, “O! that my head were waters, and mine eyes were a fountain of tears, that they might run down day and night in your behalf!” O let not all the wonders of redeeming love be in vain to you, yea, worse than in vain—a melancholy source of tenfold condemnation!]


The awakened penitent—

[Are you beginning to feel your sins a heavy burthen? Bless and adore your God for the provision he has made for you in the Son of his love. Your guilt is expiated by your Saviour’s blood: and Satan, who has kept you hitherto in such cruel bondage, is dethroned. Look unto this Saviour. Did he come down from heaven? It was to seek and save the lost, yea, and the very chief of sinners. Lay hold on him; plead with God the sacrifice which he has offered; and seek an interest in the victories he has gained. It is for that he has lived; for you he has died; for you he reigns: and never is he better satisfied with the travail of his soul, than when he sees such as you born to God through him [Note: Isaiah 53:11.] — — —]


The trembling believer—

[What would you that God should add to all that he has done for you? What is there wanting to dispel your fears, and encourage your hearts? Are you afraid of Satan? He is a vanquished enemy. Are you afraid of death? To you it is only as the gate of heaven. Be of good cheer. If you are weak, “your Redeemer is mighty;” and his “strength shall be perfected in your weakness.” He, who for your sakes “partook of flesh and blood,” with all the sinless infirmities of your nature, knows by experience all that you feel, and will afford you all needful succour. Fear not; “He will not break the bruised reed, or quench the smoking flax, but will bring forth judgment unto victory.” Rejoice then in him; rejoice evermore: and doubt not but that “he who has begun a good work in you, will for his own sake perfect it to the end.”]

Verse 18


Hebrews 2:18. In that he himself hath suffered, being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.

THERE was in various respects a necessity for Christ’s humiliation: on our part, that, an atonement being offered for us, we might find favour with God: on God’s part, that his justice might be satisfied, and his law be magnified: and on the part of Christ himself, that he might be qualified for the discharge of his mediatorial office. This, having been expressly asserted in the preceding verse, is further intimated in the words we have just read; which lead us to consider,


The temptations of our Lord—

Great and manifold were the trials which our blessed Lord sustained,


From men—

[Though in his infancy he grew up in favour with men as well as with God, yet from his first entrance on his public ministry, he was an object of universal contempt and abhorrence [Note: Isaiah 49:7.]. He endured all manner of contradiction from all ranks and orders of men: they cavilled at his words, misrepresented his actions, reviled him as an impostor, and a confederate with the devil, and, at last, apprehended, condemned, and crucified him.]


From devils—

[These assaulted him with fiery temptations in the wilderness, urging him to distrust, presumption, and idolatry. They attacked him with fresh vigour in the garden, when the powers of darkness combined all their force against him: and they made their last efforts against him on the cross; when, though “triumphed over and spoiled by him,” they succeeded in “bruising his heel,” and in bringing him down to the chambers of death.]


From God—

[When he stood as the surety of sinners, God exacted of him the utmost farthing of our debt. It was the Father who put the bitter cup into his hands, who laid the tremendous load of our iniquities upon him, and “bruised him,” that the fragrance of his offering might ascend up as incense with acceptance before him [Note: Compare Isaiah 53:10. with Exodus 30:36.].]

But, notwithstanding these sufferings of his, our text assures us of,


His ability to succour his tempted people—

All his people, like him, are persecuted by men, assailed by devils, and chastised by God. But Jesus is able to succour them: he has a sufficiency,


Of power and strength—

[He has all power committed to him, yea, all fulness of the Godhead dwelling in him. He can bind the strong man armed, and rescue from him his wretched captives. There is nothing impossible with him; and the weaker his people are, the more shall “his strength be perfected in their weakness.”]


Of wisdom—

[As he has “power to deliver the godly out of temptations,” so can he defeat all the plots of their adversaries, and take even Satan himself in his own devices. He sees every weapon that is formed against them, and knows the day and hour that their enemies set themselves against them [Note: Jeremiah 49:30.]. He discerns also the best time and manner in which to afford his aid, and so to proportion it to our necessities, as both to secure us the victory, and himself the glory.]


Of pity and compassion—

[He wept on account of the afflictions of his friends when he was on earth: nor will he forget to pity us, now that he is in heaven. “The very apple of his eye is wounded, whenever any of his dear people are touched.” “In all their afflictions, he is afflicted; and as, in his love and in his pity he redeemed them, and bare them, and carried them all the days of old,” so does he now, being “touched with the feeling of our infirmities,” and sympathizing with us in all our troubles [Note: Isaiah 63:9.].]

Having noticed his temptations, and his ability to succour us under ours, it will be proper to shew,


The connexion between the two, or the dependence of the one upon the other—

As God, he of necessity possessed every perfection: but, as man and mediator, he learned much from his own experience. By his own temptations,


He learned our need of succour

[He himself, under his own grievous sufferings, “prayed to God with strong crying and tears, and was heard,” and strengthened from above [Note: Hebrews 5:7. with Luke 22:42-43.]. Hence then he knows how much we must need assistance under our trials, and how certainly we must faint, if we be not supported by his almighty power.]


He acquired a right to succour us

[We are bought by him with the inestimable price of his own blood. And it was agreed with him in the covenant of redemption, that, “if he would make his soul an offering for sin, he should see a seed; and the pleasure of the Lord should prosper in his hands [Note: Isaiah 53:10.].” Having then paid the price, he has a right to us as “his purchased possession;” and has therefore a right to convey to us whatever maybe needful for the salvation of our souls.]


He attained a disposition to succour us

[We are assured that “he learned obedience by the things that he suffered [Note: Hebrews 5:8.].” Now, as obedience consists entirely in love to God and man, sympathy, which is the highest office of love, must of necessity have been learned by him, together with every other part of his duty. And how perfectly he had learned it, his address to the persecuting Saul declares; “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?” And it is worthy of observation, that the Apostle ascribes his sympathy to this very cause; “his having been tempted in all things like unto us, qualifying and disposing him to feel for us under our infirmities [Note: Hebrews 4:15.].” Nay, further, he observes, that there was a necessity for him to be made like unto us in all things, in order that he might be a merciful and faithful High-priest in things pertaining to God; which office he could not have executed if he had not, by his own sufferings, been enabled to sympathize with us [Note: Hebrews 2:17.].]


Those who are conflicting with temptations—

[The Lord’s people still are assaulted with manifold temptations. Satan is not idle: he still “desires to sift us as wheat,” and still “as a roaring lion goeth about, seeking whom he may devour.” There is not a saint whom he does not labour to “corrupt from the simplicity that is in Christ:” and for this end he still on many occasions “transforms himself into an angel of light.” But however severe your outward or inward trials may be, you have the comfort to reflect, that Christ endured the same before you, and is able to afford you effectual succour. Think not then your difficulties peculiar, or insurmountable; but assure yourselves of his sympathy and care; and be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.”]


Those who are yielding to their temptations—

[Excuse not your compliances by pleading the frailty of your nature; for “Christ is able to make all grace abound towards you, that you having always all sufficiency in all things, may abound unto every good work [Note: 2 Corinthians 9:8.].” Continue not then under unmortified tempers, or criminal neglects; but call on the Lord, who “will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will, with the temptation, make also a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it [Note: 1 Corinthians 10:13.].” I say again, plead not in excuse the corruption of your nature, or the difficulties of your situation: for grace which is not effectual, is no grace. The very weakest amongst you may say, “I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me,” and, though assaulted by all the powers of darkness, shall be “more than conqueror through him that loved me.”]

Bibliographical Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Hebrews 2". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. 1832.