(Calvin, Paul to the Hebrews. part 17)

=====> 11:35 Women received their dead raised to life again: and others
were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better
11:36 And others had trial of [cruel] mockings and scourgings, yea,
moreover of bonds and imprisonment:
11:37 They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain
with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being
destitute, afflicted, tormented;
11:38 (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and
[in] mountains, and [in] dens and caves of the earth.
11:39 And these all, having obtained a good report through faith,
received not the promise:
11:40 God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us
should not be made perfect.

=====> 11:35. "Women received", &c. He had already mentioned instances in
which God had remunerated the faith of his servants, he now refers to
examples of a different kind, - that saints, reduced to extreme miseries,
struggled by faith so as to persevere invincible even to death. These
instances at the first view widely differ: some triumphed gloriously over
vanquished enemies, were preserved by the Lord through various miracles,
and were rescued by means new and unusual from the midst of death; while
others were shamefully treated, were despised by almost the whole world,
were consumed by want, were so hated by all as to be compelled to hide
themselves in the coverts of wild beasts, and lastly, were drawn forth to
endure savage and cruel tortures: and these last seemed wholly destitute
of God's aid, when he thus exposed them to the pride and the cruelty of
the ungodly. They seem then to have been very differently treated from
the former ones; and yet faith ruled in both, and was alike powerful in
both; nay, in the latter its power shone forth in a much clearer light.
For the victory of faith appears more splendid in the contempt of death
than if life were extended to the fifth generation. It is a more glorious
evidence of faith, and worthy of higher praise, when reproaches, want,
and extreme troubles are borne with resignation and firmness, than when
recovery from sickness is miraculously obtained, or any other benefit
from God.
    The sum of the whole is, that the fortitude of the saints, which has
shone forth in all ages, was the work of faith; for our weakness is such
that we are not capable of overcoming evils, except faith sustains us.
But we hence learn, that all who really trust in God are endued with
power sufficient to resist Satan in whatever way he may assail them, and
especially that patience in enduring evils shall never be wanting to us,
if faith be possessed; and that, therefore, we are proved guilty of
unbelief when we faint under persecutions and the cross. For the nature
of faith is the same now as in the days of the holy fathers whom the
Apostle mentions. If, then, we imitate their faith, we shall nearer
basely break down through sloth or listlessness.
    "Others were tortured", &c. As to this verb, |etumpanisthesan|, I
have followed Erasmus, though others render it "imprisoned." But the
simple meaning is, as I think, that they were stretched on a rack, as the
skin of a drum, which is distended. By saying that they were "tempted",
he seems to have spoken what was superfluous; and I doubt not but that
the likeness of the words, |epristhesan| and |epeirasthesan|, was the
reason that the word was added by some unskilful transcriber, and thus
crept into the text, as also Erasmus has conjectured. By "sheepskins" and
"goatskins" I do not think that tents made of skins are meant, but the
mean and rough clothing of the saints which they put on when wandering in
    Now though they say that Jeremiah was stoned, that Isaiah was sawn
asunder, and though sacred history relates that Elijah, Elisha, and other
Prophets, wandered on mountains and in caves; yet I doubt not but he here
points out those persecutions which Antiochus carried on against God's
people, and those which afterwards followed.
    "Not accepting deliverance", &c. Most fitly does he speak here; for
they must have purchased a short lease of life by denying God; but this
would have been a price extremely shameful. That they might then live
forever in heaven, they rejected a life on earth, which would have cost
them, as we have said, so much as the denial of God, and also the
repudiation of their own calling. But we hear what Christ says, that if
we seek to save our lives in this world, we shall lose them for ever. If,
therefore, the real love of a future resurrection dwells in our hearts,
it will easily lead us to the contempt of death. And doubtless we ought
to live only so as to live to God: as soon as we are not permitted to
live to God, we ought willingly and not reluctantly to meet death.
Moreover, by this verse the Apostle confirms what he had said, that the
saints overcome all sufferings by faith; for except their minds had been
sustained by the hope of a blessed resurrection, they must have
immediately failed.
    We may hence also derive a needful encouragement, by which we may
fortify ourselves in adversities. For we ought not to refuse the Lord's
favour of being connected with so many holy men, whom we know to have
been exercised and tried by many sufferings. Here indeed are recorded,
not the sufferings of a few individuals, but the common persecutions of
the Church, and those not for one or two years, but such as continued
sometimes from grandfathers even to their grandchildren. No wonder, then,
if it should please God to prove our faith at this day by similar trials;
nor ought we to think that we are forsaken by him, who, we know, cared
for the holy fathers who suffered the same before us.
=====> 11:38. "Of whom the world was not worthy", &c. As the holy
Prophets wandered as fugitives among wild beasts, they might have seemed
unworthy of being sustained on the earth; for how was it that they could
find no place among men? But the Apostle inverts this sentiment, and says
that the world was not worthy of them; for wherever God's servants come,
they bring with them his blessing like the fragrance of a sweet odour.
Thus the house of Potiphar was blessed for Joseph's sake, (Gen. 39: 5;)
and Sodom would have been spared had ten righteous men been found in it.
(Gen. 18: 32.) Though then the world may cast out God's servants as
offscourings, it is yet to be regarded as one of its judgments that it
cannot bear them; for there is ever accompanying them some blessing from
God. Whenever the righteous are taken away from us, let us know that such
events are presages of evil to us; for we are unworthy of having them
with us, lest they should perish together with us.
    At the same time the godly have abundant reasons for consolation,
though the world may cast them out as offscourings; for they see that the
same thing happened to the prophets, who found more clemency in wild
animals than in men. It was with this thought that Hilary comforted
himself when he saw the church taken possession of by sanguinary tyrants,
who then employed the Roman emperor as their executioner; yea, that holy
man then called to mind what the Apostle here says of the Prophets; -
"Mountains and forests," he said, "and dungeons and prisons, are safer
for me than splendid temples; for the Prophets, while abiding or buried
in these, still prophesied by the Spirit of God." So also ought we to be
animated so as boldly to despise the world; and were it to cast us out,
let us know that we go forth from a fatal gulf, and that God thus
provides for our safety, so that we may not sink in the same destruction.
=====> 11:39. "And these all", &c. This is an argument from the less to
the greater; for if they on whom the light of grace had not as yet so
brightly shone displayed so great a constancy in enduring evils, what
ought the full brightness of the Gospel to produce in us? A small spark
of light led them to heaven; when the sun of righteousness shines over
us, with what pretence can we excuse ourselves if we still cleave to the
earth? This is the real meaning of the Apostle.
    I know that Chrysostom and others have given a different explanation,
but the context clearly shows, that what is intended here is the
difference in the grace which God bestowed on the faithful under the Law,
and that which he bestows on us now. For since a more abundant grace is
poured on us, it would be very strange that we should have less faith in
us. He then says that those fathers who were endued with so remarkable a
faith, had not yet so strong reasons for believing as we have.
Immediately after he states the reason, because God intended to unite us
all into one body, and that he distributed a small portion of grace to
them, that he might defer its full perfection to our time, even to the
coming of Christ.
    And it is a singular evidence of God's benevolence towards us, that
though he has shown himself bountifully to his children from the
beginning of the world, he yet has so distributed his grace as to provide
for the well-being of the whole body. What more could any of us desire,
than that in all the blessings which God bestowed on Abraham, Moses,
David, and all the Patriarchs, on the Prophets and godly kings, he should
have a regard for us, so that we might be united together with them in
the body of Christ? Let us then know that we are doubly and treble
ungrateful to God, if less faith appears in us under the kingdom of
Christ than the fathers had under the Law, as proved by so many
remarkable examples of patience. By the words, that they received not the
promise, is to be understood its ultimate fulfilment, which took place in
Christ, on which subject something has been said already.

Chapter 12

=====> 12:1 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a
cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth
so easily beset [us], and let us run with patience the race that is set
before us,
12:2 Looking unto 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.
12:3 For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against
himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.

=====> 12:1. "Wherefore, seeing we also", &c. This conclusion is, as it
were, an epilogue to the former chapter, by which he shows the end for
which he gave a catalogue of the saints who excelled in faith under the
Law, even that every one should be prepared to imitate them; and he calls
a large multitude metaphorically a "cloud", for he sets what is dense in
opposition to what is thinly scattered. Had they been a few in number,
yet they ought to have roused us by their example; but as they were a
vast throng, they ought more powerfully to stimulate us.
    He says that we are so surrounded by this dense throng, that wherever
we turn our eyes many examples of faith immediately meet us. The word
"witnesses" I do not take in a general sense, as though he called them
the martyrs of God, and I apply it to the case before us, as though he
had said that faith is sufficiently proved by their testimony, so that no
doubt ought to he entertained; for the virtues of the saints are so many
testimonies to confirm us, that we, relying on them as our guides and
associates, ought to go onward to God with more alacrity.
    "Let us lay aside every weight", or every burden, &c. As he refers to
the likeness of a race, he bids us to be lightly equipped; for nothing
more prevents haste than to be encumbered with burdens. Now there are
various burdens which delay and impede our spiritual course, such as the
love of this present life, the pleasures of the world, the lusts of the
flesh, worldly cares, riches also and honours, and other things of this
kind. Whosoever, then, would run in the course prescribed by Christ, must
first disentangle himself from all these impediments, for we are already
of ourselves more tardy than we ought to be, so no other causes of delay
should be added.
    We are not however bidden to cast away riches or other blessings of
this life, except so far as it they retard our course for Satan by these
as by toils retains and impedes us.
    Now, the metaphor of a race is often to be found in Scripture; but
here it means not any kind of race, but a running contest, which is wont
to call forth the greatest exertions. The import of what is said then is,
that we are engaged in a contest, even in a race the most celebrated,
that many witnesses stand around us, that the Son of God is the umpire
who invites and exhorts us to secure the prize, and that therefore it
would be most disgraceful for us to grow weary or inactive in the midst
of our course. And at the same time the holy men whom he mentioned, are
not only witnesses, but have been associates in the same race, who have
beforehand shown the way to us; and yet he preferred calling them
witnesses rather than runners, in order to intimate that they are not
rivals, seeking to snatch from us the price, but approves to applaud and
hail our victory; and Christ also is not only the umpire, but also
extends his hand to us, and supplies us with strength and energy; in
short, he prepares and fits us to enter on our course, and by his power
leads us on to the end of the race.
    "And the sin which does so easily beset us", or, stand around us, &c.
This is the heaviest burden that impedes us. And he says that we are
entangled, in order that we may know, that no one is fit to run except he
has stripped off all toils and snares. He speaks not of outward, or, as
they say, of actual sin, but of the very fountain, even concupiscence or
lust, which so possesses every part of us, that we feel that we are on
every side held by its snares.
    "Let us run with patience", &c. By this word "patience", we are ever
reminded of what the Apostle meant to be mainly regarded in faith, even
that we are in spirit to seek the kingdom of God, which is invisible to
the flesh, and exceeds all that our minds can comprehend; for they who
are occupied in meditating on this kingdom can easily disregard all
earthly things. He thus could not more effectually withdraw the Jews from
their ceremonies, than by calling their attention to the real exercises
of faith, by which they might learn that Christ's kingdom is spiritual,
and far superior to the elements of the world.
=====> 12:2. "Who for the joy that was set before him", &c. Though the
expression in Latin is somewhat ambiguous, yet according to the words in
Greek the Apostle's meaning is quite clear; for he intimates, that though
it was free to Christ to exempt himself from all trouble and to lead a
happy life, abounding in all good things, he yet underwent a death that
was bitter, and in every way ignominious. For the expression, "for joy",
is the same as, instead of joy; and joy includes every kind of enjoyment.
And he says, "set before him", because the power of availing himself of
this joy was possessed by Christ, had it so pleased him. At the same time
if any one thinks that the preposition |anti| denotes the final cause, I
do not much object; then the meaning would be, that Christ refused not
the death of the cross, because he saw its blessed issue. I still prefer
the former exposition.
    But he commends to us the patience of Christ on two accounts, because
he endured a most bitter death, and because he despised shame. He then
mentions the glorious end of his tenth, that the faithful might know that
all the evils which they may endure will end in their salvation and
glory, provided they follow Christ. So also says James, "Ye have heard of
the patience of Job, and ye know the end." (James 5: 11.) Then the
Apostle means that the end of our sufferings will be the same with those
of Christ, according to what is said by Paul, "If we suffer with him, we
shall also reign together." (Rom. 8: 17.)
=====> 12:3. "For consider him", &c. He enforces his exhortation by
competing Christ with us; for if the Son of God, whom it behaves all to
adore, willingly underwent such severe conflicts, who of us should dare
to refuse to submit with him to the same? For this one thought alone
ought to be sufficient to conquer all temptations, that is, when we know
that we are companions or associates of the Son of God, and that he, who
was so far above us, willingly came down to our condition, in order that
he might animate us by his own example; yea, it is thus that we gather
courage, which would otherwise melt away, and turn as it were into

=====> 12:4 Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.
12:5 And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as
unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor
faint when thou art rebuked of him:
12:6 For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom
he receiveth.
12:7 If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what
son is he whom the father chasteneth not?
12:8 But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then
are ye bastards, and not sons.

=====> 12:4. "Ye have not yet, resisted unto blood", &c. He proceeds
farther, for he reminds us, that even when the ungodly persecute us for
Christ's sake, we are then contending against sin. Into this contest
Christ could not enter, for he was pure and free from all sin; in this
respect, however, we are unlike him, for sin always dwells in us, and
afflictions serve to subdue and put it to flight.
    In the first place we know that all the evils which are in the world,
and especially death, proceed from sin; but this is not what the Apostle
treats of; he only teaches us, that the persecutions which we endure for
the Gospel's sake, are on another account useful to us, even because they
are remedies to destroy sin; for in this way God keeps us under the yoke
of his discipline, lest our flesh should become wanton; he sometimes also
thus checks the impetuous, and sometimes punishes our sins, that we may
in future be more cautious. Whether then he applies remedies to our sins,
or anticipates us before we sin, be thus exercises us in the conflict
with sin, referred to by the Apostle. With this honour indeed the Son of
God favours us, that he by no means regards what we suffer for his Gospel
as a punishment for sin. It behoves us still to acknowledge what we hear
from the Apostle in this place, that we so plead and defend the cause of
Christ against the ungodly, that at the same time we are carrying on war
with sin, our intestine enemy. Thus God's grace towards us is twofold -
the remedies he applies to heal our vices, he employs for the purpose of
defending his gospel.
    But let us bear in mind whom he is here addressing, even those who
had joyfully suffered the loss of their goods and had endured many
reproaches; and yet he charges them with sloth, because they were
fainting half way in the contest, and were not going on strenuously to
the end. There is therefore no reason for us to ask a discharge from the
Lord, whatever service we may have performed; for Christ will have no
discharged soldiers, but those who have conquered death itself.
=====> 12:5. "And ye have forgotten", &c. I read the words as a question;
for he asks, whether they had forgotten, intimating that it was not yet
time to forget. But he enters here on the doctrine, that it is useful and
needful for us to be disciplined by the cross; and he refers to the
testimony of Solomon, which includes two parts; the first is, that we are
not to reject the Lord's correction; and in the second the reason is
given, because the Lord loves those whom he chastises. But as Solomon
thus begins, my "Son", the Apostle reminds us that we ought to be allured
by so sweet and kind a word, as that this exhortation should wholly
penetrate into our hearts.
    Now Solomon's argument is this: - If the scourges of God testify his
love towards us, it is a shame that they should be regarded with dislike
or hatred. For they who bear not to be chastised by God for their own
salvation, yea, who reject a proof of his paternal kindness, must be
extremely ungrateful.
=====> 12:6. "For whom the Lord loveth, &c. This seems not to be a
well-founded reason; for God visits the elect as well as the reprobate
indiscriminately, and his scourges manifest his wrath oftener than his
love; and so the Scripture speaks, and experience confirms. But yet it is
no wonder that when the godly are addressed, the effect of chastisements
which they feel, is alone referred to. For however severe and angry a
judge God may show himself towards the reprobate, whenever he punishes
them; yet he has no other end in view as to the elect, but to promote
their salvation; it is a demonstration of his paternal love. Besides, the
reprobate, as they know not that they are governed by God's hand, for the
most part think that afflictions come by chance. As when a perverse
youth, leaving his father's house, wanders far away and becomes exhausted
with hunger, cold, and other evils, he indeed suffers a just punishment
for his folly, and learns by his sufferings the benefit of being obedient
and submissive to his father, but yet he does not acknowledge this as a
paternal chastisement; so is the case with the ungodly, who having in a
manner removed themselves from God and his family, do not understand that
God's hand reaches to them.
    Let us then remember that the taste of God's love towards us cannot
be had by us under chastisements, except we be fully persuaded that they
are fatherly scourges by which he chastises us for our sins. No such
thing can occur to the minds of the reprobate, for they are like
fugitives. It may also be added, that judgment must begin at God's house;
though, then, he may strike aliens and domestics alike, he yet so puts
forth his hand as to the latter as to show that they are the objects of
his peculiar care. But the previous one is the true solution, even that
every one who knows and is persuaded that he is chastised by God, must
immediately be led to this thought, that he is chastised because he is
loved by God. For when the faithful see that God interposes in their
punishment, they perceive a sure pledge of his love, for unless he loved
them he would not be solicitous about their salvation. Hence the Apostle
concludes that God is offered as a Father to all who endure correction.
For they who kick like restive horses, or obstinately resist, do not
belong to this class of men. In a word, then, he teaches us that God's
corrections are then only paternal, when we obediently submit to him.
=====> 12:7. "For what son is he", &c. He reasons from the common
practice of men, that it is by no means right or meet that God's children
should be exempt from the discipline of the cross; for if no one is to be
found among us, at least no prudent man and of a sound judgment, who does
not correct his children - for without discipline they cannot be led to a
right conduct - how much less will God neglect so necessary a remedy, who
is the best and the wisest Father?
    If any one raises an objection, and says that corrections of this
kind cease among men as soon as children arrive at manhood: to this I
answer, that as long as we live we are with regard to God no more than
children, and that this is the reason why the rod should ever be applied
to our backs. Hence the Apostle justly infers, that all who seek
exemption from the cross do as it were withdraw themselves from the
number of his children.
    It hence follows that the benefit of adoption is not valued by us as
it ought to be, and that the grace of God is wholly rejected when we seek
to withdraw ourselves from his scourges; and this is what all they do who
bear not their afflictions with patience. But why does he call those who
refuse correction bastards rather than aliens? Even because he was
addressing those who were members of the Church, and were on this account
the children of God. He therefore intimates that the profession of Christ
would be false and deceitful if they withdrew themselves from the
discipline of the Father, and that they would thus become bastards, and
be no more children.

=====> 12:9 Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected
[us], and we gave [them] reverence: shall we not much rather be in
subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?
12:10 For they verily for a few days chastened [us] after their own
pleasure; but he for [our] profit, that [we] might be partakers of his
12:11 Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but
grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of
righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.

=====> 12:9. "Furthermore, we have had fathers of our flesh", &c. This
comparison has several parts: the first is, that if we showed so much
reverence to the fathers from whom we have descended according to the
flesh, as to submit to their discipline, much more honour is due to God
who is our spiritual Father; another is, that the discipline which
fathers use as to their children is only useful for the present life, but
that God looks farther, having in view to prepare us for an eternal life;
and the third is, that men chastise their children as it seems good to
them, but that God regulates his discipline in the best manner, and with
perfect wisdom, so that there is nothing in it but what is duly ordered.
He then, in the first place, makes this difference between God and men,
that they are the fathers of the flesh, but he of the spirit; and on this
difference he enlarges by comparing the flesh with the spirit.
    But it may be asked, Is not God the Father also of our flesh? For it
is not without reason that Job mentions the creation of men as one of the
chief miracles of God: hence on this account also he is justly entitled
to the name of Father. Were we to say that he is called the Father of
spirits, because he alone creates and regenerates our souls without the
aid of man, it might be said again that Paul glories in being the
spiritual father of those whom he had begotten in Christ by the Gospel.
To these things I reply, that God is the Father of the body as well as of
the soul, and, properly speaking, he is indeed the only true Father; and
that this name is only as it were by way of concession applied to men,
both in regard of the body and of the soul. As, however, in creating
souls, he does use the instrumentality of men, and as he renews them in a
wonderful manner by the power of the Spirit, he is peculiarly called, by
way of eminence, the Father of spirits.
    When he says, "and we gave them reverence", he refers to a feeling
implanted in us by nature, so that we honour parents even when they treat
us harshly. By saying, "in subjection to the Father of spirits", he
intimates that it is but just to concede to God the authority he has over
us by the right of a Father. By saying, "and live", he points out the
cause or the end, for the conjunction "and" is to be rendered "that", -
"that we may live." Now we are reminded by this word "live", that there
is nothing more ruinous to us than to refuse to surrender ourselves in
obedience to God.
=====> 12:10. "For they verily for a few days", &c. The second
amplification of the subject, as I have said, is that God's chastisements
are appointed to subdue and mortify our flesh, so that we may be renewed
for a celestial life. It hence appears that the fruit or benefit is to be
perpetual; but such a benefit cannot be expected from men, since their
discipline refers to civil life, and therefore properly belongs to the
present world. It hence follows that these chastisements bring far
greater benefit, as the spiritual holiness conferred by God far exceeds
the advantages which belong to the body.
    Were any one to object and say, that it is the duty of parents to
instruct their children in the fear and worship of God, and that
therefore their discipline seems not to be confined to so short a time;
to this the answer is, that this is indeed true, but the Apostle speaks
here of domestic life, as we are wont commonly to speak of civil
government; for though it belongs to magistrates to defend religion, yet
we say that their office is confined to the limits of this life, for
otherwise the civil and earthly government cannot be distinguished from
the spiritual kingdom of Christ.
    Moreover when God's "chastisements" are said to be profitable to make
men "partners of his holiness", this is not to be so taken as though they
made us really holy, but that they are helps to sanctify us, for by them
the Lord exercises us in the work of mortifying the flesh.
=====> 12:11. "Now no chastening", &c. This he adds, lest we should
measure God's chastisements by our present feelings; for he shows that we
are like children who dread the rod and shun it as much as they can, for
owing to their age they cannot yet judge how useful it may be to them.
The object, then, of this admonition is, that chastisements cannot be
estimated aright if judged according to what the flesh feels under them,
and that therefore we must fix our eyes on the end: we shall thus receive
the "peaceable fruit of righteousness". And by the "fruit of
righteousness" he means the fear of the Lord and a godly and holy life,
of which the cross is the teacher. He calls it "peaceable", because in
adversities we are alarmed and disquieted, being tempted by impatience,
which is always noisy and restless; but being chastened, we acknowledge
with a resigned mind how profitable did that become to us which before
seemed bitter and grievous.

=====> 12:12 Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble
12:13 And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be
turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed.
12:14 Follow peace with all [men], and holiness, without which no man
shall see the Lord:
12:15 Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any
root of bitterness springing up trouble [you], and thereby many be
12:16 Lest there [be] any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for
one morsel of meat sold his birthright.
12:17 For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the
blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he
sought it carefully with tears.

=====> 12:12. "Wherefore, lift up", &c. After having taught us that God
regards our salvation when he chastises us, he then exhorts us to exert
ourselves vigorously; for nothing will more weaken us and more fully
discourage us than through the influence of a false notion to have no
taste of God's grace in adversities. There is, therefore, nothing more
efficacious to raise us up than the intimation that God is present with
us, even when he afflicts us, and is solicitous about our welfare. But in
these words he not only exhorts us to bear afflictions with courage, but
also reminds us that there is no reason for us to be supine and slothful
in performing our duties; for we find more then we ought by experience
how much the fear of the cross prevents us to serve God as it behoves us.
Many would be willing to profess their faith, but as they fear
persecution, hands and feet are wanting to that pious feeling of the
mind. Many would be ready to contend for God's glory, to defend what is
good and just in private and in public, and to do their duties to God and
their brethren; but as danger arises from the hatred of the wicked, as
they see that troubles, and those many, are prepared for them, they rest
idly with their hands as it were folded.
    Were then this extreme fear of the cross removed, and were we
prepared for endurance, there would be nothing in us not fitted and
adapted for the work of doing God's will. This, then, is what the Apostle
means here, "You have your hands," he says, "hanging down and your knees
feeble, because ye know not what real consolation there is in adversity;
hence ye are slow to do your duty: but now as I have shown how useful to
you is the discipline of the cross, this doctrine ought to put new vigour
in all your members, so that you may be ready and prompt, both with your
hands and feet, to follow the call of God." Moreover, he seems to allude
to a passage in Isaiah, (Isa. 35: 3;) and there the Prophet commands
godly teachers to strengthen trembling knees and weak hands by giving
them the hope of favour; but the Apostle bids all the faithful to do
this; for since this is the benefit of the consolation which God offers
to us, then as it is the office of a teacher to strengthen the whole
Church, so every one ought, by applying especially the doctrine to his
own case, to strengthen and animate himself.
=====> 12:13. "And make straight paths", &c. He has been hitherto
teaching us to lean on God's consolations, so that we may be bold and
strenuous in doing what is right, as his help is our only support; he now
adds to this another thing, even that we ought to walk prudently and to
keep to a straight course; for indiscreet ardour is no less an evil than
inactivity and softness. At the same time this straightness of the way
which he recommends, is preserved when a man's mind is superior to every
fear, and regards only what God approves; for fear is ever very ingenious
in finding out byways. As then we seek circuitous courses, when entangled
by sinful fear; so on the other hand every one who has prepared himself
to endure evils, goes on in a straight way wheresoever the Lord calls
him, and turns not either to the right hand or to the left. In short, he
prescribes to us this rule for our conduct, - that we are to guide our
steps according to God's will, so that neither fear nor the allurements
of the world, nor any other things, may draw us away from it.
    Hence be adds, "Lest that which is lame be turned out of the way",
or, lest halting should go astray; that is, lest by halting ye should at
length depart far from the way. He calls it halting, when men's minds
fluctuate, and they devote not themselves sincerely to God. So spoke
Elijah to the double-minded who blended their own superstitions with
God's worship, "How long halt ye between two opinions?" (1 Kings 18: 21.)
And it is a befitting way of speaking, for it is a worse thing to go
astray than to halt. Nor they who begin to halt do not immediately turn
from the right way, but by degrees depart from it more and more, until
having been led into a diverse path to they remain entangled in the midst
of Satan's labyrinth. Hence the apostle warns us to strive for the
removal of this halting in due time; for if we give way to it, it will at
length turn us far away from God.
    The words may indeed be rendered, "Lest halting should grow worse,"
or turn aside; but the meaning would remain the same; for what the
Apostle intimates is, that those who keep not a straight course, but
gradually though carelessly turn here and there, become eventually wholly
alienated from God.
=====> 12:14. "Follow peace", &c. Men are so born that they all seem to
shun peace; for all study their own interest, seek their own ways, and
care not to accommodate themselves to the ways of others. Unless then we
strenuously labour to follow peace, we shall never retain it; for many

(continued in part 18...)

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