on Hebrews 8 :13
He hath made the first old - That is: He has considered it as antiquated, and as being no longer of any force.
That which decayeth and waxeth old - Here is an allusion to the ancient laws, which either had perished from the tables on which they were written through old age, or were fallen into disuse, or were abrogated.
Is ready to vanish away - Εγγυς αφανισμου· Is about to be abolished. Dionysius of Halicarnassus, speaking of the laws of Numa, which had been written on oak boards, says: Ἁς αφανισθηναι συνεβη τῳ χρονῳ· "which had perished through old age." And the word αφανιζειν is used to express the abolition of the law. The apostle, therefore, intimates that the old covenant was just about to be abolished; but he expresses himself cautiously and tenderly, that he might not give unnecessary offense.
When the apostle said, All shall know the Lord, from the least to the greatest, under the new covenant, he had copious authority for saying so from the rabbins themselves. In Sohar Chadash, fol. 42, it is said: "In the days of the Messiah knowledge shall be renewed in the world, and the law shall be made plain among all; as it is written, Jeremiah 31:33, All shall know me, from the least to the greatest." We find the following legend in Midrash Yalcut Simeoni, part 2, fol. 46: "The holy blessed God shall sit in paradise and explain the law; all the righteous shall sit before him, and the whole heavenly family shall stand on their feet; and the holy blessed God shall sit, and the new law, which be is to give by the Messiah, shall be interpreted."
In Sohar Genes., fol. 74, col. 291, we find these remarkable words: "When the days of the Messiah shall approach, even the little children in this world shall find out the hidden things of wisdom; and in that time all things shall be revealed to all men."
And in Sohar Levit., fol. 24, Colossians 95:"There shall be no time like this till the Messiah comes, and then the knowledge of God shall be found in every part of the world."
This day are all these sayings fulfilled in our ears: the word of God is multiplied; many run to and fro, and knowledge is increased; all the nations of the earth are receiving the book of God; and men of every clime, and of every degree - Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites; the dwellers in Mesopotamia, in Judea, in Cappadocia, in Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, in Egypt, in Libya; strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes; Cretes and Arabians; Americans, Indians, and Chinese - hear, in their own tongues, the wonderful works of God.
on Hebrews 8 :13
In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old - That is, the use of the word "new" implies that the one which it was to supersede was "old." New and old stand in contradistinction from each other. Thus, we speak of a new and old house, a new and old garment, etc. The object of the apostle is to show that by the very fact of the arrangement for a new dispensation differing so much from the old, it was implied of necessity that that was to be superseded, and would vanish away. This was one of the leading points at which he arrived.
Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away - This is a general truth which would be undisputed, and which Paul applies to the case under consideration. An old house, or garment; an ancient tree; an aged man, all have indications that they are soon to disappear. They cannot be expected to remain long. The very fact of their growing old is an indication that they will soon be gone. So Paul says it was with the dispensation that was represented as old. It had symptoms of decay. It had lost the vigour which it had when it was fresh and new; it had every mark of an antiquated and a declining system; and it had been expressly declared that a new and more perfect dispensation was to be given to the world. Paul concluded, therefore, that the Jewish system must soon disappear.
1. The fact that we have a high priest, is suited to impart consolation to the pious mind; Hebrews 8:1-5. He ever lives, and is ever the same. He is a minister of the true sanctuary, and is ever before the mercy-seat. He enters there not once a year only, but has entered there to abide there for ever. We can never approach the throne of mercy without having a high priest there - for he at all times, day and night, appears before God. The merits of his sacrifice are never exhausted, and God is never wearied with hearing his pleadings in behalf of his people. He is the same that he was when he gave himself on the cross. He has the same love and the same compassion which he had then, and that love which led him to make the atonement, will lead him always to regard with tenderness those for whom he died.
2. It is a privilege to live under the blessings of the Christian system; Hebrews 8:6. We have a better covenant than the old one was - one less expensive and less burdensome, and one that is established upon better promises. Now the sacrifice is made, and we do not have to renew it every day. It was made once for all, and need never be repeated. Having now a high priest in heaven who has made the sacrifice, we may approach him in any part of the earth, and at all times, and feel that our offering will be acceptable to him. If there is any blessing for which we ought to be thankful, it is for the Christian religion; for we have only to look at any portion of the pagan world, or even to the condition of the people of God under the comparatively dark and obscure Jewish dispensation, to see abundant reasons for thanksgiving for what we enjoy.
3. Let us often contemplate the mercies of the new dispensation with which we are favored - the favors of that religion whose smiles and sunshine we are permitted to enjoy; Hebrews 8:10-12. It contains all that we want, and is exactly adapted to our condition. It has that for which every man should be thankful; and has not one thing which should lead a man to reject it. It furnishes all the security which we could desire for our salvation; lays upon us no oppressive burdens or charges; and accomplishes all which we ought to desire in our souls. Let us contemplate a moment the arrangements of that "covenant," and see how suited it is to make man blessed and happy.
First, It writes the laws of God on the mind and the heart; Hebrews 8:10. It not only reveals them, but it secures their observance. It has made arrangements for disposing people to keep the laws a thing which has not been introduced into any other system. Legislators may enact good laws, but they cannot induce others to obey them; parents may utter good precepts, but they cannot engrave them on the hearts of their children; and sages may express sound maxims and just precepts in morals, but there is no security that they will be regarded. So in all the pagan world - there is no power to inscribe good maxims and rules of living on the heart. They may be written; recorded on tablets; hung up in temples; but still people will not regard them. They will still give indulgence to evil passions, and lead wicked lives. But it is not so with the arrangement which God has made in the plan of salvation. One of the very first provisions of that plan is, that the laws shall be inscribed on the heart, and that there shall be a disposition to obey. Such a systcm is what man wants, and such a system he can nowhere else find.
Secondly, This new arrangement "reveals to us" a God such as we need; Hebrews 8:10. It contains the promise that he will be "our God." He will be to his people all that can be "desired in God;" all that man could wish. He is just such a God as the human mind, when it is pure, most loves; has all the attributes which it could be desired there should be in his character; has done all that we could desire a God to do; and is ready to do all that we could wish a God to perform. "Man wants a God;" a God in whom he can put confidence, and on whom he can rely. The ancient Greek philosopher wanted a God - and he would then have made a beautiful and efficient system of morals; the pagan want a God - to dwell in their empty temples, and in their corrupt hearts; the Atheist wants a God to make him calm, contented, and happy in this life - for he has no God now, and man everywhere, wretched, sinful, suffering, dying, wants a God. Such a God is revealed in the Bible - one whose character we may contemplate with ever-increasing admiration; one who has all the attributes which we can desire; one who will minister to us all the consolation which we need in this world; and one who will be to us the same God forever and ever.
Thirdly, The new covenant contemplates the diffusion of "knowledge;" Hebrews 8:11. This too was what man needed, for everywhere else he has been ignorant of God and of the way of salvation. The whole pagan world is sunk in ignorance, and indeed all people, except as they are enlightened by the gospel, are in profound darkness on the great questions which most nearly pertain to their welfare. But it is not so with the new arrangement which God has made with his people. It is a fact that they know the Lord, and a dispensation which would produce that is just what man needed. There are two things hinted at in Hebrews 8:11, which are worthy of more than a passing notice, illustrating the excellency of the Christian religion. The first is, that in the new dispensation "all would know the Lord." The matter of fact is, that the obscurest and most unlettered Christian often has a knowledge of God which sages never had, and which is never obtained except by the teachings of the Spirit of God. However this may be accounted for, the fact cannot be denied.
There is a clear and elevating view of God; a knowledge of him which exerts a practical influence on the heart, and which transforms the soul; and a correctness of apprehension in regard to what truth is, possessed by the humble Christian, though a peasant, which philosophy never imparted to its votaries. Many a sage would be instructed in the truths of religion if he would sit down and converse with the comparatively unlearned Christian, who has no book but his Bible. The other thing hinted at here is, that all would know the Lord "from the least to the greatest." Children and youth, as well as age and experience, would have an acquaintance with God. This promise is remarkably verified under the new dispensation. One of the most striking things of the system is, the attention which it pays to the young; one of its most wonderful effects is the knowledge which it is the means of imparting to those in early life. Many a child in the Sunday School has a knowledge of God which Grecian sages never had; many a youth in the Church has a more consistent acquaintance with God's real plan of governing and saving people, than all the teachings which philosophy could ever furnish.
Fourthly, The new dispensation contemplates the pardon of sin, and is, therefore, suited to the condition of man; Hebrews 8:12. It is what man needs. The knowledge of some way of pardon is what human nature has been sighing for for ages; which has been sought in every system of religion, and by every bloody offering; but which has never been found elsewhere. The philosopher had no assurance that God would pardon, and indeed one of the chief aims of the philosopher has been to convince himself that he had no need of pardon. The pagan have had no assurance that their offerings have availed to put away the divine anger, and to obtain forgiveness. "The only assurance anywhere furnished that sin may be forgiven, is in the Bible." This is the great uniqueness of the system recorded there, and this it is which renders it so valuable above all the other systems. It furnishes the assurance that sins may be pardoned, and shows how it may be done. This is what we must have, or perish. And why, since Christianity reveals a way of forgiveness - a way honorable to God and not degrading to man - why should any man reject it? Why should not the guilty embrace a system which proclaims pardon to the guilty, and which assures all that, if they will embrace him who is the "Mediator of the new covenant," "God will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and will remember their iniquities no more."
on Hebrews 8 :13
8:13 In saying, A new covenant, he hath antiquated the first - Hath shown that it is disannulled, and out of date. Now that which is antiquated is ready to vanish away - As it did quickly after, when the temple was destroyed.