Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible, by John Wesley, [1754-65], at sacred-texts.com
heb 12:1Wherefore, being encompassed with a cloud - A great multitude, tending upward with a holy swiftness. Of witnesses - Of the power of faith. Let us lay aside every weight - As all who run a race take care to do. Let us throw off whatever weighs us down, or damps the vigour of our Soul. And the sin which easily besetteth us - As doth the sin of our constitution, the sin of our education, the sin of our profession.
heb 12:2Looking - From all other things. To Jesus - As the wounded Israelites to the brazen serpent. Our crucified Lord was prefigured by the lifting up of this; our guilt, by the stings of the fiery serpents; and our faith, by their looking up to the miraculous remedy. The author and finisher of our faith - Who begins it in us, carries it on, and perfects it. Who for the joy that was set before him - Patiently and willingly endured the cross, with all the pains annexed thereto. And is set down - Where there is fulness of joy.
heb 12:3Consider - Draw the comparison and think. The Lord bore all this; and shall his servants bear nothing? Him that endured such contradiction from sinners - Such enmity and opposition of every kind Lest ye be weary - Dull and languid, and so actually faint in your course.
heb 12:4Unto blood - Unto wounds and death.
heb 12:5And yet ye seem already to have forgotten the exhortation - Wherein God speaketh to you with the utmost tenderness. Despise not thou the chastening of the Lord - Do not slight or make little of it; do not impute any affliction to chance or second causes but see and revere the hand of God in it. Neither faint when thou art rebuked of him - But endure it patiently and fruitfully. Pro 3:11, &c.
heb 12:6For - All springs from love; therefore neither despise nor faint.
heb 12:7Whom his father chasteneth not - When he offends.
heb 12:8Of which all sons are partakers - More or less.
heb 12:9And we reverenced them - We neither despised nor fainted under their correction. Shall we not much rather - Submit with reverence and meekness To the Father of spirits - That we may live with him for ever. Perhaps these expressions, fathers of our flesh, and Father of spirits, intimate that our earthly fathers are only the parents of our bodies, our souls not being originally derived from them, but all created by the immediate power of God; perhaps, at the beginning of the world.
heb 12:10For they verily for a few days - How few are even all our day on earth! Chastened us as they thought good - Though frequently they erred therein, by too much either of indulgence or severity. But he always, unquestionably, for our profit, that we may be partakers of his holiness - That is, of himself and his glorious image.
heb 12:11Now all chastening - Whether from our earthly or heavenly Father, Is for the present grievous, yet it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness - Holiness and happiness. To them that are exercised thereby - That receive this exercise as from God, and improve it according to his will.
heb 12:12Wherefore lift up the hands - Whether your own or your brethren's. That hang down - Unable to continue the combat. And the feeble knees - Unable to continue the race. Isa 35:3.
heb 12:13And make straight paths both for your own and for their feet - Remove every hinderance, every offence. That the lame - They who are weak, scarce able to walk. Be not turned out of the way - Of faith and holiness.
heb 12:14Follow peace with all men - This second branch of the exhortation concerns our neighbours; the third, God. And holiness - The not following after all holiness, is the direct way to fall into sin of every kind.
heb 12:15Looking diligently, lest any one - If he do not lift up the hands that hang down. Fall from the grace of God: lest any root of bitterness - Of envy, anger, suspicion. Springing up - Destroy the sweet peace; lest any, not following after holiness, fall into fornication or profaneness. In general, any corruption, either in doctrine or practice, is a root of bitterness, and may pollute many.
heb 12:16Esau was profane for so slighting the blessing which went along with the birth - right.
heb 12:17He was rejected - He could not obtain it. For he found no place for repentance - There was no room for any such repentance as would regain what he had lost. Though he sought it - The blessing of the birth - right. Diligently with tears - He sought too late. Let us use the present time.
heb 12:18For - A strong reason this why they ought the more to regard the whole exhortation drawn from the priesthood of Christ: because both salvation and vengeance are now nearer at hand. Ye are not come to the mountain that could be touched - That was of an earthy, material nature.
heb 12:19The sound of a trumpet - Formed, without doubt, by the ministry of angels, and preparatory to the words, that is, the Ten Commandments, which were uttered with a loud voice, Deu 5:22.
heb 12:20For they could not bear - The terror which seized them, when they heard those words proclaimed, If even a beast, &c. Exo 19:12, &c.
heb 12:21Even Moses - Though admitted to so near an intercourse with God, who "spake to him as a man speaketh to his friend." At other times he acted as a mediator between God and the people. But while the ten words were pronounced, he stood as one of the hearers, Exo 19:25; Exo 20:19.
heb 12:22But ye - Who believe in Christ. Are come - The apostle does not here speak of their coming to the church militant, but of that glorious privilege of New Testament believers, their communion with the church triumphant. But this is far more apparent to the eyes of celestial spirits than to ours which are yet veiled. St. Paul here shows an excellent knowledge of the heavenly economy, worthy of him who had been caught up into the third heaven. To mount Sion - A spiritual mountain. To the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem - All these glorious titles belong to the New Testament church. And to an innumerable company - Including all that are afterwards mentioned.
heb 12:23To the general assembly - The word properly signifies a stated convention on some festival occasion. And church - The whole body of true believers, whether on earth or in paradise. Of the first - born - The first - born of Israel were enrolled by Moses; but these are enrolled in heaven, as citizens there. It is observable, that in this beautiful gradation, these first - born are placed nearer to God than the angels. See Jam 1:18. And to God the Judge of all - Propitious to you, adverse to your enemies. And to the spirits - The separate souls. Of just men - It seems to mean, of New Testament believers. The number of these, being not yet large, is mentioned distinct from the innumerable company of just men whom their Judge hath acquitted. These are now made perfect in an higher sense than any who are still alive. Accordingly, St. Paul, while yet on earth, denies that he was thus made perfect, Phi 3:12.
heb 12:24To Jesus, the mediator - Through whom they had been perfected. And to the blood of sprinkling - To all the virtue of his precious blood shed for you, whereby ye are sprinkled from an evil conscience. This blood of sprinkling was the foundation of our Lord's mediatorial office. Here the gradation is at the highest point. Which speaketh better things than that of Abel - Which cried for vengeance.
heb 12:25Refuse not - By unbelief. Him that speaketh - And whose speaking even now is a prelude to the final scene. The same voice which spake both by the law and in the gospel, when heard from heaven, will shake heaven and earth. For if they escaped not - His vengeance. Much more shall not we - Those of us who turn from him that speaketh from heaven - That is, who came from heaven to speak to us.
heb 12:26Whose voice then shook the earth - When he spoke from mount Sinai. But now - With regard to his next speaking. He hath promised - It is a joyful promise to the saints, though dreadful to the wicked. Yet once more I will shake, not only the earth, but also the heaven - These words may refer in a lower sense to the dissolution of the Jewish church and state; but in their full sense they undoubtedly look much farther, even to the end of all things. This universal shaking began at the first coming of Christ. It will be consummated at his second coming. Hag 2:6.
heb 12:27The things which are shaken - Namely, heaven and earth. As being made - And consequently liable to change. That the things which are not shaken may remain - Even "the new heavens and the new earth," Rev 21:1.
heb 12:28Therefore let us, receiving - By willing and joyful faith. A kingdom - More glorious than the present heaven and earth. Hold fast the grace, whereby we may serve God - In every thought, word, and work. With reverence - Literally, with shame. Arising from a deep consciousness of our own unworthiness. And godly fear - A tender, jealous fear of offending, arising from a sense of the gracious majesty of God.
heb 12:29For our God is a consuming fire - in the strictness of his justice, and purity of his holiness.