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THE EPISTLE OF PAUL THE APOSTLE TO THE HEBREWS - Chapter 5 - Verse 14

Verse 14. Strong meat. Solid food pertains to those of maturer years. So it is with the higher doctrines of Christianity. They can be understood and appreciated only by those who are advanced in Christian experience.

Of full age. Marg Perfect. The expression refers to those who are grown up.

Who by reason of use. Marg. Or, an habit; or perfection. Coverdale and Tindal render it, "through custom." The Greek word means, habit, practice. The meaning is, that by long use and habit they had arrived to that state in which they could appreciate the more elevated doctrines of Christianity. The reference, in the use of this word is not to those who eat food—meaning that by long use they are able to distinguish good from bad; but it is to experienced Christians, who, by long experience, are able to distinguish that which is useful, in pretended religious instruction, from that which is injurious. It refers to the delicate taste which an experienced Christian has in regard to those doctrines which impart most light and consolation. Experience will thus enable one to discern what is fitted to the soul of man, what elevates and purifies the affections, and what tends to draw the heart near to God.

Have their senses. The word here used means, properly, the senses— as we use the term; the seat of sensation, the smell, taste, &c. Then it means, the internal sense, the faculty of perceiving truth: and this is the idea here. The meaning is, that by long experience Christians come to be able to understand the more elevated doctrines or Christianity; they see their beauty and value, and they are able carefully and accurately to distinguish them from error. See Barnes "Joh 7:17".

 

To discern both good and evil. That is, in doctrine. They will appreciate and understand that which is true; they will reject that which is false.

{2} "full of age" "perfect" {3} "of use" "or an habit; or perfection"

 

REMARKS

1. Let us rejoice that we have a High Priest who is duly called to take upon himself the functions of that great office, and who lives for ever, Heb 5:1-6. True, he was not of the tribe of Levi; he was not a descendant of Aaron; but he had a more noble elevation, and a more exalted rank. He was the Son of God, and was called to his office by special Divine designation, He did not obtrude himself into the work; he did not unduly exalt himself, but he was directly called to it by the appointment of God, When, moreover, the Jewish high priests could look back on the long line of their ancestors, and trace the succession up to Aaron, it was in the power of the great High Priest of the Christian faith to look farther back still, and to be associated in the office with one of higher antiquity than Aaron, and of higher rank—one of the most remarkable men of all ancient times— he whom Abraham acknowledged as his superior, and from whom Abraham received the benediction.

2. It is not unmanly to weep, Heb 5:7. The Son of God poured out prayers and supplications, with strong crying and tears, He wept at the grave of Lazarus, and he wept over Jerusalem. If the Redeemer wept, it is not unmanly to weep; and we should not be ashamed to have tears seen streaming down our cheeks. Tears are appointed by God to be the natural expression of sorrow, and, often to furnish a relief to a burdened soul. We instinctively honour the man whom we see weeping when there is occasion for grief. We sympathize with him ia his sorrow, and we love him the more. When we see a father who could face the cannon's mouth without shrinking, yet weeping over the open grave of a daughter, we honour him more than we could otherwise do. He shows that he has a heart that can love and feel, as well as courage that can meet danger without alarm. Washington wept when he signed the death-warrant of Major Andre; and who ever read the affecting account without feeling that his character was the more worthy of our love? There is enough in the world to make us weep. Sickness, calamity, death, are around us. They come into our dwellings, and our dearest objects of affection are taken away, and God intends that we shall deeply feel. Tears here will make heaven more sweet; and our sorrows on earth are intended to prepare us for the joy of that day when it shall be announced to us, that "all tears shall be wiped away from every face."

3. We see the propriety of prayer in view of approaching death, Heb 5:7. The Redeemer prayed when he felt that he must die. We know, also, that we must die. True, we shall not suffer as he did. He had pangs on the cross which no other dying man ever bore. But death to us is am object of dread. The hour of death is a fearful hour. The scene when a man dies is a gloomy scene. The sunken eye, the pallid cheek, the clammy sweat, the stiffened corpse, the coffin, the shroud, the grave, are all sad and gloomy things. We know not, too, what severe pangs we may have when we die. Death may come to us in some peculiarly fearful form; and in view of his approach, in any way, we should pray. Pray, dying man, that you may be prepared for that sad hour; pray, that you may not be left to complain, and rebel, and murmur then; pray, that you may lie down in calmness and peace; pray, that you may be enabled to honour God even in death.

4. It is not sinful to dread death, Heb 5:7. The Redeemer dreaded it. His human nature, though perfectly holy, shrank back from the fearful agonies of dying. The fear of death, therefore, in itself, is not sinful. Christians are often troubled because they have not that calmness in the prospect of death which they suppose they ought to have, and because their nature shrinks back from the dying pang. They suppose that such feelings are inconsistent with religion, and that they who have them cannot be true Christians. But they forget their Redeemer, and his sorrows; they forget the earnestness with which he pleaded that the cup might be removed. Death is in itself fearful, and it is a part of our nature to dread it; and even in the best of minds sometimes the fear of it is not wholly taken away until the hour comes, and God gives them "dying grace." There are probably two reasons why God made death so fearful to man.

(1.) One is, to impress him with the importance of being prepared for it. Death is, to him, the entrance on an endless being, and it is an object of God to keep the attention fixed on that as a most momentous and solemn event. The ox, the lamb, the robin, the dove, have no immortal nature, no conscience, no responsibility, and no need of making preparation for death; and hence—except in a very slight degree—they seem to have no dread of dying. But not so with man. He has an undying soul. His main business here is to prepare for death, and for the world beyond; and hence, by all the fear of the dying pang, and by all the horror of the grave, God would fix the attention of man on his own death as a most momentous event, and lead him to seek that hope of immortality which alone can lay the foundation for any proper removal of the fear of dying.

(2.) The other reason is, to deter man from taking his own life. To keep him from this, he is made so as to start back from death. He fears it; it is to him an object of deepest dread; and even when pressed down by calamity and sadness, as a general law, he "had rather bear the ills he has, than fly to others that he knows not of." Man is the only creature in reference to whom this danger exists. There is no one of the brute creation, unless it be the scorpion, that will take its own life; and hence they have not such a dread of dying. But we know how it is with man. Weary of life; goaded by a guilty conscience; disappointed and heart-broken, he is under strong temptation to commit the enormous crime of self-murder, and to rush uncalled to the bar of God. As one of the means of deterring from this, God has so made us that we fear to die; and thousands are kept from this enormous crime by this fear, when nothing else would save them. It is benevolence, therefore, to the world, that man is afraid to die; and in every pang of the dying struggle, and everything about death that makes us turn pale, and tremble at its approach, there is in some way the manifestation of goodness to mankind.

5. We may be comforted in the prospect of death by looking to the example of the Redeemer, Heb 5:7. Much as we may fear to die, and much as we may be left to suffer then, of one thing we may be sure. It is, that he has gone beyond us in suffering. The sorrows of our dying will never equal his. We shall never go through such scenes as occurred in the garden of Gethsemane and on the cross. It may be some consolation that human nature has endured greater pangs than we shall, and that there is one who has surpassed us even in our keenest sufferings. It should be to us a source of consolation, also, of the highest kind, that he did it that he might alleviate our sorrows, and that he might drive away the horrors of death from us by "bringing life and immortality to light," and that, as the result of his sufferings, our dying moments may be calm and peaceful.

6. It often occurs that men are true Christians, and yet are ignorant of the elementary principles of religion, Heb 5:12. This is owing to such things as the following:—A want of early religious instruction; the faults of preachers who fail to teach their people; a want of inquiry on the part of Christians, and the interest which they feel in other things above that which they feel in religion. It is often surprising what vague and unsettled opinions many professed Christians have on some of the most important points of Christianity, and how little qualified they are to defend their opinions when they are attacked. Of multitudes in the Church even now it might be said, that they "need some one to teach them what are the very first principles of true religion." To some of the elementary doctrines of Christianity, about deadness to the world, about self-denial, about prayer, about doing good, and about spirituality, they are utter strangers. So of forgiveness of injuries, and charity, and love for a dying world. These are the elements of Christianity—rudiments which children in righteousness should learn; and yet they are not learned by multitudes who bear the Christian name.

7. All Christians ought to be teachers, Heb 5:12. I do not mean that they should all be preachers; but they should all so live as to teach others the true nature of religion. This they should do by their example, and by their daily conversation. Any Christian is qualified to impart useful instruction to others. The servant of lowest rank may teach his master how a Christian should live. A child may thus teach a parent how he should live, and his daily walk may furnish to the parent lessons of inestimable value. Neighbours may thus teach neighbours; and strangers may learn of strangers. Every Christian has a knowledge of the way to be saved, which it would be of the highest value to others to know, and is qualified to tell the rich, and proud, and learned sinner, that about himself, and of the final destiny of man, of which he is now wholly ignorant. Let it be remembered, also, that the world derives its views of the nature of religion from the lives and conduct of its professed friends. It is not from the Bible, or from the pulpit, or from books, that men learn what Christianity is; it is from the daily walk of those who profess to be its friends; and every day we live, a wife, a child, a neighbour, or a stranger, is forming some view of the nature of religion from what they see in us. How important, therefore, it is that we so live as to communicate to them just views of what constitutes religion!

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