(Calvin, Paul to the Hebrews. part 8)

6:2 Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of
resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.

=====> 6:1. "Therefore, leaving", &c. To his reproof he joins this
exhortation, - that leaving first principles they were to proceed forward
to the goal. For by "the word of beginning" he understands the first
rudiments, taught to the ignorant when received into the Church. Now, he
bids them to leave these rudiments, not that the faithful are ever to
forget them, but that they are not to remain in them; and this idea
appears more clear from what follows, the comparison of a "foundation";
for in building a house we must never leave the foundation; and yet to be
always engaged in laying it, would be ridiculous. For as the foundation
is laid for the sake of what is built on it, he who is occupied in laying
it and proceeds not to the superstruction, wearies himself with foolish
and useless labour. In short, as the builder must begin with the
foundation, so must he go on with his work that the house may be built.
Similar is the case as to Christianity; we have the first principles as
the foundation, but the higher doctrine ought immediately to follow which
is to complete the building. They then act most unreasonably who remain
in the first elements, for they propose to themselves no end, as though a
builder spent all his labour on the foundation, and neglected to build up
the house. So then he would have our faith to be at first so founded as
afterwards to rise upwards, until by daily progress it be at length
    "Of repentance from dead works", &c. He here refers to a catechism
commonly used. It is hence a probable conjecture that this Epistle was
written, not immediately after the promulgation of the Gospel, but when
they had some kind of polity established in the Churches; such as this,
that the catechumen made a confession of his faith before he was admitted
to baptism. And there were certain primary points on which the pastor
questioned the catechumen, as it appears from the various testimonies of
the fathers; there was an examination had especially on the creed called
the Apostles' Creed. This was the first entrance, as it were, into the
church to those who were adults and enlisted under Christ, as they were
before alienated from faith in him. This custom the Apostle mentions,
because there was a short time fixed for catechumens, during which they
were taught the doctrine of religion, as a master instructs his children
in the alphabet, in order that he may afterwards advance them to higher
    But let us examine what he says. He mentions "repentance" and
"faith", which include the fulness of the Gospel; for what else does
Christ command his Apostles to preach, but repentance and faith? When,
therefore, Paul wished to show that he had faithfully performed his duty,
he alleged his care and assiduity in teaching these two things. It seems
then (as it may be said) unreasonable that the Apostle should bid
repentance and faith to be omitted, when we ought to make progress in
both through the whole course of our life. But when he adds, "from dead
works", he intimates that he speaks of first repentance; for though every
sin is a dead work, either as it leads to death, or as it proceeds from
the spiritual death of the soul; yet the faithful, already born again of
the Spirit of God, cannot be said properly to repent from dead works.
Regeneration is not indeed made perfect in them; but because of the seed
of new life which is in them, however small it may be, this at least may
be said of them that they cannot be deemed dead before God. The Apostle
then does not include in general the whole of repentance, the practice of
which ought to continue to the end; but he refers only to the beginning
of repentance, when they who were lately and for the first time
consecrated to the faith, commenced a new life. So also the word,
"faith", means that brief summary of godly doctrine, commonly called the
Articles of Faith.
    To these are added, "the resurrection of the dead and eternal
judgment". These are some of the highest mysteries of celestial wisdom;
nay, the very end of all religion, which we ought to bear in mind through
the whole course of our life. But as the very same truth is taught in one
way to the ignorant, and in another way to those who have made some
proficiency, the Apostle seems here to refer to the common mode of
questioning, "Dost thou believe the resurrection of the dead? Dost thou
believe eternal life?" These things were suitable to children, and that
only once; therefore to turn back to them again was nothing else but to
=====> 6:2. "Of the doctrine of baptisms", &c. Some read them separately,
"of baptisms and of doctrine;" but I prefer to connect them, though I
explain them differently from others; for I regard the words as being in
apposition, as grammarians say, according to this form, "Not laying again
the foundation of repentance, of faith in God, of the resurrection of the
dead, which is the doctrine of baptisms and of the laying on of hands."
If therefore these two clauses, the doctrine of baptisms and of the
laying on of hands, be included in a parenthesis, the passage would run
better; for except you read them as in apposition, there would be the
absurdity of a repetition. For what is the doctrine of baptism but what
he mentions here, faith in God, repentance, judgment, and the like?
    Chrysostom thinks that he uses "baptisms" in the plural number,
because they who returned to first principles, in a measure abrogated
their first baptism: but I cannot agree with him, for the doctrine had no
reference to many baptisms, but by baptisms are meant the solemn rites,
or the stated days of baptizing.
    With baptism he connects the "laying on of hands"; for as there were
two sorts of catechumens, so there were two rites. There were heathens
who came not to baptism until they made a profession of their faith. Then
as to these, these, the catechizing was wont to precede baptism. But the
children of the faithful, as they were adopted from the womb, and
belonged to the body of the Church by right of the promise, were baptized
in infancy; but after the time of infancy, they having been instructed in
the faith, presented themselves as catechumens, which as to them took
place after baptism; but another symbol was then added, the laying on of
    This one passage abundantly testifies that this rite had its
beginning from the Apostles, which afterwards, however, was turned into
superstition, as the world almost always degenerates into corruptions,
even with regard to the best institutions. They have indeed contrived the
fiction, that it is a sacrament by which the spirit of regeneration is
conferred, a dogma by which they have mutilated baptism for what was
peculiar to it, they transferred to the imposition of hands. Let us then
know, that it was instituted by its first founders that it might be an
appointed rite for prayer, as Augustine calls it. The profession of faith
which youth made, after having passed the time of childhood, they indeed
intended to confine by this symbol, but they thought of nothing less than
to destroy the efficacy of baptism. Wherefore the pure institution at
this day ought to be retained, but the superstition ought to be removed.
And this passage tends to confirm pedobaptism; for why should the same
doctrine be called as to some baptism, but as to others the imposition of
hands, except that the latter after having received baptism were taught
in the faith, so that nothing remained for them but the laying on of

=====> 6:3 And this will we do, if God permit.
6:4 For [it is] impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have
tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost,
6:5 And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to
6:6 If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing
they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put [him] to an
open shame.

=====> 6:3. "This will we do", &c. A dreadful denunciation follows; but
the Apostle thus fulminated, lest the Jews should indulge their own
supineness, and trifle with the favour of God; as though he had said,
"There ought not in this case it to be any delay; for there will not
always be the opportunity for making progress; it is not in man's power
to bound at once, whenever he pleases, from the starting point to the
goal; but progress in our course is the special gift of God."
=====> 6:4. "For it is impossible", &c. This passage has given occasion
to many to repudiate this Epistle, especially as the Novatians armed
themselves with it to deny pardon to the fallen. Hence those of the
Western Church, in particular, refused the authority of this Epistle,
because the sect of Novatus annoyed them; and they were not sufficiently
conversant in the truth so as to be equal to refute it by argument. But
when the design of the Apostle is understood, it then appears evident
that there is nothing here which countenances so delirious an error. Some
who hold sacred the authority of the Epistle, while they attempt to
dissipate this absurdity, yet do nothing but evade it. For some take
"impossible" in the sense of rare or difficult, which is wholly different
from its meaning. Many confine it to that repentance by which the
catechumens in the ancient Church were wont to be prepared for baptism,
as though indeed the Apostles prescribed fasting, or such things to the
baptized. And then what great thing would the Apostle have said, by
denying that repentance, the appendage of baptism, could be repeated? He
threatens with the severest vengeance of God all those who would cast
away the grace which had been once received; what weight would the
sentence have had to shake the secure and the wavering with terror, if he
only reminded them that there was no longer room for their first
repentance? For this would extend to every kind of offense. What then is
to be said? Since the Lord gives the hope of mercy to all without
exception, it is wholly unreasonable that any one for any cause whatever
should be precluded.
    The knot of the question is in the word, "fall away". Whosoever then
understands its meaning, can easily extricate himself from every
difficulty. But it must be noticed, that there is a twofold falling away,
one particular, and the other general. He who has in anything, or in any
ways offended, has fallen away from his state as a Christian; therefore
all sins are so many fallings. But the Apostle speaks not here of theft,
or perjury, or murder, or drunkenness, or adultery; but he refers to a
total defection or falling away from the Gospel, when a sinner offends
not God in some one thing, but entirely renounces his grace.
    And that this may be better understood, let us suppose a contrast
between the gifts of God, which he has mentioned, and this falling away.
For he falls away who forsakes the word of God, who extinguishes its
light, who deprives himself of the taste of the heavens or gift, who
relinquishes the participation of the Spirit. Now this is wholly to
renounce God. We now see whom he excluded from the hope of pardon, even
the apostates who alienated themselves from the Gospel of Christ, which
they had previously embraced, and from the grace of God; and this happens
to no one but to him who sins against the Holy Spirit. For he who
violates the second table of the Law, or transgresses the first through
ignorance, is not guilty of this defection; nor does God surely deprive
any of his grace in such a way as to leave them none remaining except the
    If any one asks why the Apostle makes mention here of such apostasy
while he is addressing believers, who were far off from a perfidy so
heinous; to this I answer, that the danger was pointed out by him in
time, that they might be on their guard. And this ought to be observed;
for when we turn aside from the right way, we not only excuse to others
our vices, but we also impose on ourselves. Satan stealthily creeps on
us, and by degrees allures us by clandestine arts, so that when we go
astray we know not that we are going astray. Thus gradually we slide,
until at length we rush headlong into ruin. We may observe this daily in
many. Therefore the Apostle does not without reason forewarn all the
disciples of Christ to beware in time; for a continued torpor commonly
ends in lethargy, which is followed by alienation of mind.
    But we must notice in passing the names by which he signalizes the
knowledge of the Gospel. He calls it "illumination"; it hence follows
that men are blind, until Christ, the light of the world, enlightens
them. He calls it a "tasting of the heavenly gift"; intimating that the
things which Christ confers on us are above nature and the world, and
that they are yet tasted by faith. He calls it the "participation" of the
Spirit; for he it is who distributes to every one, as he wills, all the
light and knowledge which he can have; for without him no one can say
that Jesus is the Lord, (I Cor. 12: 3;) he opens for us the eyes of our
minds, and reveals to us the secret things of God. He calls it a "tasting
of the good word of God"; by which he means, that the will of God is
therein revealed, not in any sort of way, but in such a way as sweetly to
delight us; in short, by this title is pointed out the difference between
the Law and the Gospel; for that has nothing but severity and
condemnation, but this is a sweet testimony of God's love and fatherly
kindness towards us. And lastly, he calls it a "tasting of the powers of
the world to come"; by which he intimates, that we are admitted by faith
as it were into the kingdom of heaven, so that we see in spirit that
blessed immortality which is hid from our senses.
    Let us then know, that the Gospel cannot be otherwise rightly known
than by the illumination of the Spirit, and that being thus drawn away
from the world, we are raised up to heaven, and that knowing the goodness
of God we rely on his word.
    But here arises a new question, how can it be that he who has once
made such a progress should afterwards fall away? For God, it may be
said, calls none effectually but the elect, and Paul testifies that they
are really his sons who are led by his Spirit, (Rom. 8: 14;) and he
teaches us, that it is a sure pledge of adoption when Christ makes us
partakers of his Spirit. The elect are also beyond the danger of finally
falling away; for the Father who gave them to be preserved by Christ his
Son is greater than all, and Christ promises to watch over them all so
that none may perish. To all this I answer, That God indeed favours none
but the elect alone with the Spirit of regeneration, and that by this
they are distinguished from the reprobate; for they are renewed after his
image and receive the earnest of the Spirit in hope of the future
inheritance, and by the same Spirit the Gospel is sealed in their hearts.
But I cannot admit that all this is any reason why he should not grant
the reprobate also some taste of his grace, why he should not irradiate
their minds with some sparks of his light, why he should not give them
some perception of his goodness, and in some sort engrave his word on
their hearts. Otherwise, where would be the temporal faith mentioned by
Mark 4: 17? There is therefore some knowledge even in the reprobate,
which afterwards vanishes away, either because it did not strike roots
sufficiently deep, or because it withers, being choked up.
    And by this bridle the Lord keeps us in fear and humility; and we
certainly see how prone human nature is otherwise to security and foolish
confidence. At the same time our solicitude ought to be such as not to
disturb the peace of conscience. For the Lord strengthens faith in us,
while he subdues our flesh: and hence he would have faith to remain and
rest tranquilly as in a safe haven; but he exercises the flesh with
various conflicts, that it may not grow wanton through idleness.
=====> 6:6. "To renew them again into repentance", &c. Though this seems
hard, yet there is no reason to charge Gad with cruelty when any one
suffers only the punishment of his own defection; nor is this
inconsistent with other parts of Scripture, where God's mercy is offered
to sinners as soon as they sigh for it, (Ezek. 18: 27;) for repentance is
required, which he never truly feels who has once wholly fallen away from
the Gospel; for such are deprived, as they deserve, of God's Spirit and
given up to a reprobate mind, so that being the slaves of the devil they
rush headlong into destruction. Thus it happens that they cease not to
add sin to sin, until being wholly hardened they despise God, or like men
in despair, express madly their hatred to him. The end of all apostates
is, that they are either smitten with stupor, and fear nothing, or curse
God their judge, because they cannot escape from him.
    In short, the Apostle warns us, that repentance is not at the will of
man, but that it is given by God to those only who have not wholly fallen
away from the faith. It is a warning very necessary to us, lest by often
delaying until tomorrow, we should alienate ourselves more and more from
God. The ungodly indeed deceive themselves by such sayings as this, -
that it will be sufficient for them to repent of their wicked life at
their last breath. But when they come to die, the dire torments of
conscience which they suffer, prove to them that the conversion of man is
not an ordinary work. As then the Lord promises pardon to none but to
those who repent of their iniquity, it is no wonder that they perish who
either through despair or contempt, rush on in their obstinacy into
destruction. But when any one rises up again after falling, we may hence
conclude that he had not been guilty of defection, however grievously he
may have sinned.
    "Crucifying again", &c. He also adds this to defend God's severity
against the calumnies of men; for it would be wholly unbecoming, that God
by pardoning apostates should expose his own Son to contempt. They are
then wholly unworthy to obtain mercy. But the reason why he says, that
Christ would thus be crucified again, is, because we die with him for the
very purpose of living afterwards a new life; when therefore any return
as it were unto death, they have need of another sacrifice, as we shall
find in the tenth chapter. Crucifying "for themselves" means as far as in
them lies. For this would be the case, and Christ would be slandered as
it were triumphantly, were it allowed men to return to him after having
fallen away and forsaken him.

=====> 6:7 For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon
it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed,
receiveth blessing from God:
6:8 But that which beareth thorns and briers [is] rejected, and [is] nigh
unto cursing; whose end [is] to be burned.
6:9 But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that
accompany salvation, though we thus speak.
6:10 For God [is] not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love,
which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the
saints, and do minister.

=====> 6:7. "For the earth", &c. This is a similitude most appropriate to
excite a desire to make progress in due time, for as the earth cannot
bring forth a good crop in harvest except it causes the seed as soon as
it is sown to germinate, so if we desire to bring forth good fruit, as
soon as the Lord sows his word, it ought to strike roots in us without
delay; for it cannot be expected to fructify, if it be either choked or
perish. But as the similitude is very suitable, so it must be wisely
applied to the design of the Apostle.
    The earth, he says, which by sucking in the rain immediately produces
a blade suitable to the seed sown, at length by God's blessing produces a
ripe crop; so they who receive the seed of the Gospel into their hearts
and bring forth genuine shoots, will always make progress until they
produce ripe fruit. On the contrary, the earth, which after culture and
irrigation brings, forth nothing but thorns, affords no hope of a
harvest; nay, the more that grows which is its natural produce, the more
hopeless is the case. Hence the only remedy the husband man has is to
burn up the noxious and useless weeds. So they who destroy the seed of
the Gospel either by their indifference or by corrupt affections, so as
to manifest no sign of good progress in their life, clearly show
themselves to be reprobates, from whom no harvest can be expected.
    The Apostle then not only speaks here of the fruit of the Gospel, but
also exhorts us promptly and gladly to embrace it, and he further tells
us, that the blade appears presently after the seed is sown, and that
growing follows the daily irrigations. Some render |thotaven eutheton|,
"a seasonable shoot," others, "a shoot meet;" either meaning suits the
place; the first refers to time, the second to quality. The allegorical
meanings with which interpreters have here amused themselves, I pass by,
as they are quite foreign to the object of the writer.
=====> 6:9. "But we are persuaded", &c. As the preceding sentences were
like thunderbolts, by which readers might have been struck dead, it was
needful to mitigate this severity. He therefore says now, that he did not
speak in this strain, as though he entertained such an opinion of them.
And doubtless whosoever wishes to do good by teaching, ought so to treat
his disciples as ever to add encouragement to them rather than to
diminish it, for there is nothing that can alienate us more from
attending to the truth than to see that we are deemed to be past hope.
The Apostle then testifies that he thus warned the Jews, because he had a
good hope of them, and was anxious to lead them to salvation. We hence
conclude, that not only the reprobate ought to be reproved severely and
with sharp earnestness, but also the elect themselves, even those whom we
deem to be the children of God.
=====> 6:10. "For God is not unrighteous", &c. These words signify as
much as though he had said, that from good beginnings he hoped for a good
    But here a difficulty arises, because he seems to say that God is
bound by the services of men: "I am persuaded," he says, "as to your
salvation, because God cannot forget your works." He seems thus to build
salvation on works, and to make God a debtor to them. And the sophists,
who oppose the merits of works to the grace of God, make much of this
sentence, "God is not unrighteous." For they hence conclude that it would
be unjust for him not to render for works the reward of eternal
salvation. To this I briefly reply that the Apostle does not here speak
avowedly of the cause of our salvation, and that therefore no opinion can
be formed from this passage as to the merits of works, nor can it be
hence determined what is due to works. The Scripture shows everywhere
that there is no other fountain of salvation but the gratuitous mercy of
God: and that God everywhere promises reward to works, this depends on
that gratuitous promise, by which he adopts us as his children, and
reconciles us to himself by not imputing our sins. Reward then is
reserved for works, not through merit, but the free bounty of God alone;
and yet even this free reward of works does not take place, except we be
first received into favour through the kind mediation of Christ.
    We hence conclude, that God does not pay us a debt, but performs what
he has of himself freely promised, and thus performs it, inasmuch as he
pardons us and our works; nay, he looks not so much on our works as on
his own grace in our works. It is on this account that he forgets not our
works, because he recognizes himself and the work of his Spirit in them.
And this is to be "righteous", as the Apostle says, for he cannot deny
himself. This passage, then, corresponds with that saying of Paul, "He
who has begun in you a good work will perfect it." (Phil. 1: 6.) For what
can God find in us to induce him to love us, except what he has first
conferred on us? In short, the sophists are mistaken in imagining a
mutual relation between God's righteousness and the merits of our works,
since God on the contrary so regards himself and his own gifts, that he
carries on to the end what of his own goodwill he has begun in us,
without any inducement from anything we do; nay, God is righteous in
recompensing socks, because he is true and faithful: and he has made
himself a debtor to us, not by receiving anything from us; but as
Augustine says, by freely promising all things.
    "And labour of love", &c. By this he intimates that we are not to
spare labour, if we desire to perform duty towards our neighbours; for
they are not only to be helped by money, but also by counsel, by labour,
and in various other ways. Great sedulity, then, must be exercised, many
troubles must be undergone, and sometimes many dangers must be
encountered. Thus let him who would engage in the duties of love, prepare
himself for a life of labour.
    He mentions in proof of their love, that they had "ministered"and
were still "ministering" to the "saints". We are hence reminded, that we
are not to neglect to serve our brethren. By mentioning the saints, he
means not that we are debtors to them alone; for our love ought to expand
and be manifested towards all mankind; but as the household of faith are
especially recommended to us, peculiar attention is to be paid to them;
for as love, when moved to do good, has partly a regard to God, and
partly to our common nature, the nearer any one is to God, the more
worthy he is of being assisted by us. In short, when we acknowledge any
one as a child of God, we ought to embrace him with brotherly love.
    By saying that they "had ministered" and were "still ministering", he
commended their perseverance; which in this particular was very
necessary; for there is nothing to which we are more prone than to
weariness in well-doing. Hence it is, that though many are found ready
enough to help their brethren, yet the virtue of constancy is so rare,
that a large portion soon relax as though their warmth had cooled. But
what ought constantly to stimulate us is even this one expression used by
the apostle, that the love shown to the saints is shown "towards the
name" of the Lord; for he intimates that God holda himself indebted to us
for whatever good we do to our neighbours, according to that saying,
"What ye have done to one of the least of these, ye have done to me,"
(Matt. 15: 40;) and there is also another, "He that giveth to the poor
lendeth to the Lord." (Prov. 19: 17.)

=====> 6:11 And we desire that every one of you do shew the same
diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end:
6:12 That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and
patience inherit the promises.
6:13 For when God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no
greater, he sware by himself,
6:14 Saying, Surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will
multiply thee.
6:15 And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise.

=====> 6:11. "And we desire", &c. As he blended with exhortation, lest he
should altogether grieve their minds; so he now freely reminds them of
what was still wanting in them, lest his courtesy should appear to have
in it any flattery. "You have made," he says, "your love evident by many
acts of kindness; it remains, however, that your faith should correspond
with it; you have sedulously laboured not to be wanting in your duties to
men; but with no less earnestness it behoves you to make progress in
faith, so as to manifest before God its unwavering and full certainty." 
    Now, by these words the Apostle shows that there are two parts in
Christianity which correspond with the two tables of the Law. Therefore,
he who separates the one from the other, has nothing but what is
mutilated and mangled. And hence it appears what sort of teachers they
are who make no mention of faith, and enjoin only the duty of honesty and
uprightness towards men; nay, it is a profane philosophy, that dwells
only on the outward mask of righteousness, if indeed it deserves to be
called philosophy; for it so unreasonably performs its own duties, that
it robs God, to whom the preeminence belongs, of his own rights. Let us
then remember, that the life of a Christian is not complete in all its
parts, unless we attend to faith as well as to love.
    "To the full assurance of hope", or, to the certainty of hope, &c. As
they who professed the Christian faith were distracted by various
opinions, or were as yet entangled in many superstitions, he bids them to
be so fixed in firm faith, as no longer to vacillate nor be driven here
and there, suspended between alternate winds of doubts. This injunction
is, however, applicable to all; for, as the truth of God is unchangeably
fixed, so faith, which relies on him, then it is true, ought to be
certain, surmounting every doubt. It is a full assurance, |pleroforia|,
an undoubting persuasion, when the godly mind settles it with itself,
that it is not right to call in question what God, who cannot deceive or
lie, has spoken.
    The word hope, is here to be taken for faith, because of its affinity
to it. The Apostle, however, seems to have designedly used it, because he
was speaking of perseverance. And we may hence conclude how far short of
faith is that general knowledge which the ungodly and the devils have in
common; for they also believe that God is just and true, yet they derive
hence no good hope, for they do not lay hold on his paternal favour in
Christ. Let us then know that true faith is ever connected with hope.
    He said "to the end", or perfection; and he said this, that they
might know that they had not yet reached the goal, and were therefore to
think of further progress. He mentioned diligence, that they might know
that they were not to sit down idly, but to strive in earnest. For it is
not a small thing to ascend above the heavens, especially for these who
hardly creep on the ground, and when innumerable obstacles are in the
way. There is indeed, nothing more difficult than to keep our thoughts
fixed on things in heaven, when the whole power of our nature inclines
downwards, and when Satan or numberless devices draw us back to the
earth. hence it is, that he bids us to beware of sloth or effeminacy.
=====> 6:12. "But followers", or imitators, &c. To sloth he opposes
imitation; it is then the same thing as though he said, that there was
need of constant alacrity of mind; but it had far more weight, when he
reminded them, that the fathers were not made partakers of the promises
except through the unconquerable firmness of faith; for examples convey
to us a more impressive idea of things. When a naked truth is set before
us, it does not so much affect us, as when we see what is required of us
fulfilled in the person of Abraham. But Abraham's example is referred to,
not because it is the only one, but because it is more illustrious than
that of any other. For though Abraham had this faith in common with all
the godly; yet it is not without reason that he is called the father of
the faithful. It is, then, no wonder that the Apostle selected him from
all the rest, and turned towards him the eyes of his readers as to the
clearest mirror of faith.
    "Faith and patience", &c. What is meant is, a firm faith, which has
patience as its companion. For faith is what is, chiefly required; but as
many who make at first a marvellous display of faith, soon fail, he
shows, that the true evidence of that faith which is not fleeting and
evanescent, is endurance. By saying that the "promises" were obtained by
"faith", he takes away the notion of merits; and still more clearly by
saying, that they came by "inheritance"; for we are in no other way made
heirs but by the right of adoption.
=====> 6:13. "For when God made a promise to Abraham", &c. His object was
to prove, that the grace of God is offered to us in vain, except we
receive the promise by faith, and constantly cherish it in the bosom of
our heart. And he proves it by this argument, that when God promised a
countless offspring to Abraham, it seemed a thing incredible; Sarah had
been through life barren; both had reached a sterile old age, when they
were nearer the grave than to a conjugal bed; there was no vigour to
beget children, when Sarah's womb, which had been barren through the
prime of life, was now become dead. Who could believe that a nation would
proceed from them, equalling the stars in number, and like the sand of
the sea? It was, indeed, contrary to all reason. Yet Abraham looked for
this and feared no disappointment, because he relied on the Word of God.
We must, then, notice the circumstance as to time, that the Apostle's
reasoning may appear evident; and what he subjoins refers to this - that
he was made partaker of this blessing, but that it was after he had
waited for what no one could have thought would ever come to pass. In
this way ought glory to be given to God; we must quietly hope for what he
does not as yet show to our senses, but hides from us and for a long time
defers, in order that our patience may be exercised.
    Why God did "swear by himself" we shall presently see. The manner of
swearing, "Except blessing I will bless thee", we have explained what it
means in the third chapter: God's name is not here expressed, but must be
understood, for except he performs what he promises, he testifies that he
is not to he counted true and faithful.

=====> 6:16 For men verily swear by the greater: and an oath for
confirmation [is] to them an end of all strife.
6:17 Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of
promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed [it] by an oath:
6:18 That by two immutable things, in which [it was] impossible for God
to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to
lay hold upon the hope set before us:
6:19 Which [hope] we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and
stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil;
6:20 Whither the forerunner is for us entered, [even] Jesus, made an high
priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.

=====> 6:16. "For men", &c. It is an argument from the less to the
greater; if credit is given to man, who is by nature false, when he
swears, and for this reason, because he confirms what he says by God's
name, how much more credit is due to God, who is eternal truth, when he
swears by himself?
    Now he mentions several things to commend this declaration; and first
he says that men "swear by the greater"; by which he means that they who
are wanting in due authority borrow it from another. He adds that there
is so much reverence in an oath that it suffices for confirmation, and
puts an end to all disputes where the testimonies of men and other proofs
are wanting. Then is not he a sufficient witness for himself whom all
appeal to as a witness? Is he not to obtain credit for what he says, who,
by his authority, removes all doubts among others? If God's name,
pronounced by man's tongue, possesses so much superiority, how much more
weight ought it to have, when God himself swears by his own name? Thus
much as to the main point.
    But here in passing, two things are to be noticed, - that we are to
swear by God's name when necessity requires, and that Christians are
allowed to make an oath, because it is a lawful remedy for removing
contentions. God in express words bids us to swear by his name; if other
names are blended with it, the oath is profaned. For this there are
especially three reasons: when there is no way of bringing the truth to
light, it is not right, for the sake of verifying it, to have recourse to
any but to God, who is himself eternal truth; and then, since he alone

(continued in part 9...)

file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-3/epl-01: calhb-08.txt