on Hebrews 5 :14
But strong meat - The high and sublime doctrines of Christianity; the atonement, justification by faith, the gift of the Holy Ghost, the fullness of Christ dwelling in the souls of men, triumph in and over death, the resurrection of the body, the glorification of both body and soul in the realms of blessedness, and an endless union with Christ in the throne of his glory. This is the strong food which the genuine Christian understands, receives, digests, and by which he grows.
By reason of use - Who, by constant hearing, believing, praying, and obedience, use all the graces of God's Spirit; and, in the faithful use of them, find every one improved, so that they daily grow in grace, and in the knowledge of Jesus Christ our Lord.
Have their senses exercised - The word αισθητηρια signifies the different organs of sense, as the eyes, ears, tongue, and palate, nose, and finger ends, and the nervous surface in general, through which we gain the sensations called seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, and feeling. These organs of sense, being frequently exercised or employed on a variety of subjects, acquire the power to discern the various objects of sense: viz. all objects of light; difference of sounds; of tastes or savours; of odours or smelling; and of hard, soft, wet, dry, cold, hot, rough, smooth, and all other tangible qualities.
There is something in the soul that answers to all these senses in the body. And as universal nature presents to the other senses their different and appropriate objects, so religion presents to these interior senses the objects which are suited to them. Hence in Scripture we are said, even in spiritual things, to see, hear, taste, smell, and touch or feel. These are the means by which the soul is rendered comfortable, and through which it derives its happiness and perfection.
In the adult Christian these senses are said to be γεγυμνασμενα, exercised, a metaphor taken from the athlete or contenders in the Grecian games, who were wont to employ all their powers, skill, and agility in mock fights, running, wrestling, etc., that they might be the better prepared for the actual contests when they took place. So these employ and improve all their powers, and in using grace get more grace; and thus, being able to discern good from evil, they are in little danger of being imposed on by false doctrine, or by the pretensions of hypocrites; or of being deceived by the subtleties of Satan. They feel that their security depends, under God, on this exercise - on the proper use which they make of the grace already given them by God. Can any reader be so dull as not to understand this?
on Hebrews 5 :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 - Margin, "Perfect." The expression refers to those who are grown up.
Who by reason of use - Margin, Or, "an habit," or, "perfection." Coverdale and Tyndale 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 what is useful in pretended religious instruction from what 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 suited 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 used here means properly "the senses" - as we use the term; the seat of sensation, the smell, taste, etc. 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 of Christianity; they see their beauty and value, and they are able carefully and accurately to distinguish them from error; compare the notes at John 7:17.
To discern both good and evil - That is, in doctrine. They will appreciate and understand what is true; they will reject what is false.
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 forever: Hebrews 5:1. 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 further 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; Hebrews 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 honor the man whom we see weeping when there is occasion for grief. We sympathize with him in 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 honor 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; Hebrews 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 an 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 especially 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 "honor God even in death."
4. It is not sinful to dread death; Hebrews 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; Hebrews 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 people are true Christians, and yet are ignorant of some of the elementary principles of religion; Hebrews 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 what 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.
on Hebrews 5 :14
5:14 But strong meat - These sublimer truths relating to perfection, Heb 6:1. Belong to them of full age, who by habit - Habit here signifies strength of spiritual understanding, arising from maturity of spiritual age. By, or in consequence of, this habit they exercise themselves in these things with ease, readiness, cheerfulness, and profit.