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Hebrews 10

The insufficiency of sacrifices for taking away sin, The necessity and power of the sacrifice of Christ for that purpose. (1-18) An argument for holy boldness in the believer’s access to God through Jesus Christ, And for steadfastness in faith, and mutual love and duty. (19-25) The danger of apostacy. (26-31) The sufferings of believers, and encouragement to maintain their holy profession. (32-39)

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The insufficiency of sacrifices for taking away sin, The necessity and power of the sacrifice of Christ for that purpose

1 For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect.

2 For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins.

3 But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year.

4 For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.

5 Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me:

6 In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure.

7 Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God.

8 Above when he said, Sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings and offering for sin thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure therein; which are offered by the law;

9 Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second.

10 By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

11 And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins:

12 But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God;

13 From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool.

14 For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.

15 Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us: for after that he had said before,

16 This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them;

17 And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.

18 Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin.

An argument for holy boldness in the believer’s access to God through Jesus Christ, And for steadfastness in faith, and mutual love and duty

19 Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus,

20 By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh;

21 And having an high priest over the house of God;

22 Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.

23 Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;)

24 And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:

25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

The danger of apostacy

26 For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins,

27 But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.

28 He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses:

29 Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?

30 For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people.

31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

The sufferings of believers, and encouragement to maintain their holy profession

32 But call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions;

33 Partly, whilst ye were made a gazingstock both by reproaches and afflictions; and partly, whilst ye became companions of them that were so used.

34 For ye had compassion of me in my bonds, and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance.

35 Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompence of reward.

36 For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.

37 For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry.

38 Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.

39 But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.

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G Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Ver. 1. The law having a shadow[1] of the good things to come. The apostle continues till the 19th verse to shew the insufficiency of the former law, as to the redemption and salvation of mankind. By the good things to come, some understand heaven itself, and the happiness of the elect there, of which the law was but a shadow, whereas we have a much more perfect image and knowledge of heaven in the new law, than they who were under the former law. Others by good things to come, understand the blessings of interior graces, with a remission of our sins in the sight of God, and true sanctification, of which all the sacrifices and sacraments of the old law, without faith in Christ, were but a shadow: and now in the new law we have an express image of them, i.e. we have these blessings themselves. Wi.

Ver. 2. Then they would have[2] ceased to be offered. That is, if they could have made the worshippers perfect; to wit, in such a manner as the one sacrifice of Christ, who was the Lamb of God that took away the sins of the world, by making a full reparation to the divine justice for the sin of Adam, and of all his offspring. For we must take notice that he compares the sacrifice of Christ, which wrought a general redemption, with the sacrifices of the former law, which could never make any sufficient atonement to the majesty of God offended by sin, and which, by the decree of heaven, were to cease as soon as Christ’s sacrifice of a general redemption was made: for then the worshippers would be so cleansed from sin, that they would stand in need of no more, but that the merits and satisfactions of Christ, their Redeemer, should be applied to them according to the order of God’s providence; that is, by faith in Christ, by his sacraments, by a true repentance, and the practice of virtue and good works. Wi. — If they had been of themselves perfect to all the intents of redemption and remission, as Christ’s death is, there would have been no occasion of so often repeating them; as there is no occasion for Christ’s dying any more for our sins. Ch.

Ver. 3-4. But in them a remembrance of sins is made every year. For it is impossible that with the blood of oxen and goats sins should be taken way. The sacrifices of the former law, even that great sacrifice on the day of expiation, when victims were offered for the ignorances or sins of the priests, and of all the people, were only types and figures of Christ’s sacrifice upon the cross, it was impossible that they themselves should take away sins, like that one oblation of Christ, though in them was made a remembrance of sins, and of the same sins for which so many victims had been offered. Wi.

Ver. 5-9. Therefore, Christ as it were, coming into the world, he saith, by the psalmist, (Ps. xxxix. 7. 8.) Sacrifice and oblation thou didst not desire, &c. That is, such sacrifices as were offered in the former law, they could not please thee, appease thy anger, nor make a sufficient reparation for sin. — But a[2] body thou hast fitted to me. Thou didst decree I should be made man, to suffer and die upon a cross to redeem mankind. And I as willingly undertook the work of man’s redemption. — Behold I come: in the head of the book it is written of me.[3] That is, in the volumes of the Scriptures. — He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second. That is, he taketh away what I first mentioned, the imperfect sacrifices of the law of Moses, that to them might succeed the sacrifice of Christ. Wi.

Ver. 10. The source and primary cause of our sanctification is the will of God, who so loved the world as to give us his only Son; the meritorious cause of our sanctification is the voluntary oblation of Jesus Christ, sacrificed for us upon the cross. Methodists shamefully misrepresent the tenets of Catholics, as if we excluded Christ from the work of our salvation, or hoped to be saved not by the merits of Christ, but by our own.

Ver. 14. By one oblation[5] he hath perfected or consummated for ever them that are sanctified, or justified, because this one oblation was sufficient to sanctify all men. He repeats this, to shew them the excellency of Christ’s sacrifice above those of the former law. Wi.

Ver. 15-18. The Holy Ghost also doth testify to us, and assures us of this, by the prophet Jeremy, (C. xxxi. 33.) in the words above cited, (C. viii, v. 8.) when he promises to give a new testament, and that he will remember no more their sins. — Now where there is remission of these, there is no more an oblation for sin. That is, there is no need of any other oblation to redeem us from sin, after the price of our redemption from sin is paid. There is no need of any other different oblation; all that is wanting, is the application of the merits and satisfactions of Christ. No need of those sacrifices, which were ordered in the law of Moses. To convince them of this, is the main design of S. Paul in this place. The pretended reformers, from several expressions of S. Paul in this chapter, think they have clear proofs that no sacrifice at all ought to be offered after Christ’s one sacrifice on the cross; and that so many sacrifices and oblations of masses, are both needless and against the doctrine of the apostle, who says, that Christ by one oblation hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified. v. 14. And again, that where there is a remission of sins, now there is no more an oblation for sin. This objection, which is obvious enough, was not first invented by the Calvinists against them they nickname Papists: the same is found in the ancient Fathers; and by their answers, and what they have witnessed concerning the daily sacrifice of the mass, they may find their doctrine of a religion without a continued sacrifice evidently against the doctrine and practice of the Catholic Church from the first ages of the Christian religion, till they came to be reformers, not of manners, but of the Catholic belief. Hear S. Chrys. (hom. xvii.) in his commentary on this very chapter: “What then, saith he, do not we offer up (or make an oblation) every day? We offer up indeed, but with a remembrance of his death. And this oblation is one, and not many. How is it one, and not many? . . . because, as he that is offered many times, and in many places, is the same body, not many and different bodies, so is it one sacrifice. He (Christ) is our high priest, who offered this sacrifice, by which we are cleansed: we now offer up the same . . . He said: Do this in remembrance of me. We do not offer a different sacrifice, but the very same, as then our high priest.” S. Chrys. here says, and repeats it over and over again, that we offer up a sacrifice. 2. That we offer it up every day. 3. That the sacrifice which we daily offer is one and the same oblation, one and the same sacrifice, which our high priest, Christ, offered. 4. That in offering this sacrifice, which in all places, and at all times, is the same body of Christ, and the same sacrifice, we do, and offer it, as he commanded us at his last supper, with a remembrance of him. Is this the practice, and is this the doctrine of our dear countrymen, the English Protestants? But at least it is the constant doctrine, as well as practice, of the whole Catholic Church. The council of Trent, as we have already cited the words, (c. vii.) teacheth the very same as S. Chrys. who never says, as some one of late hath pretended, that what we offer is a remembrance only. As the sacrament of the Eucharist, according to the words of Christ in the gospel, is to be taken with a remembrance of him, and yet is not a remembrance only, but is his body and blood, so the sacrifice is to be performed with a remembrance of his benefits and sufferings, by his priests and ministers, but at the same time is a true and propitiatory sacrifice, the priests daily sacrifice, and offer up the same sacrifice, the manner only being different. The sacrifice and mass offered by Peter, is not different in the notion of a sacrifice or oblation from that of Paul, though the priests and their particular actions be different: the same sacrifice was offered by the apostles, and in all Christian ages; and the same sacrifice, according to the prophecy of Malachy, (c. i, v. 11.) shall be offered in all nations to the end of the world. This doctrine and practice is not only witnessed by S. Chrys. but generally by the ancient Fathers and interpreters, as we have taken notice in short in the annotations on S. Matt. See S. Ignatius, in his epistle to the people of Smyrna; S. Justin, in his dialogue with Tryphon; S. Iren. l. 4. c. xxxii. and xxxiv.; Tertull. lib. de Velandis Virg. Euseb. l. 1. de demonst. Evang. c. ult. S. Jerom ep. ad Evangelum; S. Amb. in Ps. xxxviii. and on 1 chap. of S. Luke; S. Aug. l. 16. de civ. Dei. c. xxii. l. cont. Advers. legis c. 22. and lib. ix. Confess. c. xii.; S. Chrys. hom. lx. ad Pop. Antiochenum. et hom. lxxii. in Matt. The first gen. coun. of Nice. — But from this one oblation on the cross and remission of sins, obtained by our Saviour Christ, will our adversaries pretend insisting on the bare letter, that Christ has done all for us, and that we need do nothing, unless perhaps endeavour to catch hold of the justifying cloak of Christ’s justice by faith only? At this rate the love of God and of our neighbour, a life of self-denials, such as Christ preached to every one in the gospel, the practices of prayer, fastings, almsdeeds, and all good works, the sacraments instituted by our Saviour Christ may be all safely laid aside; and we may conclude from hence, that all men’s sins are remitted before they are committed. Into what extravagances do men run, when their private spirit pretends to follow the letter of the Holy Scriptures, and when they make their private judgment the supreme guide in matter of divine faith? It is very true, that Christ hath paid the ransom of all our sins, and his satisfactions are infinite; but to partake of the benefit of this general redemption, the merits and satisfaction of Christ are to be applied to our souls, and this by the order of Providence is to be done not only by faith but by other virtues, by good works, by the sacraments, and by repeating the oblation and the same sacrifice, the manner only being different, according to the doctrine and practice of the Catholic Church from the apostle’s time. Wi. — Where there is a full remission of sins, as in baptism, there is no more occasion for a sin-offering to be made for such sins already remitted; and as for sins committed afterwards, they can only be remitted in virtue of the one oblation of Christ’s death. Ch.

Ver. 19. Having therefore, brethren, a confidence. Here begins as it were the second part of this epistle, in which the apostle exhorts the Hebrews to the practice of Christian virtues, to a firm hope, and confidence of entering with Christ into the holy of holies; i.e. into heaven. Wi.

Ver. 20. A new and living way; that is, having a new way, which he hath traced out and opened for us, by entering himself first into heaven, through the veil, i.e. through his flesh, or by taking upon him, our flesh or human nature. He speaks with an allusion and comparison with the high priest of the former law, who to enter into the sanctuary, was to pass through the veil of separation. He compares Christ’s flesh or body to this veil, inasmuch as Christ entered into the sanctuary of heaven by his sufferings in the flesh, and by the death of his body on the cross; or, inasmuch as the divinity of Christ was hidden from us by the veil of his human nature, as the sanctuary was hidden from the people by its veils. Wi.

Ver. 21. And a high priest; i.e. and having a great priest, to wit, Christ, over the house of God, that is, over the Church, or over all the faithful, both in the Church militant on earth and in the Church triumphant in heaven. Wi.

Ver. 22. Let us draw near with a full and firm faith, our hearts being cleansed and sprinkled from sin. He again alludes to that ceremony, by which the high priest of the Jews on the feast, called of expiation, sprinkled the people with the blood of the victim offered. Wi. — En plerophoria pisteos. The Prot. version gives erroneously, in full assurance of faith. See Ward’s Errata.

Ver. 25. Not forsaking our assembly.[6] S. Chrys. understands the assemblies of Christians, where they met to celebrate the divine mysteries. Others expound it of not leaving the faith and communion of the Catholic Church by turning apostates: this is confirmed by the following words: for if we sin wilfully, . . . there is now left no sacrifice for sins. The Novatian heretics understood no pardon for sins after baptism. S. Chrys. and others understood no second baptism, wherewith to be cleansed in the same manner as before; but the most probable interpretation, and most agreeable to the text and doctrine of S. Paul, seems to be, that now remained no sacrifice for sins, i.e. no other sacrifice but that of Christ, which the apostate renouncing, by quitting and abandoning his faith, thereby cuts himself off from the very groundwork and foundation of salvation, as long as he continues in his apostacy. So that nothing remains for him but a dreadful expectation[7] of God’s just and severe judgments. Wi.

Ver. 26. If we sin wilfully. He speaks of the sin of wilful apostacy from the known truth; after which, as we cannot be baptized again, we cannot expect to have that abundant remission of sins, which Christ purchased by his death, applied to our souls in that ample manner as it is in baptism; but we have rather all manner of reason to look for a dreadful judgment; the more, because apostates from the know truth seldom or never have the grace to return to it. Ch.

Ver. 28-29. A man making void, &c. He brings this comparison from the manner that transgressors were dealt with under the law of Moses, to shew how much greater punishments Christians deserve when they are ungrateful to Christ after much greater benefits, when they may be said to have trodden under foot the Son of God by despising him, who was the author of their salvation, by shedding his blood upon the cross. Wi. — What is here said of the crime of apostacy, may in some measure be applied to every deadly sin committed after baptism or the sacrament of penance; for a Christian by returning to sin, treads under foot the Son of God, despises the adorable blood by which he was sanctified, and offers a henious affront to the spirit of grace. Apostacy, though enormous, like all other sins can be forgiven by true repentance; but the apostle declares, there is no victim for the guilt of a person who perseveres and dies in apostacy.

Ver. 31. Man is mortal, and therefore cannot extend his vengeance beyond death; God is immortal, and, as he lives eternally, can punish eternally; and he who during life despises a God who died for him, will at death experience the rigour of a God always living to punish him.

Ver. 32. But call to mind the former days, &c. After having laid before them the severity of God’s judgments, he comforts them with the hopes they may have of their eternal salvation, from what they had already suffered soon after they received the light of the gospel, and were illuminated by baptism. Wi.

Ver. 36. He encourages them to patience in the short time of this mortal life. Wi.

Ver. 37. Yet a very little while, and the judge that is to come, and who is to judge every one, will come. Wi. — O erchomenos, he who is coming. It is observed by commentators, that this is the appellation given by the Jews to the Messias. See Matt. xi. 3. and xxi. 9.

Ver. 38. But my[8] just man, he that liveth according to the doctrine I have taught, liveth by faith, which is the groundwork and foundation of a good life. — But if he withdraw himself, and fall from this faith of Christ, he shall not please my soul. It is a Hebrew way of speaking, and as it were in the person of God. Wi. — Luther and Calvin teach that faith alone is sufficient for justification, and they define this faith to be an assured confidence that their sins are forgiven them wholly by Christ’s passion. No text, however, in Scripture teaches that a man is justified by faith only. In Romans, (ii.) Luther makes S. Paul say that a man is justified by faith only, without the works of the law: the authorized Protestant version has omitted the word only, foisted into the German translations. Solifidians vainly cite this text, as its obvious meaning is, that neither the works of the written law, done by the Jew, nor the works of the law of nature, done by the Gentile, before either of them believe in Christ, can without faith in Christ justify any one. Saving faith is a faith working through charity in Jesus Christ, a faith which includes hope, love, repentance, and the use of the sacraments. Hence S. James (C. ii.) declares, that a man may have faith but not works, but that faith without works will not save him. S. Paul teaches the same, 1 Cor. xiii. 2. “If I should have all faith, so as to move mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing;” where we should observe the word all faith.

Ver. 39. But we are not the children of withdrawing;[9] i.e. we are not such as withdraw ourselves in this manner from the true faith to perdition, but remain constant in the faith and law of Christ. Wi.

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[1] V. 1. Umbram, . . non ipsam imaginem rerum, skian, ouk auten ten eikona. It seems hard to take eikona for the things themselves represented; but only to signify, expressam imaginem.

[2] V. 2. Alioquin cessassent offerri. In the ordinary Greek copies, epei an ouk epausanto prospheromenai; but in other MSS. ouk is left out.

[3] V. 5. Corpus autem aptasti mihi; soma de katartiso moi; i.e. according to the Sept. but in the Heb. aures perfodisti, or as in the Latin, (Ps. xxxix. 7.) perfecisti mihi. How these different expressions agree, see Estius, Corn. a Lapide, &c.

[4] V. 7. In capite libri, en kephalidi bibliou. The Greek and Latin seems to signify no more than in the volume, or book itself; kephalis, says Suidas, oper tinos eilema, alicujus involucrum, ab eileo. No need of translating, in the front of the book.

[5] V. 14. Unâ oblatione, &c. mia prosphora. See S. Chrys. (log. iz. p. 523. lin. 20. et seq.) ti oun emeis kath ekasten emeran ou prospheromen; prospheromen men, all anamnesin poioumenoi tou thanatou autou. kai mia estin aute, kai ou pollai . . . ton gar auton aei prospheromen . . . osper pollachou prospheromenos en soma esti. kai ou polla somata, outo kai mia thusia (et unum, sive idem sacrificium) o Archiereus emon ekeinos esti, o ten thusian kathai[]usan []mas prosnegkon. ekeinen prospheromen kai nun, ten tote prosenechtheisen, &c.

[6] V. 25. Non deserentes collectionem nostram, me egkataleipontes ten episunagogen eauton, collectionem, congregationem.

[7] V. 27. Ignis æmulatio, puros zelos, thus attibuting zeal and rage to an inanimate thing.

[8] V. 38. Justus meus, dikaios; in some Greek MSS. mou, as also in the Sept. Habac. ii. 4.

[9] V. 39. Non sumus substractionis filii, ouk esmen upostoles, subaudi uioi.