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Hebrews Chapter 12:9-11

9. Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?

9. Quum carnis nostrae patres habueerimus castigatores et reveriti simus illos, annon multo magic sujjiciemur patri spirituum et vivemus?

10. For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.

10. Et illi quidem ad paucos dies pro suo arbitratu nos castigarunt; hic vero ad utilitatem, ut nobis impertiat sanctimoniam suam.

11. Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.

11. Porro omnis castigation in praesens non videtur gaudii esse sed tristitiae; in posterum tamen fructum pacatum justitiae affert exercitatis.

 

9. Furthermore, we have had fathers of our flesh, etc. This comparison has several parts: the first is, that if we showed so much reverence to the fathers from whom we have descended according to the flesh, as to submit to their discipline, much more honor is due to God who is our spiritual Father; another is, that the discipline which fathers use as to their children is only useful for the present life, but that God looks farther, having in view to prepare us for an eternal life; and the third is, that men chastise their children as it seems good to them, but that God regulates his discipline in the best manner, and with perfect wisdom, so that there is nothing in it but what is duly ordered. He then, in the first place, makes this difference between God and men, that they are the fathers of the flesh, but he of the spirit; and on this difference he enlarges by comparing the flesh with the spirit.

But it may be asked, Is not God the Father also of our flesh? For it is not without reason that Job mentions the creation of men as one of the chief miracles of God: hence on this account also he is justly entitled to the name of Father. Were we to say that he is called the Father of spirits, because he alone creates and regenerates our souls without the aid of man, it might be said again that Paul glories in being the spiritual father of those whom he had begotten in Christ by the Gospel. To these things I reply, that God is the Father of the body as well as of the soul, and, properly speaking, he is indeed the only true Father; and that this name is only as it were by way of concession applied to men, both in regard of the body and of the soul. As, however, in creating souls, he does use the instrumentality of men, and as he renews them in a wonderful manner by the power of the Spirit, he is peculiarly called, by way of eminence, the Father of spirits. 250250     Here is an instance, among many others, in which men’s ingenuity is allowed unnecessarily to involve things in difficulties. The comparison here is founded on two palpable facts: there are fathers of our flesh, i.e., the body, and they have for a short time a duty to perform as such; but God, being the Father of our Spirits, which are to continue forever, deals with us in a way corresponding to our destiny. The question of instrumentality has nothing to do with the subject. Nor can anything be fairly drawn from this passage as to the useless question of the non-traduction of souls, as some have thought; and it may be justly be called useless, as it is a question beyond the range of human inquiry. — Ed.

When he says, and we gave them reverence, he refers to a feeling implanted in us by nature, so that we honor parents even when they treat us harshly. By saying, in subjection to the Father of spirits, he intimates that it is but just to concede to God the authority he has over us by the right of a Father. By saying, and live, he points out the cause or the end, for the conjunction “and” is to be rendered that, — “that we may live.” Now we are reminded by this word live, that there is nothing more ruinous to us than to refuse to surrender ourselves in obedience to God.

10. For they verily for a few days, etc. The second amplification of the subject, as I have said, is that God’s chastisements are appointed to subdue and mortify our flesh, so that we may be renewed for a celestial life. It hence appears that the fruit or benefit is to be perpetual; but such a benefit cannot be expected from men, since their discipline refers to civil life, and therefore properly belongs to the present world. It hence follows that these chastisements bring far greater benefit, as the spiritual holiness conferred by God far exceeds the advantages which belong to the body.

Were any one to object and say, that it is the duty of parents to instruct their children in the fear and worship of God, and that therefore their discipline seems not to be confined to so short a time; to this the answer is, that this is indeed true, but the Apostle speaks here of domestic life, as we are wont commonly to speak of civil government; for though it belongs to magistrates to defend religion, yet we say that their office is confined to the limits of this life, for otherwise the civil and earthly government cannot be distinguished from the spiritual kingdom of Christ.

Moreover when God’s chastisements are said to be profitable to make men partners of his holiness, this is not to be so taken as though they made us really holy, but that they are helps to sanctify us, for by them the Lord exercises us in the work of mortifying the flesh.

11. Now no chastening, etc. This he adds, lest we should measure God’s chastisements by our present feelings; for he shows that we are like children who dread the rod and shun it as much as they can, for owing to their age they cannot yet judge how useful it may be to them. The object, then, of this admonition is, that chastisements cannot be estimated aright if judged according to what the flesh feels under them, and that therefore we must fix our eyes on the end: we shall thus receive the peaceable fruit of righteousness. And by the fruit of righteousness he means the fear of the Lord and a godly and holy life, of which the cross is the teacher. He calls it peaceable, because in adversities we are alarmed and disquieted, being tempted by impatience, which is always noisy and restless; but being chastened, we acknowledge with a resigned mind how profitable did that become to us which before seemed bitter and grievous. 251251     See Appendix S 2.


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