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hath promised, and the holiness and righteousness which He requires, as the condition of obtaining it, the one in order to the other. So St. Paulu; “Seek” (tà åvw) " the things which are above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God. Set your affections on things above, not on things on the earth;" that is, aspire to that heavenly glory, of which Christ your Lord and Head is already possessed, and that in the most eminent degree; having all power in heaven given Him, and so the power of bestowing the same heavenly glory on all such as shall tread in His steps and obey His precepts: direct your thoughts, desires, and affections towards that solid, stable, lasting, yea, everlasting felicity; and suffer them not to settle or rest in the transitory, vanishing, and perishing enjoyments of this earth. And to the same sense and purpose the Holy Ghost speaks in very many other places of Scripture, which I have not time now to recite. It is therefore so far from being sinful, in the course of our Christian obedience, to cast an eye towards the heavenly reward for our encouragement, that we sin if we do not so; yea, if we do not fix our eye on it, and employ our chief studies, cares, and desires about the obtaining of it. For, unless we do thus, we transgress the plain commandment of God, Who alone hath power to determine what we ought to do, and Who best knows what is fittest for us to do.
III. In this eleventh chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews, out of which my text is taken, we read, that not only Moses, but all the most eminent saints of old, served God with respect to the future recompense of reward. For the divine author ascribes all the great things, which they did and suffered for God, to their faith, which he makes the ground and foundation of their whole obedience, both active and passive, and that which animated and encouraged them thereunto.
Now what was this faith? The author plainly tells us *, “Without faith it is impossible to please Him,” (i. e. God) “for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a Rewarder of them that diligently seek Him." The faith, then, whereby all those excellent persons, of whose acts and sufferings we have a compendium or abridgment in this chapter, o Col. iii, 1, 2.
came unto God, i.e. devoted themselves to His worship and service, and in so doing pleased Him, was a faith respecting God as the ulolamodótns, “the Rewarder of all His faithful servants."
Wherefore they who affirm, that to serve God in hope of the reward which He hath promised, is a slavish and sinful obedience, do consequentially cast a very foul slur upon all those eminent patterns and examples of virtue which the Holy Ghost here sets forth and propounds to our imitation. They do indeed unsaint them all, and strip them of their sonship, and degrade them into a herd of vile mercenary slaves.
And such is the modesty of the men with whom we have to do, that they startle not at so horrid a consequence, but are ready boldly to affirm, that all those saints were Old Testament saints, living under a servile dispensation, and that therefore their example in this case is no good or warrantable pattern for our imitation under the Gospel. But this pretence (as I have already noted) is a plain contradiction to the very scope and design of the Holy Ghost in this chapter, which is manifestly to propound those Old Testament saints, as they call them, as egregious examples for us Christians to follow. Besides, many of the persons mentioned in the same chapter were persons of so transcendent and heroic a virtue, that the best of us may blush to think at what an humble distance we follow after them. But to put the matter out of all doubt,
IV. We find that the best and most excellent of the New Testament saints obeyed God, and suffered for Him upon the same motive and inducement of the heavenly reward. The great Apostle of Christ, St. Paul, speaking of himself, says, “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” Where that by the Bpaßelov, " the prize of the high calling of God in Christ,” is meant the future eternal glory, to which God calls us by the Gospel of Christ, as to the reward of our obedience thereunto, is agreed on by all interpreters. The expression is metaphorical, and borrowed from the ancient custom in races, wherein the Bpaßeutis, "he that held and bestowed the prize,” sat in some high place, and from thence by an herald or crier called to each of the racers, acquainted him with the prize, and offered it to him that should best acquit himself in the race. Thus God from the highest heaven calls to us by Christ, and offers us the inestimable prize of eternal glory, if we run well that race of virtue and obedience, which in the Gospel of Christ is marked out and prescribed unto us. Now St. Paul here plainly signifies, that he himself, throughout his whole Christian race, had a continual eye to this "prize of the high calling of God in Christ,” and that the obtaining thereof was his aim and end, his great design and business. It is evident, therefore, that St. Paul, as well as Moses, served God with respect to the recompense of reward.
The same thing in many other places he affirms, not only of himself, but of the rest of the Apostles, and of those other excellent examples of virtue, both active and passive, in that glorious age. You may especially peruse, at your leisure, the following texts, 1 Cor. ix. 24, 25, and chap. xv. throughout; and 2 Cor. iv. 17, 18; and Col. i. 4, 5.
V. And lastly, We may advance yet a step higher, and safely affirm, that even our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, as man, in His sinless, perfect, and meritorious obedience, had likewise a respect to the recompense of reward. This is the plain sense of the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews”, where he exhorts us “to look to Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith; Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
I confess there are some interpreters, (and those no mean ones,) who so expound this text, as to make it signify very little to our purpose. For they say, that in those words ávti της προκειμένης αυτω χαράς, the preposition αντί signifies not “for,” but “instead of;" and so that the words are to be thus rendered, “ Who, instead of the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross," &c. But what sense is this? Why, say they, the meaning is, that Christ, if it had so pleased Him, might not have died; He might have exempted Himself from all sorrow and trouble, and lived a life of joy and happiness, flowing with all good things, like that of the innocent Adam in Paradise: “But instead of this, He chose and suffered the cross,” &c. But any unprejudiced person may presently discern this to be a very forced interpretation. It is true, ávrà more frequently signifies loco, “instead of,” but not always; for it is sometimes used for éveka, “for,” or “for the sake of,” and denotes the cause of a thing. So whereas we reada, ÉVEKEV TOÚTov, “for this cause shall a man leave his father and mother,” &c. the same thing is expressed by ảvtè TOÚTOV, which is likewise translated "for this cause.” And that so the preposition must be rendered here, and not according to the other sense, is certain; because that other sense is repugnant to the whole design and scope of the place. For the divine author thought not here of an earthly temporary joy belonging to Christ, but of the heavenly joy and felicity designed for Him; and therefore he presently expounds it to be His “sitting at the right hand of the throne of God.” Which is also farther evident from hence, that He speaks of a joy which was mpokeljévn “set before Christ,” that is, propounded and offered to Him, in the same sense as our race (in its whole extent, and with the prize at the end of it) is said to be apokeljévn “set before us,” viz. by God, in the verse immediately preceding. But God never thus propounded any earthly felicity to Christ, but on the contrary set before Him the cross and the crown, the former to be suffered here, the latter to be enjoyed hereafter.
z Chap. xii. 2.
Indeed as are all the expressions in the foregoing verse, so is this apparently agonistical, and alludes to the prize set before, propounded, and offered to them that run in a race, for their encouragement. In a word, the TT pokeljévn xapà, “the joy that was set before Christ,” is manifestly the same thing in kind with the mpokeljévn éntris, “ the hope” (or thing hoped for) “set before us,” of which our author speaks in the sixth chapter of this Epistled; “ That we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us." It is not therefore to be doubted, but that the meaning of the author is, that Christ, as man, in His obedience and sufferings, had respect to that transcendent joy, glory, and felicity, which God had propounded to Him, and set before Him, as the reward of His obedience and sufferings, and was encouraged to do and suffer what He did, by the certain hope and expectation of that reward.
a Matt. xix. 5.
Eph, v 31. e [The examples of arom wherefore, y on which account, are numerous : e. g.
Luke i. 20; xii. 3; xix, 44; Acts xii. 23; 2 Thess. ii. 10.)
d Verse 18.
Christ therefore Himself, as man, had respect in His obedience to the recompense of reward.
It is the opinion of many learned Divines, that the strength which Christ received in His ante-passion in the garden, from an angel there appearing to Him, mentioned Luke xxii. 43, consisted chiefly in a vigorous and lively sense and consideration of that incomparable felicity, which He should presently after receive as the reward of His passion, impressed on His mind, and perhaps vocally suggested to Him, by the same angel. Nor is it any wonder He should need such comfort against His passion, who was under a real fear of it; as we learn from the relations of the Evangelists, and from the plain and express words of the author of this Epistle to the Hebrews, assuring us, that Christ "in the days of His flesh offered up prayers and supplications, with strong cryings and tears, unto Him Who was able to save Him from death, and was heard in that He feared.” Indeed our dear Saviour and Redeemer was pleased to assume our whole nature, with all its concomitant affections and passions, that were not sinful; and therefore He feared death; and therefore He solaced Himself with the hope of immortality; and therefore so may we do also. As little wonder is it, that our Lord, having all the legions of the holy angels under His command, should receive this consolation from an angel ; seeing He received it in the state of His humiliation, wherein He was made a little lower than the angels; and that in the same state, at other times, as in His temptation in the wilderness, He disdained not the assisting ministry of the “ holy angels?."
These arguments, laid together, amount to a demonstration, and abundantly shew the folly and absurdity of their opinion, who assert, that to serve God in hope of reward, even the heavenly reward, is a servile and sinful obedience; and that no obedience is pleasing to God, but what is wholly abstracted from all consideration of such reward. The conceit of these men (as a learned Divine expresseth it) savours of an imaginary, • Chap. v. 7.
Matt. iv. 11.