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HAYDOCK CATHOLIC BIBLE COMMENTARY ON THE NEW TESTAMENT
The Catholic Church hath received and declared this Epistle to be part of the Canonical Scriptures of the New Testament, though some doubted of it in the first ages, especially in the Latin Church, witness S. Jerom on the 8th chap. of Isaias; Luther and most of his followers reject it, but the Calvinists and the Church of England have received it. Others, who received this Epistle in the first ages, doubted whether it was written by S. Paul, but thought it was written by S. Barnaby, or by S. Clement, or S. Luke, or at least that S. Paul only furnished the matter and the order of it, and that S. Luke wrote it, and S. Paul afterwards read it and approved it. It was doubted again, whether this Epistle was first written in Hebrew (that is, in Syro-Chaldaic, then spoken by the Jews) or in Greek, as Estius pretends. The ancient writers say it was written in Hebrew, but that it was very soon after translated into Greek either by S. Luke or S. Clement, pope and martyr. Cornelius a Lapide thinks the Syriac which we have in the Polyglot to have been the original; but this is commonly rejected. See Tillemont on S. Paul, Art. 46, and note 72; P. Alleman on the first to the Hebrews, &c. S. Paul wrote this letter about the year 63, and either at Rome or in Italy. See C. xii. 24. He wrote it to the Christians in Palestine, who had most of them been Jews before. This seems the reason why he puts not his name to it, nor calls himself their apostle, his name being rather odious to the Jews, and because he was chosen to be the apostle of the Gentiles. The main design is to shew that every one's justification and salvation is to be hoped for by the grace and merits of Christ, and not from the law of Moses, as he had shewn in his Epistles to the Galatians and the Romans, where we many observe this kind of difference: To the Galatians he shews, that true justice cannot be had from circumcision and the ceremonies of the law: to the Romans, that even the moral precepts and works of the law were insufficient without the grace of Christ: and in this to the Hebrews, he shews that our justice could not be had from the sacrifices of the old law. As to the chief contents: He exhorts them to the faith of Christ, by shewing his dignity and pre-eminence above the Angels, and above Moses, C. i, ii, iii.; that Christ's priesthood was above that of Aaron, from the 4th to the 8th chap. v. 6; that the new law and testament is preferable to the old, from thence to the middle of chap. x.; he commends faith by the example of the ancient Fathers, C. xi. and in the beginning of the twelfth; then he exhorts them to patience, constancy, brotherly love, &c. The like exhortations are mixed in other parts of this Epistle. Wi. — We must here remark, that our separated brethren, relying solely upon tradition, admit in general this Epistle into their canon of Scriptures, though they are necessitated to allow that for some centuries great doubts were entertained on the subject. According to Mr. Rogers, in his Defence of the Thirty-nine Articles, whilst several among the Protestants have rejected as apocryphal the Epistle to the Hebrews, that of James, the 2d and 3d of John, and Jude, others have as strenuously maintained that they ought to be admitted into the sacred canon. The Catholic Church admits them as deutero-canonical books, and of equal authority with the proto-canonical books. . . . After the arguments had been justly weighed on both sides, they seem to have been admitted by the general consent of the Latin Church, as they had all along been admitted by the Greek Church. The canon, as it now stands, both of the Old and New Testament, we find enumerated in Pope Innocent's letter to Exuperius, bishop of Toulouse, an. 405, in S. Austin, (l. ii. de doct. christ. c. viii.) and in the decrees of an African Council, an. 419, consisting of 217 bishops, who declare that in giving a catalogue of the Holy Scriptures, they only confirm and ratify what they have received from their Fathers. This canon is attributed to the third Council of Carthage, an. 397. Dr. Cosin, an eminent Protestant divine, tells us in his canon of Scripture, p. 4, "that to know the books of Scripture, there is no safer course to be taken than to follow the public voice and the universal testimony of the Church." The sixth of the thirty-nine articles gives a similar rule, which excludes private judgment. And "what is this," asks Hooker, "but to acknowledge ecclesiastical tradition?" The mind of man, naturally fickle and unsettled, stands in need of a guide in the road to eternal life. I shall never hesitate, says a spirited author, to take for my guide the Catholic Church, which contains in herself the authority of past and future ages. The Syriac version of the Old and New Testament, which is deservedly allowed to be of greatest antiquity and authority, comprises the same deutero-canonical books as the canon of the Council of Trent; a convincing proof that the Church of Syria, immediately after the times of the apostles, considered them as part of the sacred canon, no less than the Catholics of the present day. For a very satisfactory account respecting the authenticity and inspiration of this Epistle, as also for an excellent commentary with notes moral, doctrinal, and critical, see a late work entitled, An Explanation of S. Paul's Epistle to the Hebrews, by the Rev. Henry Rutter. — What can be the reason why Protestants admit the deutero-canonical books of the New and reject those of the Old Testament? — This Epistle merits the particular attention of Christians of every denomination, since it points out to them their various duties in respect to the necessity of faith and the practice of a holy life. In opposition to the Socinians, it tends to shew not only the divinity of Jesus Christ, but also that his death was a true and real sacrifice of atonement for the sins of mankind. See C. i, v. 5, &c. In opposition to other sectarists, it proves that the bloody sacrifice of Christ, once offered on the cross, though a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice of redemption, does not exclude the unbloody sacrifice of the Mass, by which he is a priest for ever, according to the order of Melchisedech. See C. v, &c. It is no less applicable to Catholics, in order to confirm them in the faith once delivered to the saints, and to point out the dreadful consequences of abandoning that religion which Jesus Christ came to establish in the world. The just man lives by faith; but if he draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. Let us, therefore, hold fast the confession of our hope, without wavering, or forsaking our assembly, the Catholic Church, as many have done to follow Luther, Calvin, Wesley, and other separatists. But we, says the apostle, are not of them who draw back unto perdition, but of them who have faith unto the saving of the soul. Heb. x. 39.