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THE EPISTLE OF PAUL THE APOSTLE TO THE HEBREWS - Chapter 2 - Verse 3
Verse 3. How shall we escape. How shall we escape the just recompense due to transgressors? What way is there of being saved from punishment, if we suffer the great salvation to be neglected, and do not embrace its offers ? The sense is, that there is no other way of salvation, and the neglect of this will be followed by certain destruction. Why it will, the apostle proceeds to show, by stating that this plan of salvation was proclaimed first by the Lord himself, and had been confirmed by the most decided and amazing miracles.
If we neglect. It is not merely if we commit great sins; not if we are murderers, adulterers, thieves, infidels, atheists, scoffers. It is, if we merely neglect this salvation—if we do not embrace it—if we suffer it to pass unimproved. Neglect is enough to ruin a man. A man who is in business need not commit forgery or robbery to ruin himself; he has only to neglect his business, and his ruin is certain. A man who is lying on a bed of sickness need not cut his throat to destroy himself; he has only to neglect the means of restoration, and he will be ruined. A man floating in a skiff above Niagara, need not move an oar or make an effort to destroy himself; he has only to neglect using the oar at the proper time, and he will certainly be carried over the cataract. Most of the calamities of life are caused by simple neglect. By neglect of education, children grow up in ignorance; by neglect, a farm grows up to weeds and briars; by neglect, a house goes to decay; by neglect of sowing, a man will have ho harvest; by neglect of reaping, the harvest would rot in the fields. No worldly interest can prosper where there is neglect; and why may it not be so in religion? There is nothing in earthly affairs, that is valuable, that will not be ruined if it is not attended to; and why may it not be so with the concerns of the soul? Let no one infer, therefore, that because he is not a drunkard, or an adulterer, or a murderer, that therefore he will be saved. Such an inference would be as irrational as it would be for a man to infer, that because he is not a murderer his farm will produce a harvest, or that because he is not an adulterer, therefore his merchandise will take care of itself. Salvation would be worth nothing if it cost no effort; and there will be no salvation where no effort is put forth.
So great salvation. Salvation from sin and from hell. It is called great, because (1) its Author is great. This is perhaps the main idea in this passage. It "began to be spoken by the Lord;" it had for its author the Son of God, who is so much superior to the angels; whom the angels were required to worship, (Heb 1:6;) who is expressly called God, (Heb 1:8;) who made all things, and who is eternal, (Heb 1:10-12.) A system of salvation promulgated by him must be of infinite importance, and have a claim to the attention of man.
(2.) It is great, because it saves from great sins. It is adapted to deliver from all sins, no matter how aggravated. No one is saved who one feels that his sins are small, or that they are of no consequence. Each sees his sins to be black and aggravated; and each one who enters heaven, will go there feeling and confessing that it is a great salvation which has brought such a sinner there. Besides, this salvation delivers from all sin—no matter how gross and aggravated. The adulterer, the murderer, the blasphemer, may come and be saved; and the salvation which redeems such sinners from eternal ruin is great.
(3.) It is great, because it saves from great dangers. The danger of an eternal hell besets the path of each one. All do not see it; and all will not believe it when told of it. But this danger hovers over the path of every mortal. The danger of an eternal hell! Salvation from everlasting burnings! Deliverance from unending ruin! Surely that salvation must be great which shall save from such a doom! If that salvation is neglected, that danger still hangs over each and every man. The gospel did not create that danger it came to deliver from it. Whether the gospel be true or false, each man is by nature exposed to eternal death—just as each one is exposed to temporal death, whether the doctrine of the immortality of the soul and the resurrection be true or false. The gospel comes to provide a remedy for dangers and woes—it does not create them; it comes to deliver men from great dangers—not to plunge them into them. Lacking the gospel, and before it was preached at all, men were in danger of everlasting punishment; and that system which came to proclaim deliverance from such a danger is great.
(4.) The salvation itself is great in heaven. It exalts men to infinite honours, and places on their heads an eternal crown. Heaven, with all its glories, is offered to us; and such a deliverance, and such an elevation to eternal honours, deserves to be called GREAT. If that is neglected, there is no other salvation; and man must be inevitably destroyed.
(5.) It is great, because it was effected by infinite displays of power, and wisdom, and love. It was procured by the incarnation and humiliation of the Son of God. It was accomplished amidst great sufferings and self-denials. It was attended with great miracles. The tempest was stilled, and the deaf were made to hear and the blind to see, and the dead were raised, and the sun was darkened, and the rocks were rent. The whole series of wonders connected with the incarnation and death of the Lord Jesus, was such as the world had not elsewhere seen, and such as was fitted to hold the race in mute admiration and astonishment. If this be so, then religion is no trifle. It is not a matter of little importance, whether we embrace it or not. It is the most momentous of all the concerns that pertain to man; and has a claim on his attention which nothing else can have. Yet the mass of men live in the neglect of it. It is not that they are professedly Atheists, or Deists, or that they are immoral or profane; it is not that they oppose it, and ridicule it, and despise it; it is that they simply neglect it. They pass it by, They attend to other things. They are busy with their pleasures, or in their counting-houses-in their workshops, or on their farms; they are engaged in politics or in book-making; and they neglect religion NOW as a thing of small importance—proposing to attend to it hereafter, as if they acted on the principle, that everything else was to be attended to before religion.
Which at the first. Gr. Which received the beginning of being spoken. The meaning is correctly expressed in our translation. Christ began to preach the gospel; the apostles followed him. John prepared the way, but the Saviour was properly the first preacher of the gospel.
And was confirmed unto us, etc. They who heard him preach—that is, the apostles—were witnesses of what he said, and certified us of its truth. When the apostle here says "us," he means the church at large. Christians were assured of the truth of what the Lord Jesus spake, by the testimony of the apostles; or the apostles communicated it to those who had not heard him in such a manner, as left no room for doubt.
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