The occasion of the speaking is ever the best key to every speech. The occasion then of this speech was this. The Apostle was to encourage the Hebrews, and in them us all, to hold on the well-begun profession of Christ and His faith. This our profession he expresseth in the former verse in the terms of a race or game, borrowing his similitude from the games of Olympus. For from those games, famous then over all the world, and by terms from them taken, it was common to all writers of that age, both holy and human, to set forth, as in the running the laborious course, so in the prize of it, the glorious reward of a virtuous life.
Which race, truly Olympic, because they and we, the most of us, either stand still, or if we remove do it but slowly, and are ready to faint upon every occasion; that we may run the sooner, and attain the better, two sights he sets before us to comfort us and keep us from fainting. One, a cloud of witnesses, in the first verse, that is the Saints in Heaven--witnesses as able to depose this race may be run, and this prize may be won, for they have run the one, and won the other long ago. These look on us now, how well we carry ourselves, and we look to them, that we may carry ourselves well in the course we have undertaken.
Then is to follow the act or duty of looking on this sight, Forîutej eij, 1. Wherein first the two prepositions, 1. 'From' and 'to:' to look 'from,' and 'to.' 2. Then the two verbs: 1. One in the verse expressed. 2. The other of necessity implied, for we have never a verb in all the verse. `AForîutej is a participle, and but suspendedth the sentence, till we either look back to the verb before; and so it is 1. Ut curramus: or to the verse after, and so it is 2. Ne fatigfemur. In the one is the theory or sight we shall see, thus looking. In the other the praxis of this theory, what this sight is to work in us; and that is a motion, a swift motion, running. So to look on it that we run, and so to run that we faint not.
And if the time will give leave, if our allowance will hold out, then we will take a short view of the session; that He 'is set down.' Wherein is 1. rest and ease opposed to His cross, where He hung in pain. 2. And in 'a throne;' wherein is glory opposed to shame. 3. And 'at the right hand of God,' wherein is the fullness of both the joy wherein He sitteth, and the joy which was set before Him, and which is set before us.
To give the better aspect to the party Whom he presenteth to our view, that with better will we may behold Him, before he name His Name he giveth Him this double addition, as it were displaying an ensign, proclaiming this double addition, as it were displaying an ensign, proclaiming His style before Him; whereof these two are the two colours, 1. 'The Author,' 2. 'The Finisher of our faith, Jesus.'
'Author and Finisher' are two titles, wherein the Holy Ghost oft setteth Him forth, and wherein He seemeth to take special delight. In the very letters, He taketh to Him the name of 'Alpha' the Author, and again of 'Omega' the Finisher of the alphabet. From letters go to words: there is He Verbum in principio, 'the Word at the beginning.' And He is 'Amen' too, the word at the end. From words to books. In capite libri scriptum est de Me, in the very 'front of the book' He is; and He is AuakeFalaiwsij, 'the Recapitulation' or conclusion of it too. And so, go to persons: there He is Primus and novissimus, 'the first and the last.' And from persons to things: and there He is, 'the beginning and the end;' whereof, 'the beginning,' is in `ArcchyÕj, the Author; and te/loj, 'the end,' is in Teleiwt j, the Finisher. The first beginning a Quo, He 'by Whom all things are made;' and the last end He, per or propter Quem, 'by, for, or through Whom' all things are made perfect.
Both these He is, in all things. And as in all things else, so in faith, whereto they are here applied most fully and fitly of all other. Therefore look not aside at any in Heaven or earth for matter of faith, look full upon Him. He is worth the looking on with both your eyes, He hath matter for them both.
The honour that Zerubbabel had in the material, is no less truly His in the spiritual temple of our faith. Manus Ejus, 'His hands' have laid the corner-stone of our belief, and his hands shall bring forth the head-stone also, giving us 'the end of our faith, which is the salvation of our souls.'
Of our faith, and of the whole race of it He is the 'Author,' casting up His glove at the first setting forth. He is the 'Finisher,' holding out the prize at the goal end. By His authority it is our course is begun; we run not without warrant. By His bounty it shall be finished and crowned in the end; we run not in vain, or without hope of reward.
But what is this title to the point in hand? So, as nothing can be more. 'Author and Finisher,' they are the two points that move us to look to Him. And the very same are the two points wherein we are moved to be like to Him.
To fix our eye, to keep it from straying, to make us look on him full, He telleth us He is both these. In effect as if He said, Scatter not your sight, look not two ways, as if He, I shew you, were to begin, and some other make an end. He, I shew you, doth both.
His main end being to exhort them, as they had begun well, so well to persevere; to very good purpose, He willeth them to have an eye to Him and His example, Who first and last, 'from the cratch to the cross,' from St. Luke's time that quo coepit Jesus facere et diocere, 'He began to do and teach,' to St. John's time that He cried consummatum est, gave them not over sed in finem usque dilexit eos, but 'to the end loved them.' And so must they Him, if they do Him right. Both set out with Him, as 'Author' by a good beginning; and hold out with Him, as 'Finisher,' to a far better end; and follow Him in both Who is both. Were He the 'Author' only, it would serve to step forth well at the first. But He is the 'Finisher' too; therefore we must hold out to the last. And not rend one of them from the other, seeing He requireth both--not either, but both; and Jesus, a Saviour of none but those, who follow Him as 'Finisher' too, and are therefore marked in the forehead with Tau the last letter of the Hebrew, as He Himself is Omega, the last of the Greek Alphabet. This is the party He commendeth to our view; 'Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith.' For these two to look upon Him, and in these two to be like unto Him.
Our sight then is Jesus, and in Jesus what? you have called is hither, say they in the Canticles, to see your Shulamite;-'what shall we see in him?' What? saith the Spouse, but as 'the company of an army,' that is, many legions of good sights, an ocean or bottomless depth of manifold high perfections. We shall lose ourselves, we shall be confounded to see in him all that may be shewed us, the object is too great. Two pieces therefore He maketh choice of, and but two, and presenteth Him to our eye in two forms only: 1. As hanging on the cross; 2. as sitting on the throne. 1. His Passion, 2. His Session; these two. And these two, with very good and perfect correspondence to the two former. By the 'cross,' He is 'Author;' by the 'throne,' He is 'Finisher of our faith.' As Man on the 'cross,' 'Author;' as God on the 'throne,' 'Finisher.' 'Author,' on the 'cross'--there He paid the price of our admitting. 'Finisher,' on the 'throne'--there He is the prize to us of our course well performed of the well-finishing our race, the race of our faith.
Yet since the Holy Ghost doth shew us them severally, so to see them as He shews them. Enduring is the act of patience, and patience hath pain for her object. Despising shame is the property of humility, even of the highest humility; not only spernere se but spernere de sperni. First then we must see the pain His patience endured that is meant by the cross; and then see the despising Him humility despised that is meant by the shame. First then of His cross.
If it be hard to endure, it must be more hard to endure hard things; and of all things hard to be endured, the hardest is death. Of the philosopher's ‘five fearful things,’ it is the most fearful; and what will not a man, nay what will not a woman weak and tender, in physic, in chyrurgery, endure, not to endure death? 'He endured' death.
Now this bloody whipping and nailing of His is it which bringeth in the second point of pain; that it was not blood alone, as in the opening of a vein, but it was blood and pain both. The tearing and mangling of His flesh with the whips, thorns, and nails, could not choose but be exceeding painful to Him. Pains, we know, are increased much by cruel, and made more easy by gentle handling, and even the worst that suffer, we wish, their execution as gentle, and with as little rigour as may be. All rigour, all cruelty was shewed to Him, to make His pains the more painful. In Gabbatha they did not whip Him, saith the Psalmist, 'they ploughed His back, and made' not stripes, but 'long furrows upon it.' They did not put on His wreath of thorns, and press it down with their hands, but beat it on with bats, to make it enter through the skin, flesh, skull, and all. They did not in Golgotha pierce His hands and feet, but made wide holes like that of a spade, as if they had been digging in some ditch.
Now, in pain we know the only comfort of gravis is brevis; if we in it, to be quickly out of it. This the cross hath not, but is mors prolixa, 'a death of dimensions, a death long in dying.' And it was therefore purposely chosen by them. Blasphemy they condemned Him of; then was He to be stoned; that death would have despatched Him too soon. They indicted Him anew of sedition, not as of a worse fault, but only because crucifying belonged to it; for then He must be whipped first, and that liked them well, and then He must die by inch-meal, not swallow His death at once but 'taste' it, as chap. 2.9, and take it down by little and little. And then He must have His legs and arms broken, and so was their meaning His should have been. Else, I would gladly know to what purpose provided they to have a vessel of vinegar ready in the place, but only that He might not faint with loss of blood, but be kept alive till they might hear His bones crash under the breaking, and so feed their eyes with that spectacle also. The providence of God indeed prevented this last act of cruelty; their will was good though. All these pains are in the cross, but to this last specially the word in the text hath reference; Øpe’meiue, which is, He must me’ueiu ØpÕ, 'tarry, stay, abide under it;' so die that He might feel Himself die, and endure the pains of an enduring death.
'Auti, pro, 'instead of the joy set before Him.' What joy was that? 'ExÁu g_r Aùù eu oÙrauoj,' saith St. Chrysostom, 'for He was in the joys of Heaven; there He was, and there He might have held Him.' Nothing did or could force Him to come thence, and to come hither thus to be entreated. Nothing but Sic dilexit, or Propter nimiam charitatem quâ dilexit nos; but for it. Yet He was content, 'being in the form of God,' 'instead of it;' thus to transform, yea, to deform Himself into the shape of a servant, a felon, a fool; nay, of a caitiff accursed. Content to lay down His crown of glory, and 'instead of it,' to wear a crown of thorns. Content, what we shun by all means, that to endure loss of life; and what we make so great a matter of, that to despise, loss of honour. All this, with the loss of that joy and that honour He enjoyed in Heaven; another manner joy, and honour, than any we have here; 'for this,' or 'instead of this.'
And it is to be marked, that though to be Jesus, 'a Saviour,' in propriety of speech be rather a title, an outward honour, rather than an inward joy; and so should have been præ honore, rather than præ gaudio; yet He expresseth it in the term of joy rather than that of honour, to shew it joyed Him at the heart to save us; and so as a special joy, He accounted it.
Sure, some such thing there was that made Him so cheerfully say to His Father in the Psalm, Ecce venio, 'Lo I come.' And to His Disciples in earth, This, this is the Passover that desiderio desideravi, 'I have longed for,' as it were embracing and even welcoming His death. And which is more, quomodo coarctor! 'how I pinched, or straitened,' till I be at it! as if He were in pain, till He were in pain to deliver us. Which joy if ever He shewed, in this He did, that He went to His Passion with Psalms, and with such truimph and solemnity, as He never admitted all His life before. And that this His lowest estate, one would think it, He calleth His exaltation, cum exaltatus fuero. And when any would think He was most imperfect, He esteemeth and so termeth it, His highest perfection. Tertio die perficior. In hoc est charitas, 'here is love.' If not here, where? But here it is, and that in his highest elevation. That the joys of Heaven set on the one side, and this poor joy of saving us on the other, He quit them to choose this. That those pains and shames set before Him, and with them this joy, He chose them rather than forego this.
Those joys He forsook, and this He took up; and to take it, took upon Him so many, so strange indignities of both sorts; took them and bare them with such a mind, as He not only endured but despised; nor that neither, but even joyed in the bearing of them, and all to do us good. So to alter the nature of things as to find joy in death whereat all do mourn, and joy in shame which all do abhor, is a wonder like that of the bush.
There is 'from' abstracting our eye from other objects to look hither sometime. The preposition is not idle, nor the note, but very needful. For naturally we put this spectacle far from us, and endure not either often or long to behold it. Other things there be, please our eyes better, and which we look on with greater delight. And we must 'look off of them' or we shall never 'look upon' this aright.
1. Faith is named there; it is, it was most conspicuous there to be seen, when being forsaken of God, yet He clasps as it were His arms fast about Him, with 'Eli, Eli, My God, My God,' for all that. 2. Patience in 'enduring the cross.' 3. Humility in 'despising the shame.'4. Perseverance, in that it was nothing for Him to be 'Author,' unless He were 'Finisher' too. These four. But above all these and all, that which is the 5. Ratio idealis of all, the band and perfection of all, love, in the signature of love, in the joy which He found in all this; love. majorem quâ nemo, to lay down His life; nay, parem cui nemo, in such sort to lay it down. Majorem quâ nemo, to do this for His friends; Parem cui nemo, to do it for His enemies.
Of which love the Apostle when He speaketh, he setteth it out with 'height and depth, length and breadth,' the four dimensions of the cross, to put us in mind, say the ancient writers, that upon the extent of the tree was the most exact love, with all the dimensions in this kind represented that ever was.
Having seen all these, what is the end and use of this sight? Having had the theory, what is the praxis of this theory? what the conclusion of our contemplation? 'Looking into' is a participle; it maketh no sentence, but suspendeth it only till we come to a verb to which it relateth. that verb must be either the verb in the verse before, ut curramus, or the verb in the verse following, ut ne fatigemur; that thus looking we run, or that thus looking we tire not. This is the practice of our theory.