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THE EPISTLE OF PAUL THE APOSTLE TO THE HEBREWS - Chapter 2 - Verse 15

Verse 15. And deliver them. Not all of them in fact, though the way is open for all. This deliverance relates

(1.) to the dread of death. He came to free them from that.

(2.) From death itself—that is, ultimately to bring them to a world where death shall be unknown. The dread of death may be removed by the work of Christ, and they who had been subject to constant alarms on account of it may be brought to look on it with calmness and peace; and ultimately they will be brought to a world where it will be wholly unknown. The dread of death is taken away, or they are delivered from that, because

(a.) the cause of that dread—to wit, sin—is removed. See Barnes "1 Co 15:54, See Barnes "1 Co 15:55".

 

(b.) Because they are enabled to look to the world beyond with triumphant joy. Death conducts them to heaven. A Christian has nothing to fear in death; nothing beyond the grave. In no part of the universe has he any thing to dread, for God is his friend, and he will be his protector everywhere. On the dying bed; in the grave; on the way up to the judgment; at the solemn tribunal; and in the eternal world, he is under the eye and the protection of his Saviour—and of what should he be afraid?

Who through fear of death. From the dread of dying —that is, whenever they think of it, and they think of it so often as to make them slaves of that fear. This obviously means the natural dread of dying, and not particularly the fear of punishment beyond. It is that indeed which often gives its principal terror to the dread of death; but still the apostle refers here evidently to natural death—as an object which men fear. All men have, by nature, this dread of dying— and perhaps some of the inferior creation have it also. It is certain that it exists in the heart of every man, and that God has implanted it there for some wise purpose. There is the dread

(1.) of the dying pang, or pain.

(2.) Of the darkness and gloom of mind that attends it.

(3.) Of the unknown world beyond—the "evil that we know not of."

(4.) Of the chilliness, and loneliness, and darkness of the grave.

(5.) Of the solemn trial at the bar of God.

(6.) Of the condemnation which awaits the guilty—the apprehension of future woe. There is no other evil that we fear so much as we do DEATH, and there is nothing more clear than that God intended that we should have a dread of dying. The REASONS why he designed this are equally clear.

(1.) One may have been to lead men to prepare for it— which otherwise they would neglect.

(2.) Another, to deter them from committing self-murder where nothing else would deter them. Facts have shown that it was necessary that there should be some strong principle in the human bosom to prevent this crime, and even the dread of death does not always do it. So sick do men become of the life that God gave them; so weary of the world; so overwhelmed with calamity; so oppressed with disappointment and cares, that they lay violent hands on themselves, and rush unbidden into the awful presence of their Creator. This would occur more frequently by far than it now does, if it were not for the salutary fear of death which God has implanted in every bosom. The feelings of the human heart on this subject were never more accurately or graphically drawn than in the celebrated Soliloquy of Hamlet—

 

"to die;—to sleep—.

No more;—and by a sleep, to say we end

The heart-ache, and the thousand natural shocks

That flesh is heir to,—'tis a consummation

Devoutly to be wished. To die—to sleep—

To sleep.—perchance to dream;—ay, there's the rub;

For in that sleep of death what dreams may come,

When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,

Must give us pause :—there's the respect

That makes calamity of so long a life:

For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,.

The oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely,

The pangs of despised love, the law's delay,

The insolence of office, and the spurns

That patient merit of the unworthy takes,

When he himself might his quietus make

With a bare bodkin. Who would fardels bear,

To grunt and sweat under a weary life;

But that the dread of something after death—

The undiscovered country from whose bourne

No traveller returns—puzzles the will;

And makes us rather bear those ills we have,

Than fly to others that we know not of ?

Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,

And thus the native hue of resolution

Is sicklied o'er with the pale east of thought;

And enterprises of great pith and moment

With this regard their currents turn awry,

And lose the name of action."

God designed that man should be deterred from rushing uncalled into his awful presence, by this salutary dread of death, and his implanting this feeling in the human heart is one of the most striking and conclusive proofs of a moral government over the world. This instinctive dread of death can be overcome only by religion —and then man does not NEED it to reconcile him to life. He becomes submissive to trials, he is willing to bear all that is laid on him. He resigns himself to the dispensations of Providence, and feels that life, even in affliction, is the gift of God, and is a valuable endowment. He now dreads self-murder as a crime of deep dye, and religion restrains him and keeps him by a more mild and salutary restraint than the dread of death. The man who has true religion is willing to live or to die; he feels that life is the gift of God, and that he will take it away in the best time and manner; and feeling this, he is willing to leave all in his hands, We may remark,

(1.) how much do we owe to religion! It is the only thing that will effectually take away the dread of death, and yet secure this point—to make man willing to live in all the circumstances where God may place him. It is possible that philosophy or stoicism may remove, to a great extent, the dread of death—but then it will be likely to make a man willing to take his life if he is placed in trying circumstances. Such an effect it had on Cato in Utica; and such an effect it had on Hume, who maintained that suicide was lawful, and that to turn a current of blood from its accustomed channel was of no more consequence than to change the course of any other fluid!

(2.) In what a sad condition is the sinner! Thousands there are who never think of death with composure, and who, all their life long, are subject to bondage through the fear of it. They never think of it if they can avoid it; and when it is forced upon them, it fills them with alarm. They attempt to drive the thought away. They travel; they plunge into business; they occupy the mind with trifles; they drown their fears in the intoxicating bowl: but all this tends only to make death more terrific and awful when the reality comes. If man were wise, he would seek an interest in that religion which, if it did nothing else, would deliver him from the dread of death; and the influence of the gospel in this respect, if it exerted no other, is worth to a man all the sacrifices and self-denials which it would ever require.

All their life-time subject to bondage. Slaves of fear; in a depressed and miserable condition, like slaves under a master. They have no freedom; no comfort; no peace. From this miserable state Christ comes to deliver man. Religion enables him to look calmly on death and the judgment, and to feel that all will be well.

{c} "through fear" Lu 1:74

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